Posted by: Mark Hawkins | February 16, 2010

GSMA’s ‘Wholesale Applications Community’

Yesterday I happened across a radio show discussing one of the major headlines from the first day of this weeks moster Mobile World Congress trade show.

Intended as an antidote to the bemoaned mobile application fragmentation environment, the ‘Wholesale Applications Community’, is described in the GSMA’s release as ‘an ecosystem for the development and distribution of mobile and internet applications irrespective of device or technology.’

Stakeholders aboard: América Móvil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind.

They’re joined by LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson in supporting the GSMA-backed initiative. As it stands, no Nokia, Apple or BlackBerry / Research In Motion.

The press release strikes a reasonable balance between high level corporate and ostensibly understanding the needs of developers. But what does it actually mean in immediate practice for developers?

“The alliance’s stated goal is to create a wholesale applications ecosystem that – from day one – will establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world.”

Any the wiser? When is day one? Nobody really knows yet.

An editor from ZDNet participated in the radio discussion, saying just that. He also mentioned that the onus was on such stakeholders to do something like this. They couldn’t NOT do something like this.

Although they already are and have been for some time. Several globally collaborative and operator-sponsored movements like this are underway. One is the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL), a developer portal primarily orchestrated by carriers across several continents including Vodafone, Verizon Wireless, China Mobile and Softbank Mobile.

In fact, much of the lower level detail about what will be incorporated into the new GSMA alliance doesn’t appear to be all that new. BONDI OMTP (an open source, operator-sponsored industry collaboration for widget and web technologies), JIL, the GSMA’s own OneAPI: the alliance is openly incorporating all of these already ongoing activities.

“The alliance plans to initially use both the JIL and OMTP BONDI requirements, evolving these standards into a common standard within the next 12 months.”

So you could perceive it as a strong number of powerful new member names essentially piggybacking existing projects. Let’s hope they’re able to contribute equally towards a coherent common standard that’s worth waiting for and actually does what it says on the tin.

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Posted by: Mark Hawkins | February 5, 2010

GSMA, comscore & Mobile Media Metrics

London’s BFI IMAX was yesterday’s impressive setting for the GSMA’s launch of Mobile Media Metrics (MMM).

Giant faces on the UK’s largest cinema screen told us – in a suitably well produced video – how revolutionary MMM is, how mobile is now like the internet was ten years ago (which it feels like we’ve been saying for around five and could keep saying another five), and how this will feed new life into mobile marketing and advertising.

Brands will be able to access anonymised mobile internet usage data from all five UK operators, giving media buyers and brands new visibility about which sites attract the kind of visitors they want to target.

The GSMA, a global trade body for mobile network operators and carriers, combined with one of the industry’s most respected analyst numbercrunchers, comScore, to deliver the product. Encouraging noises from the official press included:

“..we anticipate that it will accelerate growth in the mobile advertising market. The underlying principle of Mobile Media Metrics is to deliver valuable and actionable reporting tools to the media industry, while respecting the privacy of individuals. Access to transparent measurement is essential in establishing mobile as a legitimate advertising medium, and Mobile Media Metrics is a critical element in advancing this process.”

Rob Conway, CEO and Member of the Board of the GSMA

Here’s a hastily snapped shot of the interface.

The MMM service gives aggregated metrics of mobile browsing behaviour, a much requested range of statistics. This gives the ability to analyse sites using page views, time spent on specific sites, and device types and features.

My sense was that the first-line technical delivery infrastructures had been in place for some time; this launch was as much a celebration of mobile network operator fineprint and technical cohesion.

We were also given some nice browsing numbers and fat bar charts, based on pre-production data, which reflected the mobile web dominance of Facebook.

Top 10 UK Mobile Internet Sites in December 2009 were:

(total minutes – 000s)

Facebook.com 2,156,886
Google Sites 395,576
Microsoft Sites 165,725
Orange Sites 138,529
AOL (inc. Bebo) 106,446
Apple Inc. 104,118
Vodafone Group 89,126
BBC Sites 83,614
Flirtomatic 54,503
Yahoo! Sites 48,685

In time, the GSMA and comScore will also develop richer MMM products to measure mobile usage of applications, search, reach and frequency, ad tracking, and ad effectiveness, and connect to Kantar Media’s Target Group Index (TGI). Wi-Fi traffic will be scrutinised via site measurement with comScore’s Media Metrix 360 solution, giving a segmented view of online and mobile browsing habits.

Up to now mobile analytics has been frequently spoken of as vital in persuading brands aboard the mobile train. Bango have led the march in marketing Analytics as a mobile product, although tracking and reporting facilities are offered to some degree by other technical providers.

out of the shadows..

However, it seems unlikely that there’s ever been an analytics product launch with the flourish and dazzle of MMM. Operator funding evidently helps this, (some might suggest that Payforit could have warranted similar treatment).

Arguably more used to flourish and dazzle are mobile applications: the things which have helped to drive the mobile train over the last year. These were only mentioned in passing. While contingencies are in place to measure advertising within apps, there’s a limit to what new metrics can be generated in the space.

MMM could be perceived as the mobile operators’ bold public riposte to the rise of other media players, as well as an assertively planted stake in the ground of mobile web’s longevity over mobile applications.

Their data still holds enormous power if they can unify, deliver and present it smoothly. Now the challenge is to get it used.

Posted by: Mark Hawkins | February 3, 2010

iPad. LTE. Any connection?

In the bygone days of last week Apple unveiled a new device. Remember? (I’m late to address this post, sorry).

People got excited, then most got disappointed, like a build up to a big sneeze that never came. Ah ahh… AHHH..

Oh. Really? That’s it?

A bigger iPhone / iPod Touch akin to a netbook with an integrated touchscreen keyboard, a beautiful high res screen, nice curves, all the whizzy apps, bells and whistles you’d expect from an Apple device. And much MUCH more of course. (Just not sure what that is yet).

“It has, you know, phone capability too I suppose?” an onlooker feigned only nonchalant interest (the pedant), while a handful of us clamoured round a screen to coo at the iPad’s dimensions and specs.

“Erm, no,” came the eventual reply.

Big enough for a nice touchable screen, high quality enough to comfortably read books, so we’re told, lovely for games. But no Adobe Flash (for ostensibly respectable sounding reasons), and no phone.

No phone. Is this important? Moreover, is the fact that it hasn’t been considered as important by Apple, itself important?

Long Term Evolution (LTE) generally says all connectivity will ultimately one day switch completely from cellular to internet protocol connectivity, VoIP etc. How long term is that, exactly? If Apple is turning its nose up already?

IS Apple turning its nose up already?

While Apple has contracted with AT&T for supply in the US and a UK deal is probably pending, these deals concern 3G connectivity provided by the carriers, not mobile voice.

If Apple have already grown sniffy or at least distracted away from the jigsaw piece of mobile voice, (although of course they’ll stick with it for now, upgrading the iPhone every now and then), others will too.

Perhaps others already are. See Google’s new Nexus One phone for details; itself merely casting a sideways nod to the mobile networks.

You could counter that the iPad is simply too large for a neat mobile voice experience. Holding it next to your head for any length of time would be arduous and look silly. There’s the key reason there’s no phone element to it. There is no LTE connection. Perhaps I invented it, not being able to resist writing some sort of blog post about the iPad.

However, the iPad can download and use any of the growing range of VoIP applications available on Apple Stores, thanks to in-built microphone, speakers / headphone dock, and wifi connectivity. So there’s nothing stopping it from being used for a voice telephony experience in the same way you might use Skype on a netbook.

Either way, a mobile voice power shift of sorts has begun, lines are being drawn and tectonic telecoms plates are starting to creak.

It should still be a while until the VoIP threat looms with any deep mass market ferocity – it remains common to encounter people who haven’t heard of, don’t use or are unaware of Skype; despite their exasperating suitability. Added to which, each mobile operator and stakeholder in one of the world’s most profitable markets will understandably use every tool at their disposal to contain the shift for as long as possible.

For now though, we might just start to consider changing Long Term Evolution, to Medium to Long Term Evolution. How quickly things move from here is down to us.

Posted by: Mark Hawkins | January 30, 2010

most of us still on message

New Mobile Data Association (MDA) statistics released this week reveal that 11 million SMS messages are sent across the UK’s networks every hour.

Traffic will ebb and flow at certain times, but this average has been approximated after the release of the MDA’s Q4 2009 messaging statistics, aggregated from the mobile network operators.

The average daily count of text messages was up to 265 million in 2009, while the annual haul stood just shy of the coveted 100 billion mark, at 96.8 billion.

Certain times of the year and special events are revealed as being key for spikes in picture messaging use – and you might speculate that personal events also drive MMS use: weddings, newborns, or even for some, new shoes.

But the continued surge in mass use of mobile messaging, particularly SMS, gives clear evidence that it will not be usurped by alternative messaging forms for some time yet.

Social media platforms depend on a level of wider engagement which many people simply might not care for; whereas mobile messaging is an instant, reliable, one-to-one trigger-press.

All the relevant statistics from the report, together with reports from previous years, are held on http://www.text.it.

This post has been reproduced in part from an original, posted at the MDA blog.

Posted by: Mark Hawkins | January 19, 2010

charity messages

Everyone’s talking about the power of SMS text message donations in the wake of the Haiti tragedy. Rightly so. It’s a single donation medium which has scaled enormously, on an unprecedented scale and in a short space of time.

Driven first by the American Red Cross, significantly quicker to mobilise SMS short code donations than their UK counterparts, which seemed to pass responsibility over to the socially aware DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee), cash has been raked in.

Indeed the DEC’s prominence in this disaster is noteworthy from a donation point of view. Were you aware of them before the earthquake struck? I wasn’t.

When folk ask why UK mobile networks don’t automatically offer 100% outpayments for ALL registered charity giving, the operative word “registered” seems to be often overlooked. Due diligence must be completed to ensure charities are eligible and HMRC registered. This doesn’t happen rapidly.

It can be planned well in advance for high profile BBC charities such Children In Need and Comic Relief, but reacting quickly to disasters is challenging, especially when there are any number of intermediary Aggregators and Service Providers competing to provide the wireless connectivity.

They get there in the end though.

We’ve never seen SMS donating used on such a scale, and certainly never as transatlantically synchronised in the end goal. Many will have used the SMS and digital methods to donate for the very first time.

My question then: is it really as much a coming of age of the donation technologies themselves – when we knew they could do all this for some time – or is it more a feat of rapid information sharing? Telling everyone we possibly could that this was available and they could do it right now, with their phone, easily, straight away?

I’ve never seen charitable calls-to-action broadcast as much on Twitter and Facebook feeds, (and my social communities aren’t THAT large). It’s a message nobody can begrudge. Doesn’t this form of viral social media sharing of the information deserve significant credit in addition to the donation technology itself? It’s significant that these messages are being seeded by your mates, as well as by broadcasters and publishers.

We should be grateful for the existence of these new payment channels, and that they haven’t broken down, as far as we know. And we can also hope that the successful mobile payment mechanisms will rub off reputationally, with many having newly garnered trust in the medium.

But we should be equally grateful for the serious critical mass of direct call-to-action messages that are being shared as far and wide as the sympathy and technology can reach.

DONATE (thanks to Mobile Active for these)

UK
Text GIVE to 70077 to donate £5 to DEC for Haiti

US
• Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross for Haiti efforts. You can donate $10 up to three times, and 100% of the donations will reach the Red Cross Foundation. This effort is run by Mobile Accord.
• Text YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to the Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation. 501501 is run by Give On the Go, a service provider for the Mobile Giving Foundation
• Text HAITI to 25383 to donate $5 to International Rescue Committee.

Canada
Text HAITI to 45678 to donate $5 to the Salvation Army, again courtesy of the Mobile Giving Foundation. If you are on Rogers or Fido, you can also text HELP to 1291 to donate to Partners in Health.

Continental Europe:

• Germany: text HAITI to 81190 to donate E5 (out of which E4.83 will go to Aktion Deutschland Hilft).
• Denmark: text Katastrofe to 1231 to donate 150 kr, or call 90 56 56 56.
• Italy: text to 48540 to donate to the Italian Red Cross if you are on the WIND or 3 networks. If you are on Vodacom or TIM, text 48451 to donate EUR 2 (Telecom Italia users can also call this number).
• France: 80 222/Croix Rouge française, 80 333/Secours Populaire, et 80 444/Secours Catholique. One euro per SMS. (From a user)
• Spain: Send a SMS with text AYUDA to number 28000. SMS cost 1.2 €.

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