Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Auction: Today Ends at $11.6 B

Auction Day 4 Summary

This is what the little cash cow looked like at the end of yesterday's rounds.

This morning, after round 14 the tally was up to $10.2 Billion (ch-ching!).
The other news is that at last one bid has been made for block D. The bid came in just under $0.5 Billion. This block is the one the FCC has mandated it must be shared with a national public safety communications network.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Auction - Day 3 Results

Less than $4 Billion away from the government's initial goal.

When the auction will be over is hard to tell. And there are two certain parties that will go head-to-head until the very end. The government's original goal of $10 Billion might turn out to be a very conservative target after all.

I am just hoping the European 3G licenses saga isn't about to happen again.

Monday, January 28, 2008


A new hot company has just arrived in the Valley and promises to be all the craze: Mig33.

Mig33 is a do-it-all-in-one downloadable "light" client packaged as a mobile social networking service. So what deems Mig33 hot? Its reach already covers 9 million subs accross 200 countries, and enjoys at least five fan sites.

The features Mig33 offers are VOIP, IM, and chat. But the most interesting aspect of Mig33, at least to me, is its Merchants program, which consists of peer to peer re-selling of credits. Mig33 users get a 25% discount when they buy $100 or more worth of credits and they can turn around and re-sell these to other users at a discount for a profit.

On the other hand, I am a little less optimistic about the traction mig33 is likely to get in the US with its downloadable client. The larger carriers block downloading to many of their devices. So unless mig33 gets on a couple of carrier decks (and pays for the right to do so), US penetration will be challenging. The one consolation is its WAP site, which although bare, it provides subscribers with an easy way to access mig33 on the go.

700 MHz Spectrum Auction Bid Tracker

It's day three of the auction. I've started tracking the amoung of $ the federal government will raise in the auction. Selling air sure is a nice business to be in!

Bidders will not be disclosed until the end of the auction, but Google, Verizon Wireless, and AT&T are reportedly in the race, having qualified for it prior to the start of the auction.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Mobile Openness Might Look Like

Just some speculation about what all the industry changes i.e. the 700 mhz spectrum, Verizon's seemingly move towards an “open" platform… Android recently announced deal with NTT DoCoMo, might bring forth...

For the carriers having an open platform and environment may imply not getting a slice of the pie each time content is delivered over their networks. For Brands with direct relationships with end consumers will not have to rely on the carriers to collect $ from those customers. Having bought many CD's from Amazon from my phone (that was back in the day before itunes), I can tell you the carrier didn't see a dime of those transations. That is the direction of things. Also, take iTunes as another example. If I could download an iTunes song to my phone, I would buy it directly from iTunes. And if the device platform and access to the device is open enough where a) I can navigate to iTunes directly, b) iTunes knows my identity or can easily verify it, c) and the song can get directly to the phone, my carrier bill becomes obsolete.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

700 MHz Auction Countdown is On

We're just but a few hours away...

One Small Step for Verizon, One Big Step for Mankind

Mark your calendars! March 19-20 is Verizon’s Open Development conference.

But what does this mean exactly? If you are an application developer, don’t book your flight to NYC just yet. For starters, the conference is not for all developers.

The first step towards enabling an open platform environment is getting device manufacturers on board and in sync with each other. This explains why the first conference targets device developers. During the conference Verizon will review its technical device standards. The question is are these “standards” standard with respect to the rest of the devices in the world?

On a side note: another, perhaps even bigger announcement is the “company’s desire to encourage innovation, give customers wireless choices, and quickly address opportunities to expand the wireless market”. I just love the sound of that!

Related posts: GigaOm, mobilebuzz

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Simple Wins, Especially in Mobile

In past posts I have ranted about the challenges of developing applications in the mobile space: the closeness of various platorms, the fragmentation of devices (ranging from hardware to operating systems to development platforms, and even to applications, such as browsers).

Today, even as I anticipate the blossoming of open platforms, I still strongly recommend SMS as the simplest and fastest way to reach mobile users. This is why I was ever so delighted to see that TechCrunch's first "Best Mobile Start Up" Crunchies award went to Twitter. I am a huge proponent of Web meets Mobile services; in a not so far future all applications will fall under this category.

It is true that Twitter is more than a mobile application; it integrates many communication mediums. But when it comes to taking the best it has to offer, its simplicity, and taking it to the next level by integrating mobility, Twitter is still one of the best examples I can think of.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Guitar Hero Any Time, Any Where!

Since this has become my latest addiction I thought I would post a quick review:

It is a really good app based on an outstanding video game. Hands On Mobile has done a superb job transposing the guitar-based UI to a handset.

  • It works just like Guitar Hero, except there are only three keys (instead of five)
  • The graphics are also pretty good and true to the game
  • The AV synchronization is almost perfect (every once in a while a note will be slightly off, but this is barely noticeable to someone who has worked on mobile video applications before)
  • The sound on the Verizon Chocolate is pretty good, especially with stereo head phones

What I didn't find optimal:

  • No free-demo available?! That’s kind of sketchy! So in order to try the game I had to pay for the 1st month’s subscription. Talk about a deterrent for some folks out there
  • Interesting pricing strategy going on here: only four songs available with the 1st month’s subscription. One can work his way up to fifteen songs total (three at a time). But given how addictive the game is, unless more songs are available soon, there will be little incentive for folks to renew their subscription beyond five months. This makes it better to simply pay the indefinite package upfront
  • The biggest drawback is that one can only have two songs residing in the phone at the same time. To switch from resident songs to the other two songs, the full songs must be downloaded. Translation: almost a minute to download each song (too bad one can’t take a Guitar Hero break during)
  • And the ever present problem with mobile anything: when I play to “Suck my Kiss” (by the Red Hot Chili Peppers) it feels more like “Suck My Battery” just after a few plays

The game is currently sold exclusively on Verizon phones. One can download it through Fun & Games on GetItNow (or the Brew deck for mobile geeks out there familiar with the term). One can pay $4.49 for a month to month subscription, or $11.99 to have indefinitely.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The WAP Fenced Garden

In the U.S. the concept of off-portal premium content and applications provided over WAP is almost nonexistent as most carriers maintain a fairly closed WAP walled garden.

But do off-portal content and application providers sit idle while waiting for the walled garden to come down? No.

When there is a will, and a loophole, there is a way.

Most carriers do allow end users to navigate to sites outside of the carrier-branded portal. The problem is that as end users navigate outside of the walled garden, off- portal sites will not benefit from automatically knowing their identities (i.e. the phone number). In a way this is similar to a Web experience – the only difference is the limited UI of the device. Many content providers thus take advantage of this by continuing to sell their content in a variety of different and creative ways.

One way is through the use of a third party payment method, such as Paypal or credit cards. On Verizon Wireless I can easily navigate to a content provider’s WAP page (the name of the content provider will go unmentioned), select a ring-tone, enter my credit card number, confirm my purchase. The two problems with this are 1) the cumbersome user-experience, and 2) most phones do not allow content downloading over HTTP (in my case, I got charged for the purchase but never received my content).

There are also other ways to marginally improve the end user experience:

Enter Off-Portal SMS. Through Premium Short Messaging Services (PSMS), off-portal content providers have been able to circumvent the WAP walled gardens. PSMS provides a way for content providers to bill consumers via the operator’s phone bill, either directly or through an operator-trusted aggregator.

The user experience might look something like this:

  • User navigates to the content provider’s WAP site and selects the service

  • User needs to provide the content provider with his/her phone number (manual input)

  • To ensure the end user is truly the owner of the phone number an SMS containing an SMS message is sent to the phone number. Since the end user may have to exit the WAP session to receive the text message, the content provider sends a URL in the device (WAP Push). By selecting the URL the end user is taken back to the WAP page where he/she can continue with the transaction (and which serves as a means to authenticate the user)

  • The content provider may deliver the content through a WAP download or through SMS, depending on the operator/device limitations

A less desirable user experience is one which is the last alternative for operators/devices that do not support WAP Push:

  • User navigates to the content provider’s WAP site and selects the service

  • User needs to provide the content provider with his/her phone number

  • To ensure the end user is truly the owner of the phone number an SMS containing a PIN is sent to the device

  • After the end user receives the PIN he/she may return to the WAP page, assuming the device’s browser is able to cache the page

  • The end user enters the PIN

  • The purchase is completed

  • The content provider may deliver the content through a WAP download or through SMS, depending on the operator/device limitations

The big disadvantage is that the end user experience still leaves much to be desired.

The other disadvantage of PSMS is that the operators takes a cut of each purchase. The cut can range anywhere between 25% to 40%. The irony is that by trying to protect their walled gardens carriers are also keeping dollars outside of their precious garden, and out of content providers’ wallets.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In the Spirit of the New Year: Mobile Awareness

My first post of 2008 goes out to RareEarthTones. Unlike the vast majority of mobile content providers, RareEarthTones is leveraging the most ubiquitous access technology to promote awareness about endangered species. It does so by offering FREE ringtones featuring the sounds of animals at the brink of extintion.

I tried it on my Verizon phone and it worked like a charm.

This is truly liberating. The economics of SMS are very unlike the Internet. There is a considerable cost that the Center for Biological Diversity (or some very generous donor) must be incurring. I cannot think of a better purpose!