According to Nielsen, based on data collected between January and October 2007, here are the top mobile sites/brands in the U.S. (monthly uniques):
What we've got here is mail, news, weather, sports and local. Seven out of 10 of these sites are being accessed at least in part for maps/directions and other local information. Two quick observations about this high-level data:
In 2008 we may see MySpace or Facebook crack this list.
I meant to blog about this last week and forgot to. This video featuring the NY Times' David Pogue reviews a range of "buzz worthy" products from CES (a Windows Mobile ad precedes the video). Among them is a Garmin nuvi with voice control/speech rec. for in-car search.
All the PND makers are doing deals with the major search providers to get their capabilities and local content onto these GPS boxes to make them more versatile and competitive with increasingly functional (and location-aware) mobile phones.
The price of the Garmin device is a prohibitive $1,000+
Yahoo!'s new mobile homepage is supposed to similarly link to a user's MyYahoo! feeds/preferences and help bridge the gap between the desktop and mobile. But, so far, it hasn't shown up yet.
AOL mobile has a similar personalization capability that also leverages the desktop.
Going the other way, Nokia started the Ovi site, recognizing the strategic importance of this desktop-mobile connection and the advantages of allowing users to manage mobile content on the desktop.
I was speaking with someone at Shopping.com, on an unrelated topic, who attended CES. He said that, in his opinion, none of the mobile handsets at the show were remotely as good as the iPhone. In particular he held and used the LG Voyager (an "iPhone ripoff") and said that it didn't measure up.
And here are some interesting screenshots of designer mockups of a hypothetical Starbucks ordering application on the iPhone.
Wired has a lengthy and relatively entertaining piece, The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry about the genesis of the iPhone and some of the drama behind its development. There's no question this is the most significant mobile device of the past decade. Whatever its ultimate sales, it has changed the landscape (at least in the U.S.) for good.
But while it has shaken things up but it's not entirely clear what the ultimate impact of the iPhone will be. As Wired contributor Fred Vogelstein points out:
It may appear that the carriers' nightmares have been realized, that the iPhone has given all the power to consumers, developers, and manufacturers, while turning wireless networks into dumb pipes. But by fostering more innovation, carriers' networks could get more valuable, not less. Consumers will spend more time on devices, and thus on networks, racking up bigger bills and generating more revenue for everyone. According to Paul Roth, AT&T's president of marketing, the carrier is exploring new products and services -- like mobile banking -- that take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities. "We're thinking about the market differently," Roth says. In other words, the very development that wireless carriers feared for so long may prove to be exactly what they need. It took Steve Jobs to show them that.
Carriers thus have an opportunity to avoid the "dumb pipe" scenario. Let's see if they can.
An article by Forbes.com's
Rusli was decidedly underwhelmed. She observed that, while the device made it easier to carry out routine interactions, the GW4 lacks the multi-touch controls that make the iPhone so easy to use. She also seemed disappointed to learn that the phone would not be offered "free". Her assumption is that it will carry a $200 retail price which, of course, could be subsidized by a wireless network operator.
She finishes by calling the device "a nice phone," but adding dismissively that "nice doesn't clobber competition." So it is clear that, in spite of the fact that Android will be a platform for developers to introduce a myriad of new applications and ways of doing things with a wireless device, prospective buyers are being primed to accept nothing less than an iPhone killer. From the point of view of encouraging local mobile search, that's missing the point. We should be gratified that an initiative like the Open Handset Alliance is encouraging development activity up and down the solution stack so that an ODM can pack the GPS, Web search and high-speed data links that will make local search and e-commerce applications easy-to-invoke and intuitive to use.
It shouldn't be about clobbering the competition. We'd settle for a better user experience.
Emarketer covers the LMS Mobile Advertising Forecast:
US and Western European mobile advertising revenues will reach a total of $5.08 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $106.8 million at year-end 2007, according to Local Mobile Search's "US and Western Europe Mobile Advertising Revenue Forecast, 2007-2012."
Local Mobile Search predicted that the United States would account for about $2.3 billion of the total, with $2.8 billion coming from Western Europe.
"We're now entering a period where hope and hype turn into reality as mobile subscribers find dramatic improvements in the user experience and a greater ability to obtain information on the go," said Greg Sterling, senior analyst at Local Mobile Search.
The company's projections included revenues from voice-based search, text SMS, WAP and application downloads, as well as estimates for CPM-driven displays or banners, pay-per-click and pay-per-call advertising.
From the article, "$5 Billion in Mobile Ads for US, Europe", eMarketer, January 11, 2008
Frontline Wireless, which was backed by Silicon Valley VC luminaries, has apparently folded. The company was unable to put up the $128 million "reserve" required by the FCC as a condition of bidding on the 700MHz spectrum.
Separately AT&T cited economic weakness to explain large numbers of customers not paying their bills. I wonder if AT&T (a potential bidder) will decline to bid accordingly. In addition, of the more than 250 firms that applied to bid on the wireless spectrum, it's not clear how many will actually put up the reserve payment and show up to bid in earnest.
The fewer the bidders, the more likely Google will have a real shot at winning the auction.
R.H. Donnelley, after announcing that it offers the #1 local online search site in its print Yellow Pages in the markets, is taking DexKnows.com national. DexKnows.com is a destination site, built on Local Matters' core technology. The site enhancements support reviews, comparison shopping, geographic awareness (like search by landmark), video clips and several personalization features (like stored searches and shopping itineraries).
The service was introduced in RHD's Western and Midwestern Markets. This represents expansion that portends the unification of all its online local search under the DexKnows.com brand by the end of 2008.
Jingle Networks Inc., a
Menlo Park, Calif. based operator of a national consumer telephone directory assistance service, has raised nearly $13 million in Series C-1 funding, according to a regulatory filing. Listed shareholders include Goldman Sachs, IDG Ventures Boston, Liberty Associated Partners and First Round Capital. The company had closed on a $30 million Series C round last October, with the aforementioned investors, plus Comcast Interactive Capital, Hearst Corp. and Lead Dog Ventures.
Through three financing rounds, Jingle has now raised more than $70 million.
We're not at CES but the news coming out of the show is sort of unrelenting. There are scores of announcements daily, most of which will not translate into real-world experiences or products that consumers actually use. For that reason, we've refrained from blogging most of the announcements. The mobile TV announcements are interesting, but we're really at the level of standards right now and far from general consumer adoption.
But the BBC writes up Intel CEO Paul Otellini's keynote remarks about mobile and ubiquitous connectivity:
He said the industry was on the verge of creating a "new level of capability and usefulness to the internet."
"It's an internet that is proactive, predictive and context-aware."
Explaining that devices would be location-aware, and would access the internet over Wimax wireless connections, he said: "Instead of going to the internet, the internet comes to us.
"We need a ubiquitous, wireless broadband infrastructure. Eventually we will blanket the globe in wireless broadband connectivity."
One of the challenges for mobile is uneven or limited connectivity. And Otellini's vision of a ubiquitous, wireless broadband infrastructure is right. One day (the question is how soon) there will be wireless connectivity that people can tap into at will, whether on a subscription basis or ad supported, almost anywhere (there are numerous security problems that go with that of course). That infrastructure will support a range of mobile devices other than phones.
What also struck me about the remarks is that they point to a time, probably within the next decade or so, where mobile devices become the primary Internet access point for many people, facilitating all sorts of interaction and research via the Internet "in the real world."
The desktop will become a utility that people use at work and often at home. It will also be a tool that people use to manage the content that they access through mobile devices. But it will no longer be the central device of the Internet -- and no longer the preferred device for a generation of people. Indeed, the modes of wireless Internet access will undoubtedly diversify and multiply beyond phones (e.g., smart appliances, kioks, etc.).
I disagree, however, with Otellini's vision of a "push" world, that realizes some of the old location-based services fantasies ("As you're walking by the restaurant, they beam you a coupon). Everything will need to be explicit, consensual and opt-in (push after opt-in is okay). However, near-ubiquitous location awareness will facilitate hyper-relevant mobile search and discovery of local information (products and services) -- and highly targeted advertising in both display and search contexts.