The Hottest Selling Item for Christmas: All You Can Eat Mobile Data
Well, I guess I’ll jump of the bandwagon of trying to promote Christmas early. Seems that things unfold ever more slowly each year as Christmas displays and the hype just starts earlier and earlier each year. Maybe this year will heat up with the runaway success being Flat-Rate Mobile Data, instead of a hot smartphone or other mobile gadget.
Bouygues Telecom SA, a division of Bouygues SA, Thursday said it is launching a flat-rate monthly subscription to its i-mode high-speed Internet wireless service ahead of the key Christmas selling season. France’s third-largest mobile operator said the EUR9.90 a month rate will allow consumers to surf the Internet, download music as well as send and receive e-mail and use Microsoft Corp.’s MSN instant messaging product. Source: Cellular News
I think this is a great start of things to come. While it certainly draws a line in the sand for both the subscriber and the competition, it also marks an important point about mobile data. The industry needs to move towards flat-rate pricing. The reason for this is not to nickel and dime subscribers for bandwidth, but charge us for content and services where digital goods are transacted. That way, we can perhaps tolerate the high latency networks and perhaps focus on creating better and richer interfaces for subscribers. This may be a way to compel more subscribers to utilize the untapped resource on their phone: the dreaded WAP browser. Flat-rate pricing will allow us to wander both on and off deck, and hopefully find content and services that are of utility and relevancy to an individual. In the US, the unlimited data plans as of 10.24.05: As you can see, even adjusting for the currency exchange, Bouygues’ flat-rate plan is still significantly cheaper than the lowest price plan in the US (at time of this post). While there are arguments about the utility of the application, handsets are still shipping with it flashed, sites are still built for it, and subscribers are still using it to surf the Mobile Web/Internet. Flash Lite is slowly taking off and Adobe/Macromedia definitely want to see success in their mobile play. Operators are still milking plenty of cash cows from ringers, games, and wallpapers, paying for the transport of bits to surf and download should not be an extra tax subscribers should bear. Instead, for Mobile Operators to be forward thinking and think about the “Big S” instead of the “little s,” they should really be thinking about how they can roll out the most number of services in the least amount of time so they can get a cut of each digital goods and service transaction! Until then, I think we will still be marketed with voice plans and data plans to “fit our budget” rather than shift our distribution of wealth on our ability to consume more digital goods and services.
New Mobile Transformers
Well, I admire Nokia for their ability to spend a lot of time on design and UI for their mobile devices. I honestly feel that there isn’t a perfect phone that will fit everyone, more that there is a particular phone that suits each persons lifestyle and fashion sense. Form follows function
as the saying goes? Problem is that we are quite price sensitive as well. I wrote about this previously a couple times on my blog: 05.21.2005
, and 07.13.2005
. While some of the designs are pretty wacky, for example the Nokia 7280, it proves that looks can be deceiving as well as a bit hard to manage! Looks more like a large tube of lipstick or maybe a bottle of perfume. No wonder so many women think it’s chic and svelte.
So why does Nokia keep at it? I think it’s because people have begun to crave more and more individuality. Not to mention being trendy (see 06.11.2005
post). The Nokia 3250 is quite the case. The design of twisting the base allows distinct tactile feel that you are transforming your mobile into different devices that you would normally take with you: phone, digital camera, and mp3 player. This makes me think about the Transformer toys I used to play with and how if I twisted here, extend there, and voila!
it was double the fun. Now that it’s all in one…but I still need it to transform into my keys and wallet! Maybe Victorinox should work on a special model phone with Nokia? We can have that toothpick and tweezers pop out as well as a small blade and scissors?
Well, for those who are perhaps less fashion conscience, but more worried about getting work done, I’m happy to see Nokia embracing the “kit kat candy bar format” with a wide screen and QWERTY keyboard layout. More buttons equals, more numb thumbs! I knew as adults, we needed something to resemble a video game console control pad; Treos, Blackberrys, and now the N61 suffice.
I think this departure from the Communicator series is one step to provide alternate form factors that are less bulky, but can accomplish the same tasks. At the end of the day, since I am a proponent of swapping SIM cards, maybe we decide to carry more than one device. We have our work phone, our “club phone,” then our weekend, leisure phone. Hmm, perhaps we also have one for travel as well? That Samsung 5MP camera phone doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
TXT the Vote
Using mobile technology for voting has been around for a while. In Europe, several countries allow voting for elections. Even the Prime Minister of Italy txt everyone to remind them to go out and vote. In the USA, we have been exposed through the partnership between American Idol and AT&T Wireless (now Cingular). Now, Mobile Voter has put up a billboard in San Francisco to get people to register and vote. It’s a big step to get both more people to register and perhaps even use SMS for voting.
From Mobile Voter: Voter registration is a key barrier to voting – especially among youth. “Nearly one-third of college students say that they do not know how to request an absentee ballot – 92% say that they would vote ‘if the process of registering and voting by absentee ballot were made easier…’ says the Harvard University Institute of Politics. As the native tongue of young people, texting can break down these barriers.
Perhaps we could remove some of the problems associated with faulty electronic voting machines, hanging chads, and other problems associated with Election Day in the US, by switching to SMS voting? With the USA at over 50% mobile phone penetration, that’s roughly 150M subscribers. In the last election (2004), the total voting population was measured at over 221M. The total registered voters was nearly 175M, while the voter turnout was slightly above 122M. This represents 55.3% of the population voting in the last election. Clearly, this could be inline to setup electronic voting via SMS or MMS even. The biggest hurdle would be the government, both at the federal, state and local levels. It is abundantly clear that embracing technology and adopting it within government is a severe challenge. But as more people own a mobile phone, particular those of voting age; it could be a very useful tool. Absentee ballots can be counted electronically instead of manually. Voting can take place anywhere and not just at designated polling stations. This might actually be a way to reduce the friction of voting! 2004 Election Stats: infoplease.com
Using LBS for Caffeine
Greystripe is an upstart, based in Mt. View, CA working on LBS (Location Based Services) applications. They asked me to check our their first product, Caffeine Finder, which they built for the RIM Blackberry platform. It is a FREE application which means you should try if you have a BlackBerry and are curious about location aware applications.
Caffeine Finder works on any BlackBerry with data services but what is unique is that for BlackBerry devices like the 7520 on the Nextel Network it uses automatic location technology. By using real-time GPS
built into the device, the application can find the nearest coffee shop, based on your current location, an address you specify, or even an address from your contact list. That way, I can always find the nearest Starbucks, should the green sign be obstructed by trees, buses or the sun J
Their first incarnation only finds coffee shops, but they will soon be adding other brick and mortar shops, such as fast food joints. Well, I guess the unhealthy stuff that we crave first, then the bars, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. will soon follow. One drawback to their application is more on the mobile operator fault. It would be great if this application could be ported over to more platforms and more networks. But since LBS has yet to be standardized and widely deployed for 3rd party use such as Greystripe, being able to use this service will be limited. Finally, Caffeine Finder, is one of the first up close applications for mobile where I can see it actually lead to *transacting commerce* versus cursory potential for commerce. This is particularly important since more applications need to think about driving commerce through mobile transactions to create a successful ecosystem in mobile content and services.
semantical.org: building effective mobile search
Wanted to introduce readers to a new portal:
. The offers is to build the first semantic web mobile search platform. The first building block is to offer the concept of ontologies
, with the
The idea is to combat the problem facing subscribers today: poor UI, which leads to slow uptake and usage of mobile data services.
The ability to offer a large amount of content and services through a limited keypad input, combined with a small screen and higher latency networks (as compared to wired lines) becomes an enormous problem. Without an effective search engine, it will become nearly impossible to find what is relevant and personalize for you. Taking a different approach with implementing the semantic web, agents, and ontologies, allows for greater flexibility to find any piece of content or service, both on and off deck. The ability to perform a semantic search over keyword matching allows the service to understand a subscriber’s request, thus allowing both exact and recommended, related matches to be retrieved.
Black Sheep (Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing)
In the US, when mobile phones were beginning to crop up, it was decided that there should not be a phone directory to include subscriber’s mobile phone numbers. The idea was that people are paying for receiving calls. This was particularly important for prevention of telemarketers from inundating mobile users with all kinds of offers that we already bought an answering machine for.
But low and behold, Google has found a way to build a directory under the guise of Gmail service. Tomfoolery! Even though it seems like a rather clever authentication mechanism, what I think they are really trying to do is build a large database of US mobile subscriber numbers. Only a small percentage of 150M subscribers (roughly 50% of the US population at the time of this post) need to participate in order for Google to spin up algorithims to take care of the rest of us.
You might ask how? Well, a while back when mobile carriers had to receive their block of phone numbers, they would be assigned blocks from the regional Bells. In time, more and more blocks were assigned as they added new area codes to handle more and more numbers (fax, office, mobile, etc). Now that LNP has been implemented, you basically just hop from blocks that have been pre-designated mobile numbers.
Dense mobile, dude
Remember the video from your high school physics class: Carl Sagan’s “Powers of Ten” ??? He was talking about when you examine both large and small objects, that they are extremely dense and complex. So I’ll try and juxtapose this with mobiles and storage. It was only a couple years ago when I thought 1Mb of storage on the phone was a lot. With small footprint applications, it’s only a matter of time when even 1MB would be too little. That was approximately in 2002. Now it’s 2005, and we’re already seeing 1Gb flash cards popped into mobiles. So perhaps one day, we get to terabytes of storage on our mobile device and even more for our desktops and servers. With all this storage, can we truly live in a digital world? No paper, cash, credit cards? If we look only a few years back, the Internet supposed was going to reduce the amount of paper consumption since every thing was digital. Now, 8 [Billions and Billions] documents [served] up, we still print what we see on the screen! I guess I’ll start having to carry a mobile printer with me sooner or later.