BlackBerry Storm….

I’ve been talking about the BlackBerry Storm to my colleagues ever since I first heard about it. After using my iPhone for quite a while- the thought of having a touch UI with a “clickable” interface seemed to hold some promise…. Could this finally be a device that would provide the best of both worlds? Well… After reading this review on TIME – “BlackBerry Storm: The Novelty Wears Off Fast”, I guess not. I’m still keen to get my hands on one to play around with, however I dont think i’ll be purchasing a new device this month *sigh*

“The trouble with having to push down on the entire 3.2-inch screen every time you type a letter or confirm a menu choice is that it slows you down. The idea behind the clickable screen is that it will minimize errors by getting you to think before you press. Instead, it took much of the fun out of using the device.”

I guess the name says it all…. its fantastic to watch a storm….sooner or later you’ll be wanting the sun to come out so that you can get on with your life.


Who Will Rule the New Internet?

Came across this article on the TIME website, its about “Who Will Rule the New Internet?”

Its def. worth a read….

According to Josh Quittner, Apple, Google & Facebook are the technology standard-bearers of todays age. Google- with its “open” web, Facebook- with its huge user base and “walled” off approach & Apple- with the highly controlled “experience.”

The article goes on to explain the success & strategies of three companies, one of the interesting points he raises with regards to Googles “Open” Web strategy VS Facebook is:

Social networks are a threat to that business; users tend to stay within their network and communicate among themselves or simply fool around with apps. When Facebook’s users are playing Scrabulous or tagging photos, for example, they’re not using Google. Indeed, they’re more likely to discover new things via friends or in-network applications such as iLike, a service that matches your friends’ musical tastes to your own.

The flaw in this theory is, facebook may be the biggest thing today, what happens when users get bored and start moving on to the next big site? It was MySpace yesterday, today its Facebook, tomorrow its going to be twitter? Or a microblogging site similar to it? The life cycle on a specific social networking site is still to be decided. Users are like sheep, and who is to say next year we wont see a mass migration to something completely new that has not even been developed yet?

According to Josh, Apple doesnt really care who wins the online war- as long as we use an Apple device to access the content. He quotes Matt Murphy (a venture capitalist) as saying:

He claims that the iPhone will “absolutely be the driver of the post-PC world.” Murphy points out that the kit needed by developers to build iPhone apps has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, and he estimates that about 1,000 applications will be available to consumers when the iPhone-apps store launches with the phone. “If you look at so many of the constraints that have held back the mobile ecosystem, Apple basically takes all of those away and provides an open platform, a great device and a user base that’s rabid for these new kinds of applications,” he says.

The best part of this article, is that Josh did not forget to mention Android. Googles open mobile platform that is due to hit the market place later this year. Andy Rubin, Googles Director of mobile platforms says:

Developers have so far written more than 1,800 applications, which could be distributed on a Google site arranged according to popularity, as YouTube is. “There’s some pretty innovative stuff there,” Rubin explains. “This is merging the handset and the Web and coming up with something completely new.

We’re in for an exciting second half of the year, with the iPhone 2 coming out in a couple of days & Android later in the year, its going to be very interesting to see which company will take the market by storm. Two companies, with very different go-to-market strategies. The problem Google may have, will be the actual device Android is running on… They have already signed deals with many companies (Moto, LG, HTC etc.), but if these companies are not able to provide a compelling UI like the iPhone, this would most likely see users moving towards the iPhone.

Nokia are also due to launch the N96 later this year, i’m sure Nokia will sell the most handsets, but their market share will be sure to take a bit of a knock with some serious competition from Android & Apple. For myself, this is the first year that is a seriously tough decision on which handset to buy? Will Nokia be able to come up with a device that provides a compelling user experience like what we have seen so far from Android and Apple? I doubt it. Regardless of who wins, its great to finally have some quality devices coming to market.

I suppose Google still has a 1 up on Apple & everyone else in the market- anyone who lands up buying an iPhone/Nokia will in the end, still be using Google/Youtube on their handset.

As for the battle of the internet, if Google actually own the platform on which you’re accessing facebook or the next big thing on your mobile, they dont have much to be worried out. At least in the short term…

Lets wait and see how this plays out in the coming months….

Opera Mobile 9.5- the new look mobile web….

Opera have just announced the latest version in their mobile browser, Opera Mobile 9.5. They have a host of new features in this release.

The one that stands out most for me is the ability to incorporate Flash Lite 3- (see previous post here)….the sad thing from their press release is that “OEM, Operators will have the capability to incorporate Flash Lite 3…” which means that the telco/handset guys still have control over your functionality, if they chose not to include this feature then it just really your bad luck…

If only they had it as a standard feature in their free browsers it could really provide a big shift and opportunity for media companies/content owners to develop compelling products for their browser….

Other neat features are: the ability to SMS bookmarks to friends, MMS/Email images directly from sites that you like by just selecting the image, and the widgets.

Features such these do have the potential to provide a good enough web experience on mobile. Personally I think Opera need to get out of the OEM/Telco mindsets and start opening up their offering directly to consumers. Give the browser away for free- build an ad supported model and work on a rev share with advertisers/media companies. I am sure they will see much greater usage by end-users of the product and it could then really be a big move to providing a true “Web” experience on mobile….

(As much as it pains to me say this- the Safari experience on my iPhone still seems to be much smoother. From the Video Demo- Opera seems to have a “clunky” UI)

Mobile Video Search – vTap

Earlier this year I met a company called Veveo at the 3GSM in Barcelona. They had what was one of the most interesting applications on show. A search engine, for your mobile device, that crawls the Internet for videos (in any format) and converts them to a format that your handset can view. Sounds simple enough….

However what made this really fantastic was that they were able to cut down the key strokes needed on a handset to search for content… They did this by coming up with a system that searchers based on letters instead of words… so from the second you start typing the search begins, which means you should be able to find your video much quicker!

What takes it to the next level is that you don’t have to actually type the full word to find your video, you can search via your normal numeric keypad.

The best way to explain this is for example: If I wanted to find a videos on a “cats”, to type the word “cats” on my Nokia n95 handset would involve 10 keytrokes (three strokes on the number “2″, five strokes on the number “7″ etc.) With vTap, instead of having to type the full word, I can simple just put in the numbers: “2287″ (which is where I would find the letters). The system will automatically associate the numbers with the word “cats” and then start searching the web for all the videos that are tagged “cats”

That’s why we at Veveo™ created vTap—the quick and easy Web video solution that lets you search, browse and pinpoint the exact Web video you’re looking for—from sources all over the Internet—and play it on any supported device! With vTap’s unique character-based incremental search—where results are returned with every character entered—you can perform searches using just a few characters instead of whole keywords. It’s so easy, you’ll think it’s reading your mind.

don’t believe me? try it out for yourself!

You can test out vTap here:

Flash Video on Mobile… now thats awesome!

Adobe’s Flash Lite 3 will have video support on mobile devices. This is another great move towards a converged experience of web and mobile.

Imagine the possibilities with this! Almost all the major social network sites these days have some sort of flash video running on it. YouTube will be easily accessible on handsets, which is fantastic. The YouTube mobile version is currently streaming video through to you in RealMedia [on my N95]. Due to YouTube having to convert the videos to a compatible format they have only made a selection of their content available on site [at least for now]. With flash support for video, this would in theory mean that we could now browse and access all the content on YouTube, as you would on your desktop! Very sweet indeed!

Al Ramadan, senior VP for mobile at Adobe, said: “With Flash Lite 3 and its support for video, we’ve passed a major milestone in bringing a desktop experience to mobile and transforming the wireless industry.”

What is quite interesting about this, is that the mobile industry have always been saying that one of the key factors that will drive mobile tv usage would be the access of short form content. With flash now serving video to mobile devices this opens up the entire market to short form content.

NTT DoCoMo & Nokia have both commited to to embedding Flash 3 Lite on their devices & Adobe expect to have a billion handsets with flash-enabled devices by 2010.

Now I just need to get myself a version of the software so I can play around with it!

Googles Mobile Ambitions

Last week we saw an announcement from Google that they had purchased the mobile social networking platform Zingku. Everyone seems to be guessing as to what exactly it is that Google has up its sleeve in the mobile space. One thing is for sure though, they are serious about getting into mobile. If the news coming out over the past few months is anything to go by, i’m sure the Google mobile offering will be one to revolutionalise the mobile world (no, not like how the iPhone promised to do so).

Why do I say this? Well as Steve Jobs said in his speech at Standford “You can not connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward”. So lets start connecting the dots….

First things first, lets look at all the things that people in the industry seem to complain about as to what is holding the mobile revolution back:

1. Operators – cant live with them, cant live without them. They control your access to information. “Walled Gardens”, Data charges and the like are really holding people back from utilising all the cool things that can be done on your mobile phone.

2. Discovery- We have heard this many times, if people can not find your content in an easy way- you’re not going to be successful. Remember the 3 click rule? Anything more than 3 clicks to get to what you’re looking for on a mobile device and you have lost your consumer. Its all about top of the deck status

3. Data Charges- linked to point 1. but this is pretty annoying. I for one do not use my GPRS/3G connection in Qatar for serious mobile browsing because its way too expensive. Back in South Africa though, where I was paying much less I was quite an active user.

4. Not enough compelling content out there- Many companies have entered the market, made their money and left. We saw content aggregators doing well for a while, but it seems that power is now shifting to a branded mobile strategy. Where brands are controlling their own mobile portals and going direct to consumers.

5. Cost of content- Users are very willing to use content if its free of charge. Having to to pay both for content & data is just not on.

6. Lack of successful integration of a Web 2.0 type strategy extended to mobile-With the new wave of web 2.0, I have not seen any successful integration of web 2.0 type service on mobile. We have seen MySpace announcing a new application under development, this could be interesting.

Alright those are all the limitations that I can think of now of the top of my head, if I think of anything else I’ll update the list or feel free to add to the list.

Now lets start connecting the dots and see how Google are dealing with the above limitations…

1. Rumours are going around about Google looking into getting the 700mhz spectrum both in the US & UK. Fantastic idea- If the telco’s are going to be a barrier to market, who needs them? We will just create our own network. Assuming the stories are true- this is a great move. Don’t forget Wifi, however to rely only on Wifi (like the iPhone in the UK) is not the best of strategies.

2. Google are developing something. Is it a new mobile platform to be loaded on existing devices or is it the gPhone? Either way, this is a great way to deal with discovery of your services. With a brand as big as Google, this makes sense. Google have also been working on their mobile search service, to help with the content discovery.

3. Again, linked back to point number 1. Needless to say if Google have their own network and own handset the sky is the limit as to the possibilities. Another interesting thing is the launch of AdSense for mobile recently by google and the filing of a patent for mobile advertising. This could lead to subsidised costs for end user.

4. Google have been working hard at getting their mobile search functionality going. This added to the mobile version of YouTube that will be coming out. Will really help users in getting & finding some compelling content.

5. With the launch of AdSense for mobile & Google filing a patent for mobile advertising. This could pave the way for free content in exchange for advertising. Maybe or maybe not?

6. Lastly we have just seen Google acquiring Zingku, the new mobile social network platform. Zingku is supposed to allow users to “zing” content between their handsets and PC’s. Built around community this could be a good extension of the web 2.0 model of community to a mobile device. Google after all to have a pretty big community to build on.

That all said and done, if you connect all of these dots together its pretty clear that Google are looking at coming to market with something that should shake up the entire industry. I’m sure in the coming weeks and months we will see many more announcements coming out of Google. Now all we have to do is wait in anticipation to see the final image these dots will reveal once completely joined and coloured in.

Blyk Mobile Launches!

Blyk Mobile have just launched their new MVNO in the UK. You can only join the network by invite only and its promising its subscribers free airtime and text services in exchange for them receiving adverts on their handsets. Blyk was founded by the former Nokia President, Ala-Pietila.

“We have spent the last year developing a unique, robust advertising content engine and whilst the technology we are using is incredibly advanced, the main premise of Blyk is driven by three basic principles–ease of use, interaction and relevance of the communications,” said former Nokia President, Ala-Pietila

This is quite an interesting move, to launch a telco that will be ad funded. Blyk has spent a few months on group studies and live user trials. Subscribers must agree to to answer profile questions and agree to ongoing SMS polling during their membership. This should provide very valuable data for potential advertisers to allow them to really reach their target audience.

In the past two weeks we have seen Google announcing Ad Sense for mobile and Nokia buying out Enpocket, a mobile advertising company. Yahoo and AOL Timewarner have also created some made for mobile advertising products.

“We believe that mobile advertising will be an important element in monetizing [consumer Internet] services for our customers and partners. Enpocket’s mature leading edge platform and people expertise are a strong fit with Nokia existing capabilities in the mobile advertising market,” said Tero Ojanperä, Nokia CTO

Personaly I think this could really be a defining moment in the mobile industry. People have been talking about mobile advertising and the potential it has, now for the first time we are seeing serious players entering the market with some very compelling products. If this could see users receiving free data usage, it would really be paving the way towards a true “convergence” of web 2.0 on mobile. Blyk seem to be going the right way with their MVNO, by building their users around “community” & “interaction”. Definitely a Web 2.0 sounding strategy.

Lets wait and see how this plays out in the market place.