Wednesday, June 11, 2008

GSP East App Night - Pic2Phone Presentation

Niels and I presenting Pic2Phone

Mobile + Social Panel at GSP East

From the left: Ben from Bluepulse, Me, Greg from AIM, Chris from Dash

Hook Mobile booth at GSP East

Niels and I manning the booth at GSP East. Lots of good sessions.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mobile 2.0 Meet Up

Last night I attended the SF Mobile 2.0 Meet Up which featured presentations from Symbian, Zannel and Juicecaster. It was really interesting to hear Zannel and Juicecaster side by side as the differences in their business models highlighted some ongoing discussions I've been having with Noel, CEO at Mosio. Specifically we've been discussing the benefits and challenges to on-deck versus off-deck distribution.

Without going into too much detail on either company, both offer lifecasting services from the mobile phone. Zannel's system works via WAP across all carriers, while Juicecaster has JAVA or BREW applications across many by not all carriers. Zannel is monetizing their offering via advertising and sponsorships, while Juicecaster is charging a monthly service. Zannel claims to have well over a million users, where Juicecaster sheepishly claimed to be over 100,000.

Here comes the big difference. Juicecaster, sold for $2.99/month in partnership with the carriers would be generating around $180,000 per month post carrier (my estimate allowing the carriers 40% of the revenue). I have no idea what Zannel is charging for their advertising and sponsorship solutions, but with even 10x the users, I suspect the revenue is less. Juicecaster's revenue is subscription based which means that they are not only getting that first month, but likely 6+ months per user regardless of actual usage.

It is worth noting that Juicecaster has been in existence for at least 3-4 years and has worked very hard to get the carrier deals in place. Zannel's strategy is totally appropriate given the time it arrived in the market. I hope that all the emerging WAP strategies will work well, but for today if given the chance at carrier based revenues, I'd take it any day of the week. The best strategies will do a little of both (why leave revenue on the table?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Accessing vs. Alerting

As we continue to investigate how users interact with Social Networks and Social Network Applications from mobile devices, it is important to consider whether we are talking about 'accessing' networks or 'consuming' content. The former has been tackled by a number of companies including the SNS containers themselves. Facebook and MySpace each have well trafficked WAP sites that allow users to pull content. Other access strategies include J2ME and BREW applications from the likes of Intercasting Corp and Juicecaster. In addition to access, these applications do also promote a mobile originate (MO) broadcasting feature. Both the WAP and Application solutions absolutely have a home for the power user. I do, however, see a few challenges for these solutions. Namely, users need to actively navigate to these applications / WAP sites on their device. This is appropriate in moments of inspiration such as when you have a great photo or video to share or if you have some time to kill and happen to be poking around your device, but like all great mobile offerings, the risk is that they stay buried on the device as users are focused on other higher level device functions such as text messaging or voice calls (remember voice?). I can confidently say this having studied usage patterns of top selling mobile games during my time at I-play.

So lets move on to the concept of alerting. Now let me clarify, if a user is 'in' an application or actively 'on' a WAP site, alerting can occur, however this doesn't necessarily notify the user who is outside the site or application. Most major networks have implemented an SMS notification of site 'events', but like the SMS alerts we all signed up for in the early 2000's, notifications eventually get turned off when they become overwhelming. So where is the opportunity with alerting. I believe the opportunity lies in the SNS sites and applications having the ability to bring components of the online experience to mobile devices via multimedia messaging (MMS). The huge difference between SMS and MMS is that with MMS we can deliver the content itself (not simple a notification). Imagine sending a video poke to your girlfriend on a Friday evening when you know she has already gone offline. By sending the video to her phone, you know she'll receive the actual multimedia message. You know this because we all leave the house with 3 things these days; keys, wallet and mobile phone.

It is no secret I am a big proponent of MMS, however my promotion of MMS doesn't take away from my belief that the entire spectrum of mobile technologies (SMS --> MMS --> WAP --> Apps) have a home in social media. In my ideal world, my favorite social media apps will allow me to share content using MMS while still providing WAP or Apps when I want to pull content. MMS, and messaging in general, should be used as a bridge to deeper mobile experiences. By delivering the entire experience within an MMS we can create a positive 'awakening' event for the device and user (phone beeps and content is one click away). Once the device is awakened, if the user has more time to consume, they can be directed to one of the available access options.