Europe

Nokia Says "Piss Off" to Android

Many have suggested that Nokia (and RIM) switch to Android to: a) reduce development and R&D costs/overhead and b) become more competitive "instantly." Nokia has several times said it won't do such a thing; it now has two (count 'em) operating systems: symbian and MeeGo.

A Financial Times interview with Anssi Vanjoki, the departing chief of Nokia’s smartphone division, said that hardware OEMs who've adopted Android (e.g., Motorola, Samsung) are like "Finnish boys who'pee in their pants' for warmth in the winter. Temporary relief is followed by an even worse predicament."

As the piece points out financial firms such as UBS have argued -- just as they did with Yahoo adopting Microsoft search -- that "Nokia could cut annual R&D spending by about €1bn a year if it stopped working on software, lifting the division’s operating margin by 400 basis points."

Vanjoki argued that while there would be some immediate gains, along the lines suggested, in the long term adopting Android would be destructive of Nokia. Adopting Android, he argued, would turn Nokia into "a commoditised box-maker like Dell, scrapping for market share with rivals that all use Android and so seem more or less the same."

This is the predicament that HTC, Motorola and Samsung now find themselves in. It's very challenging to differentiate their phones, although some are more distinctive than others. Because of the "commodity box maker" predicament, I would expect all of them to try and "diverisfy" with Windows Mobile if it's any good. 

While Nokia is theoretically correct in its Android analysis, it's uncertain that the Finnish company can deliver a best-in-class smartphone experience on its own software; that's the X variable. For that reason, Nokia might want to do a small test and develop an Android device as merely one among several handset lines -- just in case.

Google Gets More 'Connected' to BMW in Europe

Google has renewed and expanded its relationship with BMW (ConnectedDrive) in Europe. According to a new blog post:

Today, we’re happy to announce that in a joint effort with BMW, we have renewed the package of Google services that come with BMW’s ConnectedDrive service. As part of this major update, if you’re a ConnectedDrive customer in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and the U.K., you’ll have access to several exciting Google services you’ve never before experienced in a car.

ConnectedDrive is a suite of services that include maps and directions, as well as other Internet content. Major improvements to the Google Maps portion of the service include local-search suggest and new imagery, including Street View. The service is currently only available in Europe. 

It doesn't appear there are any ads on the map but that may be something slated for the future. Regardless this is a "branding vehicle" (so to speak) for Google. Google competitors have relationships with other in-car or PND vendors, including Ovi Maps/Navteq and MapQuest. And then, of course, there's Microsoft/Bing and Ford, which are making a big push.  

In general we can anticipate that the Internet will be a much more significant part of the in-car/in-dash experience going forward. There's also the "rolling hot spot" phenomenon, where the car provides the connectivity or people have MiFi devices in the car.

Oy! Here Come More Operating Systems: Facebook, EU Carriers

Who's got a mobile "operating system"? Let's see: Apple, Google, Nokia, RIM, Palm, Microsoft, Samsung (not to mention Java and Brew). Now we discover that Facebook may be building a phone with a hardware OEM and the European carriers may be working on a joint, pan-carrier OS to combat Google and Apple.

First the EU carriers: they're reportedly considering a range of options that could include a common mobile OS. This comes from an article published friday: 

French newspaper Le Figaro has reported that Stephane Richard (pictured), chief executive officer of France Telecom-Orange, has invited the heads of Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Vodafone to discuss the possible creation of a common platform for mobile devices. The talks, which are scheduled to take place 8 October in Paris, are motivated by a view that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems have become a “Trojan horse” for these companies to establish their own relationships with mobile customers, reducing the significance of the operators in the value chain.

Due to the early state of the talks, it has not been decided what form the alliance will take, with options mooted including the formation of a joint venture or creation of a common apps development unit....

The article speculates that the joint venture could involve one or more of the following:

  • Creation of a common platform based on Symbian (or LiMo)
  • Creation of a highly distinct version of Android
  • Creation of a common middleware layer that is branded to carriers 
  • Creation of a new OS from scratch

The carriers will probably recognize that creation of a new OS is not likely to succeed. They're not software companies and will have difficulty competing accordingly. A custom version of Android and/or a proprietary middleware experience is more likely. Regardless they're not going to be able to "go back" to the days when they owned the customer entirely. It's pure nostalgia to think so.

The bureaucracy and cultural challenges within these large companies combine to suggest the risk of total failure for such an initiative is quite high. A case-in-point by analogy: at one point the French wanted to create a pan-EU search engine to combat Google, which completely failed.

A parallel development reported by TechCrunch is the rumor that Facebook is working with an OEM on developing a phone, similarly wary of Apple and Google's rising control of the smartphone market. However there have been many "social networking" phones that have featured Facebook to date, all largely unsuccessful. The most visible was Microsoft's ill-fated Kin.

Motorola's MotoBLUR software focuses heavily on Facebook but it hasn't really served to differentiate the phones that carry it. And INQ Mobile (owned by the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa) has put out a couple of "social mobiles," handsets that prominently feature Facebook: the INQ Mini 3G and the INQ Chat 3G. I don't have any sales data but they appear to be decent devices. 

If the "Facebook phone" rumor is true it almost certainly must be directed toward younger text-heavy users and not the higher end of the market. To succeed as a smartphone there would need to be more to the software than simply Facebook. Facebook has more than 500 million users around the world, but those users don't simply "do" Facebook. (Update: the OS is potentially Android, which if true addresses some of my critiques.)

Perhaps Facebook thinks it can revive "Platform" and compete there with apps and a developer ecosystem. However, it would be much smarter to go after the middle or lower-end of the market. For these and other reasons, I'm skeptical that the Facebook phone initiatve is quite as ambitious as the rumor argues, but we'll see.

New operating systems are unlikely to change the market substantially. Notwithstanding tools that allow developers to "write once" for multiple platforms (e.g, Rhomobile, Appcelerator) there's room for only about five smartphone operating systems to survive. That's partly why I think the Europeans will build whatever they decide to build on top of existing platforms (Android, Symbian/MeeGo) rather than create something new -- and probably mediocre -- from the ground up. 

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See related: How Long Before FB Is a Mobile Ad Network?

Skyhook Integrated in Augmented Reality Browser

Skyhook's location positioning capabilities are being integrated into the Layar augmented reality browser for Android. The impact should be better location awareness and precision for Layar. According to the press release: 

Skyhook, the worldwide leader in location positioning, context and intelligence, today announced that Layar, the world's leading augmented reality browser platform, has added Skyhook's Core Engine to its Android application for improved location results.

The Layar Reality Browser displays real time digital information on top of reality in the camera screen of the mobile phone. While looking through the phone’s camera lens, a user can see houses for sale, popular bars and shops, tourist information of the area, play a live game, etc. The Layar platform serves as an enabler for mobile location services – any database with geo-location information can easily be turned in a content layer.

Skyhook's triangulation data was replaced on iOS 4 by Apple's own system, though it remains on earlier versions of the iPhone/iOS.

Simply put, augmented reality has been over-hyped. Everyone knows about Layar but I'm unaware of anyone who regularly uses it for ordinary mobile searches. The concept is very "cool," but the utility is quite limited. The same is true for Yelp's "monocle." It's "cool" but far less useful that Yelp's regular features. 

Augmented reality will be useful as a way to get more information about places, objects (e.g., art) and products right in front of me but it will have a smaller role to play as a replacement for general search. There are other use cases depending on how we define "augmented reality."

Having said that the camera will be an increasingly important content-input mechanism. However this is distinct from augmented reality as I'm defining it. 

As an aside many of the important "augmented reality" patents are owned by early pioneer GeoVector. Someone will probably want to acquire GeoVector if for no other reason than to get its IP portfolio. 

Smartphones Selling Fast, Gartner Joins Throng and Predicts Android Win

Mindshare is consolidating around Android and many pundits are predicting that the Google mobile OS will soon become the number two smartphone platform globally. The only question is when.

Financial firm Piper Jaffray says it will be 2012, IDC says 2013 and IT consulting firm Gartner now says it will be this year as well. 

All of these predictions are based on current sales momentum enjoyed by Android, perceived weakness from Nokia, RIM and Microsoft. They also assume that Apple sales will be steady but flat compared to Android. Some firms also believe that RIM and maybe Nokia will be compelled to put out Android handsets. 

Here's the Gartner forecast, which predicts share losses by everyone but Android during the forecast period: 

Screen shot 2010-09-10 at 5.44.07 AM

Clearly Android has momentum but it's possible that Winodows (Mobile) 7 and a reinvigorated Nokia (MeeGo) could moderate or diminish some of Android's potential gains. In the US a more widely available iPhone would almost certainly do the same. The Gartner forecast also probably underestimates iPad and iPod Touch sales. 

Indeed, forecasts inevitably turn out to be incorrect though they may be "directionally" accurate. Whether or not Gartner's numbers above come close or miss the mark by a mile, it's clear that Android is a remarkable success story for Google. 

Related: Smartphones selling faster than anticipated

Nokia's Howard Stringer: Stephen Elop

The big mobile-related news of the morning is the announcement that Canadian-born Microsoft executive Stephen Elop will lead Nokia as CEO, starting September 21. Previously he was COO at Juniper Networks. According the press release this morning:

The Nokia Board believes that Stephen has the right industry experience and leadership skills to realize the full potential of Nokia. His strong software background and proven record in change management will be valuable assets as we press harder to complete the transformation of the company. We believe that Stephen will be able to drive both innovation and efficient execution of the company strategy in order to deliver increased value to our shareholders," said Jorma Ollila, Chairman of the Nokia Board of Directors. 

While the specific selection of Elop may be a bit of a surprise the replacement of existing CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo is not. Nokia has been losing marketshare and mindshare for at least two years, despite its position as global leader in the overall handset and smartphone markets.

There had been indications that Nokia was looking for a North American to lead its business and help revive its fortunes here. I previously compared the company to Sony, which hired its first non-Japanese CEO in Anglo-American Howard Stringer when it felt it needed to shake things up. Elop will be the first "outside" CEO for the Finnish company. 

There's something strangely appropriate in Nokia hiring a Microsoft executive to replace OPK. Microsoft and Nokia are similar: giants and leaders in their respective markets that have stumbled and are having trouble recovering under extreme competitive pressure. 

There are some who see the move as a mistake because Elop is a "manager" and not a "product visionary." That could be a valid criticism. I'll reserve judgment because I know very little about Elop beyond his public resume. 

Android and Mobile Update from Eric Schmidt

Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave the closing keynote address at the IFA consumer electronics event in Berlin yesterday morning. His full speech is online here. During the course of the keynote, which included presentations by two other Google employees (about Google TV, Google Translate and Street View), he exposed the following information about mobile and Android: 

  • "One in three queries from smartphones is about where I am" (location)
  • Google mobile search traffic grew 50% in first half of 2010
  • Search queries coming from Android handsets has "tripled" in 2010
  • 200,000 Android activations daily; 60 devices, 21 OEM partners, 59 carriers, 49 countries
  • 25% of Android-based searches in the US market are initiated by voice
  • Mobile is growing eight times faster than the PC Web a decade ago
  • YouTube has 160 million mobile views per day

Beyond the obvious Android and broader mobile growth story the voice search statistic above is striking and so is the figure "one in three queries from smartphones" is local.

Microsoft, Nokia Hoping for US Smartphone Success with New Operating Systems, Handsets

As Windows Phone 7, as its now called, prepares to launch perhaps as early as next month, everyone is waiting to see whether the new OS will revive Microsoft's smartphone fortunes. An early CNET review was mixed but mostly positive:

After more than a month of living with Windows Phone 7, I have to say, Microsoft's new phone operating system is starting to grow on me . . . [T]here are hidden delights. In the past week I've found the cursor, voice recognition, and other things that I missed in my first days playing with the phone. . . Most of what I don't like about Windows Phone 7 traces back to the fact that this is--despite its polish--what amounts to a new first try for Microsoft . . .

I suspect that will be the general tone of subsequent Windows Phone 7 reviews: this feature is great, this is not, etc. Will there be enough positive to get consumers excited? And what about pricing? That will be critical. You can expect that any two-year contract phone will come in under $199. If it doesn't it's DOA from a consumer standpoint.

Meanwhile Nokia is looking to its N8 (and other forthcoming) models to "answer the iPhone" and establish new smartphone momentum. The N8 uses Symbian 3 with the first MeeGo product to come before the end of the year. The N8 has a 12 megapixel camera and Flash support. It may well arrest Nokia's smartphone slide in Europe but it's unlikely to see much success in the US market with Apple, Google and RIM too well established and with too many advantages. 

Nokia needs to offer lower-priced smart devices in the US to reestablish its brand and then move into higher-end handsets. That isn't to suggest that it shouldn't compete at the high end; shareholders are demanding it. But the N8 or another "flagship" device -- unless it's incredibly good -- it unlikely to gain much traction in the US market. 

Still it would be good to see Microsoft and Nokia do well with their new devices. More competition is better for consumers and the market as a whole. 

Nokia Buys Analytics Firm Motally

As is being widely reported, Nokia has bought San Francisco-based mobile analytics firm Motally. According to the press release:

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) today announced it has signed an agreement to acquire Motally Inc., a privately-held US-based company. Motally's mobile analytics service offers in-application tracking and reporting, and is designed to enable developers and publishers to optimize the development of their mobile applications through increased understanding of how users engage. The service offering is planned to be adapted for Qt, Symbian, Meego and Java developers, and Nokia plans to continue serving Motally's existing customer base.

"The acquisition underpins Nokia's drive to deliver in-application and mobile web browsing analytics to Ovi's growing, global eco-system of developers and publishers, enabling partners to better connect with their customers and optimize and monetize their offering," said Marco Argenti, Vice President, Media, Nokia.

This appears to be a pretty straightforward effort to bring analytics to the Ovi store for developers. The company offers both mobile Web and app analytics.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Motally was founded in 2008 and has eight employees. 

The Americanization of Nokia

An article in today's NY Times discusses three how three Americans are now in key positions at Nokia: Mary T. McDowell, Jo Harlow and Richard Green. In particular the piece focuses on McDowell, Nokia's "chief development officer." The idea is that these and perhaps other Americans to come will help revive Nokia's high-end smartphone business especially in the US.

Nokia is still by far the dominant OEM globally but has a declining share in the US market. Along those lines, here's a statement in the piece, attributed to McDowell, that's not entirely accurate in my opinion:

She added that Nokia’s problems in the United States stemmed from its failure to work closely with U.S. mobile operators to tailor devices to their needs, rather than from any shortcomings in the phones themselves. 

Nokia's failure to work with carriers is perhaps one of the critical explanatory variables behind its current US predicament. However the user experience is definitely part of the challenge Nokia faces in the US.

Unless the company makes super-affordable, "good enough" smartphones and/or dramatically improves its user experience overall Nokia won't see any gains in the US. Around the world, especially in developing countries, it's a very different story; Nokia dominates.

Yet Android poses a serious threat to Nokia in those developing markets over time. Nokia has been almost exclusively focused on finding an "answer to the iPhone." But as I've argued before it's really Android that Nokia should worry about globally. 

I would argue that the US market is an important market to Nokia not because of revenues but because it's now the smartphone leader and much of the "coverage" is driven by what's happening here. There's more symbolic value here for Nokia in succeeding or failing.

Nokia's failures in the US may also reveal "cultural" issues within the company that need to be addressed. It may be something of a useful mirror that Nokia should use to diagnose those internal questions and problems. I'm not sure that simply having Americans in key positions is the answer. 

After all, Microsoft, which faces its own significant hurdles in the mobile market, is an American company. 

Nokia Builds Mobile Craigslist for Developing Countries

There have been other mobile classifieds marketplaces but none with the potential heft of Nokia. Craigslist has many associated third party apps on the iPhone that mobilize its listings content; eBay of course has had great success in mobile, to name two big names. 

Nokia has now created Listings, a sales and services marketplace aimed right now at the developing world. It's only available in India during the beta test. 

The downloadable app features several categories of information:

  • Buy & Sell – Find or post items for sale
  • Jobs – Find or post a job
  • Local Services – Access or advertise services such as auto repairs, driver services, plumbers, etc.

The success of such a service is all about penetration and inventory. If lots of people use the service it could become quite successful and potentially generate meaningful revenue on a global basis. User experience is key but more important is getting the listings content into the system so that users show up.

The service is also more likely to succeed in countries where there aren't already established online marketplaces, which means developing nations primarily. Yet if the content is there and the UX is good enough it could potentially compete elsewhere in world, in Europe perhaps.

Amobee Consolidates European Relationships, Forms Huge Network

There are a number of giant, global mobile advertising companies or "platforms" emerging. Beyond the big brands, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, there are Velti, inMobi and Amobee. Of the latter three, Velti and Amobee are more similarly situated, while inMobi is an ad network doing ad sales directly. 

Today Amobee announced that "it has been appointed by Gruner + Jahr Electronic Media Sales (G+J EMS) to represent 75% of premium mobile content in Germany. Amobee will become the exclusive partner in mobile advertising, serving billions of ads impressions per month." 

Amobee explains that Germany is the "largest single-country mobile ad marketplace" in Europe. The company also claims that it can, through its carrier partners and publishers, "reach around 1 in 7 mobile users on the planet every day."

Previously Amobee acquired mobile ad agencey RingRing Media. The company says its ultimate goal is to create "the industry’s largest mobile advertising exchange dedicated to connecting publishers, advertising agencies and brands to premium inventory in real-time, on a global scale."

There are many other mobile ad "exchanges" and ad mediators in the market, including AdMarvel, Smaato, Nexage, Mobclix and others. Over the next year the mobile ad market is ripe for M&A as major players try and build more global scale. US-based mobile ad network Millennial Media has indicated it may try and go public.

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Related: Nexage announces major platform upgrade for optimized mobile ad mediation & optimization.

Survey: 'Antennagate' May Hurt Apple in EU

On the recent Apple earnings call there were a couple of questions about "Antennagate" and whether the controversy had hurt Apple sales or demand for the iPhone 4. The company said that it had not been hurt and that demand remained very strong -- so strong that there's a 21 day wait to get the handset in the US.

It appeared that Apple had "dodged a bullet." But perhaps not so fast. As the device heads to markets outside the US there may be reason to believe the negative PR could dampen interest.

A recent online survey of 2,089 UK adults (7/16-7/19), conducted by Opinium Research, suggests that some potential UK consumers may stay away:

  • 57% said they had no intention of buying the device.
  • 26% of UK consumers are less likely to move to an iPhone 4
  • 45% of iPhone 3GS owners said "they were less likely to buy or upgrade to an iPhone 4"
photo

There are differences between attitudes and behavior, between what people say and then later what they actually do. Then there's the question of how many of the 57% wouldn't have bought an iPhone anyway. Well the table above says that 15% of that 57% are current iPhone owners/users.

Regardless of the precise figures, these numbers and the sentiment behind them should worry Apple and could translate into less than expected iPhone 4 sales in the UK and elsewhere in Europe perhaps. 

Opera: State of Mobile Web, June 2010

The latest Opera report is out. The focus of the report this month is on Africa and the World Cup. Opera said it had 59.4 million users of the Opera Mini globally. I'm now using it on my Android Evo at least as much as the native browser (which often tries to send me to the carrier portal annoyingly).

Below are the top sites and handsets for China, the UK and US. The iPhone is now the top handset in both the UK and US, while Nokia continues to dominate in the aggregate.

Compare the data from roughly a year ago, July, 2009. While there is some shuffling among the top sites (e.g, MySpace has gone from #3 to #10 in the US) the data reflect mostly the same top 10 in these countries over the past year. 

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iPhone 4 World Tour: 17 More Countries Friday

Apple has announced that on Friday (July 30) the iPhone will be available in 17 more countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. iPhone 4 will be available for purchase through Apple’s retail and online stores and Apple® Authorized Resellers. 

Here's Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer discussing iPhone 4 sales on last week's earnings call:

We were very pleased with iPhone sales of 8.4 million, including over 1.7 million iPhone’s 4s in the initial five countries where it was launched. This represents 61% year-over-year growth and is considerably higher than IDCs latest published estimate of 38% growth for the global Smart Phone market overall in the June quarter . . .

Recognized revenue from iPhone handset sales, accessory sales and carrier payments was $5.33 billion during the quarter compared to $3.06 billion in the year-ago quarter, an increase of 74%. The sales value of iPhones alone was about $5 billion, which yields an ASP of about $595.

At the end of the June quarter, we had iPhone distribution with 154 carriers in 88 countries. We continued to experience very strong year-over-year growth, particularly in Asia, Europe and Japan. Additionally, we continued to be very pleased with strong sales growth from both long-standing and new carrier partners. During the quarter, we surpassed cumulative sales of 100 million iOS devices.

During the earnings call Q&A there were questions about iPhone returns and "Antennagate." Here's the gist of what was said by Apple:

Gene Munster – Piper Jaffray

And just last question and I will turn it over. Since the issues with the antenna have you seen any changes in demand or what changes have you seen in demand for iPhone 4?

Tim Cook

We are, Gene, let me be very clear on this. We are selling every unit we can make currently.

Some people credit Apple with distracting from the iPhone's antenna design by roping other handsets into the controversy. While tech journalists and bloggers debate the validity of these comparisons the public doesn't seem as interested.

Anecodtoally I've heard a few consumers hesitate because of press accounts they've read or seen regarding the iPhone 4's antenna problems. But the sales figures apparently indicate that demand is still extremely high. But most of these sales happened before Antennagate. We'll see what happens internationally now.

Nokia Looking for Its Howard Stringer

Sir Howard Stringer was the first non-Japanese CEO of Sony Corporation. He's still the CEO of course. The company felt at the time of Stringer's recruitment that it needed an "outsider" to run things. So may be the case with Nokia, which is now reportedly seeking to replace current CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo -- perhaps by the end of the month. 

According to the Wall Street Journal the company is actively considering Americans among others: 

The CEO of a major U.S. high-tech company recently spurned Nokia's approach after meeting with Chairman Jorma Ollila, because the candidate wasn't interested in moving to Finland, this person said. Nokia also has flown in at least one other U.S. based executive to interview for the CEO job, the person said.

The company may feel that it needs someone from the US to help make gains in what has become the world's most important smartphone market.

While investors continue to grouse that Nokia "still has no answer for the iPhone," it arguably should be more concerned about Android's potentia gains in developing markets and ability to compete across the board with Nokia. Apple will only compete at the high end. 

Nokia is the dominant mobile phone OEM in the world; however in the US it has a limited presence and almost no share in the smartphone segment. 

 

Survey: Europeans Not Doing 'mCommerce'

Research firm Forrester conducted a survey of European mobile users and found -- few surprises here -- that most respondents are not transacting on mobile devices. Here are the high-level datapoints:

  • A mere 2% of respondents reported purchasing products from their mobile phone and only 5% are actually interested in doing so.
  • Only 16% of online buyers have used their mobile phone for a shopping-related activity such as researching products, checking on the status of an order, or locating a nearby store to buy a specific product. 
  • Italian, Swedish, and UK online buyers have warmed up the most to mobile commerce.

The firm says, however, its earlier survey data show more engagment with these activities among smartphone users:

28% of European iPhone owners research products for purchase, while 13% of them report purchasing products via mobile at least monthly

Compare this to earlier Insight Express (US) data, which show much higher levels of smartphone activity in stores:

Screen shot 2010-07-07 at 11.19.50 AM

Source: Insight Express, June 2010 (n=1300 US mobile phone users)

In addition, recent Compete data show heavy smartphone usage to find local stores/businesses:

  • Nearly one in three smartphone owners has called or stopped into a local business after finding it using a local search application.
  • In Q1 alone, close to a third of Android and iPhone owners discovered at least two new businesses that they were not previously aware of as a result of using local search applications.

We discussed in the past that a major obstacle to so-called "mCommerce" is the need to enter 16 digit credit card numbers on a tiny screen. Even a smartphone screen is very awkward. Stored credit card numbers with trusted online etailers (e.g., Amazon) or payment platforms will fuel mobile-online purchases by removing the credit-card-entry fricition. 

Mobile "commerce" should not be confused with mobile "shopping" or use of phone for shopping purposes. Smartphone owners, as the IE data above suggest, are using their handsets extensively in stores and in the shopping process on the go.

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Two earlier US-based surveys show more interest in mCommerce among mobile users than the Forrester survey data:

iOS v. Android, but What about the Others?

The media keep focusing on the "battle" between iPhone and Android. But the mobile platform and handset market is not winner-take-all. There's room for more than two players to succeed in the US and internationally. This is a key point made by Google itself several times now. 

But how many platforms and smartphone operating systems can the market support exactly?

The following charts reflect OS representation on AdMob's global network. (AdMob does not equal the mobile Internet or mobile handsets more broadly, but there's a directional correspondence between mobile Internet trends and what AdMob shows in its metrics reports.)

If you consider the chart immediately above, what you see is that the "mobile Internet" (on AdMob's network) is dominated by iOS, followed by Android in North America and Western Europe. In other regions Nokia is a major player or dominant. Despite its large, installed base RIM is barely present on this chart.

RIM of course sells more smartphones than anyone in North America. However its mobile Internet usage data and overall user experience lag competitors. BlackBerry 6 seeks to change that.  

There aren't going to be five viable global smartphone platforms. There might be four, but it's more likely three. Those will vary, as the chart above suggests, on a geographic basis, with the two "constants" across regions likely to be Android and the iPhone.

Given the scathing criticque that an InfoWorld writer offered of Windows 7 (after a demo), it's quite possible that Microsoft might not be among the winners:

The bottom line is this: Windows Phone 7 is a pale imitation of the 2007-era iPhone. It's as if Microsoft decided in summer 2007 to copy the iPhone and has shut its developers in a bunker ever since, so they don't realize that several years have passed, that the iPhone has advanced, and that competitors such as Google Android and Palm WebOS have also pushed the needle forward. 

We'll have to wait and see how accurate this very harsh review is later this year when the handsets hit the market. But the Kin debacle is not a good sign for Redmond. 

In the US smartphone market, it's currently a three-way race between iPhone, Android and RIM. In Europe it's likely to be iPhone, Android and Nokia. Other platforms may simply not have the scale and (developer) mindshare to compete. Several developer surveys certainly suggest this as well. 

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 Source: Appcelerator (6/10)

Skype Promoting Mobile Usage

I got the following email from Skype this morning trying to encourage me to claim a "Skype to go" number and use Skype on my mobile phone.

The problem is that while there's a financial incentive to use Skype for international calling the quality isn't good enough yet for every day domestic calling over 3G. If that quality improves as 4G networks roll out there could be increasing use of Skype as a primary telco on mobiles.

However Skype can be used quite nicely on the iPad to turn that device into a phone. 

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That sort of potential disruption is a reason that most carriers won't offer unlimited data-only plans. 

inMobi Gains $8 Million, Challenges AdMob

inMobi announced earlier this morning that it had raised $8 million in funding for a total of roughly $15 million.The company began in India in 2007 as "mKhoj." It launched in the US formally last month.

Many people in the industry haven't heard of inMobi yet it's the largest ad network globally other than Google-AdMob. Now inMobil is seeking to take AdMob's place as the leading independent mobile ad network. 

The company says that it has "16.9 billion impressions monthly reaching 179 million consumers in 108 countries." Clients include Reebok, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Quaker Oats, Yamaha, Barclays, and Yahoo.

Source: inMobi internal traffic data

American employees of the company include former Yahoo VP Anne Frisbie, now head of inMobi North America and James Lamberti, formerly SVP of comScore, now VP of global marketing for the company. I spoke to both yesterday and they stressed to me that inMobi had a technology platform and scalability advantage over the majority of its competitors. They also said that it was best positioned among the independent networks -- inMobi is an ad network working directly with clients rather than a mediator or exchange -- in the Google vs. Apple advertising battle. 

Lamberti said that inMobi would be releasing some very interesting data soon, which caused us to talk about mobile data more broadly. Both Frisbee and Lamberti criticized the quality of the third party mobile data available and the comScore and Nielsen methodologies. They said that GroundTruth probably had the best data in the US market but that it was incomplete.

Frisbee said that once you get out of the US and Europe (to a degree) third party data are not available as a general matter. 

What's impressive is the way that inMobi has scaled globally in a relatively short time frame. Velti and Amobee, using somewhat different models, aspire to the same global scale and reach. 

With Google having bought AdMob that leaves Yahoo and Microsoft as potential buyers of ad networks. However, in addition, the major advertising holding companies, many of which have acquired small mobile agencies, are also potential acquirors of mobile ad networks and exchanges. Then there are the carriers . . . but they're unlikely to play directly in mobile advertising despite their past flirtations.