Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Great iPhone Debate

Much too much has already been said about the iPhone in general, but especially recently, with the 3G version rolling out across Europe and news of Apple selling 1 million units in the first weekend of sale (this compares to the 74 days it took to sell the original iPhone).

What we are talking about here is an emotional product, a marketing success by Apple, who have managed to exploit an unsatisfied need in the market with a neat design and just the right amount of cleverly orchestrated hype to make the iPhone one of the most wanted objects in recent history.

That we are talking about an emotional product is clear by the way certain operators enthuse about its virtues (irrationally some may say) and how developers and mobile enthusiasts equally lambast it or praise it.

At the recent Mobile 2.0 conference in Barcelona, Antonio Vince-Stabyl from itsmy.com, expressed his hatred thus, in a now popular quote: "what does the iPhone have that makes it special? It is just about browsing, browsing and more browsing". Antonio also confided later that he had initially handed all his employees a new iPhone and was later flooded with returns because it was simply impractical for business use.

Love it or hate it, the iPhone is here to stay and Apple would be wise to maintain its pricing premium by keeping it in the niche market that it currently comfortably dominates (more media-tainment than telephony).

I just love the story told to me yesterday by a Dutch acquaintance, of a flashy business type busy discussing an important deal on his iPhone, getting out of his taxi in a hurry and putting the phone hurriedly back to his ear after paying the fare, only to have its glossy, slippery surface glide right over his face and form an arc in the air, before landing neatly in a rose bush.

Stricken with panic, the businessman shouted at the rose bush and continued his conversation from a distance...just one of those hazards of the beautiful, sleek and smooth iPhone surface you don't hear about so much..but then again, I wonder how many iPhone aficionados are actually using it for calls...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mobile 2.0 Europe -Wrap-up

The Mobile 2.0 Europe event at ESADE in Barcelona delivered against expectations -a good selection of European start-ups, some early-stage, others more advanced, presented their projects to an audience made up of mobile entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

The discussion panels were animated, with much time dedicated to how the iPhone is changing the playing field and disrupting existing business models. The highlight was undoubtedly the after lunch discussion panel on the Operator Perspective, which featured a heated debate around what operators should or shouldn't be doing to help stimulate the development of the mobile 2.0 industry. Mobile entrepreneurs were keen to hang the operators for blocking innovation, though others came to their defence on the grounds that they were caught in a trap between rising infrastructure investment and decreasing data rates.Given that 90% of the operator profits still come from voice, this seemed to be a weak excuse for inertia.

The Early Stage Startup Sessions was won by Zipipop, with their 'Intention Broadcasting' concept allowing you to see what your friends are planning to do. The Pre-Series A Startup Sessions was won by Rummble, with an interesting recommendation process based on an in-house algorithm developed in partnership with an Australian university.Finally, the Post Series-A Startup sessions was won by Nimbuzz, a communication platform for social networks incorporating mobile IM.

Overall, congratulations to Rudy de Waele and Carles Ferreiro for pulling off a great event, and successfully transplanting the Silicon Valley event in the increasingly innovative Barcelona area.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Osaifu-Ketai: NTT DoCoMo's Mobile Wallet

I'd like to share an interesting presentation on the development of NFC contactless mobile payments as described by NTT DoCoMo in Japan during the recent GSMA Mobile Money Summit in Cairo.

The latest figures released show that the uptake of mobile payments has been dramatic, and that at the same time as the number of retails outlets accepting this form of payment grew to 600,000, so did subscriber numbers for the service, to 28,5 million.

Apart from the cultural factors at play to explain this successful uptake (tech savvy consumers, on-the-go lifestyle etc), key to sucess has been the succesful partnerships established amongst chipset manufacturers, handset vendors, service providers and Mobile Network Operators.

This has made mobile payments the payment option of choice for a wide range of transactions, from loyalty card point collection, to ticketing, employee ID card authentication and many more.

You can read more about this in the presentation by clicking on the title of this post.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Google Mobile Phone will start ringing in Q4 2008

According to the Wall Street Journal, the first of the new Google phones developed on the Android platform, will become available by the end of 2008, at least 3 months behind the original planned launch.

Taiwanese firm HTC is expected to be the first manufacturer to release a G-phone and will be met with high expectations, given the claims by Google that Android-powered phones will make the internet as easy to use on a mobile phone as it is on a PC.

Google's aspirations to become a leading force in telecommunications should not be under-estimated -via the Android Developer Challenge, the internet powerhouse is tempting developers into its fold by offering $10m in prize money to savvy programmers able to come up with the best applications.

Android consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications and is available under an open-source license, which has been praised for setting a new industry standard.

However, detractors comment that Google is not moving fast enough to be taken seriously and that its partner line-up for Android is missing some of the key industry players, notably Vodafone and Nokia.