Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gameloft 2008 Revs Buoyed by iPhone

In a Gameloft (GFT.PA) earnings release today the French games publisher reported a 15% increase in revenues in 2008 to EUR110.3mil ($143mil), in line with expectations. 43% of revenue came from Europe, 30% from North America, 27% ROW. It looks like iTunes App Store game sales in Q4 really pushed these guys over the top (rev increased 31% in Q4 to EUR 33.8mil)...with top selling apps like Hero of Sparta & Brothers in Arms Hour of Heroes. Good news. It will be interesting to see what their bottomline looks like when the announce full earnings on March 19.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Verizon and AT&T Earnings: Quick Wireless Facts

Verizon Wireless (joint venture of Verizon & Vodafone)
1) 80 mil subscribers including AllTel - making it #1 US operator
2) Total Data ARPU up 27.9% vs Q4 2007, non-SMS Data ARPU up 52%
3) 65% of subscribers have a 3G handset
4) BlackBerry Storm has sold over 1 million units in Nov 21, 2008 launch
5) LTE 4G services still on track for commercial launch in 2010

AT&T Mobility (a division of AT&T Inc.)
1) 77 mil subscribers - making it #2 US operator
2) 1.9 mil 3G iPhones activated in Q4 2008, 4.3 mil since launch...but subsidies ($450 mil in Q4) on the device hurt the bottom line
3) 40% of new iPhone users came from outside AT&T Mobility
4) Data ARPU up 35.7% vs Q4 2007
5) AT&T was quiet about it's LTE 4G plans, but previously suggested commercial launch in 2012

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is iTunes App Store Good For Mobile Gaming?

Useful coverage by of a panel entitled "The Ecosystem in 2009: Do the Same Rules Apply?" at the Mobile Games Forum in London last week. The take away is that the iTunes App Store is changing everything, dominating public and industry mindshare...AND putting downward pressure on the prices of mobile games.

Could the current move in focus to iTunes as a distribution channel for mobile apps be the equivalent of the record industry moving focus from traditional retailers (e.g. Tower) to big box retailers (e.g. WalMart) in the 1990s? Initially it looked very sexy, but in the end they were putting their fate in the hands of a channel that considered their product a loss leader.

Glu Goes D2C...why?

Glu Mobile (GLUU) announced in a press release today a partnership with Movaya to offer its mobile games direct to consumers, presumably through its website, which gets no traffic, and other websites that get no traffic. Seems like a tactic to muddy the waters prior to their upcoming FY 2008 earnings call.

Break: Some MySpace Metrics on CNBC

A couple of interesting tidbits from a CNBC interview this morning with MySpace Co-Founder Chris DeWolf. Clearly he's trying to get the message out there that reports of MySpace's demise (particularly at the hands of Facebook) are greatly exaggerated:

1) He claimed that MySpace accounts for the lion's share of the $900mil annual revenue generated by Fox Interactive Media (FIM)

2) He claimed MySpace accounts for 50% of the ad revenue generated in the entire social networking space

Maybe traffic isn't the entire story...maybe it's how you capitalize on it?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Verizon Unleashes $250 Non-3G Femtocells

The much anticipated femtocell product from the #1 US operator is now available for sale according to this AP story. Verizon Wireless Network Extender is basically a $250 device that behaves like a WiFi router, but instead emits a mobile wireless signal...creating a mini celltower with a 5,000 foot range for the home . The idea is that the pervasive, quality connections the product facilitates will motivate consumers to drop their landlines. Of course, by virtue of having this product Verizon Wireless is basically admitting that some subscribers aren't getting the full support of that dorky guy and his posse from the TV ads. The other non-good thing about this product is that it broadcasts a 1x RTT CDMA signal as opposed to EV-DO so it won't help with 3G services like V CAST.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nokia N-Gage Top 5 Titles of 2008 - PocketGamer

PocketGamer is pleasantly surprised that a homegrown Nokia game (not Tetris!) took top spot. Cabana agrees - Tetris is great, but the mo'games space needs to evolve beyond it.

1. Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep (Nokia)
2. Tetris (EA Mobile)
3. Asphalt 3: Street Rules (Gameloft)
4. World Series of Poker (Glu Mobile)
5. FIFA 08 (EA Mobile)

RIM Baking Delicious BlackBerry StoreFront Pie

In anticipation of RIM's (RIMM) planned March 2009 opening of it's StoreFront applications marketplace (think iTunes App Store or Android Market) the Canadian smartphone manufacturer began accepting submissions to their developer site on January 19th. Early word is that StoreFront will be managed more loosely than carrier decks or the iTunes App Store -- with restrictions primarily being related to bandwidth usage. Additionally, all apps must support OTA download and purchase via PayPal. The good news for developers is that the revenue split is a generous 80/20 in favor of the developer! Some reports have expressed concern about the inherent lack of "application memory" space in current BlackBerry devices...but I'm sure our friends to the north are on this as their devices become more consumer and media focused.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Totally Tubular...dude

According to an Engadget break Nokia (NOK)has now shipped a cool 1 million units of its 5800 XpressMusic "Tube" touchscreen smartphone following a strong December in select markets and a boffo UK product launch. The 3G S60 handset features a 3.2in 16:9 touchscreen, accelerometer, 3.2 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera, video camera that shoots 640x480 pixels at 30fps & front video camera for video calling, 8GB standard memory, Bluetooth 2.0, stereo speakers and TV out...and guitar pick stylus that actually kinda rocks. It's FCC US launch can't be far off, right?
I categorize it: Likey without touchy

FLO TV Gets A Seasoned Handango

According to a Fierce Wireless story yesterday, mobile industry vet Bill Stone (former AirTouch, Vodafone, Verizon Wireless, Amp'd) has left his positon as CEO of smartphone app portal Handango to lead Qualcomm's (QCOM) money losing MediaFLO USA FLO TV mobile broadcast business (-$202mil on $12mil revs in FY 2008). He replaces Qualcomm vet Gina Lombardi. The linear service is up and running on Verizon & AT&T in the US, but is only available on a limited number of handsets.

At Handango another industry veteran, Alex Bloom (former Verizon, Motricity) will step up to be CEO.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Glu Device Focus Changes, Title Focus Doesn't in Sticky MoGame Market

In a company issued press release today #3 mobile game publisher Glu Mobile (GLUU) announced that is was going to dedicate a full 30% of it's development resources to Apple, Nokia & Android devices...likely a reaction to their earlier admission that they had misjudged the importance of the iPhone platform.

The release also listed their Q1 games lineup which revealed that the publisher will continue to focus on licensed properties including entertainment-based titles such as Superman/Batman: Heroes United, Watchmen, Monsters vs Aliens and Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rescue.

In a Reuters interview with Glu CEO Greg Ballard today he said that decreasing handset sales will cause the global mobile games market to shrink in 2009. Glu Mobile projects a 10% -15% decline in revenue, which they claim tracks with those of other major games publishers like EA Mobile (ERTS) and Gameloft (GFT)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gizmodo Breaks Images of Android G2 by HTC

Images in this Gizmodo break look pretty cool I guess...but I've yet to find a touchscreen-only smartphone that I love.

Vertu Dumbphone Store Opens in Tokyo

According to Wireless Watch Japan Nokia (NOK) has opened the previously announced Japanese flagship store for it's ultra-blingy UK-based Vertu brand in the tony Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo. The high design devices which feature materials like titanium, gold and leather, design partnerships with Ferrari & Boucheron and functionality similar to Nokia's N-series range in price from $5k to over $300k for gem-encrusted special editions. These devices are a hot ticket with the million dollar license plate set in Dubai, the stripper girlfriends of Russian oligarchs, ballers and other nouveau riche folk with more dollars than sense. Good timing on the opening since the Japanese may soon be the only ones left who can afford such wretched excess.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Big In Japan

A reader poll conducted by Japanese gadget blog K-tai Watch revealed that the Best Handset of 2008 was the Sharp Aquos Fulltouch 931SH available from SoftBank Mobile. The HSDPA handset has a 3.8inch 1024 x 480 pixel touchscreen, TV tuner, bluetooth, RFID, GPS, 100mb of memory & a 5.2 megapixel camera with image stabilization. It's available in 4 colors, including hot pink.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Analysts Predict More Entertainment Services From Handset Manufacturers

This AFP story out of Singapore summarizes statements from analysts reinforcing what most of us already know -- that handset manufacturers are diversifying into mobile entertainment services, like Nokia's OVI, to realize growth in a saturated hardware market. Clearly Apple's iTunes offering is the gold standard here and the competition will be hard pressed to match it's depth of content and usability. I have a healthy level of skepticism about the ability of most engineering-driven hardware manufactures to create compelling consumer friendly content services...but welcome the competition to the carrier decks and hope that all boats will rise as a result.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

US Carriers Embracing Location-based Services in 2009 - Billboard

Billboard/Reuters reports that US carriers, particularly Verizon & Sprint, are beginning to work with application developers to provide network location data (both GPS & tower triangulation) in the interest of creating a broader selection of location sensitive applications. Location-based Services (LBS) hold tremendous promise for marketers interested in creating context and location specific direct marketing campaigns. Based on focus group testing I've been part of, location based applications are the #1 most desired mobile products amongst college-aged users. LBS products should of course be the "killer apps" for mobile devices given that they are uniquely and inherently mobile.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Speculation About Consolidation in Mobile Game Space

Mobile Games Blog keeps the merger speculation going...this time throwing Gameloft (GFT) into the mix. My feeling is that Gameloft will not be an acquirer (preferring to build rather than buy). Jump Games (part of India's Reliance Group) is also mentioned briefly...I think they are a much more likely buyer of a publisher with established distribution in North America & Europe.

Rough Start of Day for Mobile

  1. Apple (AAPL) shares tumble on announcement that Steve Jobs will take a medical leave of absence through June '09. The company has done an unbelievably poor job of a managing the media during this crisis, fostering wild speculation about the real state of Jobs' health and concern about the future of a company that has never done particularly well without Jobs at the helm.

  2. Motorola (MOT) announced it would layoff an additional 4,000 employees after revealing that handset sales fell over 50% from Q4 2007. This company needs to create a smartphone that consumers want - quickly!

  3. Long suffering Nortel Networks (NT) filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The mobile network infrastructure company is trying to restructure its debt to preserve its $24 billion cash reserve.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

AT&T's "American Idol" Text Blast Backlash

According a NYT Article there has been substantial consumer outcry about AT&T Wireless's text message to consumers who had previously voted for AI contestants and other "heavy texters" encouraging them to watch the show and visit AT&T's AI site.

Apple Has No Plans to Editorialize Games in the App Store

According to a story at citing an interview with Apple VP Greg Joswiak in EDGE it appears that Apple believes that a free market with a customer rating system will allow "the cream to rise to the top" in the clutter of 1500+ games currently in the iTunes App Store. Joswiak also believes that they current system creates a healthier developer environment by virtue of not favoring larger, more established players.

Glu Borrows $5.5 million from SVB

According to a recent SEC Filing Glu Mobile took a $5.5 million loan from their credit facility with Silicon Valley Bank on January 8th 2009.

Sony Ericsson Launches Kiosk-based Content Service in SEA

According to an AFP story Sony Ericsson is launching a new content service in it's retail locations in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia through PlayNow kiosks that will allow customers download movie, TV, music tracks and tones. Movie content is from Sony Pictures and includes library and current titles (released day and date with DVD). While the technology is interesting, I am very cynical about this type of content retailing mechanism for mobile devices. Consumers want the content available for purchase on the device and are not likely to plan a trip to their local SE store to get Quantum of Solace or the latest Rihanna ringer. As usual early adopters will give this service some initial love, but my guess is that it will be over within a year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

EA Cross-Promoting Tiger Woods PGA Tour Mobile & Console Games

Unique skill-boost mechanic for the console game if users download the mobile game. Interesting idea, but will it actually convert users?

UMG Claims Mobile Revenue Easily Exceeds $100mil per Year

According to a CNET Q&A with Universal Music Group's digital topper Rio Caraeff mobile represents 40-45% of UMG's digital business. Digital revenues grew 33% for UMG in 2008. Revenues from music videos on YouTube were 10s of millions. He also indicated that early returns from T-mobile's Android device were encouraging.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Device Hotness 2009

Left to right, top to bottom :
Nokia N97, Palm Pre, Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, Samsung Blackjack III, Garmin Nuvi Phone, Nokia E71, Blackberry Bold

Is EA Looking to Acquire Glu Mobile?

Seeking Alpha seems to think rumors that EA management has been looking at Glu Mobile (NasdaqGM: GLUU) have some merit.