Mobile as the seventh mass media ..

In his usual style, Tomi Ahonen does an insightful piece on Mobile as the seventh mass media. Well worth a read!

I am speaking at MIT/Sloan on March 15 and Ajaxwold NY(March 19)

Hello all

I am speaking at MIT/Sloan on March 15 and Ajaxwold NY(March 19) and also in the US again to speak at the Web 2.0 expo in April. Happy to meet up in Boston, New York or San Francisco. Please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

I am on the BBC Digital Planet program ..

I am on the BBC Digital planet program along with Christian Schimmel of Adlittle and Marc Aasjes of Vodafone. See the BBC Digital planet where you can download the podcast

According to the BBC:

Christian Schimmel , Marc Aasjes and Ajit Jaokar joined the programme to share their views on the next generation of mobile phone applications and the trend towards web 2.0 mobiles.

This program has a wide following here in the UK and also globally since it is a part of the BBC world service. The BBC also has been at the cutting edge with podcasting(the program also exists in a podcast form). The presenter Gareth Mitchell and his team are themselves a source of knowledge on how to set up a worldwide podcast system. So, in a switching of roles, I will be interviewing them on Horizon Channel soon!

flirtomatic web and wap stats ..

Over Christmas, flirtomatic in the UK reported some interesting figures. I follow flirtomatic because they have managed to get some traction over Web and Mobile i.e. the service spans the Web and Mobile domains from the start. Also, Mark Curtis, founder of flirtomatic is one of my authors (Distraction)

Flirtomatic is a cross platform (web and wap) flirting service, now with 225,000 registered users (they came out of beta and launched properly in late May 2006). Acquiring web users has always been easier for them than wap users (the web is more viral, more promotional opportunities and provisioning by sms has high wastage rates) but they have begun to really improve recently on the WAP front – and are seeing amazing usage levels as a result.

In December wap usage was 4.3m page impressions – and it was especially high over Christmas and the New Year. Interestingly they are seeing higher page impressions per user on wap than on the web.

Over the last week they have seen 46% of users at any given moment have been mobile, and they are now seeing evidence of users understanding that cross platform means they can use the most appropriate medium for where they are.

This varies by user need of course: some users use the mobile in the office because they want to keep their flirting discrete – but then switch to PCs at night. Others, predictably, use a PC at work but check messages on their mobile going home (we see a mobile spike at 6pm).

while creating this post: I thought – ‘Why are people using WAP to flirt? i.e. its normal to swap mobile numbers after an initial introduction(assuming interest) and then use text messaging to flirt (discreetly).’. So, why WAP? Shall ask Mark ..

BBC calls Mobile Web 2.0 ‘Web 2.0 on the go’

Interesting article from the BBC about Web 2.0 on the go. Much of what we said in Mobile Web 2.0 is becoming mainstream now and its nice to see that!

Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

A recent article in the Times said

The growth of mobile internet use, by comparison, remains sluggish. More than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet, and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent. (Of the more than 7,000 12 to 24-year-olds surveyed by Forrester Research,)

I believe that : Focussing on Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

Before you start to throw reports and stats at me pointing otherwise, think of this – why don’t we have IPTV Youth or (horror) Fixed line youth?

Sounds stupid does it not?

Youth will always use technology to communicate! (Operative word is to communicate)

I have always believed that ‘mobile’ is an incredibly arrogant industry – we think we are somehow unique and in some way carve an ecosystem radically different from the Web. (Again – show me a report on the potential of Fixed Line Youth if you think that the Mobile industry is not arrogant!)

We got into this mindset because we saw consumers in Japan accessing the Mobile Web and then kids in Scandinavia adopting text messaging

But, as I said in my 3GSM presentation on Mobile Web 2.0, there is a battle for eyeballs. MySpace is a competitor to the ‘Ringtones’ – and at the moment, the Youth are going MySpace. MySpace and their ilk of course are not technologies but mechanisms for communication – same as Text messaging.

Which brings me to my point that ‘Mobile’ Youth is not a relevant concept

Now coming to the Forrester report.

That report is confusing terminology

a) Mobile Internet is not the same as ‘Mobile Web’ – I think from the references they are talking of the ‘Mobile Web’ when they are saying

More than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet, and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent.

The Operative word is ‘browsing’ i.e. Mobile Internet would be any IP based Mobile device (not just Mobile browsing)

b) The critical assumption in this report is: ‘The Youth are not adopting the Mobile Web’ - but That does NOT mean the Mobile Web is itself not taking off i.e. others (non youth) are driving the adoption of the Mobile Web

The Mobile Web (using my terminology as above) is alive and well and growing very fast. Increasingly, with browsers supporting Web standards like JavaScript and fixed rate pricing, the Mobile Web will grow.

Both Admob and screentonic have announced a billion ad impressions on the Mobile Web. So, the evidence of the growth of Mobile Web is there.

There is no evidence of Youth adopting the Mobile Web in the West .. but like I said .. that does not matter either way .. Because the Mobile Web is aligning to the Web and the Web is for everybody!! (In that sense, I agree with the Forrester report i.e. Youth are not adopting the Mobile Web)

So, like the Youth, let us grow up as an industry and not be defined by the past

At 3GSM, I spoke to a major Operator who said that their plans are now for ‘everyone’ i.e. services which can be used across the board. That’s right! That’s more money for the Operator. Youth have little or no money! So, expect to see Operators take up more holistic services.

Speaking of Operators – Operators have a great role to play here – as the Web and the Mobile Web become convergent, Operators can play a big role through technologies like IMS (that’s a major area of my thinking at the moment i.e. the synergies between Mobile Web 2.0 and technologies like IMS). If you have synergies between Mobile Web 2.0(User generated content, Mobile Web and network technologies like IMS), please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Mobile Youth, like I said, is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things and focussing on Mobile Youth means foregoing the larger revenue streams from the entire population

I am speaking at the O Reilly Web 2.0 expo in April.

I am speaking at the O Reilly Web 2.0 expo in April.

If you are attending/speaking and want to catch up, please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Tony Fish will also be speaking (i.e. its a joint presentation).

More details of our session coming soon

The biggest announcement at 3GSM – was the one that never was!

I always suspected that Mobile giants plot secret rival to Google .. Is it speculation?

was a rumour..

3GSM has come and gone .. But no such announcement in sight. For those not in the UK, the Telegraph (which was the only source for that story) has a much more conservative/older audience and is not known for leading edge insights/stories in new media unlike The Guardian or the BBC.

So, I was never very comfortable with this story – coming as it is – in the Telegraph. May still be announced post 3GSM – but I doubt it. More likely an attempt by the Telegraph to get noticed in new media circles :)

O2 in Germany also has a fixed price plan ..

At 3GSM, I swapped notes with Dr Florian Steiner of O2 (who is also doing a book on Web 2.0 in German). Florian mentioned that O2 has also announced a fixed rate priceplan

The official press release in German is at http://www.o2.com/de/presse

It says that o2 is launching 3 packs

tariffs for internet usage on the mobile:

S time based billing

M volume pack

L fair flat (almost unlimited)

always good to see Operators announing flat rate priceplans! Thanks Florian

The Long tail and Mobile Web 2.0 applications

ecosystem2.jpg

Background

This is an ambitious post and I seek your feedback to improve its insights.

One of my personal highlights at 3GSM was an informal meeting organised by Daniel Appelquist from Vodafone. Apart from futuretext(me), other attendees included Vodafone, Swisscom,Ikivo ,IBM, T-mobile, Gregory Gorman(The Open Group) , Access , Soonr and Teleca.

Opera Software , Sony-Ericsson and Openwave expressed support for the meeting , but were unable attend due to the pressures of 3GSM week.

The common interest unifying this group was a commitment to the Mobile Web, Open Standards and Mobile Ajax.

This post is my personal viewpoint as to how we, as an industry, can leverage the power of the Mobile Web. The ideas outlined here were broadly discussed in the meeting – however the analysis, approach and emphasis are mine. In other words, the conclusions reached here were not reached by the group; but rather by me based on the insights gained from the group.

As I get more feedback from you, I hope to refine the views here.

Also, while the original remit of the meeting was to discuss Mobile Ajax, I have included two other related Web based technologies in this discussion – namely Mobile Widgets and WICD. Thus, in this article, when I am referring to Mobile browsing technologies, I am referring to all three technologies unless otherwise specified.

By extension, the document refers only to applications developed on Web standards and does not include any other non-web technologies.

The problem

The current Mobile Web ecosystem presents a complex and an evolving framework. Within this framework, the questions we address here are:

a) How to ‘sell’ the vision to the all players in the industry; especially to Mobile Operators

b) How to empower grassroots developers by creating a vibrant ecosystem – a problem which I have historically been discussing in my blog and books

c) Operators face the problem of how to work with incremental/grassroots innovation. In contrast to existing top down services which are complex for an Operator to deploy(and approve within their own organization), they need a simpler, more granular framework to handle the many ‘Long tail’ applications

d) How to harness innovation arising from the many grassroots / Long Tail applications – many of which will never ‘take off’. A few will be super hits. However, an ecosystem is needed to allow them all to flourish

e) How can Operators gain financially from new innovation without taking on the complex task of working with thousands of developers

f) How can developers(especially Web developers) work with the industry and make money from their innovations with low risk deployments

g) Can Operators take on the role of the Amazon marketplace – leveraging their existing infrastructure to gain new revenue sources which span the Web and the Mobile domains? These services could be implemented similar to Amazon Web Services APIs.

The options

Within the framework of Mobile browsing technologies, we could potentially create five classes of applications(note that this categorization is not technology based – but rather, it is based on function) within the context of the above Web technologies

These application classes include :

1) ‘Convergence’ applications: In this class of applications, the browser is the lowest common denominator across a range of devices – thereby enabling these devices to communicate via Web based technologies

2) Content access applications: Accessing any content from a mobile device through browser based technologies

3) Enterprise access applications: A special case of class 2 for enterprise data

4) Device API applications: Mobile applications that need access to the device APIs(such as the messaging API, phone API etc)

5) Long tail applications: Discussed in detail below

The current industry focus leans towards ‘Device API applications’ i.e. applications that need access to Phone APIs. While access to device APIs is ideal, it may not be always necessary. For instance, the Soonr applications run Mobile Ajax without needing to access device APIs.

Ultimately, the industry will evolve to overcome the device API access issues for browsers. However, this document outlines a class of applications which do not necessarily need access to device APIs – i.e. what is referred to here as the ‘Long tail’ applications.

The philosophical foundations behind Long tail Mobile Web applications are based on three ideas

a) Tim Berners Lee’s keynote address at 3GSM which talked about a unified, holistic vision for the Mobile Web

b) The principles of the Long Tail

c) And finally, my own document – which first touched on the Long Tail applications driven by the power of Mobile Ajax.

Description

What type of application are we outling here?

The answer is: We don’t know. Because it is not a specific application – but rather an ecosystem.

Thus, we cannot predict the actual applications that will be winners.

This ecosystem has the following characteristics:

a) It is based on Web standards and specifically on the three Web technologies which are relevant to Mobile applications: Mobile Ajax, Mobile Widgets and WICD

b) By extension of the above, we are working with applications that span the Web and the Mobile Web

c) The applications are typically small, single function applications(at least initially). Typically, they could be accessing any content from the Web – including content from Enterprises.

d) The operator has a critical role to play – more akin to Amazon marketplace

e) By the nature of Mobile Web, the strategy depends on next generation mobile web technologies. Most new devices from all device vendors are supporting the full Web browser(by ‘full web browsers’, we mean browsers supporting technologies like Javascript i.e. not WAP/XHTML etc)

f) Developers have the ability to create and deploy applications very fast. These applications make money from day one for the developer! Not a lot of money – but a billing model should exist. The operator could mange the billing and distribution model

An example of such a service could be almost any ‘Widget’ (running on both Web and mobile devices) – for instance a Widget that gives local bus timings. Such a Widget would run on the Web and also the Mobile Web.

Advantages

This approach has a number of advantages:

a) Operator gain a new source of revenue from Long tail applications

b) They become a ‘bazaar’ – similar to Amazon marketplace

c) Developers are empowered and can make money from applications that span the Web and the Mobile Web

d) The approach is based on Web/Open standards. Because Web standards are not burdened by Intellectual property, they are cheaper to deploy

e) We are addressing problems which we can solve rather than getting bogged down with problems that are too difficult at the moment(for instance device API

applications). This starts the ecosystem development now and in future, more complex problems like Device APIs can be addressed.

Conclusions

• I see this appoach to be a pragmatic way to move things forward rather than waiting for more complex problems (like device access APIs) to be resolved.

• We are takes the view that : Let us start somewhere and then grow a viable ecosystem where all participants can make money.

• It is based on Web standards, which are cheaper and more inclusive in comparison to propriotery standards

• It fosters the notion of the ‘One Web’ and introduces developers to the Mobile Web through standards that they are familiar with

Next Steps

I view this as a living document and a manifestation of my book Mobile Web 2.0 i.e. ‘how Mobile Web 2.0 may manifest itself’ . I look forward to your feedback which I shall incorporate in this document.

I will also create other documents specific to the technologies and to convergence in general for instance Mobile Widgets, Mobile Ajax, Browsers/IMS as convergence mechanisms etc

Please email me your thoughts/feedback and future contributions to this document at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Acknowledgements

All the participants of the above meeting and especially Dan Appelquiest from Vodafone for his initial feedback.

About the author

Ajit Jaokar is based in London and is the co-author of the book Mobile Web 2.0 . He is the CEO of a publishing company futuretext. He chairs Oxford University’s next generation mobile applications panel

Recent media / talks have included 3GSM Barcelona-2007, CNN Money, The Scoble show, O Reilly Web 2.0 expo, Stanford university and MIT Sloan(April 2007)