Monthly Archives: November 2008

Catch the Next Wave in Mobile

The key to the future lies firmly in what you do in the present.  This is the theme of every time bending sci-fi story.  Change what you do now and your future timeline will alter.   This axiom has never been as true in the mobile industry.  With a significant portion of the industry for value added services treading water (or drowning slowly) in this economy, those who position themselves for the recovery wave  will ride to success and be the next hot thing.  If you miss that first wave, you sink.

So, enough for the metaphors , Let’s get to the predictions.

Where should you be positioned for that enviable wave of profitability?

What will be hot? My top three

-Location Bases Services – For real this time!

minority_report2The prediction of profitable LBS services has been around for as long as LBS services.  The reason I am now bullish on LBS is the convergence of social networks, large screen devices and third party LBS providers for applications.    The visions of “Minority Report” like talking billboards or auto-generated coupons as you walk past a Starbucks have been the visions of non-visionaries.

Nice for Sci Fi but not in reality.

The popular navigation applications such as VZW navigator have been the first step in this lucrative market.  The integration of LBS with social networking will be the next.

LBS will be the  bridge that will bring virtual social networking back to the real world.  looptCool apps like a Google map that automatically shows you the location of your Facebook friends, alerts you if a “friend” is at the same bar, game or locale as you.
This is being developed by Loopt – today.

Legitimate dating services such as Match.Com could obviously benefit from such a service.

Will this make the anonymous rogue of virtual space more dangerous or more marginal?

Regardless, this is coming and will be big   Position your application for this and you will catch the wave
mobilescreen
-Mobile Commerce  – The rest of the economy meets wireless

In a previous article I talked about the tipping point of large screen devices and keyboards.  That trend coupled with “open networks” is a perfect storm for true commerce on mobile devices.  The industry will break out of the ringtone and wallpaper commerce “sand box” to address the other 99.9999% of the economy.

We will be evolving from using mobile as an alerting mechanism for transactions such as banking, trading, ebay, sports, etc.  The next step is to use the mobile as the transaction vehicle.

There are already several mobile ticketing trials for airlines and events underway.
Using your mobile as a truecredit-cards mobile wallet is just over the horizon.

The barrier that will have to be removed is the 40-50% share of revenue that carriers take for the existing mobile oriented content.   Credit Card rates for merchants are one tenth of what carriers charge.

The carriers have been providing both a billing service and a “mall owner” function.  Open Networking and free application choice changes this equation.   Either the carriers figure out how to be the clearinghouse for general commerce using their networks, or they will be ultimately bypassed.   The consumer should hope that the carriers continue to play a role and benefit from this increased commerce flow.  Simply , the more revenue the carriers can garner from commerce generation, the less the basic subscription rates have to be.

In either case the revenue flow through mobile will increase geometrically

-Advertising –The arrival of universally acknowledged Mobile ROI
bwattachment499850-5

My view is that mobile advertising has been “Swift boated” by the other advertising media outlets.  This makes sense.  If I made my bonus purely on television, radio, print or web advertising, I would be less than happy for a share of those dollars, Euros or Yen to go to mobile platforms.  The claims that mobile advertising is impossible to measure seems rather suspect to me.  You can measure TV audience but can’t measure someone who clicks on your mobile ad?

With so much more content being produced for the larger screen mobile devices, the preferred monetization mechanism will be advertising first, subscription second.  The value chain for mobile ads, from creative, agency, platform, network, publisher and advertiser will mature and become fully mainstream.

More advertising revenue will benefit the traditional media giants as well as the new wave of mobile publishers such as game provider Cellufun.

Eventually the advertising model can help carriers transition the handset subsidy to the providers of goods and services.

These are my waves for the next couple of years, what do you thing I have missed?

Are you poised to cash in?

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Filed under economy, Google, hockey, location based services, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, mobile games, social networking, wireless

Note to the New CEO of Yahoo – Mobile desktop matters

What is your mobile homepage? And does it matter?

jerry_yangThe exit of Jerry Yang from Yahoo got me thinking about the implications, if any, it would have for mobile.    In the desktop browser world, the fight for your homepage has been waging for years between Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, AOL, and anyone else who managed to hijack it.  The theory is your homepage selection drives page views, which in turn drives advertising revenue.  More views equal more bucks.

So, what does this mean in a mobile device context? Does homepage matter?

What is particularly interesting in the mobile domain is the competing paradigms for driving traffic.  There is the “traditional” browser homepage war, the mobile desktop icon, a range of Java or Brew applications, and widget portals.

The key question is what to you want to do with your mobile device when you access the Internet and how best to get the answer you want.

A second factor is despite the proliferation of full keyboard mobile devices; the long-winded entry of URL’s and the point and click model of a desktop still does not translate well in the mobile arena.

The specific models at play on the Blackberry are:

1-    Set your homepage
2-    Download bookmarked Icons for specific sites and services
3-    Java Applications that mange collections of information feeds
4-    Widgets and Portals that are a collection of widgets.

Here is my solution – let me know if it matches what you have or you have a different use model.

When I access the Internet on my mobile it is usually about answering a particular question or reading a specific newspaper or blog.

I have my homepage set to the minimalist Google mobile.   I can enter anything I want in the search box, from a website I want to visit to a question.  This is a very functional model for me when I need business information or just want to impress family and friends with some arcane trivia.  Did you know that the state bird of Alaska is the Willow ptarmigan?mybb1

For routine information and entertainment I use the very easy downloadable bookmark icon.  The icons I have on my device are:  NY Times, Washington Post, ESPN, MLB, NY Yankees, Weather Channel, CNN, CNBC and ABC News.   This library of information is great for those commuting train trips.  In 25 minutes I can catch up on the news, read my favorite editorials, and follow the local sports teams.  This is very efficient for sites I visit often, and much better than bookmarking these sites within the browser.  This is another good example of the difference between the desktop and mobile experience.

Next, I have certain downloaded applications that I use often.  My favorites are VZW navigator, followed by Google maps and iskoot (for Skype).  For navigation applications I am asking my device a specific question and getting a specific answer.  It is either, “How do I get to….”, or “ Where I am and how did I get here?”  I use Skype on my desktop and there are rare occasions that I us it contact a business associate.  Iskoot works well and is free.

The next category of applications isthe content aggregation portal.  I have two examples that I have on my device.  The first is a very good RSS reader called Viigo.   You can easily set up the blogs that you follow and they also have pre-loaded feeds that you can keep or easily delete.  If you want to follow this blog on your mobile device, this is the solution.

I have also downloaded a specific RSS reader from “The Hockey News”.  If you read this blog regularly you know I am a big Hockey fan.  I am sorry to say the Hockey New RSS portal is poorly executed and rarely gets used.  This should be bad news to the editors at the Hockey News.  If a diehard mobile guy who is also a diehard hockey guy finds your mobile application to be poor, it is time to rethink.

Note to the Hockey News:

I make the same offer to you as I did to the New York Rangers.  I will volunteer to fix your mobile application.

yahoo1Lastly, the widget portal that I have downloaded is “Yahoo Go! “.  In my view, this is a good implementation for the wrong paradigm.  Yahoo Go! Is a mobile version of the  “My Yahoo” desktop homepage.  It has lots of general information categories in a very slick carousel interface.  What is interesting is that, although I have used Yahoo as my desktop homepage for 10 years, I almost never use “Yahoo Go!”.   The reason for my low use of this service is simply that I have no reason to use it.  It does not function as a way for me to get quick answers (Google), quick information (Icons), or navigate (VZW).

It is interesting to speculate what Obama had on his Blackberry?

The Iphone, G1, HTC and other large screen devices can easily enable similar models.

With advertising revenue the ultimate goal, understanding the mobile desktop paradigm is step one.

We can hope that the successor to Jerry Yang will re-think the mobile environment to be truly mobile and not just a transposition of the desktop.

Will the Yahoo and Google be the only advertising game in down, or will quick footed start-ups like Mojiva make even bigger inroads in this lucrative market?

Please share with me what you have on your mobile desktop.  I will collect the input for a future blog article.

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Filed under advertising, CEO, Google, hockey, mobile, obama, portal, widgets, wireless

Presidential Blackberry!

KUWAIT OBAMAOn Sunday morning I was in my car waiting to pick up my kids at Sunday school and I was reading the NY Times on my Blackberry.  One of the feature stories was about President-Elect Obama and his Blackberry.  It seems that Obama, like many executives of our generation relies on mobile access to news, blogs and email.  The question the article raised was should a President be permitted to have a Blackberry.

There are the security concerns.  Email being intercepted? The President’s surfing habits tracked; even is location known.   What about a President who uses the Internet from their office?

If we assume that the NSA, CIA and Secret Service can figure out how to make the President’s BlackBerry secure.  I see two issues (other than security) in this intellectual exercise.

Number one– should the President be able to get unfiltered information that has not traveled through a maze of bureaucrats?

What would be the implications of a President who does not live in the “bubble”?   In general – I only see upside to getting information first hand.  Most good executives seek many forms of input and I have found that usually the best info is the unfiltered, first hand accounts.  From written accounts of Obama’s management style, getting unfiltered information from many sources is what he wants.

The question is really what does a President read that was not specifically written for him?

Getting unfiltered information can only make the processed information higher quality, more relevant and less prone to “yes men”

One Thumb up for the Blackberry

Number two – Timeobama-with-blackberry2

A Blackberry, or any other mobile Internet device can be a huge distraction and time wasting device, if not used properly.  I would draw an analogy to the early days of the Web when people would “surf” endlessly.    You need discipline to not react to ever buzz and beep that happens 24/7.

Does a President have “down time”?  Is every free moment scheduled for meetings, briefings and speeches?   Is time with your family also scheduled?   I would assume that a President needs un-connected time to think.

On the time issue – I give one thumb down to Presidential Blackberry use.

It will be very interesting to see what mobile technology Obama uses.

As you think about Presidential use of a Blackberry, consider this:

How to you manage your time as an executive? Do you get unfiltered information?

Interesting questions for all of us to ponder.

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Filed under mobile, obama, wireless

Wireless, Politics, the Economy and Hockey

Sometimes if you just take a moment for deeper observation at an event you can get a sense of what pundits spend a lifetime interpreting. Last night I took my youngest daughter to a Ranger game. They lost in overtime, 3-2 to the Edmonton Oilers, so I will not dwell too much on the fantastic comeback, the grit and determination and the ultimate let down.

Here are my other observations during those 4 hours:

Observation 1 – Wireless Gen
My daughter sent and received approximately 120 text messages. She communicated to classmates about the homework she would have to do when she got home, she chatted with her cousin about God knows what, She took three calls, and she cheered the loudest in are section. She does not have ADHD, she just multitasks at the rate of a cyborg!! This is the next generation.

Observation 2- Politics

obama buttonThroughout the game the roving camera guys put crazed fans on the big jumbotron. Twice last night, the fan was wearing a big Obama button on their Ranger jersey. When they saw themselves on the arena scoreboard instead of pointing to their Ranger emblem, they pointed to the Obama button! If seems the hockey Mom and Dad demographic in New York went for Obama.
Observation 3- More Wireless
The Rangers have several interactive mobile promotions during the game. The simplest is a text to screen application where your message is displayed on the scoreboard. What is “interesting” is that you text to one shortcode, get a thank you message from another shortcode and then are instructed to text a third shortcode for a free wallpaper. Also, the thank you shortcode responds with “Thank you for voting!” Opps? Did I vote? Time to check that campaign provisioning!

NOTE TO NEW YORK RANGERS MOBILE DEPARTMENT:

I herby offer – pro-bono (maybe you can pay me with an autographed stick) to fix your mobile applications to make them coherent and effective; to have them run on one shortcode, with proper messaging before, during and after the user interaction.

Observation 4- The Economy

rangersuites

I made a quick count on the number of empty luxury suites last night. I stopped counting after 23. Madison Square Garden has about 60 suites for the well-heeled New York corporate crowd. While I have seen empty suites in the past, the number of dark boxes is very large. As a proxy for the recession/depression on Wall Street, just counting the number of flipped light switched on luxury boxes is a leading indicator of the economy.

Observation 5- The Economy – Oh Canada! (Or is it just the Oil(ers))

Since the Rangers were playing a Canadian based team, the national anthems of both Canada and the U.S. are sung before the game. I like the Canadian Anthem, and can sing it with the best of them. I have to admit I was never quite sure who Canadians are “on Guard” from?

Anyway, I observed a very large number of Edmonton Oiler fans, from Canada. This is unusual. Usually the out of town fans come from New Jersey, Long Island and Philly. This got me thinking. Is there some other geopolitical trend that has caused these fans to be in New York?

I came to three possibilities – either they paid for a tour before the dollar increased in value, or they all work for oil companies in Edmonton and have more money than they know what to do with, or they are Canadian “snow birds” who escape the harsh Canadian winter to bask in the less harsh New York winter. You decide.

Amazing what you can observe if you just take a minute to look!

iamaranger800

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Filed under economy, hockey, media, mobile, New York, obama, politics, Rangers, wireless

The Perishable Opportunity of Managing for Success in a Down Economy

The Dow drops another 300 points, unemployment rises, spending decreases.  This hardly sounds like the environment for setting up your business for success, and yet this is exactly what your competitors are hoping for.

Let me explain.

Downturns in an industry or the economy have a necessary cleansing impact on our competitive capitalist environment.  In times of rapid growth, bad practices, poor process, and wasted resources accumulate like straws on a camel’s back.  The organizations usually do not notice the problems or choose to ignore them in limagnifyingglassght of the overall good growth in their products.

Then the music stops.  And the question is now what?

The knee jerk reaction is to pull back on everything-reduce headcount, reduce expenditures, conserve capital and just slow everything down and wait out the storm.  If this is all you do, you will, at best, not improve your market positioning, and very likely lag the recovery.

The downturn provides a unique, and yes, perishable opportunity.

Having managed through the dot.com bust, up-close and personal, I can definitely appreciate this position.  Let me explain.

In a down turn you get to catch your operational breath.  For example, you can kill those projects that were marginal and perhaps politically difficult to kill, and now you can kill them.  Priorities can become crystal clear.

You can really examine company processes and quality.  Fix those nagging product management and realization issues, get the quality tools in place that you never had time for, fix the old accounting system…

On the staff side, this should not just be a time for cutting headcount, and eliminating raises and bonuses.

This is the best time to upgrade your staff!  Every organization has a range of talent.  In a hot market you might be more inclined to hold on to mediocre team members, rather than invest the time and effort in finding someone new.  In a down market, there are more highly qualified people on the market.  Recruiting will never be easier than it is now.

If you upgrade your processes, products, quality and team in this environment, the cost to your bottom line is negligible!!  If the market is not growing anyway you have the time to make this investment.

If you do this, you will thrive at the front end of the recovery and leave your competitors in the dust.

If you stay with the status quo you miss this perishable opportunity.

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Filed under economy, management, mobile

Would you have invested in this start-up? Its made over $500M!

The World’s most successful E-Commerce Start-Up is planning a successful exit after just 24 months.

Imagine you are an Investor listening to this company’s pitch.

The date is early 2007. Decide if you would invest.

The business plan shows projections of almost $500M in revenue by 3Q2008.   They estimate in excess of 40M registered users with average revenue per user “purchase” event of over $80.  There will be a significant amount of return uses.   Users will gladly opt-in to your marketing messages and receive upwards of 7 promotional emails per week.   The opt-out rate will be quite low.

The company will use social networking and viral marketing to a degree not yet seen in their product category

Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace, Flickr, Youtube, BlackPlannet , Asian Avenue, Faithbase, EONS, Digg, Eventful, Mybatanga, and probably more will all promote the product

Many of the subscribers of this service will also gladly donate their time to this company to help promote its leadership and mission.

The product will be promoted via a combination of online advertising, mobile shortcodes, television, radio, print ads. Most importantly,there will be personal appearances by the company’s charismatic leader.  He will draw crowds in excess of 50,000 to hear him speak.

Included in the investor pitch deck is a plan for a 30 minute infomercial in prime time on 5 national networks.

Oh, and the product that people are getting for all this money?

Hope and Change.

This company plans a successful exit on Tuesday.

Regardless of your politics, you have to admire the unprecedented E-commerce effort of the Obama team.

If Kennedy was the first President to really understand and utilize TV, future historians will name Obama as the first candidate (perhaps President?) that fully capitalized on the Internet as a powerful fund raising (E-Commerce) vehicle. Continue reading

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Filed under E-Commerce, Election, mobile, obama, politics