20050831

Prime time and fare play

Speaking of mobile TV, one device is changing the way people watch it big (prime) time : your car. I guess I would have a tough time driving a car without GPS and TV in Seoul now that I'm hooked to it. No wonder prime time is moving towards traffic time there.
I'm not sure Italy's MICE TV (Mobile Information Communication Entertainment TV by
Advanced Communication S.r.l) or UK's CabVision propose the best business model : a cab is as good a hotspot as an airport but specific video content didn't prove to be the killer app there. On the other hand, these players mixed technologies an interesting way : broadband wireless for video (WLAN for MICE, DAB for CabVision) + GPRS for news tickers (MICE) and remote monitoring (CabVision). MICE adds an interesting feature : movement sensors make sure passengers are comfortably seated before starting the potentially 50 mn long program. Only 22% of CabVision users find the concept intrusive but I wonder how many cab drivers will turn mad and the whole shebang down before their fifth customer of the day.
You want your personal in-car video system to be a touch screen you can hop on, plug-in, tune-in, surf on as much as you want but that would be a terrible idea for a cab concept. I guess the passenger should be able to zap and reach a selection of non specific channels and wouldn't mind part of the screen being devoted to sponsors (with the possibility to zoom on and out of an ad, for example - that would mean a pad of half a dozen keys next to a screen you don't want to look greasy : on/off, program +/-, volume +/-, adzoom +/-). Autistic me would enjoy such a gizmo, especially since more than 22% of cabdrivers prove to be intrusive.



20050830

Saturday night Feeva - gloocalization

More about Google's next steps : after Business 2.0, Business Online cites Big Goo's interest in Frisco's Feeva as the sign of a potential move towards network operating but I'm not so sure that's the point.
Feeva are not into WLAN rolling out. They consider themselves as "dedicated to (i) Personalizing the user’s Internet experience to deliver relevant, timely, localized and customized information
(ii) Accelerating the proliferation of personal broadband Internet access
(iii) Shifting the economic center of gravity by making the usage of networks underwrite the cost of using the networks
".
Google is into providing their clients with what they want, starting with relevant search results for consumers, relevant targets for advertisers and relevant ROI for shareholders.
They're traditionally weak in broadband demanding apps but all their recent moves are meant to change this.
With people like Feeva, they're learning about new dimensions in context marketing. Feeva and Google Earth are about localization and Google is simply going gloocal.



20050829

Slomo mobile TV

Sorry but I can't help following closely the evolution of S-DMB in Korea. Last week-end, TU Media's Heo Jae-Yeong revealed a significant rise in subscriptions (140,000 from last month's 75,000), but he also warned the 600,000 target wouldn't be met by the end of the year, blaming the regulation for preventing the dominant operator from subsidizing handsets. The fact is only early adopters can afford to pay $600 to 800 for these lilliputian TVs on the go.
The problem is this doesn't tell us how many would be converted in an aggressive scenario, how far the market can reach beyond early adopters and how quick.
And the problem goes beyond SK Telecom : the likes of Samsung also want to enjoy the dividends of being the firsts on the market, especially since the whole world is watching. Manufacturers may have to cut their margins to help boost the sales. A shot in the arm or a shot in the foot ?

Anyway, expect a strong lobbying and a fierce debate about competitive Korea : which is most important, the fairness of the local market or the nation's competitive edge ? Unfortunately for Lee Gun-Hee, the least one could say is neither the Government nor the public opinion seem in a mood to please him nowadays.



20050827

One month oxygen supply

O² + FOOT = MMS² is the official equation, but I gather are more interested in boosting the value of their company than MMS traffic. The exclusivity is only valid for the duration of the FIFA World Cup (June 9th - July 9th, 2006) and the German territory but getting soccer rights always pleases the audience (beyond dumb couch potatoes, dumb analysts).
Neither 0² nor Infront Sports & Media would show us the money but Oliver Seibert wouldn't give the rights to a 8M customer base holder for a song. New partners will come and / or parts of 0² or even the all shebang may be sold by the time of the kick-off and I don't think this deal will change anything. Consider it an insurance policy for the existing customer base.
Yet, Germany remains the biggest potential growth engine for this operator. Locking this kind of deals is a nice quick fix but they badly need some new partner to help them consider strategy beyond today's "our primary strategy is to create shareholder value".



20050826

NYC sub subs

So they're fighting for the coverage of US subways now (277 outta 468 stations). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposes a 10 year exclusivity and all MNOs are bidding, but the winner will be compelled to offer roaming to his competitors, CDMA or GSM (anyway they can't go together in the tunnel of love since the tunnel parts are not included in the contract). The NYT sizes the prize between $50 and 100M.
That's a far cry from MTA's no-bid contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Corporation for its electronic surveillance system : $212M. And that system won't be shut down in case of terror crisis. Not that it could change anything : the time for the authorities to realise something's happening it will be too late anyway. But not for this major favorite of the Bush Administration.



20050823

Google Mob... (pay $.99 for the unshortened version)

An Everest of paper at Wall Street, Google are supposed to be using actual greenbacks anytime soon. Google Earth recently provided a pleasant gliding experience, Google Desktop 2 a nasty private investigation into Billy Boy's files (Outlook Toolbar, Sidebar, Quick Find), and Google Talk another gun pointed on MSN as Microserves face their gazillionth antitrust attack this side of the Han River*. But many expect the Mountain View, CA squad to put some flesh on Google Mobile or Google Wireless Services. Others mentioned browsers or a yahooish shift towards mediaship... Whatever. Tremors are shaking the Valley and I guess the sismic attacks on Google (these mobsters just suck all innovative people away from competitors) may find their epicenter not far away from Redmond, WA (yet I'm affraid The Big One will be for the man named Gates but who still didn't believe in portals in year 1995).
To be frank, I'm much more excited by the last arrows coming from Amazon : Amazon Shorts could contribute to shaking the old publishing tree as efficiently as the internet did with the music industry**.

I know, short stories are so old media but shorts are of season : short message services still sell, mobile comics and wireless mangas are all the rage and who would dare go on the beach without exposing a 64M-color-3G short movie ? You look great indeed, but you're splashing everybody and if this sea turns out to be a pound you're gonna drown in a pool of bubbles. Look at Wireless TV & Studios Inc. claiming "As MTV developed the language of cable. We have developed the lingo of Wireless TV", and believe it or not we have Nitrous Ltd on board ! Not all people screaming "I'm the king of the world" on the top of both their lungs and the Titanic did make it to the Oscars.

* Among the plaintiffs, RealMedia hopes not to end up as the next Netscape and Daum doesn't get any support from MSN's main competitor in Korea, NateOn (fear of any collateral damage for a dominant player in the mobile arena ?)

** selling short stories $.49 apiece is certainly not a revolution (just like Apple didn't invent anything with iTunes nor with iPod) - it's the players that matter. And the thing is right now you can't publish short stories unless you've published a novel first. Explain this to movie director wannabes.



Raising Son in Morning Calm - intel inside

Nokia always had trouble making it in CDMA Korea. Heck, it even had to pull out of Qualcomm-Land ! But now, this is the very country where the Finnish leader is preparing its next generation. Of leaders.
Prestigious SNU (Seoul National University) welcomes a 24 year old exchange student from HSE (the Helsinki School of Economics) : Jussi Tapani Kallasvuo happens to be the son of Nok-Nok's new CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.
Embedded JTK will enjoy the lectures of such speakers as Yoon Jong-Yong, Samsung Electronics' CEO (Jussi, isn't it ?), and should come back rugged, broadband and gimchi-proof.



20050818

Cyworld and Nespot, WMD and WWF

The day SKT announced mobile Cyworld's millionth subscriber, KT celebrated Nespot's 500,000th client.
Cyworld mobile was doomed to succeed : it took almost one year to reach the 500,000 mark (last Feb), but about half this time to double the score. SKT target 1,5M users end 2005, of which 800,000 "active" (vs 600,000 now, an active user being defined as having used the service in the past 30 days). They could do even better considering this crowd would be equivalent to less than 10% of all Cyworld users - plus mobile videoblogs have not been launched yet. Anyway, "Dotori"s keep flying over the air : Cyworld's virtual currency was already stronger than your classic loyalty program's miles, it is now becoming a perfect and not-so-informal complement to SKT's WMDs (Weapons of M-banking Domination : Moneta & co).
KT are also strenghtening their positions in the mobile arena through key "fixed" assets but significantly, while SKT's entry points usually depend on customer centric services, KT's more often rely on offer-creates-demand-hardware-and-network-based solutions. Nespot took about 3.5 years to hit the half-a-million spot (a World record for 802.11b access services) : launched in feb 2002, it claimed 502,031 subscribers on August the 16th, 2005 thanks to an impressive army of 13,222 hotspots. But the fixed incumbent plans to reach 170,000 areas by the end of the year, put Blackberry in its Swing phones and launch new W-LAN-based home networking applications*. I wonder whether KT expect to multiply by 12 their Nespot customer base or consider locking key locations for other technologies as well (Wibro ? HSDPA ? HSUPA ? all of the above 2Mbps ?).


* Like KTF a few weeks ago, KT picked a pet-centric app to make it sweeter to the eyes of the public - as far as acronyms are concerned, their PR teams must be more familiar with WWF than MBA.



20050808

Hardcore gaming

According to Marketing Insight, 40% of Korean mobile users are also m-gamers - over 6% for hardcore mobile gamers (daily use). If you want to know what a Korean hardcore gamer is, ask Mr Lee : the 28 year old collapsed after playing 49 hour non stop in a PC Bang. Mr Lee would often stay there 3 days in a row but this time he died. No wonder : I tried the same game ("World of Warcraft") in a PC Bang and had to leave after one hour, my heartbeat pulsing a steady 359. Around me, people wouldn't leave the screen one second, even while ordering ramions or pizzas with their mobile phones. I also left because I had been methodically buldozed, nuked and vaporized by a giant bug army (who happened to be controled by a 12 year old), but luckily enough, I survived in real life.
Now you can turn your own home into a PC Bang : in http://ftth Korea (Fiber To The Home), 100 Mbps rates are getting common and BcN (Broadband Convergence Network) first pilots are starting in Seoul thanks to DaCom* (a broadband-VoIP-broadcasting triple play for the 350 first customers).
The Government wants every Korean to have at least a 1 Mbps connection by 2010 and the country proved it could deliver.
I wonder how life in appateu will look like when everybody's playing with 3D goggles on an ultimate shoot'em all...

* Among the other 3 BcN consortia, those led by KTF and SKT are focusing on wireless first (unlike DaCom, their core business) : real convergence in BcN may take 2 more years and both players already enjoy key entry points in the country's households. Note that KTF launched their mobile music portal half a year after SKT : dosirak started last may (download & streaming services - 192 Kbps for streaming, interesting coupon packages) and should get 300,000 customers by year end (MelOn targets 800,000 paying subs at that time out of 3M total subscribers - they hit the 2M mark after 7 month).



Row vs Wide(band)

Enough of Korea's DMB ! Let's see how Europe's DVB-H is doing.
The ETSI's official mobile TV techno since last year, DVB-H was considered more suitable than UMTS (capacity is an issue, even with the release 6 and MBMS - Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service), DAB (the name sums it up : A stands for Audio and V for Video*), or Korea's DMB (even DMB-S requires costly terrestrial re-transmitters for an efficient coverage... and operators DO have to roll out UMTS anyway). Besides, the techno was pushed by a European player with kind of a telecom background : Nokia.
Nokia 7710 s were used for the bulk of the early trials of DVB-Handeld :

  • an international triple play last year : M1 in Singapore, Sonera - Elisa in Finland and the more surprising Crown Castle in Pittsburgh.
  • a spectacular spring-summer season featuring Canal+ (w SFR) and TPS (w Bouygues & Orange) in France or Telefonica in Spain
  • a much awaited september trial with Ariqva's (formerly NTL Broadcast) : it's in Oxford, Shorts** are provided and capacity is required but the 500 users shouldn't have to row (Nokia said the batteries were powerful enough)

The US are clearly a key market : this is the place where all technos cohabit, where broadcasters rule over mobilecos... and if I can make it there I'll make it anywhere***.

No wonder the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) published a paper on "How Korean Telecom Companies Can Enter the US Satellite DMB Market ". The US have the same digital broadcasting standards as Korea for TV (ATSC or 8-VSB is different from Europe's DVB or Japan's ISDB - among the promoters of this "US HDTV" are USDTV), but for radio they have HD Radio (datacasting over digital radio as developed by iBiquity : terrestrial or satellite, XM Radio and Sirius Satellite leading on the sat side) instead of Korea's DMB or Japan's ISDB. Korea seems to dump ATSC for DMB for TV as well but since DVB-S already proved sustainable with SKYLife they gave DVB-H a symbolic try : KBS were the only broadcasters to play with the Ministry (MIC) and two broadcasting associations (the Korean Broadcasting Committee and the United Broadcasting Union). Of course, they are now playing along the others on DMB.

Nokia's approach of the US market doesn't look much impressive at first sight : I had to do something in the US but couldn't clinch any deal with any mobileco, so I took a towerco along with Idetic's MobiTV (major channels for $10 a month). But Crown Castle are a key partner for Verizon or Cingular in the US, and also an operator since they own their own frequencies : they paid $12.6M for a 10 year terrestrial license (5MHz, L-Band spectrum 1440-1790 MHz). Crown Castle also selected DiBcom for PC accesses, a French company seen at 3GSM and backed by an interesting crew : France's SGAM & Credit Agricole, USA's Freescale / Motorola Ventures, Australia's Convergent Technologies, Israel's Vertex Management, and Germany's Cipio Partners... both DiBcom and Convergent Technologies seeming rather Windows friendly companies.

The fact is that unlike DMB, DVB-H selected Windows Media for audio (WM along with AAC, vs BSAC for DMB) as well as for video (WM9 along with MPEG4 vs MPEG4 only for DMB). So we are not talking only about Nokia, but about a Nokia - Microsoft duo. Of course, Microsoft should also play competitive technos****, but what a pair for mobile TV...

* Yet, Virgin Mobile are investigating mobile TV over DAB (1,000 users in South-West England thanks to BT Livetime, BT Wholesale and Digital One's network). They're also soft-launching W-CDMA in few cities. In both cases, VirginRadio happened to play the crash tester for the Virgin Group : an early adopter of DAB (first trials 10 years ago), VR had already been available on 3G for a couple of weeks ("3G radio" with Sydus).

** Shorts International (A.K.A. Britshorts Ltd, also an Orange partner)

*** How about China then ? They do use DVB-T but are considering their own Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) standard while testing all others, including DVB-T, ATSC and ISDB-T. Mobile ? Don't mention it yet ?

**** This time, Qualcomm looks in a difficult position : they spent $800 on MediaFLO which won't be delivered before next year and neither Microsoft nor Korea are on board. The FCC seems more attracted by the "TV-Fi" concept.



20050803

Crossing the i-channel

NTT DoCoMo invents "i-channel": for 150 Yens a month, users will receive several channels and just like with i-mode, a specific button will allow a quick access to this new portal.
Just like with i-mode too, NTT DoCoMo obviously forgot to lock the brand and the URL... i-channel.com belongs to Lava Lamp LLC, a company located in Centennial, CO. Same location as International Networks, a Comcast subsidiary recently rebranded after AZN Television, their channel devoted to the Asian American audience and recently relaunched with high ambitions and a potential global reach, far beyond America...
Smartly enough, Comcast decided to plug this ten year old URL to this potential competitor to DCM's latest "innovation" : according to Register.com, i-channel.com's database was last updated 3-Aug-2005 11:18:34 EDT... not one day after DoCoMo's
i-channel press release.
Conclusions :

  • DoCoMo are definitely uncurable as far as marketing, URL management and branding are concerned, and if they dare advertise on i-channel, they will certainly contribute to the success of AZN.
  • Comcast seem to have not only a better understanding of internet marketing and branding, but also an efficient intelligence unit.



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