When is it coming to a tiny screen near me?

I've been meaning to upgrade my 2001-era Sprint Motorola Timeport for months now - just waiting for the right phone to come out. After spending the morning at HP Labs looking at very cool, next generation video applications (more to come on this) ... and having read what seems like dozens of announcements from Verizon this week on available video content for their new Vcast service, I headed to the nearest Verizon Wireless shop to see if I could pick up a phone. I know the service is not available in San Francisco yet, but I wanted to be ready.

It was one of those conversations with the salesperson -

Salesperson: "V-what"
Me: "Vcast, (with an emphasis on the "T") the new video service. I would like to buy one of those phones."
Salesperson: "We aren't carrying them, but we will."
Me: "When?"
Salesperson: "Don't know."

I'm going to try online next. Stay tuned.

Verizon has promised to lend me a trial unit as soon as I get to a city covered by EVDO. Will take a lot of patience for me to wait until March ... especially when I'm taunted each day with a new announcement of content that is not yet available to ME!


Announcement of an Announcement of a Smart phone

I attended HP's mobile computing conference yesterday in San Jose. One of the announcements was that they will announce a smart phone sometime in 2005. They wouldn't say much about it. They did say that it would be targeted at business users. I think this means it could cost $400 to $500. If it's targeted at the business user, I guess it doesn't need a megapixel camera or interchangeable skins. They wouldn't say which operating system ... but then again, they really don't have to given their current offerings. They also wouldn't say which cellular network.

Someone in the audience also asked if HP would produce a handheld game device of some sort w/ or w/o a phone. They wouldn't confirm or deny this. ??? an HP-Boy? or H-Gage? They are however doing some mobile gaming work in Korea so perhaps we should look in that direction for any early indications.


My Ringtone Frightened Me

I let my friends check out my latest phone. They switched the ringtone from a song to a man shouting. They also turned the volume all of the way up. Someone rang me while I was driving. All of a sudden someone was shouting at me while I was driving. I didn't wreck, but it did take two or three minutes for my breathing to return to normal.


Advertising on Mobile Handsets: Who should be paying whom?

Sorrent announced a licensing agreement with Twentieth Century Fox to bring Fox film content to mobile phones. The first movie will be Robot. Sorrent will release a mobile game at the same time that Vivendi releases the console title. Sorrent and Fox will partner on other films, and the partnership will go beyond games to include wallpaper, ringtones, film clips, etc.

The question is: is this marketing for the film? content that should be sold separately? or both? I think the answer is eventually both, but should be advertising dollars in the near term. Today, it is content to be licensed - at least in this deal. Fox will collect a fee on each download associated with their films.

I think this deal will work for Sorrent. Sorrent produces wonderful mobile games (my favorite is Zuma) and is likely to generate a positive return on their investment even though film-based games have not been the top sellers that reach the casual game player. Carriers are eager for new titles and likely to help market them.

Will be interesting to watch in the long term, however, to see if selling this content is more beneficial to the film industry than giving it away as pure marketing.


Vacation Photos on my Phone - Not Yet

I was browsing some of my vacation photos on Ofoto. As I looked through the album, I noticed a new feature on the side of the web page. It showed my photograph on a mobile phone. I gave it a shot - entered my phone number and carrier. No luck - my carrier not supported yet. No note setting expectations on when it will be available.

I think it's a sign of how nascent this market is and how low consumer expectations are. It's like turning back the clock to the early days of the Internet. People didn't mind so much if a link was broken - they just tried again another day. Guess I'll give it a shot in another few months.


Will Philly Close Digital Divide by 2006?

Philadelphia's CIO (I didn't know cities had those) announced that Philadelphia would complete their ambitious plan to cover 135 square miles with Wi-Fi. The project will offer free Internet access in public parks and discounted rates for low-income residents.

While the plan is a noble one and will offer a plethora of benefits to the residents of Philadelphia, I think it falls short of fully "bridging the digital divide" - which does exist. According to Jupiter's numbers, about 2.5 million households with an annual income of $15,000 to $30,000 had broadband access in comparison to more than 12 million households earning in excess of $75,000 annually.

First, there is already a lot of free access in cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco. I can see nine access points from my flat, 43 at the nearest intersection, and three in the closest "garden" in Golden Gate Park near my home. Half of these are unencrypted.

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Qualcomm to Join TGn Sync Group

Qualcomm which submitted one of four complete proposals for the 802.11n standard has decided to join the TGn Sync group giving more leverage to a group that already includes heavyweights such as Atheros, Intel, Nokia, Nortel, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba. The question of whether the TGn Sync proposal or that of the Wwise group (Airgo, Bermai, Broadcom, Conexant, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments) is technically better is open to debate with each proposal offering its advantages. The TGn Sync group, however, has lined up a number of consumer electronics companies on its side that strengthen their position. Streaming video over the wireless network will be one of the primary drivers of consumer upgrades to higher speed/higher capacity networks. Having the CE companies on their side early on, the TGn Sync group is well positioned to put forth a standard that takes into account stakeholders that are likely the largest consumers of Wi-Fi chips beyond basic home networking boxes. Adding Qualcomm to their side eliminates a detracting factor moving forward and will simply the process overall.


Ringtone Link in Murder Mystery?

24 Hours - the thriller drama - aired it' fifth episode of the 2005 season last night. While just one of many similar episodes, it highlighted many of the reasons why a cell phone is not a good idea if you're a "bad guy" and brought ringtones to a prime time TV audience. A mother heard her recently murdered daughter's phone ring and instantly identified the ringtone as being unique to her daughter - one that her daughter had recently paid for and downloaded. While the "bad guys" initially covered it up by claiming that they too had the same ring tone, it's only a matter of time. Given the capabilities of CTU, it won't be long before they identify all of the wireless subscribers with that specific ringtone and realize that the murdered girl's phone was indeed on the premises.


Wireless Privacy - Will Telemarketers Have Access to your Cellphones?

Sprint has joined Verizon and Alltel in their decision at least to delay their decision to participate in the nationwide wireless 411 directory - a service which would allow consumers to opt-in to the service as opposed to paying to opt out like many landline services.

The service - to be offered by Qsent already faces a number of challenges beginning with the need for consumers to opt in rather than out and including recently passed legislation in California which requires the carriers to obtain written consent from the consumer before being allowed to include them in the list.

With ARPU's flat, carriers are certainly in need of incremental revenue opportunities, but I don't think they'll find a big win in wireless directory services. Cost is one hurdle, but consumer interest is an even bigger one. Mobile phone numbers remain "guarded" by many individuals - a piece of personal information to which individuals like to control access. JupiterResearch shows that consumers are interested in Directory Services (411) - in fact these services top the list of productivity services that interest consumers -, but they are primarily interested in pizza delivery, tow trucks, and taxi's - entities with landlines.


ALLTel to Become Bigger #6

With ALLTel's decision to purchase Western Wireless and their 1.4 million subscribers, they will move from a distant sixth place with about 8.5 million subscribers to 10 million subscribers - a less distant sixth (not considering that the Nextel and Sprint deal has not closed) from fifth place T-mobile with more than 16 million subscribers. This acquisition will move ALLTel from a regional player to a "leading" regional player position, but certainly not a national player given that they lack coverage in key urban markets.

The Western Wireless acquisition is certainly a fit in terms of geography adding customers in mostly regions in which ALLTel does not compete today. Operating statistics such as MOU and ARPU are similar for both companies, but low in comparison to national providers. Neither company was working on a 3G network which would enable new services. ALLTel investors rather than consumers are likely to see the near term benefits of this transaction.