Centro Selling Well Amid iPhone Frenzy

Unprofitable Palm is selling its $99 Centro phone, despite a big consumer push by Blackberry and the iPhone. The company reported (via Bloomberg) the sale of more than 2 million units in little under a year. The Centro is available from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.

Consumers are responding to the price of the full-featured phone, which is essentially a Palm Treo 755 with much lower margins. The company also just released an updated Treo, the 800.

Smartphone adoption drives much more data plan and mobile Internet usage. There's a direct correlation:

smartphone internet usage

Source: comScore/M:Metrics (2008)

iPhone Apps Cross 1K Mark

I'm not going back in and counting every day, but Fortune writer Philip Elmer-DeWitt now counts 1,001 iPhone applications, with more local apps added since I did my initial inventory.

By my count there are now only four free local apps in the top 25 (unless you count Google as one, making it five):

  1. Google
  2. Urbanspoon (boosted no doubt by NY Times coverage)
  3. BoxOffice
  4. WeatherBug
  5. Yelp

There are more in the top 50 and 100.

Like Facebook apps, the challenge will be to get exposure but over time the better apps should "out" or rise to the surface and get strong word of mouth.


Yesterday Dan Miller published a client advisory on voice control coming to the iPhone and its apps.

Slifter Now on iPhone, Blackberry, Desktop

GPShopper's Slifter, a local shopping service, has launched for Blackbery devices. It's also on the iPhone. The site, which began as a mobile subscription offering on Sprint phones, has now moved onto the desktop as well.

Here's an example search for a GE Profile Range:

GE range search results

GE range 2

The site works on WAP, full HTML mobile browsers and offers a rich client application. The desktop-mobile crossover is increasingly important for sites to succeed in the long term in a competitive market. Brand strength carriers over into mobile, provided the mobile application is not poorly executed. And mobile-only site are moving onto the desktop for greater exposure and reach.

Other providers of local product inventory data for mobile devices include NearbyNow, TheFind, Krillion, Shopatron, Where2GetIt and ShopLocal.

Quova Acquires Verifia; Poised to add More Metadata

Geotargeting specialist Quova has just purchased authentication and identification expert Verifia for an undisclosed sum. Both companies were founded in 2000. Over the years Quova has refined its core value proposition by creating a service that of pinpoints the location of Web users by gleaning the maximum amount of information about their location of their IP addresses and associating it with demographic data and other metadata. It provides its services to major e-retailers, ad networks, banks and government agencies who employ the data to geo-target  advertising and content, detect and prevent identify theft and credit card fraud, or comply with laws and regulations. 

Verifia's has two core products: NetGeo and TIP (Theft of Identity Protector). NetGeo, is a geolocation service that would augment Quova's core competency of pinpointing a user's location. TIP adds the dimension of fraud protection. The acquisition makes an explicit link between building incentives built around targeting of messages around geolocation, while at the same time erecting barriers against fraudulent activity by Web-based imposters and identity thiefs. This sort of secure geotargeting is designed to encourage more locally oriented activity among the company's clients. Verifia's clients (who will now be served by Quova) include American Express, Boots, and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. They will join Quova's formidable roster of "thousands" of Web-based companies.

iPhone 3G Inspires Voice Application Demos



Local Mobile Search Advisory
Application developers are packing the iPhone App Store with a wide variety of crowd pleasers and time-wasters that take advantage of the flat screen, multi-touch navigation and accelerometer. Automated speech processing is just beginning to enter the mix, but has a good deal of catching up to do.

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (pheadrick@opusresearch.net).

Is There an 'Internet Tablet' in Your Future?

The Kindle, the Nokia Internet Tablet, Dash Express and of course the iPod Touch are precursors to a forthcoming generation of IP-connected devices that are not phones, although they will certainly offer VoIP, but give users Internet connectivity on the go as their raison d'être.

The new class of so-called "netbooks" is also relevant and interesting to this discussion. Here's a prototype from Toshiba:

Toshiba UMPC

Image credit: Engadget

Once the connection problem is solved (e.g., WiMax), all manner of devices will emerge that offer larger screens and "full Internet browsing." On these devices there will be no difference between the "real Internet" and mobile -- including the ads. And it may be on this class of devices that Android's OS really shines.

Apple itself is rumored to be bringing out a Tablet PC.

Verizon Q2: 70 Billion SMS Messages, Wireline Down

For those interested, here's the full press release. Here are the wireless highlights:

  • 1.5 million net customer additions; 68.7 million total customers; 66.7 million retail (non-wholesale) customers, most in the industry, up 11.0 percent.
  • 1.12 percent total churn and 0.83 percent retail post-paid churn.
  • 11.8 percent increase in total revenues; data revenues up 45.3 percent.
  • 45.6 percent EBITDA margin on service revenues (non-GAAP).

In addition:

Data revenues grew 45.3 percent over the prior year, contributing nearly $2.6 billion. The company had 49.6 million retail data customers in June (approximately three-quarters of its retail customer base), a 25.6 percent increase over the prior year.

During the quarter, Verizon Wireless customers sent or received nearly 70 billion text messages and 1.4 billion picture/video messages. Customers also completed 36.5 million music and video downloads.

It's not clear what sorts of plans these data customers are on, but data subscriptions in a leading indicator of mobile Internet usage.

Sprint Introduces Personalization and Google Search

U.S. carrier Sprint has launched what it's calling "Sprint Web," which consists of an "adaptive" (passively customized) home screen and default mobile Internet search from Google. From this morning's press release:

Sprint Web offers an adaptive home page that delivers content based on the customer's previous usage, along with direct access to search from Google Inc. This enhancement is automatic for Sprint customers who currently access the mobile Web on these phones and requires no additional action on their part.

The new Sprint Web home page uses technology by ChangingWorlds, a global expert in mobile Internet personalization and content discovery technologies, to provide each customer with dynamic, relevant content and information as a result of their past usage. This makes each customer's Sprint Web home page unique, depending on their interests.

This move helps make the "carrier deck" be more "relevant" to end users -- and makes it less likely that they'll blow by that screen to get to the mobile Internet (those with data plans). The default search from Google, is part of a larger relationship with Sprint that includes a Clearwire investment by Google. That too makes it less likely that people will go off the home screen or deck to get to Google.

Sprint also has a mobile search relationship with Microsoft.

Separately, AT&T is reportedly complaining to the U.S. FCC about the merger of some of Sprint's WiMax assets into Clearwire. The substance of the complaint is quasi-procedural, but the subtext is that AT&T finds WiMax a threat given that it will enter the market at least a year before LTE, the 4G standard that AT&T and Verizon have embraced.

On the other side of the Atlantic, U.K. carrier 3 touted mobile broadband success, which potentially bodes well for 4G initiatives like Clearwire's.

Jingle and MapQuest in Reciprocal Branding Push

It was pointed out to me that there's a bit of reciprocal branding going on between Jingle Networks' 1-800-Free-411 and MapQuest. The former is promoting "directions" from MapQuest, when users call. MapQuest is promoting "driving directions & free directory assistance" from 1-800-Free-411 (below).

Here's the page online (after one selects "print"):

Mapquest + Mapquest

Dial Directions provides the speech recognition and related functionality on top of the Mapquest routing for 800-Free-411.

AdMob Launches iPhone Marketplace

AdMob has developed specialized ad units for the iPhone and, earlier this week, "launched a global iPhone ad marketplace." This includes a range of ad options that work with applications or the iPhone's Safari browser.

The company also announced it would give away $1 million to encourage further iPhone application development, with the idea being you'd support that with AdMob advertising.

Initial brands and publishers participating in the marketplace include:

  • Brand Advertisers: Ford, Electronic Arts, Land Rover, Jaguar and Universal Pictures "The Mummy"
  • Performance Advertisers: vsnax, Stitcher, Loopt and Shozu
  • Publishers: AccuWeather.com, MovieTickets.com, Mippin, Flirtomatic and Loopt

AdMob iPhone marketplace

Here's a survey video of some of these ad units in action (there are also videos on the AdMob site)

AdMob is very smart to try and position itself as the monetization engine for iPhone applications. Mobile-only business models will be under intense pressure to survive to until they can build sufficient traffic and scale to make them work on an ad supported basis. Publishers and apps developers will be hungry for ads that perform and drive revenue.

In all likelihood there will be a few large ad networks that compete for brand advertising dollars in mobile (AdMob, ThirdScreen, Nokia Interactive, etc.). While competition is important, having fewer rather than more networks is better for media buyers, who want reach and fewer "entry points," in this early stage of mobile.