I published my first report on mobile social networks 2 years ago (see here) at a time when Facebook audience was "only" around 50 million unique monthly visitors. At that time MySpace was a paid-for and exclusive experience on Vodafone-Live and Bebo was about to launching a mobile version. Needless to say lots has happened in the last 2 years.
Numerous acquisitions and parternships took place between the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Hyves and with handset manufacturers / mobile operators. Several mobile-only communities (AirG, peperonity, itsmy.com, buzzcity...) have gained traction and there is plenty of innovation in that space. INQ generated lots of media coverage and interest by lauching its so-called "Facebook phone" and plans to launch new devices. I am not sure what the latest Facebook mobile stats are but not that long ago rougly 10% of the worldwide installed base of FB users had registered to the mobile version. Even more significantly, the GSMA announced a few months ago that UK mobile consumers who access Facebook via their mobile phone spend, on average, 24 minutes on the site daily, just shy of the 27.5 minutes that PC-based Internet users spend daily on Facebook; mobile users of Facebook average 3.3 visits per day versus 2.3 visits per day from PC users.
I'm fascinated by this application on the iPhone. It is rich and entertaining. It makes ordering pizza fun. Includes a game. Includes coupons to motivate purchase - but they aren't pushed out via SMS to trigger the idea of pizza for lunch/dinner.
Is it more marketing or commerce?
The connected nature of the application allows for updates - to the menu (for the basic categories) and promotions. Look forward to seeing this evolve to the point where local restaurant managers can do their own local promotions even based on registered zip codes. I see location-based mobile advertising playing out along these lines nearer term than the auto-tagging of a user's location with an ad to quickly follow.
Would prefer not to have to sign up online. Mobile-only use cases with individuals are limited today, but I think they will grow in number. Cross-channel (Internet to mobile and vice versa) is an interesting idea, but it isn't clear that it is needed or wanted - especially on platforms as capable as the higher end devices like an iPhone or Blackberry, Symbian, Palm etc. devices. -
It is often difficult to step back from the flow of news coming out from Barcelona but here's a quick take on the main announcements.
- new handset makers such as ACER are entering the mobile space highlighting the fact that boundaries between computers and mobile phones are being blurred. Toshiba, HP are already here and Dell or Lenovo could well follow. Will they succeed? Well they need to master not only the hardware but also the software, offer scalability/economies of scale, negotiate with operators and revamp their brands. This will not happen in one night but some of them have bold long-term objectives
- As always a great autumn/winter device collection from the usual suspects: Nokia E75, SE "Idou", LG Arena or Smasung Beat DJ. Despite few announcements (2 devices with Android OS), Google and Apple cast their shadow over the congress though. Apple because most phones were still compared to the iPhone even though the device was announced 2 years ago. If many visitors were disappointed not to see more Android handsets, one should bear in mind this is still the early days and that there is a strong support from the Open Handset Alliance. No doubt this is a long-term play and that Android is here to stay.
- Appstores are the new retailing/merchandizing paradigm. Many handset/OS vendors announced their own "vertical" solutions but operators also joined the dance such as Orange with its Application shop. The parntership between T-Mobile and OVI is one of the most interesting announcements at it shows that operators can also offer an "horizontal" layer and offer a large reach/distribution to developers. Not everybody will succeed but it is likely that both types of stores will co-exist.
Next Monday the mobile/telecom industry will gather in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress. With 60,000 delegates expected, the Fiera is the largest European Congress and a bigger event in importance than CTIA. There will obvioulsy be discussions about the impact of the crisis but no doubt that the flow of innovation will overcome skepticism. If you want a wrap up of the three previous conferences, you can have a look on my personal blog here (for 2008), here (for 2007) and even here (for 2006; when the Congress moved from Cannes to Barcelona).
Since this is my first post here, let me begin with an introduction: I’ve worked at JupiterResearch – now a division of Forrester – for four years in the Paris office - after having spent 6 years in the marketing division of a mobile operator. During that time my research has focused primarily on mobile consumer services: mobile Internet, mobile content, mobile media and marketing, mobile messaging. I joined Forrester via their acquisition of Jupiter in July 08, and I’m excited to join the Forrester Consumer Product and Strategy team.
Since this is prediction time, I'd like to highlight some of the key trends likely to happen in the mobile space in 2009:
1) Tough economic conditions will dominate the European consumer mobile landscape in 2009
The French Competition Council - the Conseil de la concurrence - ordered yesterday that Orange's iPhone exclusivity be immediately suspended, with the result that any French carrier (SFR and Orange) is now able to offer Apple's iPhone.
Orange will appeal the decision before the Court of Appeal in Paris, but in the meantime (it may take as long as 12/18 months to have a final decision) Orange's competitors will be able to sign distribution deals with Apple. SFR annnounced it had anyway already 45,000 unlocked iPhones active on its network. However, the time those agreements are in place, Bouygues and SFR cannot benefit from the Xmas sales period. After one year of its exclusive partnership, Orange announced that they will have sold over 150,000 first generation iPhones and over 450,000 3G iPhones. But beyond the idea of attracting high-end users, such an exclusive agreement was a key way for Orange to differentiate from competition, drive traffic to shops to cross-sell other Orange/France Telecom products and to nurture the brand (iPhone being all about "convergence").
Vodafone announced thisweek a recommended cash offer to acquire Wayfinder Systems AB. This is not a done deal yet but my first take is:
- Wayfinder like other software vendors really pioneered the market for navigation on mobile phones. Initially, the Swedish company (at that time named Itinerary systems) started in as a R&D project in the mobile phone division of Ericsson in the 90s! It is thus no surprise that Wayfinder recently announced an intensification of its global collaboration on GPS handsets with Sony Ericsson, one of its main clients. Back in July 2007, the company acquired Finnish application provider Navicore.
- According to its interim report (ending September 30th 2008), Wayfinder wanted to focus on a small number of global partners and to planned to reduce costs by 30% in 2009. The company reported close to 2,5M activated user accounts but only 294,000 paying users, who had activated a paid for application in the past 18 months. Vodafone's offering value Wayfinder at around €23M. I am not a financial analyst so I won't comment the cash offer in detail but from an industry perspective, it seems to me:
* this is a small amount of money for a global operator like Vodafone
Following the publication of this article in Moconews, I had a call with Greg Ballard, CEO of mobile gaming company GLU.
Glu is adamant that despite a smaller size than EA Mobile or Gameloft, the company is very well placed in porting games on the balkanized mobile handset market. He righlty pointed out that if smaller in revenues, Glu has a scalable business and claimed to be ahead of its competitors in some regions of the world (n2 after EA in the US and after Gameloft in Latam, n1 in China and Australia). He also made the point that Tetris still represents a significant chunk of EA revenues. Looking back at the Jamdat acquisition in December 2005, I have no other choice than to agree.
So, let me precise that my comment "the larger companies have economies of scales that their smaller rival doesn’t" mainly addresses the smaller players in the mobile gaming industry. Despite consolidation that took place over the last few years, this market is still very fragmented. Also, it is fair to point out that Gameloft's developer/production/porting teams represent close to 90% of the workforce (and thousands of employees). But I am not a financial analyst so I can't really make a call here.