Thursday, March 26, 2009

Samsung's Weird & Wrong Betty Boop Handset

Thanks to Engadget for finding this gem. Why, god, why does anybody under the age of 80 like Betty Boop? Can't we just send all the crappy old animated characters to Guantanamo Bay, or something?...I vote we send Betty along with Woody Woodpecker and Casper on the first boat. That said, special respect to the licensing guy or gal @ King Features who put this deal together...clearly a person who could sell ice to Eskimos. btw -if you want this hot mess you can pick it up from Bouygues Télécom in France. This handset makes it more clear to me than ever that Samsung knows nothing about entertainment...perhaps their recently announced movie service will fail faster than I predicted.

Do I Want My RIM TV?

According to NewTeeVee RIM (RIMM) is preparing to launch a mobile full-length TV episode service for its BlackBerry devices as early as CTIA next week. Word is that this is an over-the-air download service (via wifi only) with a monthly subscription fee. Content is allegedly coming from multiple networks...but no one seems to know who they are (GSN & Fine Living Network, perhaps). It is also unclear whether this service will integrate into the upcoming BlackBerry App World mobile content store.

Boy, I hate to damn this thing before it sees the light of day...but I'm pretty skeptical about its potential for success. My first concern is that it only works on wifi...which limits the # of addressable devices to Bold, Storm and future products AND is really cheating the "everywhere" promise of mobile TV. The next thing I don't like is that it's a download service as opposed to a streaming service. I'm really impatient & I gotta watch my stories now! How long is it going to take me to download an episode of Lost or The Office? What happens if I have to leave the wifi hotspot during the download process? Seems like a hassle to me and it kills the spontaneity factor. My third gripe is that this is apparently a device only product. One of the things that makes TV on iTunes work for me is that I can watch the episodes on my big-ass computer monitor if I like...and I do like. My last, and biggest concern, is that I am not convinced the RIM has any more of clue than a carrier, Nokia or Samsung about how to sell entertainment content to consumers. They've gotta make the process elegant and easy...they've gotta create a great retail experience like those guys in Cupertino. All that said, I would love to be pleasantly surprised by the final product. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dell: Stop Flirting With Smartphones & Turn to the Palm

Rollercoasters usually make me want to barf, but the undulating speculation associated with Dell's protracted flirtation with the smartphone space are having a curiously soporific effect on me...perhaps because Dell is a brand only corporate IT guys get excited about. Here's the chain of events:

  • It all started in February 2007 with a theory in a Gizmodo post that Dell was going to jump into handsets after poaching Motorola device exec Ron Garriques.
  • That April the rumor-mill started churning again with speculation in Engadget that Dell and Quanta Computer were working on a handset codenamed "Fly".
  • Just before 3GSM 2008 bloggers were advancing a theory that Dell and Google were in cahoots on the project.
  • But on a conference call in September 2008 Michael Dell dismissed rumors that the company was working on a smartphone, according to MacUser.
  • Buzz was rekindled by an Engadget post this January reporting on industry chatter over a Dell Android or S60 handset.
  • Then at 3GSM 2009 (aka MWC) gadget blog GearLog reported that during a panel discussion AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega inadvertently blabbed that, "Dell announced they're entering the smart phone market." The rumorazzi went wild.
  • Then last week Barron's reported on Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu's research note that claimed Dell had presented Windows Mobile & Android prototype devices to the US carriers and that they had been rejected for "lack of differentiation" (ouch!!)
  • But, just yesterday Computerworld reported that in a Tokyo speech Michael Dell indicated that the company was still exploring a smartphone device.

OK, now wake up...there's more! In the note referenced in the Barron's story above Mr. Wu also mentioned that Dell is exploring acquisitions to help them with their differentiation problem. The author of the piece Eric Savitz ran with this idea, wondering aloud why Dell wasn't bidding for long-suffering Palm. Good idea! Palm knows the ropes with the carriers and that Pre is potential handset hotness.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is Disney Ditching Mobile Games? posted a story on Friday about (allegedly rampant) industry rumors that Disney (DIS) is in the process of either radically downsizing or eliminating its mobile games production initiatives. If true, this would represent a radical reversal in strategy considering their acquisitions of German dev/pub Living Mobile in 2005 and Chinese dev/pub Enorbus (for $20mil) 2 years ago. That being said, like all the major studios Disney is aggressively cutting costs and often those cuts are always felt most deeply in ancillary businesses like mobile, online and interactive. The mobile games unit, which is part of Disney Interactive Media Group, has focused on producing mobile games from Disney IP like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Incredibles and Cars...but they've also licensed some 3rd party properties like Bomberman and Scarface (from Universal Pictures). They, along with Sony, have been the most consistently aggressive studios in the mobile games publishing space...all the others have made forays and ultimately resolved that licensing is the best approach. Personally I have always admired Disney's patience with and commitment to the mobile games space...I truly hope these rumors are false. Perhaps we'll all get more clarity on this situation out of GDC this week.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Clockwork Orange on a Tocco May Not Be Delicious

MocoNews, The Register & Reuters are all reporting today that Samsung and Swiss VOD company Acetrax have launched a mobile and PC movie download service in the UK with content from 3 major studios: Warner Bros., Paramount, and Universal. The service currently only works with the high-end Tocco Ultra Edition, which is Samsung's top selling UK handset...but Samsung obviously plans to expand addressable devices, eventually including their PMPs and connected TVs. Movies are available on an EST basis (~$10 -$24) and for 24hr Rental ($2.50 -$4.00) and must be sideloaded from the PC. The service will roll out across major territories in Europe during 2009, with Germany going live next. As many of you know I am highly skeptical about the ability of any hardware manufacturer, other than Apple, to pull off a service like this. Perhaps the relationship with Acetrax will help in this instance...but fundamentally Samsung needs to very quickly (or extremely patiently) become an adept direct-to-consumer content merchant. Bon chance!...I give this service a 25% chance of surviving more than a year.

Like How Trendy Are Mobile Games?

Boy, do I love Google Trends...I've wasted many geeky hours on this site trying to figure out what y'all are thinking about (and I'm a little frightened, frankly). Anyhoo...before GDC I thought it would be cool to post this graph that shows the relative hotness (used loosely) of "mobile games" as a search term. Here's what I'm gathering from these data:

1) Consumer interest in mobile games since 2004 has been tepid, but stable and (the good news) search volume has been growing incrementally.
2) As most publishers and every carrier know, consumers are most enthusiastic about mobile games in the time period just before and after the Holidays...when they presumably are getting or got a shiny new handset.
3) (This you can't see with me unless you click through the chart) Interest in mobile games is coming from some interesting places...particularly developing countries in Asia and some of the smaller economies in Europe. Top 5 in terms of search volume are Pakistan, India, Philippines, Greece and Croatia.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Buh-Bye MOSH, We Hardly Knew Ye

MocoNews is reporting that Nokia (NOK) is shutting down its MOSH WAP and online mobile content sharing portal. I'm always very suspicious when a company shuts down a service that it characterizes as "popular". My guess is that the site was a "popular" money pit for the handset manufacturer. Furthermore, as the site began to gain some traction amongst Nokia owners (mostly outside the US), as a destination for a bunch of free softcore and bootleg content, the more it threatened the fee for download business model of the upcoming (May) Ovi content service...AND the more it became a potential liability with the same IP owners it will rely upon for Ovi content.

#1 in Games on App Store = $7mil for Gameloft?

According to Mobile Entertainment Apple has revealed that its top mobile games publisher Gameloft (GFT) has had 2mil paid downloads of its titles through the iTunes App store (available for iPod touch and iPhone). Gameloft has 33 Apps in the store with an average price (loosely factoring in rank & recent price erosion) of about $4.99. My math (2mil x 4.99 x 70%) tells me that Gameloft has made about $7mil from iTunes App Store to date. I expected this number to be substantially higher...didn't you? This makes me believe more than ever that publishers shouldn't abandon legacy platforms... it also make me think that companies like poor Glu Mobile (GLUU) have been unfairly beaten-up for not being as aggressive on the platform. Another thing that surprised me about this is that if, as Apple reported yesterday, there have been 800mil downloads of Apps then Gameloft only has 0.25% share...which is astoundingly low considering they are the lead publisher in the lead category! This speaks volumes to the chaotic clutter of Apps and publisher/developers on the platform.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ZOINKS! -- 800mil iPhone Apps Downloaded | 3.0 Features Should Keep The Train Rolling UPDATED & CORRECTED

According to TechCrunch Apple claimed 800mil downloads in aggregate from the 27,131 iPhone Apps available on iTunes at a press conference today. Mega-impressive (the carriers must be poking their eyes out). Apple also announced that it sold 13.7mil iPhones in 2008...which is greater than analysts's expectations, and just flat-out amazing. That brings the total # of iPhone & iPod touch devices in the market to 30mil according to Mobile Entertainment. That means that the average device has downloaded over 25 Apps!!!!

At the same event Apple also previewed iPhone OS 3.0 with expanded APIs for developers...key features announced thusfar:

  • Peer-to-peer Apps via Bluetooth
  • Ability to embed Chat and Email into Apps
  • Microtransaction billing within Apps and Subscription pricing
  • Apps will be able to directly link into iTunes music store
  • Apps will be able to handle streaming video as a feature (getting more detail on this...)
  • Cut & paste functionality
  • Landscape support for all Apps

(thanks to Calvin Lim at Universal Pictures for catching an error in my original average App per device calculation...I had not factored in the iPod touch as an addressable device)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Burrito Barcode Boasts 400 Customer Bonanza...Who Cares?

Obviously, which used this example as the basis of a story today that only serves to illustrate that US 2D barcode companies like Jagtag, Scanbuy and Clic2C have a lot of work to do if they want to gain any traction whatsoever with the US consumer. These companies hope to mimic the success of QR (quick-response) codes in Japan...where they are a ubiquitous component of print and outdoor media campaigns (including movie one sheets). The big difference is that a QR code reader application is preloaded onto almost every data oriented handset in the Japanese the US the consumer either has to download an app, or in the case of Jagtag MMS the barcode image to a shortcode (on Verizon and AT&T only). In the US 2D barcodes will remain a klugy & super-gimmicky (i.e. ineffective) way to market unless all the carriers and handset manufacturers rally around a single standard. In the meantime mobile marketers should focus on SMS shortcode campaigns!

More Americans Like The Mobile Web More Often

comScore released some numbers about mobile web usage in the US today. Unfortunately you don't get a good picture of overall mobile web usage from this survey, rather you get some understanding of behaviors within specific segments of the mobile internet. For instance it looks like 63.2mil Americans accessed news & info sites (like CNN) at least once in Jan 2009 via their mobile browsers...and 22.4mil did it daily (daily use increased over 100% from a year ago period). Social Networking mobile sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) saw a huge jump in daily usage (guilty!)...up 427% from Jan 2008, with 9.3mil daily users. I'm convinced this trend is being driven by the increased popularity of smartphones with full QWERTY keyboards, good browsers (that make it easy for users to browse beyond the carrier deck), big screens and unlimited data plans.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

4 Key Blog Buzzes About New iPhone

1) OS 3.0 Preview: According to Apple is hosting an invite only "sneak peak" media event to show off version 3.0 of the iPhone OS and discuss some SDK updates on Tuesday, March 17. Precedent has been that New OS = New Handset.

2) Carrier Pricing: is saying that T-Mobile in Germany lowered iPhone prices in January and now rumor has it that O2 UK will do the same in short order (perhaps May)...the hopeful think the operators are clearing their shelves for new inventory.

3) Contract Cycles: As ChannelWeb points out many first gen iPhone users' contracts are coming up for renewal in June. Many believe Apple will want to have a new device ready for loyalists.

4) Palm Pre: The Guardian and suggest that Apple will want a device with features to address some innovations featured on the super-hyped Palm Pre, which is scheduled to be released on Sprint in May/June.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Greystripe Gets More Green to Support AdGame Machine

According to a NYT story, ad-supported mobile game network Greystripe (owners of the Gamejump portal) has raised a new $5.5mil round of venture funding from Incubic Venture Capital, Monitor Ventures & Steamboat Ventures (Disney's VC Fund)...bringing their total raise since 2005 to $15.6mil. Greystripe has been a real pioneer in this space and many people in the mobile content space (including myself) believed a couple of years ago that free ad-supported gaming was the future of the business. Unfortunately, the agencies and brands have been moving very cautiously (read: like molasses on a cold day) in the mobile advertising space overall, in spite of evidence of its efficacy. This has made it a bit of a tough road for Greystripe and other more traditional mobile ad networks. As Greystripe continues to push into richer media devices like iPhone (where they have about 50 Apps) and continues to enhance its ad formats the hope is that marketers will come around...which, if all goes as planned, will help Greystripe realize profitability in 2009.

Monday, March 9, 2009

27,131 Apps on iTunes App Stores, But Who's Counting

Apparently a company called Mobclix, according to a Fierce Mobile Content post today. Very cool site...check it out. 77.4% of available Apps are Paid and amongst all Apps Games are the substantially dominant category with 6,276 titles, or 23.1% of the store.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hurray for Hurray! in 2008?

Pocketgamer is reporting that Chinese mobile content everything company (games, personalization, music, video, etc.) Hurray! Holdings (HRAY) reported Q4 and full year 2008 earnings.

2008 Rev = $54mil (down from $60.5 in 2007)
2008 Net Loss = $12mil (compared to a loss of $42mil in 2007)

The company reported growth in the mobile music category and according to PocketGamer, "Hurray! says that its Brotherhood of Soldiers game was the top download on China Mobile's game portal throughout Q4, and that the company plans to launch five new games in Q1 of this year."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Telefónica Gets Emociónal With Player X

According a press release today, leading Spanish operator Telefónica Móviles (TEF) has become the 2nd European operator (after O2 UK) to deploy Player X Distribution's "100% Mobile" games store within a store product. The portal gives Telefónica's subscribers an additional mobile games retail venue in the existing "emoción" content channel. 100% Mobile features innovative community features, enhanced promotional opportunities, subscription options and "try before you buy" functionality. Player X CEO Tony Pearce said, "we are confident the new site will significantly drive consumption and ARPU as we have successfully done so with O2 UK.” If this proves out and Telefónica decides to expand the offering across its vast network of operators in Europe and LatAm, this could be a substantial opportunity for London-based Player X.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

True That: Don't Ignore Good Ol' J2ME

Wise words in a guest post on PocketGamer from John Chasey. Here's an excerpt:

Java is no small island.

While there are many technical and logistical reasons why publishers and developers prefer the iPhone, the fact is that there has been a definite move away from J2ME development and releases.

Those companies that have chosen to continue supporting the older platform are therefore likely to see their market share and profits increase.

The flipside of this is that the stampede towards the iPhone by publishers and developers has outstripped the increase in installed base of Apple handsets.

Sticky Green Stuff: Glu Mobile Exec Pay 2009

From a Glu Mobile (GLUU) 8-K filed yesterday:

Good news (from a publicity perspective), no i-banker compensation here.
Bad news, looks like the entire Glu exec team will be subject to higher taxes under the Obama budget plan...if they make their bonuses.

RIP RCR Wireless

There's another nail in the coffin of the publishing business...this time from the mobile community. Sue Marek at Fierce Wireless is reporting this morning that venerable mobile trade pub RCR Wireless shut its doors yesterday (after 25 years) and laid off its 20 person staff. Much sadness. Publisher Keith Crain stated on their website, "RCR Wireless News was passionately run by first-class people and it pains us to make this move but the economy gives us no other choice."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Web-To-Mobile Still Not Hot

1. (red)
2. (blue)
3. (green)
4. (orange)

Moto's Mojo Handset Photoshop Fantasy?

My favorite Lithuanian mobile blog UnwiredView is theroizing that pics, videos and specs for the Motorola TouchZINE HD handset posted by a Yury Cassini in Brazil are pure Photoshop fiction...which is a damn shame considering that this is exactly the kind of handset Moto needs to make it relevant/competitive again. Cassini had claimed that the device had the following superjuicy specs, so you can understand why the community (caveat: it's a nerdy community) was in a frenzy over the handset:
  • Android OS
  • NVIDIA Tegra chip
  • HDMI connectivity
  • 1080p HD video playback
  • 5 megapixel camera with HD video recording
  • 16GB of memory
  • Only 4 physical buttons (volume, camera and lock)
  • Motorola apps: MotoVideoMaker, MotoMusicMaker, MotoImageMaker

I must say that the misspelled copyright line on the attached YouTube video gave me more than a little pause. But that said, I hope that Moto announces in the next couple days that it's all true.

KA-POW! Launches iPhone App in Hulu's Face

Last Thursday CBS's launched a free streaming video application in the iTunes App Store. By virtue of launching first, has won the first mobile battle in its intensifying new media TV war with rival Hulu, owned by NBCU & Fox. The service features some full length episodes of Star Trek, CSI, The Young & the Restless, MacGyver as well as news and clips from CBS, Showtime, CW and CNET TV. The service works over wifi as well as AT&T via 3G or EDGE. Currently there is no advertising on the App...but I suspect that will change quickly. Gizmodo's post raises an interesting what point do these network Apps begin to cannibalize iTunes's TV show revenues (especially on shows that live in both places) and at what point do they begin to over burden AT&T's data pipeline? Also, considering that the App is being rolled out across iTunes stores worldwide (though currently full episodes are not available outside the US), you have to wonder at what point this service begins damaging CBS's relationships with international broadcast licensees.
The App was built using the vTap video search, browsing and playback solution from Andover, MA based Veveo (had never heard of them before). This is only the 2nd broadcast App for iPhone, following France24 Live! launched by MobiClip (formerly Actimagine) a month ago, as reported here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Superflat Panda Swallows Mobile & Owner in the Name of Fashion

Check out this trippy 2003 Japanese advertisement/short for Louis Vuitton produced by KaiKai KiKi Co, animated by famed "superflat" animator Takashi Murakami featuring music by Fantastic Plastic Machine. It's a 5min very Japanese take on Alice In Wonderland involving a girl looking for her mobile phone (hence the post). Towards the end there is a bunch of stuff going on with iMode type sites and I'm not sure if the ad was partially about a mobile content play by LVMH. If anybody has a clue please comment below.