Monday, November 24

Future of Mobile: General Observations

Part three of my FOM blog, here I’ll sum up some of the general points that came from the conference.
Tom Hume from Future Platforms was keen to point out that fragmentation is here to stay and went as far as saying its this that separates mobile from the web. He also had good things to say about one of the winners from the event, the iPhone which he reiterated that iPhone users use 30x more data than other network users. Also Tom mentioned one of the highlights of the iPhone platform, that the App Store is fully international, which on the eve of Fluid Pixel’s first release onto the platform, KamiCrazy is a real bonus for us.

During a 6x6 panel, where each got 6 minutes the audience were bombarded with views on the mobile industry, mostly negative, but also valid points. Helen Keegan’s main concern is that developers are designing for fellow mobile users, rather than the public, who won’t have any use for most of the features we implement. Jemima Kiss was particularly aggressive against the industry and wants mobile to become a primary platform, rather than being an afterthought as it more than often is. I think this is show clearly with many companies “needing” iPhone apps, mostly just for the sake of it, rather than because their offering benefits from having one.

Rich Miner from Google was the proponent of Android at the conference and gave an interesting talk. Obviously he’s pro open source, but interestingly stressed that now the open source movement has started in the mobile industry, it will be really hard to stop so feels it will only pick up momentum as time goes on; we can’t go back now! During questioning he was put on the spot about the possible fragmentation of Android and although this is obviously an area that resources have been allocated to, with tools such as a test suite for OEM’s, reference builds to compare implementations to and standard apps to try and ensure compatibility, my pessimistic side doesn’t fully agree with the plan. It will be hard to police the industry as a whole, whilst bringing competitors together and expecting them to agree on the best way to take the implementation of the open platform going forward will be a difficult task.

Tomi Ahonen gave the most animated talk over the day and concentrated on the contents of his book, Mobile as the 7th Mass Media, quoting various sections. He was quick to point out that mobile is the fastest growing market, with the total market being over 33 billion, games making up 3.3 billion of this worldwide. He was also resolute that mobile is as different to the web as TV is as different to the radio, which was the main take-away from the talk. An interesting statement and certainly got me thinking about the platform’s potential. I guess the main drawback of this statement, is that mobile has for a long time tried to emulate the web, rather than differentiating itself from it. What we are seeing now is the new concepts that work on mobile, wouldn’t work on the web and although the two platforms can complement each other, they should be utilised as separate media. The seven main differentiators from Tom’s point of view are as follows:
• Personal Mass media
• Permanently connected
• Always carried
• Built in payment
• Present at the creative impulse
• Most accurate measurement medium
• Captures social context

Another interesting point is that mobile usage has been “proven” to be as addictive as smoking, although I don’t have the source for this, but it’s something that might explain the twitter popularity, an area that I’m still struggling to decipher.
Tom also gave some great case studies, including Tohato, Carbon Diem, Hoshi-ichi-maniac and Yang Chengang’s Mice Love Rice as projects in the mobile space that have gained significant traction and offer examples of the power of the medium, making it clear that the services that appear to work like magic to the end user are the ones that will be the most successful.

Jonathan MacDonald, or JMac, was a great speaker and had some brilliant words of wisdom to enlighten the audience with. For what turned out to be the third and final time in the day, he quoted a comic panel with the statement “if you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”, the most used slide at the conference. JMac spoke about advertising on the mobile platform, and utilising influencers to promote your brand for you, stating that businesses that spread like an “idea virus” are the ones that will succeed. I liked the trends he spoke about that followed in the order of, as content gets more personal, it also must get more relevant, as it gets more relevant you will gain more user trust, and as the trust builds up there will be less need to filter the content. This trending follows how mobile content is gaining traction of its web cousin, fuelled by location and linking data. Another major point JMac had to make was on the four rules of engagement for mobile offerings:
• Transparency of offering
• Relevance of communication
• Value of incentive
• Ease of interaction

All of which I fully agree with, and although can be dismissed as common sense, it’s unbelievable how many offerings currently violate, one, two or even all of these that are on the market. All of this will certainly be useful going forward with some of the larger projects I’m currently involved with, BluGo and ZiiMo.

So that summarises my main takeaways from the conference, I’d love to hear what other’s thoughts are on these points.

Saturday, November 22

Future of Mobile: Location, Location, Location

Part two of the blog on the Carsonified conference is about location and how it’s finally coming of age... or is it?

Andrew Grill gave an interesting talk and had a few great things to say on the subject. The main areas that he identified as being required for a successful location based service are; Targeting, measurability, location, relevance. From his experience users will be happy to give information about themselves as long as you can offer them something useful in return. One of Andrews gripes is the relevancy of ads, and said that we haven’t cracked it on the mobile platforms yet, as Google have done in their search.

The just-in-time Andrew Scott from Rummble had some great insights into the location world from his experience on the front line. One of the disappointing facts was that users are only in GPS signal for 4½, really which isn’t enough to make it a reliable service. Something with more interest was that on PlayTxt only 5% of the users actually use the privacy settings available to them, even though they are very powerful. What this means is that people just aren’t fussed about letting others see where they are. Now whether statistic would stand up if people are surveyed about this subject is something that intrigues me and I suspect it’s more down to people not understanding the implications of the platform, or just not having the knowledge about how to change the situation.
Andrew was adamant that simply knowing “who’s nearby” doesn’t constitute a business as his cases studies of Loopt proved. Another common mistake is to limit the reach of your service, something that West Coast US companies have a habit of doing. He had more positive things to say about the context of the presence, location in vertical markets and services that filter noise, telling users exactly what they want to know. The main points from his summary were;
• build privacy, but few people will use it
• don’t build commoditiy items (cell db’s) these are available elsewhere
• people travel with their mobile, everywhere!
• Data analysis is key
• Use open standards where necessary
• People are more impatient whilst mobile, more eager to engage

A next area Andrew discussed was that location data will become a commodity, and the fact people will opt in their current location (as they are already doing) will be a commodity. Whilst he didn’t mention any time frames, I can imagine the availability of location data will come sooner than expected, however I think we have a long way to go to earn the trust of users, especially with the negativity, and general anger surrounding location data. (BNP, Bath, Shopping Centers)
His final point he made was intelligent data crunching is the future of location systems, quoting web 3.0 and natural language systems as key to new services.

All in all some interesting discussions all round and very relevant to what we're working on at Fluid Pixel

Thursday, November 20

Future of Mobile: Flash Lite

I was in London for the fantastic Future of Mobile event earlier this week organised by Carsonified and Dominic Travers.

Due to the amount covered I will split up posts, so the first will concentrate on Flash Lite.

One of the interesting talks, especially from my perspective was from Matt Millar from Adobe as he spoke about the Flash Lite distributable and the Open Screen Project. Although he mentioned a few new things, he was quite restrained compared to the details that were being announced co-currently at the Adobe MAX conference in San Francisco. There word was finally spread about Adobe's plans to enable to spread of Flash Lite enabled devices through the distributable version of the FL3.1 version as well as the App Zone. Matt did talk briefly about their plans to release the full Flash Player 10 for mobile devices in the near future, which will bring the two versions into sync for the first time, which will probably mean future releases will be distributed simultaneously. Along with the released news of an Android version that means market potential will probably dwarf the earlier prediction of 1 billion Flash Lite devices by 2010. The Flash Lite content didn’t stop there, as yours truly gave a workshop on the subject on the second day of the event and gave a half day guide to the delegates, which I hope they found useful.

More to come shortly...