Tom Gewecke Keynote at MEFCon
Right after Fake Steve, Thomas Gewecke, President, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, came up and give a lot of insight to Warner Brother’s digital strategy, including a piece on mobile video. While Gewecke admits that mobile is about 2.4% of their total digital revenue, there is a lot of potential, due to the dramatic shift in habits of viewing content. The shift comes from altering the where, when and how a consumer views content. With portable media devices (including mobile phones), viewing can happen virtually anywhere. Shifting when people view their program has been made possible through DVRs (digital video recorders) allows you to pause, record and replay live TV. Customers now given the choice and flexibility are demanding that the maximum amount of content be available in almost any form (television, portable media (DVD), digital (file download/streaming for PC) and mobile. Well it sounds pretty simple to just re-purpose and reformat for all types of viewing mediums, the issue becomes tricky since the work flow to take the master recordings into all the different formats is not a push button mechanism of copy and duplication. Instead what is happening is a bunch of large scale one-offs, particularly for mobile, which is a logistical nightmare. Compound the problem with a rather limited distribution channel which is “un-natural” for a studio and you get a lot of potentially lackluster experiences on the other end. While larger studios like Warner Bros. can deal with taking technology in-house, the technology risk and capital outlay have caused entertainment companies to partner and/or outsource their digital publishing needs to hedge against ever-changing standards and consumers willingness to consume content in various forms. One case in point, building digital assets for mobile such as a Looney Tunes or Scooby Doo game is more cost-effective to outsource to a mobile game developer house than build and hire an in-house production team. But this still does not eliminate the tedious path of utilizing mobile operators, instead of existing media distribution outlets such as retail chains and video specialty shops. The direct reach partnering with a HMV or Vigin Music Store in comparison to a AT&T or Verizon is the round peg through a square hole problem.
Warner Bros. reacted to some trends observed about its consumers. Through technology, it changes how customers find, buy, watch and share video. The number of networked devices, faster bandwidth and tremendous storage solutions for consumers increase the potential appetite to consume content, particular through a digital channel. This is further extended as portable devices (including all mobile phones) have dramatically increase the number of viewing mediums that can play video content. Based on these trends, Gewecke states that his company has taken on some changes in their thinking about how to continually meet the needs of their consumers. He admits that the consumer, now more than ever, is in control. Consumers choose how, where and when to watch, not exclusively through daily programming or movie theaters or video rentals. The number of choices are many, which creates tremendous opportunity to address untapped markets and build more revenue streams leveraging existing assets, tempered with the number of challenges of delivering to these channels in a cost-effective and timely manner. Finally, beyond the assets that Warner Bros. has in their immense collection over the past 85 years of being in business, they are taking a hard look at complimentary services and the community becoming an important part of the content and consumption experience.
Two examples were mentioned to show promise that progressive thinking can produce tangible results. The first example is the cycle of releasing a movie. In the past, a movie would be released in the theaters, followed by PPV (Pay Per View), then available for rental, finally available for consumer purchase. To replace this cycle, Warner Bros. created the Day & Date Digital Rental. This allows the customer a choice for consuming new release by making the “on demand” rental and the DVD release available simultaneously. Initially launched in August of 2007, it was tested out with a select number of titles in the US and some locations internationally. The results show that there was a higher increase in “on demand” *and* DVD sales as well as an increase in customer satisfaction. While this doesn’t seem to be large change, this radical thinking proved that you can improve on an existing system.
The second example is addressing Digital Ownership. This is where Warner Bros. provides a digital version of a movie that *can* be copied to a computer for view and/or backup as part of a DVD purchase. This allows the consumer choice in how, when and where they view content that has been purchased. Again, this progressive thinking appeals to changing needs and improves customer satisfaction.
At the end of the keynote, I tried to tie in my experience with a recent meeting that I had with NBC Universal. A pattern is starting to emerge where the movie studios, in comparison to music studios, are becoming much more progressive and open-minded about how to make money in the mobile space. Gewecke said that he is willing to take some technology risks and experiment, since creating new streams of revenue will ensure the longevity of the company. Music companies seem to be more restrictive and trying to find all kinds of ways to make money, but feel that their only avenues are streaming and mp3 music stores. While I am sure that more can be done in this area, particular search and discovery, which leads to a transaction, I will be following up on this with another article due shortly.
Thanks again to Peggy Anne Salz at MSearchGroove for helping me access the MEF event.
To start the Mobile Entertainment Conference in beautiful Marina Del Rey, Fake Steve Jobs talked about how he got started as an experiment in an “old publishing” guy learning digital publishing such as HTML, digital photo editing and blogging. Although looking nothing like him nor dressing like him (turtlenecks), he did try to mimic Steve’s mannerisms when angry or pissed off (involving cursing). Having achieve worldwide blogger fame, he was getting over 600,000 visitors per month gobbling up the satire about one of technology’s key influencers. He blames his boredom with his job at Forbes magazine, covering companies like Sun Microsystems and IBM which ultimately led to his fear over the years as he witnessed print journalism dying all around him. One notable quote in speaking about the print journalism industry: “Flat is the new up. [A lower loss than the competitor was a good sign in a declining market]. Someone in the audience commented back in the room with: “Flat is the new up? Is that like with mobile TV that Rev Share is the new Profit?” In the mobile industry all are all hungry to eat larger slices on the pie; trying to get a slice larger than the width of the knife blade can be hard to do. I would tend to agree that Revenue Share is the hot buzz word when it comes to mobile content as the ecosystem involves many middlemen along the way and each want their value-add fees. So comparing notes amongst one content provider (CPs) to another and seeing how small their rev share is sad but a true part of the current reality.
He also chronicled how he became a victim of his own success for over a year before he was discovered. He noted that sometimes it would be hard to take back some strong criticism and comments that were posted since there was no editorial direction except for himself. But on the positive side, this did help to make Fake Steve Jobs successful. The comments from the readership allowed an engaging and interactive method for audience participation which is incredibly more effective than Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show or even voting on Americal Idol.
In addition to the Fake Steve Jobs blog, he also wrote a book: Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, A Parody. Fake Steve is a huge Apple fan, but thinks that the first iPhone was not worth the money because he would have like to have 3G web browsing instead of a sub-par surfing experience. He carries a Blackberry, only because Forbes hands them out and it doesn’t cost him anything; iPhones are expensive and he would have to pay. But perhaps with the new iPhone coming out shortly he might convert.
In my opinion, while poking fun at a tech celebrity like Steve Jobs might be good for some laughs, you have to wonder how long it could last. I know a lot of anti-blogging sites (perhaps there is even one about myself, but keeping the content fresh and witty becomes a challenge, and often times it turns into a daily journal of boring nonsense or complaining drivel. I applaud Dan Lyons on getting his fame, it’s difficult work being a creative, starving artist, in any line of work.
Lastly, thanks to Peggy Anne Salz at MSearchGroove for helping me with access to the MEF event.
Click to see images
A few months ago, I purchased the new Nokia N810 Tablet PC. This was my first attempt at trying to use an Ultra Mobile PC to see how it would fair against carrying my QWERTY smartphone vs. carrying my notebook computer. I have really impressed with the new N810 vs. the N800. Having a slider keyboard was very handy. The touchscreen was quite good and I rarely had to use the plastic pen tucked inside the device. The MP3 and video player worked very well. Surfing the web through the browser was much nicer than any mobile that I had used before. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity worked very well pairing access points and devices, respectively. Even the radio feature with headphones attached worked very well. I had one big complaint that stopped me from using it more which was the email client. It did a very poor job at handling multiple email boxes, filtering and being very functional. Not to be discouraged, since a few folks at Nokia whom I have spoken to will be fixing many of the bugs with the next release (June, 2008) of the software (OS 2008 Diablo) as well as releasing the next N810 with WiMax!
I have to say that the battery life on the device is very good for daily use, and if you are a taking public transportation, it works quite well with listening to music, surfing the web and reading *and* replying the email. Skype worked well, when using a WiFi connection. Playing games is sometimes a bit hard without the stylus, and even that takes some getting use to, in comparison to a keypad or controller.
In trying to use the GPS and free navigation software, it’s pretty typical that satellite acquisition time for the device is quite slow (I have the same problem with my HP iPaq 6925) but once it’s setup, it stays in sync. As far as the navigation software, one really needs to upgrade to something better as the UI and UX is somewhat lacking. So if I am able to connect with my phone, I tend to use Google Maps for directions, but this sometimes is challenging since my burnrate for the battery of my Tablet and my phone start to accelerate! Not a good idea when on a road trip!
Updating and upgrading software is a bit tricky, definitely not as simple or easy as a Mac or even Windows Update. The reason for this is because some of the new software required out bits and components which are not automatically downloaded and installed to support the latest application you wish to update. Hopefully this will be fixed as well in the Diablo release.
So the conclusion for now? Well, it turns out that the two biggest uses for what I need a device for are email and web surfing. And email is a lot more frequent than browsing. So I had to stick with my HP iPaq for now. I will try again once the OS 2008 Diablo is out to see how they have particularly improved the email client. But I *do* miss that large screen to web browse, it certainly beats any device out there (the iPhone works well, also). For everyday use, the device is not quite that practical, since I commute by driving to work, instead of taking more public transit. But on longer trips and definitely airplane rides, the N810 is much easier to pull out than grabbing my notebook computer and start tapping away.
There are times when a multi-touch, mini QWERTY, or a keypad is just not the right “fit for purpose” for what you want to do on your phone. So what do you do? Well there are quite a few options that one can choose from in order to get a better experience out of a 320×240 small screen. One company that is almost ready for primetime is Zeemote.
With a bluetooth enabled mobile phone, this controller comfortably fits in the palm of your hand and can sit for hours and play your favorite mobile game until the battery wears out. In speaking with Jim Adams, Vice President of Business Development at Zeemote, at GDC2008, he told me that two Zeemotes can be connected to one device and support games like 2 person fighting or racing games. It easily fits in your pocket and the first product that comes out is not the smallest form factor it can get. He said it typically takes game developers anywhere from a few days to about a week to add in the Zeemote SDK and recompile for an existing title. Any game developer can sign up for an SDK and get a few Zeemote to try out and recompile their game and re-release it, being Zeemote compatible. At this time, the following configuration needs to be supported for the Zeemote: Devices need to be MIDP 2.0, CLDC 1.1 and JSR 82 Bluetooth Protocols. Right now, since Java is the dominant platform for games, the total number of devices is just over 50 (at time of publishing) and support tends to mostly be Nokia, Motorola and SonyEricsson of the GSM flavor, but two devices on Sprint, the LG Fusic and Muziq are also supported. The device currently runs on AAA batteries, but I’m sure a rechargeable model will be out soon.
While you can make gaming more exciting, how about other types of controllers to enhance your mobile phone?
I met with Doug Naimo from Triggerfinger Software a few weeks after GDC2008 and was asked with him about what his company was doing in this area. While he was not wedded to a particular form factor he was focused on providing software that can be put into various controllers. He showed me everything from a game console controller for the Wii and Playstation, to a military spec heads up display where a soldier can use a few buttons and a joystick to send and receive orders and communicate with their central command or other units. The user has the ability to type letters, numbers and special characters as well. While some might argue that the interface is slow and cumbersome, for confined spaces, maximum portability, or helping the handicap, this does provide a good alternative. Ideally, Doug would like to work with several hardware OEMs and embed his software. He currently is working with both the US Military and Education to explore ideas on how this can be used in the broadest sense.
Logitech and Kensington have had much success building accessories to the main device, why not the mobile phone? Even though there are billions of subscribers, it might have to do with the fact that a really small percentage of them are games. Even still, the phone does not have quite a universal interface nor standard game play like a console game or a desktop PC. One might argue that this presents a significant opportunity for a Logitech to leverage its economies of scale and practice of working on standards for interfaces and connectivity. No doubt both the handset and game publishers as well as Logitech and its competitors will be watching Zeemote and other upstarts, ready to pounce.
In speaking with Bena Roberts the other day, she told me about one of her new endeavors, Mobile Advertising and Mobile SEO Workshops. It’s certainly a hot topic and still a lot to understand and learn. She came up with the idea of Workshops since quite a few people were asking her about it. So the latest is the upcoming workshop in London on June 17th. It won’t be a whole lot of panelists and keynotes, this is more of a classroom, learn-by-doing style half day session where you should get some real and practical knowledge that you can take back to your company and use the very same day.
Also, Bena will be adding an event in the US sometime in August 2008 so stay tuned for more info about that.
Yesterday I posted about how the ATT site posted Refurbished iPhones for sale. It seems as though when I went back to the site, the refurbished iPhones were no where to be found. Seems like a temporary glitch in advance of the upcoming *new* iPhone to be released? Perhaps a staging server that momentarily went live? As the Apple WWDC is around the corner, I’m sure the haze will be lifted and we will be enlightened.
One source that I spoke with noted two points: 1. A former Nokia marketing executive is heading up the iPhone group inside Apple and 2. Remember the launch of the iPod? It is now a significant portion of revenue; each iPod makes more in margin than their notebook or desktop brethren.
iPhone no doubt makes even more in profit. And you can’t ignore that. So Steve Jobs is “doubling down” using the blackjack term and betting even bigger on the next generation iPhones.
Today I went onto the AT&T website to see if a few new devices have been released. I noticed that AT&T is now selling the 16Gb Refurbished Apple iPhones! In a sign of things to come, perhaps this is a bit of trickery or an omen that the new Apple iPhone is on the way.
In talking to a few AT&T Store Reps, it’s pretty clear that Apple has given no ability to provide discounts on both the device *and* the service plan. Maybe buying a refurbished iPhone is a way to get around the discounting? They are just as good as a new one and still have a warranty, and saving about $100 USD can be used towards a cover, carrying case and sales tax.
In my opinion, I’m still waiting to see what’s around the corner with the next rev of the iPhone and will personally pass on getting the currently one.
The follow set of instructions is a pretty typical set for almost all Nokia mobile phones, new and old.
Nokia Phone Unlock Sequence
In trying to decode T-Mobile USA Samsung devices, there are two sequences that I have come across:
A. Samsung Unlock Sequence
*Unlock Code is typically a 16 digit number.
B. Samsung Unlock Sequence
*Unlock Code is typically a 16 digit number.
Well, more devices unlocking sequences. This time for SonyEricsson, I had to unlock two z750a devices and both times, no problem. AT&T Customer Care seems to be doing good these days. The claim from the instructions below is that it *should* work on any SonyEricsson devices from AT&T.
* ATT has a 16 digit code, might be different on other networks.
A few weeks ago I started a new project that involved ordering a bunch of handsets and getting them unlocked for mobile application development. The initial overwhelming number of devices that I had to order was a great chance for me to test out a bunch of devices to see what they could do and how they look and feel in person. But the real value that I wanted to share is the unlocking procedures. While there are bunch of sites and services that will sell the unlock codes, I’m just here to provide the instructions. So far the steps work out for all the devices that I have had to unlock.
For RIM Blackberry devices on AT&T/Cingular, here are the steps. This works for all devices except for the Curve.
First, turn off the Radio
Next go to Settings > Options > Advanced Options > SIM Card
You might see a blank screen. Not to worry, just do the following.
Hold down the ALT key and press the keys that correspond to: m e p d
Next hold down the ALT key again and press the keys that correspond to: m e p 2
You should see a menu where you can put in a 16 digit code and 10 tries to punch it in correctly.
After you enter in the code, press Enter.
It should say “Device Unlocked” and you’re done!
Last month, I did an interview with Peggy Anne Salz from MSearchGroove and Medio had some comments about it. Well, in trying to focus on the problem regarding mobile search recommendations, I published the follow up article: Recommendations & Mobile Search Via Verizon’s Get It Now: Performs Better Than Some, But Does It Really “Get” It.
Here’s hoping that as an industry this result begins to fade away: