Medio Systems provides"white label" search for carriers in North America and Europe and is simultaneously building a mobile ad network. Today the company announced off-deck search for publishers. The first partner is CBS.
Medio has put a search box on the mobile sites for CBS Sports, CBS News and the CWTV mobile sites. It searches the publisher's content and offers branded mobile Web search results as well (from its mobile index). It also provides relevant ads and monetization of those searches, with a revenue share to the publisher. Ad targeting can be based on contextual, behavioral or local targeting or some mixture of these.
Medio is developing a network of search partners, including publishers like CBS and carriers such as T-Mobile, Verizon and Telus, advertisers and ad distribution partners, which would include publishers as well.
Medio is arguing and betting that it can provide a better, more relevant set of results (and ads) to publishers than the major search engines, which are also trying to syndicate search and build mobile ad networks. Arguing that what it offers is "not Web search," Medio says that its solution is much more tailored to mobile that the search experiences of the majors, which are being adapted to mobile.
The company wisely decided that it couldn't entirely tie its fate to the carriers and so increasingly it is building "off deck" search and related monetization. The CBS announcement is consistent with that and indicative of more announcements to come.
In the U.S., JumpTap is the company's primary competitor for white label search. InfoSpace Mobile was a competitor and will likely be again under the umbrella of its soon-to-be new owner Motricity. Other competitors include FAST and MobilePeople outside the U.S.
Opus Research's Derek Top and I will be at CTIA today and tomorrow in meetings, walking the floor and so on. The show is always a mix of hype and reality -- historically with a good deal more hype than reality. But now that mobile is a much more real and tangible thing than it has been, we'll be trying to find the services and offerings that we think are interesting and have some near-term practical potential.
For example, the SF Chronicle yesterday ran a CTIA preview piece about mobile social networking (see also, Bluepulse, which offers advanced messaging and mobile social features). And while social media on mobile phones will be an important part of the user experience, at least for selected market segments, most companies in the space are won't ever see meaningful let alone large scale adoption.
It's easy to get confused and blinded by the blizzard of announcements, something we're seeking to avoid and penetrate.
While a PC to mobile interaction is a strategic and important component of the functionality of mobile services, lots of non-Western countries have a limited PC infrastructure. Accordingly, Microsoft has introduced the capability to sign up for Windows Live services directly on a mobile phone.
This is part of what Microsoft is calling its "mobile first" strategy.
I didn't listen to the Apple earnings call yesterday but the NY Times' Saul Hansell recorded an interesting fact from statements made by Apple COO Timothy Cook:
Of the 1.4 million iPhones sold so far (of which 1,119,000 were sold in the quarter ending Sept. 30), Mr. Cook estimated that 250,000 were sold to people who wanted to unlock them from the AT&T network and use them with another carrier. He said that the bulk of those appear to have occurred after Apple's $200 price cut. By my math, that means that at least $100 million was spent on phones that Apple is doing its best to disable.
Also yesterday, it was discovered that the iPhone has become the top-selling phone for AT&T and the fourth largest selling handset in the US overall.
What's interesting and even remarkable about the 250K figure above is that represents almost 25% of iPhone buyers. They were taking a significant risk in buying the phone that it wouldn't work after their modifications to unlock the device. That reflects how strong demand is for the phone.
Related: Valleywag (yikes) comparative analysis of iPhone sales vs. Palm, Nokia and RIM:
Source: Tim Faulkner
...And Wifi positioning will bring pseudo-GPS to the iPhone via the new SDK.
One of the most interesting mobile technologies that hasn't broken out in any mainstream way is the camera-cum-bar code reader. NeoMedia, GeoVector and others have technologies in place that allow mobile phones with cameras to capture "bar codes" on products or surfaces and translate those into images, information, offers and mobile Web results.
These technologies are in use in Japan ("point and search") but not really in the U.S. and Europe. However, there would appear to be a new push to popularize these capabilities.
Noika announced a number of new technology and content initiatives. Among them:
Point & Find: an exciting new way to discover more about your surroundings, using the camera on your mobile device. The mobile device then displays relevant information about what you are looking at, fetching real-time information from the Internet.
Shoot to Translate: a demonstration using software that translates written characters into another language; the original text is captured with the camera on the Nokia multimedia computer and translation happens in real time.
And NeoMedia announced the NeoReader for mobile:
The NeoReader allows users to scan 2D or 1D barcodes from enabled product packages, ad campaigns, retail displays, publications, or any variety of medium. Mobile users are able to link directly to a specific web page, access services, retrieve real-time information, or place orders by bypassing long URLs, search engines, and avoiding cumbersome menus.
If these technologies and experiences can be "mainstreamed," they're potentially revolutionary. One can obviously imagine mobile coupons, product offers, comparison shopping, etc. being tied into mobile devices. A certain bar code might reveal the possibility of an offer, triggering consumers to take a picture of the code. The "mobile Internet"-real world marketing integrations are many. And the potential user experience is quite different than what exists today on mobile devices.
In all likelihood, the bar code/point and search scenarios won't replace WAP or apps, but would exist beside them and be part of a multi-modal system for content input and discovery.
AOL is launching mobile comparison shopping that reportedly brings 20 million products from 10,000 stores to the mobile handset via the company's WAP site (http://wap.aol.com/shopping). After trying it on my HTC 6800 smartphone I can say the experience is generally good, given the limitations of the screen size and the device. But what's impressive to me is the integration of local information (where it exists).
The local store and real-time product inventory infrastructure is being rapidly built out. Companies such as NearbyNow, Where2GetIt, Channel Intelligence, ShopLocal and GPShopper are providing local store locations and inventory information mobile. Krillion is another company bringing product inventory information online that will also offer it in mobile.
For many of the products available on AOL Shopping mobile there is no local information because they're being offered by online retailers exclusively. But that will change over time as more local information becomes available. Here's an example where I did find a local retailer on a search for "Mac Laptops." And here's the local screen you eventually get to for one of the retailers. Phone numbers allow consumers to "click to call" and determine whether items are in stock.
Users can search the AOL mobile shopping site by term or UPC number (if you're in the store and are looking at the product for example).
Shopping will be an important and near-term consumer use case in mobile. People in stores will use mobile devices to check prices. But there's the compelling scenario in which I find that Store A doesn't have the product I want. Then I search to discover what other stores have it locally (and who's got it at the best price).
Expect the other big portals and search players to offer mobile shopping very soon too.
As part of its larger set of mobile announcements, AOL is launching an AIM Buddy Finder widget for Where. In addition, Where added Boost Mobile (Sprint) as a carrier partner offering its downloadable application.
Where's widget-based platform (like AllTell's celltop in the U.S.) is one direction that mobile personalization is likely to go.
I played around with the Nokia 810 this afternoon and it's a very impressive device. It's the successor to the Nokia 800 and 770 "Internet Tablet." It may lack some of the elegance of the iPhone but it's very usable and provides the full Internet on a Mozilla browser (but not the forthcoming mobile Mozilla browser). It only has a "horizontal" orientation; the screen doesn't change with you "close" the QWERTY keyboard.
Indeed, it has a QWERTY keyboard, unlike the iPhone and the screen appears to be slightly larger than the iPhone. It's WiFi enabled and can tie into a mobile phone via bluetooth as a way to access the Internet if there's no WiFi connection available.
I continue to be intrigued by the idea of two devices: a small phone for communication and then a portable device with a larger screen for mobile Internet access. However the absence of a phone (though a VoIP client could be used) and its relatively high price point may prevent widespread adoption. It's also not as functional as a laptop for the enterprise power user, which might be a natural market for the device.
But the mobile Internet -- the true Internet -- on this device is a helluva lot better than the comparable WAP experience on a smartphone.
It's curious. Microsoft is here. AOL is here. Nokia has a big booth here. LBS and mapping companies (Navteq, Teleatlas) are here. Mobile ad networks (Enpocket, AdMob, Third Screen) and white label mobile search providers (JumpTap, Medio, FAST) are here.
But where are Google and Yahoo? Why did they decide to skip the show? -- especially given the emphasis that both companies are placing on mobile lately.
While it may not seem strange to the many exhibitors or conference organizers perhaps (the theme is "Enterprise, Entertainment") it's strange to me. However they may feel their presence doesn't advance their cause with consumers, advertisers or publishers.
None of those constituencies are present.
Update: I discovered after I wrote this that Google was on a panel yesterday and has some people at the show, but they're not exhibiting and otherwise there appears to be no "public" presence.
I got my first demo of the Helio Ocean and its software. I'd seen the campaigns and even the phones in person but never used one, or seen how the software and functionality are integrated into the device and overall experience.
In more than one way Helio is like Apple, offering an integrated hardware and software experience that has an array of nice features and branded services. However, unless you see these in action you don't really know that they exist or what the experience is like. Thus the challenge for the company is to move beyond the pure branding campaign that points to data usage ("Don't call it a phone") and start providing some discussion of the feature and software integration.
It's also very easy to upload and share media on the Helio Ocean. One click uploading to blogs or photo sites makes this process much easier and less mysterious than on most other phones. The device is GPS enabled and has a Google map-based buddy finder feature.
The search capability doesn't require a search box. Users just start typing and then can select Web, contacts or other categories to search. The company has also integrated Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon and other sources into a tabbed search experience that's easy to navigate.
I was told that Helio isn't exactly a youth brand, rather it's for early adopters and those that are more gadget and Internet savvy generally -- a psychographic rather than demographic profile. That could be anyone 20 to late 50s. Notwithstanding that profile, the company believes that its addressable market ultimately is about 50 million users in the U.S.
It's one of two surviving MVNOs along with VirginMobile (both on the Sprint network).