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December 14, 2007

Zumobi zooms beta to the public

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:01 AM

Zumobi, which is developing a highly interactive user interface for the mobile phone, is releasing its beta to the public today.

The company, formerly known as Zenzui, has created an interface that is a combination of widgets and visuals to help people navigate a lot of information by zooming in and out to see more or fewer details. The application addresses the inherent difficulties of searching and navigating the Web on the mobile phone.

Zumobi can now be downloaded free on the the company's site.

The user chooses a number of "tiles," which widgets of sorts. Web sites and media companies will have to create those tiles specifically for Zumobi.

It sounds like the company is off to a great start with a pretty impressive list of launch partners, including Amazon.com, MTV Networks, The Associated Press, AccuWeather.com, Traffic.com, FlightStats.com, Vail Resorts and Fox Television's "Family Guy."

The beta is available for phones running Windows Mobile 5 and 6. In the second quarter, a version will become available for BlackBerry and selected Java-compatible phones. The application requires a data plan, and an unlimited all-you-can-eat plan is strongly recommended.

The company has a video explaining the service here.

December 13, 2007

Another McCaw funded company surfaces

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:50 PM

S5 Wireless, a Utah company, is looking to bring a GPS-like device to market that would allow kids, pets, packages and other items to be tracked by small, cheap chips that can be powered by a single battery for up two years and tracked indoors and outside over long distances.

An AP story discusses how the device could be a lot more practical than GPS, which can be bulky and a battery drain. It also typically only receives a signal outdoors.

Billionaire Craig McCaw, Clearwire's chairman, is S5's majority investor.

I tried to figure out if there could be any overlaps with what Clearwire is doing. At the minimum, it sounds like they can use the same cell towers.

The AP reported that S5 plans to use existing cellphone towers and antennas. S5 will need at least three towers within the range of the device's signal in order to pinpoint its location.

The company plans to cover "several" major cities next year and 35 cities within three years. Clearwire is in about 40 cities right now.

S5 plans to use free, unlicensed spectrum in the 900 megahertz band, which is shared by cordless phones.

iLike partners with Thumbplay to sell ringtones

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:56 PM

Seattle-based iLike said today that it has an exclusive relationship with Thumbplay, a mobile content company.

Through this relationship, Thumbplay's ringtones will now be featured on iLike.com and the iLike's Facebook application.

Users will see "Get ringtone" links to Thumbplay, which will sit alongside links to iTunes in song, artist, album and song pages. Similar links will be integrated into the iLike Challenge, so users can discover and purchase ringtones of songs played in the game.

What cellphone is drawing the most curiosity this holiday season?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:21 PM

And the answer is:

The LG Voyager.

That's the conclusion of a study that combed out data from the Web sites of U.S. carriers to determine which phones consumers were clicking on and reading about the most. It was compiled by Compete, a company specializing in Web analytics.

The LG Voyager is Verizon Wireless's answer to the iPhone. It was the No. 1 phone viewed in detail at the major carrier's Web sites in November, Compete said.

In second place was the T-Mobile Sidekick Slide, an evolution of the popular Sidekick phone that has a screen that slides up instead of swiveling up and around. In third place was the Samsung t629, and, shockingly, in fourth was the Apple iPhone.

The rest of the list is as follows:

5. T-Mobile Sidekick LX-Blue
6. T-Mobile Sidekick iD
7. LG Venus, Black
8. Sony Ericsson, Z310a, lush pink
9. Sony Ericsson, W580i Walkman, white
10. Pantech C150.

In a second study, Compete found the same data for the Smartphone category.
Here's the list:

1. Apple iPhone
2. Pantech Duo
3. RIM Blackberry Pearl
4. Samsung SCHi760
5. Motorola Q Global
6. Blackberry Pearl (refurbished).
7. HTC Dash
8. RIM Blackberry Curve 8310 Titanium
9. RIM Blackberry Curve, pale gold
10. AT&T 8525 (HTC), refurbished.

December 12, 2007

Can you save money on calls when traveling to Canada?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:09 AM

I'm going to Whistler this weekend, and a friend asked me a very good question.

Could he purchase a new SIM card in Canada and pre-pay for minutes so he isn't charged exorbitant roaming rates by his U.S. carrier?

In theory, this sounds like a great idea. As long as you have a GSM phone -- from either AT&T or T-Mobile USA -- you could do this. I hear all the time about people traveling to Europe who get a pre-paid SIM so they can have a local phone number to make calls much cheaper.

So I started looking into it.

The most viable option looked like a pre-paid phone provider called Fido.

According to its Web site, the service costs $30 for a kit that includes a SIM and then it was $10 for the cheapest phone plan. The plan seemed reasonable, as it included such features as free incoming calls for $1 a day.

Together, that means a minimum start-up cost of $40.

At that point, you have to ask yourself how many phone calls are you going to make, and whether it would be below $40 in roaming fees?

For comparison, I looked on AT&T's Web site. It said it was 79 cents a minute for calls in Canada. Text messages were 50 cents each. So that's 50 minutes of talk time or 80 text messages for $40. (Standard home rates applied for receiving text messages).

Sounds too close to call for a three-day trip to Canada. That's too bad. Getting a Canadian SIM could be an easy solution, but the barriers seem to high.

These are the kinds of things carriers could make a lot easier for the consumer. With all this talk about open access networks and letting the consumer choose their own device and network, you wonder how serious they are? They can keep the cost prohibitive for many or make things a hassle to do.

December 11, 2007

Sprint to go live with Xohm very soon

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:14 AM

Sprint is planning to launch its WiMax networks in Chicago and Baltimore-Washington, D.C., within the week, according to Telephony magazine.

Sprint officials told Telephony that the soft launch will extend only to Sprint employees and is intended to prepare the networks for a broader trial early next year. At first, they will cover the downtown cores of Chicago, Baltimore and Washington but expand rapidly into the suburbs.

The industry has been waiting for Sprint Nextel to launch its network. Last year it committed to spending billions of dollars and rolling out a nationwide WiMax network. Earlier this year, it signed a letter of intent with Kirkland-based Clearwire to share the work and the costs, but that agreement fizzled. Since then, industry analysts have questioned Sprint's commitment, and the initiative seemed to be up in the air.

Sprint's launch of its WiMax service, called Xohm, will be the first high-profile release of true mobile WiMax technology.

Clearwire, founded by Craig McCaw, is often portrayed as the leader or the largest WiMax company because it already serves about 40 markets and has thousands of customers. However, it is not using the true mobile WiMax standard.

Clearwire is using proprietary equipment, and its equipment is not truly mobile. An Internet connection can't be handed off from one tower to the next while the user is in a car or on a train.

Clearwire and a partner, Intel, has been testing mobile WiMax in Portland, and is expected to upgrade its technology in existing markets over time.

CTIA: The top stories of 2007

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:00 AM

Today CTIA -- The Wireless Association posted its top 10 news stories of 2007 on its daily Smartbrief newsletter.

Susan Rush, the lead editor of CTIA SmartBrief, wrote:

"Innovation was the name of the game when it came to wireless in 2007, whether it was new technologies and applications appearing on handsets, or new services being introduced by the carriers. Of course a 2007 roundup would not be complete without mentioning the market entry of Apple's iPhone, which is already facing competition as carriers move to satisfy consumer demand, or Verizon Wireless' decision to open up its network. Our industry also saw data services gain in popularity, with revenue skyrocketing, thanks to increases in music, Internet and video offerings."

Here are the top 10:

1. Without further ado: The iPhone (6/29)
2. Verizon Wireless embraces open access (11/28)
3. It's official: Google goes mobile (11/6)
4. Sprint considers WiMAX sale, may seek partners (12/4)
5. Verizon Wireless announces iPhone rival: Voyager (10/3)
6. FCC unveils auction rules, delays start to Jan. 24 (10/10)
7. ITC imposes ban on phones with Qualcomm chips (6/8)
8. House approves Internet tax ban extension (10/30)
9. Amp'd Mobile calls it quits (7/23)
10. New AT&T CEO looks at the future (6/5)

Do you agree? I think some other big stuff happened this year -- Nokia getting into the services and applications side of the business; T-Mobile USA launching a fixed mobile convergence product called T-Mobile HotSpot@Home.

What else?

InfoSpace extends Yahoo search agreement

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:43 AM

Bellevue-based InfoSpace said today that it has extended its multi-year agreement with Yahoo, allowing the Bellevue-based company to include Yahoo's search results as part of its metasearch technology.

InfoSpace will not only be able to continue delivering Web search results, but also text-based advertising listings from Yahoo. The technology involves the whole portfolio of InfoSpace sites, including Dogpile, WebCrawler, MetaCrawler, WebFetch.com and private-label services.

Metasearch technology means it can prioritize from various search engine's algorithm types.

This is a important win for a company that over the past year has decided to sell off its mobile properties and focus solely on its Internet search business.

In October, the company sold its mobile infrastructure business to Motricity for $135 million. In September, it sold Switchboard.com to Idearc of Dallas for $225 million in cash; and it's on track to pay out $300 million in dividends to shareholders early next year.

"Extending our partnership with Yahoo demonstrates our continued commitment to deliver the most powerful metasearch experience," said Jim Voelker, chairman and CEO of InfoSpace. "Today's consumers want to be assured they are getting the most comprehensive and relevant results, and we go a step further by bringing them together in one place."

New guildlines for mobile marketing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:32 AM

The Mobile Marketing Association has released the latest edition of its "consumer best practices guidelines for cross-carrier mobile content services in the U.S."

Although that sounds like a mouthful, at least 500 member companies follow these practices today. For example, Microsoft did so when it launched advertising on its mobile MSN.com property Monday.

Unlike with other media, mobile allows ads to be portrayed in several ways, including text messages or banner ads on mobile Web sites.

These new guidelines appear to cover the ever increasing number of techniques.
They include free-to-end-user guidelines for messaging, sweepstakes and contests, mobile Web and interactive voice response, affiliate marketing, participation TV and word-of-mouth verification.

Hard to know what some of that stuff even is, but this all comes under the heading of self-regulation. The committee that comes up with these guidelines comprises Alltel Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Bango, Chapell & Associates, denuo Group (a Publicis company), Jamster, Lavalife Mobile, mBlox, MMA, MTV Networks, MX Telecom, NeuStar, Qmobile, SinglePoint, Sprint Nextel, Sybase 365, Telescope, Teligence, The Walt Disney Company, T-Mobile USA, VeriSign, and Verizon Wireless.

The guidelines can be downloaded here.

December 10, 2007

Microsoft adds banners to mobile MSN

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:20 PM

Microsoft said this morning that for the first time it is adding banner and text ads to its MSN Mobile properties in the U.S.

The ads, at mobile.msn.com, will start appearing today. After a brief look on my phone, I saw mostly Microsoft house ads, but then I found one on a sports story that asked me to take part in a survey.

For kicks, I clicked on the banner. The landing page thanked me and said my answers would not be sold or shared with anyone. I bravely continued. It asked me about 10 questions, ranging from what year I was born to my behavior on the phone and what I thought of certain banks.

The ad was clearly for one of Microsoft's three launch partners: Bank of America. The other two advertisers are Paramount Pictures and Jaguar, said Phil Holden, director of Microsoft's online services group.

Putting ads on the mobile Web is not new. In fact, a number of companies and online media brands have already been doing it for quite some time. Companies such as Third Screen Media, Medio Systems, Thumbplay and Admob are all active in the space.

For now, what Microsoft is doing is pretty limited. The ads don't take into account the user's search history, their location, or any other information. On the MSN search page, there are no relevant text links on the results page.

"That is in the pipeline, but it wasn't enabled on Monday," Holden said.

It will be launched when it's time, he added.

"Most consumers don't even know what they can do on the mobile phone today. If I talk to my friends outside of the technology space, they don't know you can get e-mail and IM on your phone. In many cases, the iPhone has helped that in terms of the hype it's gotten and awareness" he said.

The mobile ad-serving technology was created by Microsoft's Advertiser & Publisher Solutions Group and through the acquisition of ScreenTonic SA and aQuantive.

Here's a screen shot of what it will look like. Depending on your phone, the ad may appear as a text link or a banner.

msftad1.PNG

Microsoft adds banners to mobile MSN

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:20 PM

Microsoft said this morning that for the first time it is adding banner and text ads to its MSN Mobile properties in the U.S.

The ads, at mobile.msn.com, will start appearing today. After a brief look on my phone, I saw mostly Microsoft house ads, but then I found one on a sports story that asked me to take part in a survey.

For kicks, I clicked on the banner. The landing page thanked me and said my answers would not be sold or shared with anyone. I bravely continued. It asked me about 10 questions, ranging from what year I was born to my behavior on the phone and what I thought of certain banks.

The ad was clearly for one of Microsoft's three launch partners: Bank of America. The other two advertisers are Paramount Pictures and Jaguar, said Phil Holden, director of Microsoft's online services group.

Putting ads on the mobile Web is not new. In fact, a number of companies and online media brands have already been doing it for quite some time. Companies such as Third Screen Media, Medio Systems, Thumbplay and Admob are all active in the space.

For now, what Microsoft is doing is pretty limited. The ads don't take into account the user's search history, their location, or any other information. On the MSN search page, there are no relevant text links on the results page.

"That is in the pipeline, but it wasn't enabled on Monday," Holden said.

It will be launched when it's time, he added.

"Most consumers don't even know what they can do on the mobile phone today. If I talk to my friends outside of the technology space, they don't know you can get e-mail and IM on your phone. In many cases, the iPhone has helped that in terms of the hype it's gotten and awareness" he said.

The mobile ad-serving technology was created by Microsoft's Advertiser & Publisher Solutions Group and through the acquisition of ScreenTonic SA and aQuantive.

Here's a screen shot of what it will look like. Depending on your phone, the ad may appear as a text link or a banner.

msftad1.PNG

December 6, 2007

Strong links between entrepreneurs and dyslexia

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:53 PM

A new study suggests that a "staggering" number of entrepreneurs in the U.S. identify themselves as dyslexic, according to a story in the International Herald Tribune.

The report said that of the entrepreneurs interviewed, 35 percent said they were dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely to delegate authority and to excel in oral communication and problem solving. They were also twice as likely to own two or more businesses.

One good example in our own back yard is Craig McCaw, who has a long list of companies he started: Clearwire, Nextel Communications, XO Communications, Teledesic and McCaw Cellular Communications,

Members of his executive teams frequently describe him as being creative, not too wrapped up in the details, and capable of delegating authority.

The article pointed out that the connection between entrepreneurs and dyslexia has been made before. Fortune had a cover story five years ago mentioning McCaw, but also Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways; Charles Schwab, founder of the discount brokerage that bears his name; John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco; and Paul Orfalea, founder of the Kinko's copy chain.

Why is this?

Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, who conducted the study, said:

"We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills. If you tell your friends and acquaintances that you plan to start a business, you'll hear over and over, 'It won't work. It can't be done.' But dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems."

The study was based on a survey of 139 business owners in a wide range of fields across the U.S.

Logan called the results staggering, especially when juxtaposed with the information that about 10 percent of Americans are believed to have dyslexia.

AT&T: We were open first!

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:53 AM

Is there a wireless carrier left out there that doesn't want to be part of the open access debate?

USA Today reported today that the largest U.S. carrier said customers don't have to sign a contract and can use any wireless phone, device and software application from any maker they want -- regardless if it is from AT&T.

The message follows moves by Google, which unveiled an open mobile operating system, and after Verizon Wireless announced that it was opening up its network to third-party phones and applications later next year.

AT&T said it's been open for a long time.

"Everything that Google has promised to bring to the wireless market a year from now AT&T is doing today. We are the most open wireless company in the industry," said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's wireless business.

The story went on to say that although it has been true for quite some time that consumers could buy other devices and use them on the AT&T network, salespeople in AT&T phone stores will be proactive and make sure that consumers "know all their options."

It is easier for AT&T and T-Mobile USA to provide a more open network than either Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel. AT&T and T-Mobile use the GSM standard, which has a SIM card in the phone that allows a phone to connect to the network.

A consumer can easily pop the chip out and put it into another GSM phone to receive coverage. The one limitation is that if a phone was purchased through AT&T or T-Mobile, the phones are "locked," which prohibits them from being used on another network.

The article did not mention how AT&T will deal with locked phones, or whether they would be willing to unlock phones customers purchased from them. The iPhone, for instance, is a locked device that cannot be used on another network.

Unlocked phones are commonly available on the Internet, through eBay, or even directly from the manufacturer. The one thing consumers need to be careful about is whether that phone will work on their network of choice. Each carrier uses different frequencies and bands. Handset manufacturers make phones for those specific networks.

December 5, 2007

Google owns tons of wires, what does that mean for wireless?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:57 AM

I've been waiting to read something about Google's fiber and wired infrastructure strategy, and today Om Malik wrote a very informative piece on his blog.

Since I don't cover Google on a regular basis, and have only been paying close attention to the company since it started making moves in wireless, I was unclear how it was truly operating behind the scenes.

Separately, I had heard that it was buying up unused fiber around the country, but I didn't know what it was for, or how much it was buying.

Malik addressed both of these questions. The blog post discusses how Google's infrastructure is its strategic advantage -- Google must deliver search results to its customers as fast as possible, and to do that, it needs to own fiber, servers, optical switches, etc.

He wrote:

"The faster the results show up on our browsers, the less inclined we'll be to switch to a rival search engine, no matter how great the rival's search methodology may be. The faster (and more efficient) its infrastructure, the more easily Google can keep serving the ad-based money machine."

He also wrote that Google is rumored to be a big buyer of dark fiber -- to connect its data centers -- which could help explain why the company spent nearly $3.8 billion in the past seven quarters on capital expenditures.

So I want to bring this discussion back around to telecom, and ask the question: if owning infrastructure is what makes Google so good on the PC, then how could it dominate in the wireless industry? Does it take owning a wireless network to enable it to be better and faster? Is that why it is so interested in building mobile operating systems and participating in the spectrum auction?

One thing to note is that wireless networks often are used to send information when it is difficult or too expensive to lay down wire. Perhaps Google's interest in the wireless industry is also to support its wired infrastructure.

Or will the next information war take place on the wireless handsets? And, will Google need to own spectrum and wireless infrastructure in order to ensure the speed of its service?

I'm not sure what the answers are, but I think understanding its wired strategy provides a good start.

December 4, 2007

Guessing the participants in the next spectrum auction

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:30 AM

Monday was the deadline for companies to tell the FCC whether they were interested in participating in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction.

The airwaves are going on sale because TV broadcasters are being required to move off their current spectrum to running on HD. This block of airwaves is commonly called "beachfront property" in the wireless world (although there's some debate about whether that's true -- for instance, it's supposed to work better in rural than urban areas).

Although applications were due yesterday, the FCC hasn't yet announced who is showing interest. That hasn't stopped people from speculating. I'd say there's above-average interest in this auction because it could create an all-new wireless carrier in the U.S. (like Google).

Some companies have already let their position be known. For instance, we know Google is throwing its hat into the ring, and that Time Warner is not.

TechCrunch speculates further on where other companies stand. It's a pretty interesting and complete list, so it's worth checking out:

IN:
Google
AT&T
Frontline Wireless
Clearwire
Cox Communications
Verizon Wireless

OUT:
Comcast
Time Warner
Sprint Nextel
Microsoft

POSSIBLES:
T-Mobile USA
Qualcomm
Nokia
Sony Ericsson
Alltel
Leap Wireless

Would Nokia launch its own network? Will Frontline and Google, who share a desire for open networks, team up? Will Google be there to strictly bid up the price of airwaves so the winning bidder will be required to make them open?

I guess we'll have to wait until Jan. 24, when the auction starts, to see what happens.

Guessing the participants in the next spectrum auction

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:30 AM

Monday was the deadline for companies to tell the FCC whether they were interested in participating in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction.

The airwaves are going on sale because TV broadcasters are being required to move off their current spectrum to running on HD. This block of airwaves is commonly called "beachfront property" in the wireless world (although there's some debate about whether that's true -- for instance, it's supposed to work better in rural than urban areas).

Although applications were due yesterday, the FCC hasn't yet announced who is showing interest. That hasn't stopped people from speculating. I'd say there's above-average interest in this auction because it could create an all-new wireless carrier in the U.S. (like Google).

Some companies have already let their position be known. For instance, we know Google is throwing its hat into the ring, and that Time Warner is not.

TechCrunch speculates further on where other companies stand. It's a pretty interesting and complete list, so it's worth checking out:

IN:
Google
AT&T
Frontline Wireless
Clearwire
Cox Communications
Verizon Wireless

OUT:
Comcast
Time Warner
Sprint Nextel
Microsoft

POSSIBLES:
T-Mobile USA
Qualcomm
Nokia
Sony Ericsson
Alltel
Leap Wireless

Would Nokia launch its own network? Will Frontline and Google, who share a desire for open networks, team up? Will Google be there to strictly bid up the price of airwaves so the winning bidder will be required to make them open?

I guess we'll have to wait until Jan. 24, when the auction starts, to see what happens.

Another McCaw legacy wireless company gobbled up

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:51 AM

There's not a lot of information on this yet, but AT&T is saying this morning that it has agreed to buy Edge Wireless, which is likely the last wireless carrier started and still being operated by a former McCaw Cellular executive.

Edge Wireless, which serves parts of Oregon, California, Idaho and Wyoming from its headquarters in Bend, Ore., was started by Wayne Perry, Cal Cannon and Donnie Castleman in 1999.

Perry started at McCaw Cellular Communications in 1976, serving as primary legal officer, general counsel, and executive vice president before being named president in 1985. In 1989, he served as vice chairman, a position he retained until McCaw's merger with AT&T in September 1994. After the merger, Perry served as vice-chairman of AT&T Wireless.

He also might be the final member of the McCaw mafia that was still running a wireless network. John Chapple sold Nextel Partners to Sprint following its merger with Nextel, and John Stanton sold Western Wireless to Alltel. Of course, Craig McCaw is busy yet again, running a different kind of wireless network at Kirkland-based Clearwire.

The AT&T press release doesn't include many more details, such as the purchase price or what Perry's role at the company will be. But it does say that Edge has 172,000 subscribers, and that AT&T held a minority ownership interest in Edge since its inception. It is acquiring the remaining 64.3 percent of the company.

The transaction is contingent upon regulatory approval and is expected to close by mid-2008.

Another McCaw legacy wireless company gobbled up

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:51 AM

There's not a lot of information on this yet, but AT&T is saying this morning that it has agreed to buy Edge Wireless, which is likely the last wireless carrier started and still being operated by a former McCaw Cellular executive.

Edge Wireless, which serves parts of Oregon, California, Idaho and Wyoming from its headquarters in Bend, Ore., was started by Wayne Perry, Cal Cannon and Donnie Castleman in 1999.

Perry started at McCaw Cellular Communications in 1976, serving as primary legal officer, general counsel, and executive vice president before being named president in 1985. In 1989, he served as vice chairman, a position he retained until McCaw's merger with AT&T in September 1994. After the merger, Perry served as vice-chairman of AT&T Wireless.

He also might be the final member of the McCaw mafia that was still running a wireless network. John Chapple sold Nextel Partners to Sprint following its merger with Nextel, and John Stanton sold Western Wireless to Alltel. Of course, Craig McCaw is busy yet again, running a different kind of wireless network at Kirkland-based Clearwire.

The AT&T press release doesn't include many more details, such as the purchase price or what Perry's role at the company will be. But it does say that Edge has 172,000 subscribers, and that AT&T held a minority ownership interest in Edge since its inception. It is acquiring the remaining 64.3 percent of the company.

The transaction is contingent upon regulatory approval and is expected to close by mid-2008.

December 3, 2007

Nokia survey predicts future of media

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:48 PM

Nokia, the largest cellphone manufacturer in the world, prognosticates that media will increasingly be something created by consumers, not traditional entertainment companies.

The results came in a survey that must not be too earth-shattering, or else I'd assume Nokia wouldn't share the results in a press release.

But the findings are interesting and do generally reflect (maybe too well, especially given the survey's methodology) Nokia's recent announcements about social networking and launching media services on the mobile phone.

The study, entitled "A Glimpse of the Next Episode," interviewed 9,000 consumers from 17 countries about their digital behaviors and lifestyles. In a somewhat untraditional methodology, Nokia took those results and then combined them with views from its own research and opinions from the Future Laboratory's LifeSigns Network, a community of cultural tech thinkers.

Nokia said that within five years, up to a quarter of the entertainment people consume will be what it calls "circular," meaning that it has been created, edited and shared within a person's peer circle, rather than from media groups.

"The trends we are seeing show us that people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up and pass it on within their peer groups," said Mark Selby, Nokia vice president of multimedia.

What does that mean?

It means that someone might share video footage shot on a mobile device from a night out with a friend...The next friend takes the footage and adds an MP3 file to create a soundtrack. Then the file goes to another friend, who then edits the footage by adding some photographs. That friend then passes it on to another friend and so on.

Selby said: "The content keeps circulating between friends, who may or may not be geographically close, and becomes part of the group's entertainment."

In addition to the findings, here's what the 9,000 interviewed said they were up to:

-- 23 percent buy movies in digital format.
-- 35 percent buy music on MP3 files.
-- 25 percent buy music on mobile devices.
-- 39 percent watch TV on the Internet.
-- 23 percent watch TV on mobile devices
-- 46 percent regularly use IM, 37% on a mobile device
-- 29 percent regularly blog.
-- 28 percent regularly access social networking sites.
-- 22 percent connect using technologies such as Skype.
-- 17 percent take part in multiplayer online role-playing games.
-- 17 percent upload to the Internet from a mobile device.

Any of those findings catch you off guard?

November 30, 2007

Google throws hat into spectrum auction

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:33 AM

The list of participants wasn't supposed to be out until Monday, but Google beat everyone to the punch by saying today that it will apply to participate in the FCC's upcoming auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

The airwaves in that band are good for wireless Internet access. But it is unclear what technology the winning bidder would choose to use it for. The options include WiMax, LTE (an evolution of GSM) or others.

Earlier this year, Google lobbied the FCC to ensure the winning bidder would be required to allow their users "open access," meaning those users could download any software application they want on their mobile device, as well as use any mobile devices on that wireless network.

For more background, check out a story I wrote in August.

Verizon Wireless announced this week that it planned to open up its network by the end of 2008.

The winner of the auction will have to follow through with the open access requirement if it meets the reserve price of $4.6 billion for this swath of spectrum.

"We believe it's important to put our money where our principles are," said Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman and CEO. "Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."

November 29, 2007

NetMotion Wireless is on the upswing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:21 PM

The Seattle-area is known for its expertise in the wireless industry.

It is and has been the home of the biggest in the game, including AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Western Wireless, Nextel Partners, Clearwire and more.

Although T-Mobile and Clearwire are the only remaining wireless operators here, it's no less of a wireless town. Tthe focus is changing instead from infrastructure to software. There are Microsoft and RealNetworks, and a host of smaller venture-backed companies doing everything from search, gaming, photo sharing and social networking.

One company that gets a little less ink, but has been around for years and is making some headway is NetMotion Wireless.

I had a chance to catch up this week with Tom Johnston, NetMotion's senior vice president of product and marketing, to get a status report.

The Seattle-based company isn't doing anything flashy. It is solely focused on the behind-the-scenes of the enterprise workforce. It focuses on helping businesses run efficiently on wireless networks. It does so by helping workers keep their applications up and running even if they momentarily drop their wireless data connection, whether they are traveling through a canyon or repairing an elevator.

What does this mean?

It means that an employee who is using ar laptop or a handheld device in the field won't be kicked out of business applications, such as a billing system, when a cell signal fades. Similarly, police or fire personnel could continue to search driver's license databases when a connection is going in and out.

Without NetMotion, it's often the case that the application will shut down and freeze when a connection is lost. We're not talking about e-mail here, but large billing, expense, sales or other systems. If this happens, an employee often has to call headquarters to report the information, which can be a waste of time.

How does it work?

NetMotion places a server in a company's data center that fools an application into thinking the connection is maintained depsite what is going on in the field.

Johnston said demand for NetMotion products is increasing because more field workers have laptops with data cards or high-end phones.

Today, the company has about 1,000 customers using 200,000 devices. Its revenues for the first three quarters of this year are up 66 percent compared with the same period last year, and the number of licenses has jumped 71 percent.

It serves companies such as Cox Communications, the nation's third largest cable provide. It has 3,500 technicians using NetMotion. The Orange County Sheriff's Department has 400 officers using the software.

NetMotion has come a long way. The company was spun off from WRQ in 2001, and was backed by venture capitalists. In 2006, it had a patent-infringement tiff with Bethlehem, Pa.-based Padcom. They resolved their issues and decided to merge the two companies.

Today, the company has 90 employees.

Dual wireless standards will likely continue in U.S.

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:34 AM

Verizon Wireless is making headlines for the second time this week.

On Tuesday, I wrote about how it was going to open up its networks to unlocked cellphones and third-party developers.

Today, Verizon Wireless said it is testing out a fourth-generation technology known as LTE, or long-term evolution.

The Wall Street Journal noted that it was interesting Verizon was making this 4G choice because LTE evolves from GSM technology, the most-used standard worldwide. That differs from Verizon's CDMA technology, which is also used by Sprint Nextel in the U.S. but doesn't have a big global following.

The switch makes sense since Verizon Wireless is partly owned by Vodafone, which uses the GSM standard. As the WSJ noted, this will allow Verizon customers to roam more easily internationally. (Today, if its customers go to Europe, they have to get a global phone that has both CDMA and GSM chips.)

But I haven't seen a lot of discussion about what Verizon's decision to test LTE says about WiMax. I think it is a little bit of a black eye for this wireless broadband technology, which gained momentum in the past year. It can't get a break recently.

Sprint Nextel, which is rolling out WiMax, calls WiMax its 4G technology. A partnership with Clearwire to jointly develop a nationwide network dissolved with the departure of Sprint's CEO.

If Sprint Nextel and Clearwire build a nationwide network based on WiMax, and Verizon chooses LTE, it looks like we'll continue to see dual wireless standards in the U.S.

In addition, we are still waiting to hear what AT&T and T-Mobile USA will decide, and there's also the upcoming spectrum auction. It will provide a fresh chunk of airwaves that could throw a new player -- Google -- into the mix. Whoever wins that auction will also have a lot of choices to make.

To confuse the matters even more, Qualcomm is developing a third option based on the technology it acquired from Flarion.

I suppose this is the beauty of capitalism, where the market gets to decide. I'd argue it's worked out fairly well in the U.S. with competition pushing each other to roll out better and better technology. But it's also hard on the consumer, who may or may not have to get new equipment each time he or she changes carriers or travels internationally.

November 28, 2007

Startup Sotto partners up with established XO

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:54 PM

A little more than a year ago, I wrote a story about Bellevue-based Sotto Wireless, a startup founded by three experienced executives coming out of AT&T Wireless.

The business revolves around simplifying telecommunications for small- to medium-size businesses by selling them one service they can use outdoors on the cellular network and indoors on Wi-Fi. It eliminates multiple bills, phone numbers and voicemail boxes.

A year later, Rod Nelson says the company is in the thick of it, having launched services in Charlotte, N.C., and in Seattle.

Today, it announced it is partnering with XO Communications in Seattle. Sotto will bundle XO's broadband services with its offerings to small-and-medium-sized business, and XO has agreed to resell Sotto's services.

Sotto falls into the highly talked about wireless sector called "fixed mobile convergence," or FMC for short. FMC mixes both the luxuries of landlines with the flexibility of wireless phones.

For instance, someone calling an employee using one of the Sotto phones will have no idea if he is reaching that person in the office or on a mobile phone. Phone calls can be transferred between employees, and all voicemail goes into one inbox.

When the employee is in the office, the phone operates over Wi-Fi, saving minutes on the company's cellular plans, but then it automatically switches over to cellular when the person leaves the office, Nelson said.

He added that the increased attention and focus on FMC has helped the business in the past year. T-Mobile USA started offering a service called T-Mobile Hotspot@Home in that time. That service allows consumers to use a Wi-Fi network in the house for better indoor coverage and to save money.

At the minimum, Nelson said efforts such as those are encouraging more handset manufacturers to include Wi-Fi in phones. Right now, Sotto Wireless resells Nokia handsets, but in the next year he expects to start offering Windows Mobile and other smartphones.

Paul Merritt, general manager of XO in Seattle, said the partnership places XO six months to a year ahead of its competition. He doesn't know of any of his competitors that are reselling cellular services. Because of this, he's allowed all of his 12 sales reps to offer the service to new and existing customers.

"It was a natural fit, there's nothing close to this on the market," he said.

Nelson said if the trial goes well in Seattle, it will eventually will roll out to the 75 markets that XO serves around the country.

HipCricket's IPO raises money for wireless play

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:39 PM

Earlier this week, I drove to Bellevue to sit down with Ivan Braiker and Eric Harber, HipCricket's chief executive and president, respectively.

We gathered in Braiker's office, which was surprisingly bare of any decorations, artwork or anything.

Turns out everything is packed up. The company is expanding so fast it needs to move to a larger office. Braiker even joked that as soon as he takes off for a sales trip, the employees celebrate -- up to three employees can fit and work in his office.

They'll have about 50 employees by the end of the year and are expecting to add about four or five a month, Braiker said.

What's HipCricket doing that's driving so much growth?

It helps radio and TV stations make their one-way media become interactive by allowing listeners and readers to send text messages to the station in response to advertising. At the same time, the system is used to increase the effectiveness of the ads. In doing so, the stations' can charge more.

It's good to step back every once in a while and hear examples of what is actually successful and making it in these frothy wireless days, where everyone has an idea for cellphones.

HipCricket seems to be addressing something spot on.

In a report published Tuesday by Seattle-based M:Metrics, 94.9 million mobile subscribers said they sent a text message in the three months ended September, or about 44 percent of U.S. cellphone users.

Here's some of the examples of how HipCricket is being used:

-- KUBE 93.3, the radio station in Seattle, regularly uses the system. For instance, it aired a McDonald's commercial that asked listeners to text a five-digit short-code to get a two-for-one coupon for cheeseburgers.

-- In Los Angeles, a local coffee shop offered a coupon for two-for-one iced lattes.

-- In yet another market, a company holding a job fair said if people sent a text message, they would get a text reminder the day of the fair.

Braiker said that these offers are generating a response rate of about 40 percent, a much greater rate than traditional means of advertising.

"TV and radio has struggled over proving accountability [that people are indeed listening and watching]," he said. "By the end of the day, they now know how many people have replied."

In the case of the L.A. station, Coffee Bean became a HipCricket customer so it could use the technology across all radio stations in all of its markets, not just the one in L.A.

Braiker said this is why HipCricket is growing so fast. Sister radio stations, TV stations, newspapers and even the brands themselves are using its technology.

The company, almost 4 years old, has about 200 customers and has managed 16,000 campaigns.

HipCricket charges a flat rate and provides a number of ways for the stations to make money. The station usually charges an advertiser a premium to add a text message to its commercial, but ads can also be added at the bottom of a text message. For instance, people can text in to get a list of the last three songs that played on the radio. On the bottom of the reply would be a sponsorship ad.

HipCricket can also be used to boost a station's audience. People may be willing to sign up for alerts, telling them to tune in when a prize is about to be given away.

The company has been backed by a number of private investors, and is profitable. But for now, Braiker said profitability is not a goal -- it makes more sense to invest and grow.

"We are in the middle of a land grab," he said.

UPDATE: Late Monday night, HipCricket went public on the London Stock Exchange's AIM. It raised about $17 million and has a market capitalization of $155.4 million. In this press release here, Braiker said: "The additional funding puts us in an excellent position to capitalize on the increasing opportunities ahead of us, providing a strong base to grow the company organically and also fund expansion in US markets. Our AIM listing will significantly enhance our ability to serve our existing UK investors."

November 21, 2007

High iPhone price in Germany is not what is shocking

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:31 PM

I've seen several bloggers write today about how T-Mobile in Germany is selling an unlocked version of the Apple iPhone for an outrageously high price of $1,477 (or 999 euros).

But the interesting part of the story is not the price.

You see, T-Mobile was forced to unlock the phone to comply with a court injunction issued after Vodafone challenged its exclusivity on the handset.

In fact, it's not the cost at all that's odd about the story.

As the International Herald Tribune story points out, the offer does fit generally with T-Mobile's pricing schemes. The popular Nokia N95, for example, sells for as little as 199.95 euros ($295.63) with a two-year contract, or 619.95 euros($916.60) without one.

What sticks out to me is that T-Mobile is getting in trouble for having an exclusive phone agreement.

Here in the U.S., AT&T has an exclusive on the iPhone -- and it's not just any exclusive. It lasts FIVE years!

And in Germany, T-Mobile only started selling the phone Nov. 9.

As far as I know, I don't know a single carrier in the U.S. that sells any unlocked phones, even at a higher price. The closest is T-Mobile USA, which after a certain time has lapsed will voluntarily unlock your phone.

I don't know if AT&T will ever unlock the iPhone you bought.

So the next time Google starts talking about "open access" this is one example of what it's talking about. If it's already going on in Europe, then maybe it's not as extreme as some of Google's detractors are claiming.

November 19, 2007

Is Kindle a sign of WiMax's future?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:00 PM

On Amazon.com today, Jeff Bezos writes a letter to customers, about reading books -- "I love slipping into a comfortable chair for a long read....The physical book is so elegant that the artifact itself disappears into the background. The paper, glue, ink, and stitching that make up the book vanish, and what remains is the author's world."

And what also remains is Kindle, the wireless portable reading device that Amazon has been secretly working on for more than three years.

With the launch of Amazon's Kindle comes the first-of-its-kind look at what could be a whole new category of wireless devices.

In the WiMax industry, which is attempting to roll out wireless broadband nationwide, there's a lot of talk about consumer devices, including cameras, MP3 players and other devices, always be connected. Sprint Nextel talks about this the most, with Kirkland-based Clearwire also saying that's a potential outcome of having always-on Internet access.

The problem with this is determining how the user should be billed. If Kindle reaches out over the wireless infrastructure for ane-book, who pays for that airtime? The user? In the form of a monthly bill that requires a two-year commitment?

At that point, adoption is almost completely ruled out.

This is why it will be interesting to see how successful Kindle is. It is adopting a new set of billing rules that Sprint Nextel talks about for its WiMax network.

In the press release, Amazon pays for the wireless connectivity for Kindle so there are no monthly wireless bills, data plans, or service commitments for customers.

The next problem is the device's cost: $399.

WiMax is also supposedly able to help with that over the long run. Its chipsets are to be more in line with Wi-Fi, rather than the costly cellular chips that the Kindle requires.

Of course, the WiMax networks still have to be built, and it has to get enough volume for this to happen.

What do you think of Android?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:46 AM

I wrote a story today about Google's most recent efforts in the mobile phone space.

It recently unveiled a mobile software platform called Android, a free, open-source operating system supported by the Open Handset Alliance. The platform would allow developers to build new applications that the company thinks have been too difficult to develop on today's mobile operating systems.

I wanted to get a sense of whether developers were interested in making nifty, new aps for phones that won't start to be released until later next year.

I posed the questions: Will developers flock to the code? Will they build anything on Android immediately " or later? Does the platform generate excitement or is it a letdown?

By far and away, mobile-software developers in the wireless-heavy Seattle region, didn't have immediate plans to do anything. Many companies I spoke to, or attempted to interview on the subject, declined, saying they had nothing to contribute.

Did I miss anyone? Feel free to comment now, and give me a sense of whether the picture is different somewhere else, or for a different group of people.

What do you think of Android?

What do you think of Android?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:46 AM

I wrote a story today about Google's most recent efforts in the mobile phone space.

It recently unveiled a mobile software platform called Android, a free, open-source operating system supported by the Open Handset Alliance. The platform would allow developers to build new applications that the company thinks have been too difficult to develop on today's mobile operating systems.

I wanted to get a sense of whether developers were interested in making nifty, new aps for phones that won't start to be released until later next year.

I posed the questions: Will developers flock to the code? Will they build anything on Android immediately " or later? Does the platform generate excitement or is it a letdown?

By far and away, mobile-software developers in the wireless-heavy Seattle region, didn't have immediate plans to do anything. Many companies I spoke to, or attempted to interview on the subject, declined, saying they had nothing to contribute.

Did I miss anyone? Feel free to comment now, and give me a sense of whether the picture is different somewhere else, or for a different group of people.

What do you think of Android?

Back-end wireless infrastructure, not sexy

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:38 AM

Sometimes I think I'm one of the only reporters covering things like back-end billing infrastructure for wireless networks.

It started because Qpass, which provides services to many carriers, was based here in Seattle. But now, it's been more than a year since the company was bought by Amdocs, which must be prompting others to care, too.

Qpass still has a large presence in Seattle, along with another Amdocs subsidiary called OpenMarket.


The Washington Post (via PC World) today featured a story on the two divisions and how they ensure that transactions over mobile phones are secure.

The story explained that to get paid through SMS, mobile vendors need to get a numeric "short code" from a mobile operator for customers to text-message to a phone number. After the customer sends the message, what they bought typically shows up directly on the phone. A charge appears on the subscriber's next bill, and then the content provider gets paid.

But here lies the problem: The story said the process is full of holes, according to content providers and analysts.

Apparently, there are at least two companies trying to solve this problem: OpenMarket and Bango.net.

For more information, check out the article.

Back-end wireless infrastructure, not sexy

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:38 AM

Sometimes I think I'm one of the only reporters covering things like back-end billing infrastructure for wireless networks.

It started because Qpass, which provides services to many carriers, was based here in Seattle. But now, it's been more than a year since the company was bought by Amdocs, which must be prompting others to care, too.

Qpass still has a large presence in Seattle, along with another Amdocs subsidiary called OpenMarket.


The Washington Post (via PC World) today featured a story on the two divisions and how they ensure that transactions over mobile phones are secure.

The story explained that to get paid through SMS, mobile vendors need to get a numeric "short code" from a mobile operator for customers to text-message to a phone number. After the customer sends the message, what they bought typically shows up directly on the phone. A charge appears on the subscriber's next bill, and then the content provider gets paid.

But here lies the problem: The story said the process is full of holes, according to content providers and analysts.

Apparently, there are at least two companies trying to solve this problem: OpenMarket and Bango.net.

For more information, check out the article.

November 13, 2007

InfoSpace offers update on mobile search

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:52 AM

Bellevue-based InfoSpace said today it is launching technology that has the ability to incorporate banner advertisements and promotion links into its search platform. (As a reminder, InfoSpace's mobile division was sold recently to Motricity. The transaction is pending customary closing procedures.)

As part of today's announcement, InfoSpace also reported how its so-called mCore Managed Web solution is performing on Virgin Mobile phones in the U.K.

The findings are interesting given the growing hype surrounding advertising and search on the mobile phone. There's a big question as to whether the dominant Internet players such as Yahoo or Google will prevail, or if white-label search provided by InfoSpace, Medio Systems or JumpTap will fair well.

From what InfoSpace says, its not doing too shabbily.

InfoSpace said since deploying the search capabilities, Virgin Mobile UK has seen users increase their mobile search page views by 50 percent. That translates to an overall 60 percent growth rate of all of its mobile search traffic.

Virgin saw not only an increase in Web activity, but also a jump in the purchase of downloads of graphics and games to ringtones and video -- because InfoSpace combines both Web search and the content sold by the carrier into one platform.

"There is a lot of speculation about whether carriers can deliver a mobile Web experience that will compete with third party offerings," said Steve Elfman, InfoSpace executive vice president of the company's mobile business unit.."Our partner's success shows that by bringing the Internet into a unified mobile search solution, carriers can deliver a superior, more powerful user experience and boost traffic across all services,"

More information can be found on InfoSpace's Web site, where there's a white paper describing Virgin Mobile's experiences with search.

I found an interesting tidbit supporting what Elfman says above and adds to the Google vs. white label debate.

InfoSpace said search page views doubled in the two months following the launch of Virgin Mobile's off-portal search to 3.8 million from 1.6 milion a month.

And while those searches were up, searches on Google, Yahoo! and Windows Live decreased "dramatically in the first month after launch, indicating that users are finding what they need without leaving the portal." it said.

AT&T can now be found in bulk

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:43 AM

AT&T, the largest wireless U.S. carrier, said it will be selling its service through Wireless Advocates, which sells wireless phones exclusively in Costcos.

AT&T phones will now be sold in nearly 370 Costco locations nationwide, reaching 35 million Costco cardholders.

Wireless Advocates is a Seattle-based company and is a division of the Car Toys enterprise, which also sells wireless phones.

It also offers service from Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA

"Costco is near the top among retail outlets in mobile phone activations, so we are positioned to better deliver the benefits of wireless services to a larger group of consumers. Partnering with Wireless Advocates will ensure that our products are sold with care and expertise and that customer service will be a top priority," said Glenn Lurie, president of national distribution in AT&T's wireless division.

The Costco kiosks will sell such phones as the Samsung A437 and A517, as well as Nokia and Motorola models. The Samsung BlackJack will also be sold in select locations.

"The demand for wireless services in Costco stores continues to grow," said Wireless Advocates CEO Dan Brettler.

Zenzui -- no, wait -- Zumobi about to launch a beta

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:34 AM

That's right. Zenzui, which was spun out of Microsoft, has been renamed Zumobi.

The Seattle-based startup said the name better represents the business it's in -- mobile.

On Dec. 14, it plans to launch a beta version of its mobile-phone software.

Zumobi is building a platform that allows people to easily get information instead of having to search the Web. It includes a platform of 16 "tiles" that can be seen all at once or one at a time.

The tiles are sponsored by major brands, such as Amazon.com, which can kick back advertising revenue to Zumobi and the carriers. Users get to choose the tiles they want on their screen.

A video demo is available on the company's site.

Zumobi will be available on some Windows Mobile devices. Application and product details will be available at www.Zumobi.com when the beta launches.

ZenZui was launched in March after spinning off from Microsoft and raising $12 million.

November 12, 2007

Will T-Mobile USA be a game changer?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:13 AM

It's been a busy two weeks for T-Mobile USA in the news.

On Oct. 29, I wrote about the launch of Shadow, a new phone from the Bellevue-based company embracing a whole new concept of devices for the company.

T-Mobile said the Shadow is a key part of its initiative launched a year ago to change the carrier from a low-cost provider to a company that sells premium services. The Shadow embraces that because it makes functions easy to use for the common consumer.

Then, last week T-Mobile said that it was going to be one of the more aggressive carrier partners on the Android platform. I talked to T-Mobile USA Chief Development Officer Cole Brodman on that subject in this story.

Together, these events show how earnest the fourth largest U.S. carrier is being. It will be an interesting to watch over the next few years as it builds out its strategy.

The Wall Street Journal summarized these two news events in a story today.

The big question is whether the risks the company is taking will pay off.

Will we look back and say that T-Mobile was a game changer?

Google's Android specs are out

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:00 AM

Last week, Google announced it was launching the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of companies working together to develop the Android platform, a mobile phone operating system based on Linux.

Today, the specifications for Android become publicly available. I'm guessing there were plenty of third-party developers that were eagerly awaiting the release of the software developer kit, more commonly known as SDK.

Here's a demo video from the SDK site:

Google said on its blog today that it is now available.

So it's official. Android is off to the races.

In addition, Google said that in order to get things rolling it was announcing the Android Developer Challenge, which will provide $10 million in awards to developers who build great applications for Android.

The first phone is expected to be built by Taiwan handset manufacturer HTC and be available in the second half of next year.

Still, Google optimistically wrote today on its blog: "with so many brilliant minds striving to design engaging, innovative applications, mobile users around the world (3 billion and counting!) can expect phones equipped with dynamic and unprecedented applications very soon."

November 5, 2007

No Google phone, but a new platform is coming with T-Mobile and others

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:01 AM

Rumors have circulated for months that Google is about to release a mobile phone.

And that could still be in the works.

But a much broader alliance, including Google and T-Mobile USA, Motorola and other mobile industry heavyweights, announced this morning that they are coming together to build what they are calling Android -- the first open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices.

"Today's announcement is more ambitious than any single 'Google Phone' that the press has been speculating about over the past few weeks. Our vision is that the powerful platform we're unveiling will power thousands of different phone models," said Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt.

There's been some debate for a while on how the mobile phone industry can become more like the PC or Internet industry, where third-party developers can create either Internet or PC applications for consumers at their will. Today, the mobile phone industry is more closed, and most applications need approval by the carrier. I wrote a story about this very subject two weeks ago in San Francisco, where the founder of Facebook challenged the industry to operate more like a platform than a so-called walled garden.

Android is being developed by Google, T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and others through the Open Handset Alliance.

The news came out this morning, with a conference call at 9 a.m. I will have more details after that as to whether this is what the rumors of a Google phone have been about, or whether this is something separate and much broader that is in the works.

For now, a press release says the alliance shares a common goal of fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers a far better user experience than much of what is available on today's mobile devices. In doing so, they expect to accelerate the pace at which new and compelling mobile services are made available to consumers.

What actually is Android?

The press release says it includes everything in a "software stack," which consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications.

The first phones based on Android are expected to be available in about eight months, or the second half of 2008.

The Open Handset Alliance includes 34 companies. Of the founding members, big names such as Microsoft, Symbian and UIQ are noticeably absent. I think all three of those companies would argue that they have an open platform that developers are welcome to create applications for. I'll try to figure out the difference between Android and what already exists.

October 25, 2007

CTIA: Open access continues as theme

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:20 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Atish Gude, the executive leading Sprint Nextel's WiMax intiative, called Xohm, was the show's final keynote speaker today.

Gude painted a broad overview of WiMax for the crowd, which mostly consisted of people from the cellular industry.

He spent a lot of time explaining how WiMax is different than the existing wireless broadband services that cellular carriers use today.

The answer, in part, is the business model.

Gude said Sprint wants to build an ecosystem of players that include the consumer electronics industry and developers. The important thing is that the network is open to allow everyone in who wants to participate.

"The marketplace will decide what wins and loses," he said.

The mantra is different than what wireless carriers in the U.S. today. They want tight controls on the network so that they don't become simply a dumb pipe. I wrote about this in today's paper; one of Facebook's founder really launched the topic Wednesday during his keynote, arguing that carriers need to become an open platform that welcomes development.

"It makes it really hard in the 3G world to open up platforms, not to say it can't be done and there's been progress," he said, "but we are very committed to opening up APIs. We are absolutely committed to opening up the APIs and investing in a platform, and really making innovation happen in the wireless space."

He said it won't be a dumb pipe -- it will be a very smart one.

There is a lot of work to be done still. For instance, Gude said that in order for a portable DVD player to connect to the Internet over WiMax, the user interface needs work. Today, there are only four buttons -- start, stop, fast forward and rewind a movie. He asked how are you supposed to search for a movie title with just those four buttons?

He hopes someone in the development world will figure it out.

CTIA: New directors named

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:12 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- CTIA -- The Wireless Association, which organized this week's show in San Francisco, has appointed new members of the board, and two are local executives.

CTIA CEO Steve Largent said new Verizon Wireless President and CEO Lowell McAdam will be the wireless industry trade group's new chairman. McAdam had been vice chairman.

Replacing him as vice chairman is T-Mobile USA CEO Robert Dotson.

CTIA also elected 46 board members for 2008, including Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff.

Othe leadership positions: Alcatel-Lucent Mobility Solutions President Cindy Christy is treasurer, Centennial Communications CEO Michael Small is secretary, and SunCom CEO Michael Kalogris is chairman emeritus.

October 24, 2007

CTIA: A few wireless stats

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:43 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Largent, CTIA's CEO, has shared a few stats with the crowd before keynotes took place the past two days:

-- There are 243 million U.S. subscribers, totaling about 80 percent of the population. Four years ago, there were fewer than 160 million U.S. subscribers.

-- 1 billion text messages are sent every day in the U.S.

-- 472 million picture messages were sent in June, a 125 percent increase over last year.

-- Data revenue makes up about 15 percent of carrier revenue today.

-- Oct. 13, 2008 marked the 25th anniversary of the first commercial wireless phone call. As part of that, Largent asked people to go to ctia.org to vote for the top 10 biggest events in the past 25 years.

CTIA: The nightlife

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:19 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's a long tradition at tradeshows that after an exhausting day roaming the conference floor, chatting with all the players and learning a ton that you go out and hit the nightlife afterwards.

Last night was no exception.

First on the agenda was to stop by the W Hotel, where Amdoc's two Seattle divisions, OpenMarket and Qpass, were throwing a party. The party was on a rooftop deck and people were lounging in big cabanas.

The second stop was at another locally inspired scene. It's becoming a tradition for Ontela, SinglePoint and Zenzui to throw a party, and it's a great chance to see all the wireless folks from the Northwest in one place.

I saw many other companies besides the sponsoring parties. I met the chairman of BlueFrog Mobile, who gave me a quick demo of its text TV application; and I met the executives at Travelling Wave, who are building a new type of voice recognition software for mobile.

Travelling Wave also treated me to a demo. It works like this: a person says a word and then starts typing it, and the system usually recognizes the word after one or two letters. It worked fairly flawlessly, especially given the loud, bumping music in the background. The one time it flubbed was when an exclamation point was recognized as a smiley face. :-)

I also met a handful of former Microsoft employees, VCs and others.

The last and final stop on the agenda was the party sponsored by Nokia and mSpot, which was far and away was the most popular.

The event at Ruby Skye featured hip-hop artist Ne-Yo. Long before he went on stage, a line wrapped around the block, and the word was the club, with a capacity of 900, was full, and the nearly 3,000 that RSVP'd would definitely not get in.

In case you missed it, here's what it was like inside:

From the balcony, you can see a DJ spinning before Ne-Yo took the stage.

IMG00055.jpg

Here you can see the crowd getting into Ne-Yo's performance.

IMG00063.jpg

CTIA: Facebook tells wireless world, open up!

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:13 AM

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz encouraged the wireless industry to open up their networks to third-party development.

Speaking at CTIA today, he said the pressure is on because Apple will be opening up its mobile phone in February to outside developers and Google is expected to make an open play next year by either releasing a new phone or participating in a spectrum auction.

A company that currently develops a mobile application has to be approved by each wireless network in order to be offered on a phone, rather than simply being installed by the end user.

Quoting Moskovitz:

There are a lot of good reasons why the state of the industry is why it is. I don't want to stand up here and tell you about your industry, but I've been working with everyone in the ecosystem over the last four years.

The mobile operating system and hardware layers are locked down, and Smartphones are pushing the boundaries, but we still have a long way to go. There's reasons why it looks like this today, but I want to talk about how crucial it is for this to change.

He said thousands of developers are waiting to build for mobile.

Moskovitz also invited RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis on stage to announce a Facebook application for the BlackBerry that is fully integrated into the phone. If users take a photo and the application has been installed, the phone will ask whether the user wants o text that photo, e-mail it, or send it to Facebook (without even launching the application). The person can even tag the photo.

The BlackBerry application, being launched today, will first be available on T-Mobile USA's network.

It is interesting that Facebook's first application was built with BlackBerry, a business device. However, when Moskovitz started off his presentation, he asked the crowd how many people were Facebook users. More than half raised their hands. He said the business segment is one of the fastest growing areas for Facebook.

CTIA: Six questions with Steve Ballmer

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:18 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft Chief Steve Ballmer delivered Tuesday morning's keynote at CTIA during, focusing on a couple of enterprise announcements, as mentioned in today's paper. But he also relayed the message that Microsoft is building products that will span both a person's work and life style.

Following his speech, CTIA CEO Steve Largent asked Ballmer six questions. The questions covered a lot of topics and were quite telling on where Microsoft may be heading. I included one in the story, but here are the other five.

Because the answers are long, they have been edited down. For the full transcript go here.

Largent: How will Microsoft partner with mobile operators and device manufacturers, many of whom are here today, and how will that compare to your competition?

Ballmer: Well, I think if you sort of ask where's our DNA, where did we grow up. We grew up actually in a world in which we partnered quite broadly with a hardware ecosystem to really enable an industry. That's kind of where we came from on the PC side. That's also kind of our approach to the mobile industry.

Largent: Steve, as you probably know, we have a big spectrum auction that's about to take place in hopefully the end of January. It's scheduled now for the end of January. Does Microsoft have any plans in the spectrum auction?

Ballmer: No. We don't have plans to participate in the spectrum auction. At the end of the day, we think we may be broader in what we do than almost any company out there, but we think we have a core competence, and we think that the telecom industry and the service providers have a core competence.

[Applause by one person in the crowd.]

Thanks, dad [to that one person]. No that was a joke.

So what would it buy us to own a piece of spectrum? One piece of spectrum in one country, it would probably do a lot to alienate the telecom industry. It does not do a lot to advance our goal, which is to try to take some very exciting technology and spread it everywhere. Nobody knows what will happen out of some of our competitors, because they're rumored to be doing a lot of different things, and we'll just have to wait and see. But I think compared to anybody else participating in the industry, we are trying to provide a critical mass of solution, but really be an enabler of third parties.

Largent: What role will mobile advertising play in Microsoft's future, and what will your partners play?

Ballmer: I think mobile advertising is going to be a great revenue source for all of us. And exactly how the pie gets split up, that will be a first=rate problem for our industry to have, and we need to first really do the things it's going to take to have mobile advertising be relevant and important and high-impact. That will create revenue, and that will give us all the kind of opportunity that we want.

We're investing in the technology for advertising in general, and for mobile specifically. We bought a company earlier this year, aQuantive, $6 billion, it's an ad platform company. We bought a couple of companies, MotionBridge, and ScreenTonic in Europe that provide specific technologies around mobile portal and mobile advertising. So we think there's a bit opportunity there.

Largent: How important is Windows Mobile and mobility in general to the future of Microsoft?

Ballmer: Very. I think that if we think about, and there's two ways to explain that. One, I think there's a big opportunity for us financially. If we can really be in a position where hardware makers, and operators wanted to put some of our software in someday hundreds of millions of devices, that can be a great business for us, a great business, very different than the business that some of our competitors have, but a great business for us.

No. 2, I don't think we can serve our customers' broad desire to bring together desktop, devices, enterprise and online if we sort of ignore the mobile area. So Windows Mobile is both a great financial opportunity, and sort of a necessary strategic ingredient for us.

Largent: This last question is of a more personal nature. Do you think the Seahawks are going to be in the playoffs this year?

Ballmer: I was going to ask you that as the last question, but I have to say absolutely, positively, 100 percent. I've been in Seattle a long time now, long enough that when Steve mentioned it's been almost 20 years since he retired from the Seattle Seahawks, it kind of surprised me, but, absolutely, the Seahawks are going to make the playoffs, and our No. 2 shareholder, Paul Allen, who owns that team, is going to be very happy. You knew my answer in advance.

October 23, 2007

CTIA: iLike likes partnership with Billboard

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:40 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- I ran into iLike CEo Ali Partovi on Monday, just after he announced a partnership with Billboard to create a new music chart based on social media.

I asked Partovi what that means. He said it will be able to measure different things than Billboard's traditional business, which focuses on ranking music played on the radio or is purchased.

He gave the example of Radiohead, the band that sold music exclusively off its Web site.

He said there was no way that work would have come up on any of the charts.

Billboard will be tracking two types of social music -- what people store on their computer and the habits of iLike users on Facebook.

Partovi said by tracking what people keep on the computer, you can see what tracks are popular. A user may buy a CD in the store, but rip only a few tracks onto his computer.

On the Facebook version, songs or music will have a longer shelf life. The top hits will more reflect favorites over the long haul, rather than what is being listened to or purchased that week.

For this reason, Partovi said the partnership was just as important for Billboard as it was iLike to get Billboard's brand associated with its services.

CTIA: Whrrl is spinning

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:25 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- I just ran into Jeff Holden, the co-founder of Pelago, which launched its new mobile application today called Whrrl.

The service allows you and your friends to share information on your favorite restaurants. I wrote about the company in this story.

By the way, I mentioned the company in Monday's story as one of those attending CTIA. Turns out there is another company based in Washington (in Gig Harbor) called Perlego, not to be confused by Pelago. It is here, too.

Here are a couple of screenshots of the Whrrl service that went live today.

This is what the homescreen looks like on the mobile phone:

whrrl-start-page.jpg

Here's what a map looks like on the mobile phone:

mobile-map.jpeg

October 22, 2007

CTIA: iLike partners with Billboard mag

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:00 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Seattle-based iLike, the popular music program on the Web and on Facebook, said today that it is partnering with Billboard, the music chart provider, to create a new music chart based on social media.

The chart will be based on the massive volume of daily music activity that iLike tracks across the Internet. The weekly charts will reflect which songs are most popular each week among iLike users on Facebook and iLike's desktop software, which users add to their iTunes and Windows Media collections.

Billboard will also give newsfeeds to iLike's more than 4 million users.

Billboard will have two weekly charts based on the listening habits of registered users on iLike.com and Facebook. The first chart will report on the week's top 25 songs "most added" to Facebook user profiles. The second chart will leverage iLike's popular desktop plugins for iTunes and Windows Media Player to monitor the top 25 songs that consumers are adding to their personal music libraries on their desktops and iPods.

CTIA: HipCricket takes an award

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:06 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bellevue-based HipCricket said today that it will be presented today with an award at CTIA.

HipCricket provides text-messaging-based promotions for radio stations and other media.

It is receiving the annual "CSC Pioneer" award in recognition of its fast growth in CSC-based (Common Short Code) mobile marketing campaigns by NeuStar and CTIA.

HipCricket explains that CSCs are short five- and six-digit numbers that allow users to send and receive text and multimedia messages. The benefit of CSCs is that more than 95 percent of handsets can use them today, giving marketers huge reach.

CTIA: The calm before the storm

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:57 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- The pre-conference activities kicked off today at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment annual conference.

In today's paper, I wrote about two Seattle-area companies participating in the show. I-mate, a Dubai-based handset manufacturer with offices in Redmond, is launching products in North America this week. And Dashwire, a Seattle-based startup, is launching its beta site that allows people to manage their cellphone from a Web site online.

Today, activities get warmed up with a small event sponsored by Billboard that focuses on how mobile intersects with entertainment. Coming up soon is a keynote by Quincy Jones, the music producer and former Seattlite.

Simultaneously, the Smartphone Summit, which focuses on the enterprise side of the business, hears keynotes by Symbian, a mobile phone operating system developer that competes with Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system.

Tomorrow, Steve Ballmer will keynote the opening day of the show, and there should be a ton of news coming down the pike, so stay tuned.

October 12, 2007

Wireless executives do the roshambo

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:10 AM

Not sure what was in the water this week, but there were a couple of high-level executive changes at two big wireless carriers.

Needless to say, at least one of them picked paper and the other scissors.

On Monday, Sprint Nextel announced CEO Gary Forsee stepped down as investors questioned the company's performance.

Sprint has struggled to keep customers happy, and has had a hard time defining a niche for itself as the third largest U.S. carrier. The company is still working on integrating the Nextel network into its Sprint customer base, while at the same time taking a huge bet by launching a new network based on the unproven WiMax technology.

With a market cap of about $51 billion, you wonder why they aren't a buy-out candidate? I mean, Google's thinking about paying $4.6 billion for spectrum in an upcoming auction -- and that's for much less spectrum than what Sprint currently owns and before the cost of building out the actual network.

That leads us to AT&T... well, not really, but hear me out.

Yesterday, AT&T, the largest wireless carrier, said that the head of its wireless unit -- Stan Sigman -- was retiring, and it appointed Ralph de la Vega as his successor.

Both men were legacy Cingular Wireless employees. Sigman was the CEO, and
De la Vega was COO. De la Vega was also previously group president of regional telecom and entertainment.

He will now be CEO of AT&T Mobility, effective immediately. Sigman will assist with the transition through the end of the year, the company said.

De la Vega has been around since Cingular bought AT&T Wireless, and was one of the top spokesmen for all of the company's announcements.

In fact, it was De la Vega I was talking to at about 8 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2004. I was on my way to CTIA, sitting on the plane before take-off, quickly getting the skinny. Three hours earlier, the FCC had approved the merger of the two companies, giving the final go ahead for Cingular to hand over $41 billion in cash to purchase AT&T Wireless.

During those crazy moments during boarding, De la Vega was passed a note during the interview, letting him know the merger was completed. "The deal is done," he said. "We feel good. We aim to execute just as quickly."

Quick is an understatement. Almost exactly three years later, the company comprises Cingular, AT&T, BellSouth and SBC Communications, and he's the CEO in charge of the company's wireless division. It is the largest U.S. carrier, and has a market cap of $256 billion (not shabby, compared to Sprint's $51 billion).

Imagine where these two companies will be in another three years? Both of the plots will be worth following.

October 11, 2007

HTC names new head of Americas

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:59 AM

HTC, a Taiwanese mobile phone manufacturer that has a headquarters office in Bellevue, announced today that Jason Mackenzie has been promoted to vice president of sales and marketing of HTC America.

HTC works closely with Microsoft to build Windows Mobile-based phones and devices, and with Cingular (now AT&T) and T-Mobile, which also have major operations here.

Mackenzie is replacing Todd Achilles, who left HTC about a month ago for personal reasons.

As I wrote in this blog post, Achilles said he's enjoying some free time, having traveled about 80 percent of the time for work.

Mackenzie seems to be a fitting replacement, having started working at HTC in 2005 as one of the founding members of the HTC America leadership team, and helped grow the Bellevue office to more than 100 employees in two years.

"As one of our first employees in the Americas, Jason has a strong track record of working with partners, leading teams and developing sales channels," said HTC Chief Executive Peter Chou.

October 4, 2007

Mobile content makers are not users

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:02 AM

Mobile executives admitted recently that although they develop TV, games and other content for mobile phones, they don't find themselves personally indulging in the technology.

The rare survey offered a glimpse at perhaps what executives think about their own products. The poll was conducted at McGollywood, a recent conference in London. BuzzCity, a company developing wireless communities, conducted the survey and revealed the results today.

Results show that 54 percent of the 50 attendees surveyed do not use the mobile content that they are marketing.

Here's some other findings:

-- 72 percent believe that mobile social networking services are in their infancy and will likely be an extension of existing PC-oriented sites, such as Facebook.

-- The mobile Internet was the most used item among attendees, with 56 percent saying they used it on a daily basis.

-- Mobile TV and music downloads were among the highest in the never used category.

-- 38.8 percent of respondents believed that mobile advertising was the most likely source of revenue generation over the next three years.

Mobile content makers are not users

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:02 AM

Mobile executives admitted recently that although they develop TV, games and other content for mobile phones, they don't find themselves personally indulging in the technology.

The rare survey offered a glimpse at perhaps what executives think about their own products. The poll was conducted at McGollywood, a recent conference in London. BuzzCity, a company developing wireless communities, conducted the survey and revealed the results today.

Results show that 54 percent of the 50 attendees surveyed do not use the mobile content that they are marketing.

Here's some other findings:

-- 72 percent believe that mobile social networking services are in their infancy and will likely be an extension of existing PC-oriented sites, such as Facebook.

-- The mobile Internet was the most used item among attendees, with 56 percent saying they used it on a daily basis.

-- Mobile TV and music downloads were among the highest in the never used category.

-- 38.8 percent of respondents believed that mobile advertising was the most likely source of revenue generation over the next three years.

Windows Mobile embraces the Blackberry

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:38 AM

You probably thought it would never happen, but it did: a Windows Mobile phone is coming with full Blackberry e-mail support.

Aside from an occasional rumor that Microsoft is going to buy RIM, I don't think there have even been hints that Microsoft and the Canadian company may work together.

According to PC Magazine, AT&T announced the Tilt, a Windows Mobile phone designed by HTC, is the first Windows Mobile device to come loaded with the Blackberry Connect software, which allows a user to have a Blackberry-like experience on the device.

It reported that the Tilt will cost $299.99 with a two-year contract, starting Friday, which ends up being a pretty reasonable price since it comes with a 3-megapixel camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, and access to the fastest AT&T network.

Windows Mobile embraces the Blackberry

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:38 AM

You probably thought it would never happen, but it did: a Windows Mobile phone is coming with full Blackberry e-mail support.

Aside from an occasional rumor that Microsoft is going to buy RIM, I don't think there have even been hints that Microsoft and the Canadian company may work together.

According to PC Magazine, AT&T announced the Tilt, a Windows Mobile phone designed by HTC, is the first Windows Mobile device to come loaded with the Blackberry Connect software, which allows a user to have a Blackberry-like experience on the device.

It reported that the Tilt will cost $299.99 with a two-year contract, starting Friday, which ends up being a pretty reasonable price since it comes with a 3-megapixel camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, and access to the fastest AT&T network.

October 3, 2007

SeaMobile catches big fish

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:22 AM

Seattle-based SeaMobile Enterprises, which provides cellphone and other services to cruise ships and other vessels at sea, said today that it won two major contracts with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

SeaMobile said in a release that it has signed a three-year contract to provide satellite services to the entire fleet of NOAA ships around the world as they conduct environmental research and provide expert information on weather data, forecasts, warnings and climate change.

In addition, it was awarded the integration, installation, operations and maintenance of a "terminal system," capable of HDTV and high-speed data transmissions, for Okeanos Explorer, the new NOAA ship.

Under the contracts, SeaMobile will provide 21 ships with voice and data access while the ships are at sea. It will provide broadband connectivity between the ships and the NOAA headquarters, and NOAA scientists will be able to conduct voice calls, large data transfers and video conferencing while operating in the northern Alaska, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean regions.

The announcement substantially increases SeaMobile's relationship with NOAA. Previously, it served nine NOAA ships on a month-to-month basis. The new contract covers all ships under a long-term commitment.

SeaMobile is backed by Bellevue-based Ignition Partners, which helped SeaMobile acquire MTN Communications for $168 million in May 2006.

September 25, 2007

WiMax World: It begins, sort of

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 6:41 AM

CHICAGO -- WiMax World kicks off today at the McCormick Place in Chicago.

Sort of.

The only reason why I qualify that is because Wednesday is the official first day of the two-day show, but today is the pre-conference, and as far as I can tell there's a full line-up of activities.

Here's a story about the whole show that ran Monday.

In general, today's spotlight will be on Kirkland-based Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, as they gear up to launch a nationwide mobile WiMax network early next year.

Essentially this pre-conference day is focused on the competitors lining up against the WiMax contingent.

In particular, there's going to be a lot of focus on the upcoming FCC spectrum auction. The airwaves are particularly good for wireless broadband, but it has yet to be determined which technology the winning bidder will choose to roll out.

Speaking today are executives from Ericsson and Qualcomm, as well as a panel of service providers. Those include Towerstream, a company delivering broadband to companies, Rogers Communications of Canada, Cisco Systems, and Xohm, a business unit of Sprint Nextel.

Check back in because I'll be writing updates during the day.

September 24, 2007

3guppies starts moblogging

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:48 PM

Seattle-based 3Guppies said today that it has made a mobile blogging widget for users to add to their social networking sites, such as MySpace.

The new widget is free at the 3Guppies Web site.

It allows people to update their blog from their cellphone and allows friends to subscribe to text message alerts, which provide updates to be sent to their phone anytime a blog is updated.

"A large portion of today's society communicate and tell their life stories through their media on social networks," said CEO John Dearbon. "With the 3Guppies moblog, we are bridging the two most popular forms of communications -- the cellphone and social networks -- to upload and download user-generated content."

I talked to Dearborn recently for a story I wrote on Facebook and other social networking applications. He didn't make the story because I ended up talking to so many companies in the area taking a stab at it.

In the interview he said a lot of companies get into making widgets not knowing that it takes a lot of work to get noticed by users:

"We want someone to come in and copy our html code and paste it into their 'About' section to say here's what I'm about as a person, I've endorsed this. I think it's cool.

"If you don't do it in a way they enjoy, and that fits into that community and is distinct, your efforts will be in vain. You really have to study and know that community, and what they react negatively to and what they love."

September 20, 2007

Cellphones trump TVs, but Internet No. 1

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:32 PM

Cellphones have become so essential, people would rather go without TV, but when choosing between cellphones and Internet access, the Internet wins, according to a new survey released this week.

JWT, a large U.S. advertising agency, asked about 1,000 people a number of technology questions earlier this month. The results show that cellphones and Internet access are playing a very important role in people's lives.

Asled how long people could go without Internet access, 15 percent of respondents said a day or less, 21 percent said a couple of days and 19 percent said a few days.

A lot of the findings seem to make a good business case for cellphone operators, as well as WiMax service providers such as Kirkland-based Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, which are all rolling out mobile Internet access.

"Mobility represents the next big shift," says Marian Salzman, JWT's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Older Americans are happy to sit in the same place to go online, while younger people expect to be able to connect anywhere at any time."

In fact, 48 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If I cannot access the Internet when I want to, I feel like something important is missing."

HTC's US executive leaves Bellevue office

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:52 AM

Todd Achilles, the vice president of sales and marketing with HTC Americas, has left the Taiwanese cell phone manufacturer, according to RCR Wireless News.

HTC Americas is based in Bellevue, where Achilles opened an office about a year ago to support Microsoft and to strengthen ties with Cingular and T-Mobile, which also have major operations here.

HTC mostly makes phones that use the Windows Mobile operating system and are branded under the carrier's name, such as the T-Mobile Dash, or the Cingular 3125.

RCR reported that HTC is actively pursuing candidates to replace Achilles, but did not mention where he was working now. Phone calls to Achilles' cell phone were not answered.

In a story published in November, I reported that HTC's Eastgate office has expanded from three to 40 workers. Achilles said then that it could easily reach 100 by the end of 2006 if it keeps hiring at the rate of five to six job offers a week.

Future hires were to include a 12-person engineering team to drive some of the highest-level industrial design work for the company. The team is expected to push the boundaries for creating devices for new networks capable of high broadband speeds. Products could include devices that mimic miniature, long-battery-life laptops that can make phone calls.

HTC is also rumored to be working on Google's attempt at a mobile phone, called by some the Gphone. Brier Dudley blogged yesterday about rumors surfacing that the phone's launch could be pushed back until next year in order to move it to the faster 3G networks.

Perhaps a major departure like Achilles could also cause a delay.

UPDATE: Achilles just called me to confirm that he left HTC a couple of weeks ago. He said: "I've been enjoying some free time and I'm hanging out working on some projects, and catching up, which is kind of nice." Achilles said at the job, he was traveling about 80 percent of the time, and wanted to spend some time off before having his second child in November.

Record broken for longest phone call

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:07 AM

Late last week, it was reported that a British man named Tony Wright broke the world record for the longest phone call by talking for more than 40 hours.

The previous record for the world's longest phone call stood at 39 hours, 18 minutes and 24 seconds. It was set on November 3, 2005 by Sandra Kobel and Stephen Hafner, from Switzerland, according to The Sun.

Wright broke the record while talking to Jenny Barnard, of north London. Apparently, the phone call spanned dozens of people on various conversations, including subjects ranging from heartbreaks and romance to psychobabble, and from stomach mucus to the upcoming Led Zeppelin concert.

But don't worry, the record-breaking phone call won't come with a record-breaking bill.

Apparently, the stunt was pulled in unison with the launch of new low-cost monthly call plans from Tesco internet phone.

Wright was using one.

The Sun reported him as saying: "Luckily, I do not have to worry about a huge phone bill because we are using Tesco internet phones, meaning that this mammoth call is free."

Wright's attempt at getting into the Guinness World Records book won't be his first. He attempted to stay awake for a record-breaking 11 days earlier this year.

Unfortunately, he didn't really receive credit for that one. The BBC reported that the Guinness book does not record sleeplessness records because of the associated health risks.

September 19, 2007

M:Metrics launches survey for mobile audiences

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:45 PM

Seattle-based M:Metrics, which surveys mobile phone users to provide insights into the industry, launched a new product today called M:Audit.

In conjunction with the announcement, M:Metrics released results related to its first customer, AdMob, which sells advertising inventory on mobile Web sites.

M:Metrics said it conducted a survey by placing ads on the Web sites that AdMob serves. The ads lured people into clicking on an ad by offering a chance to win something. In return, participants answered a few short questions about themselves. The data was collected during the third quarter and from more than 2,000 mobile sites.

M:Metrics found that 37.5 percent of the respondents were 25 to 34; the second largest group, at 28 percent, was 18 to 24. The smallest group, not surprisingly, consisted of those 65 years and older, only 0.2 percent.

September 18, 2007

Americans reply to more text ads than others

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:09 AM

Although receiving an advertisement via a text message is less common in the U.S. than in some European countries, Americans are more likely to respond, according to a report released today by M:Metrics, a Seattle mobile measurement firm.

M:Metrics found that 17.2 percent of U.S. subscribers have received a text message ad in July, whereas in Europe as many as three out of four mobile subscribers reporting receiving one.

In the U.S., response rates were the highest, with 12 percent responding to the ads. The United Kingdom had the second highest response rates at 9.2 percent.

The big concern with sending ads via text message is that they will annoy customers, especially if they are sent without permission. Also, in the U.S., subscribers may be charged for the message if they do not have an unlimited texting plan.

M:Metrics found that across all geographies a majority, or 73 percent, of the ads are from the subscriber's mobile service provider; 17.5 percent of subscribers said they received an ad from a company that had permission to send it, and 21.1 percent said the advertisers did not have permission.

"Certainly the level of interaction is impressive compared to almost any advertising vehicle available today" said Evan Neufeld, a M:Metrics senior analyst. "It is undeniable that text-based mobile advertising is both a highly prevalent and an extremely effective medium for engaging customers."

Microsoft launches GPS-based mobile search

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:54 AM

For some time, Microsoft has been providing mobile search capabilities to Sprint Nextel, the third largest U.S. carrier.

Late last night Microsoft said it expanded the partnership by integrating two new features into the search capabilities -- GPS, or location based services, and voice search using Tellme technologies.

Users will also be able to surf both information provided by Sprint and the entire Internet. The Tellme voice search will be available on selected Sprint phones as a separate download.

The service sounds a lot like the other search application that Sprint uses. InfoSpace's Find It! application, which has been on the Sprint network for some time, uses GPS and voice capabilities to search Yellow Pages, including movie times and other information.

Coincidentally, that application changed hands Monday when InfoSpace announced it sold its Switchboard.com yellow and white pages directory to Idearc for $225 million.

September 17, 2007

Nokia buys cellphone ad company

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:50 PM

There's been a lot of action today in the wireless industry, and here's yet another big play made by a big player.

Nokia said it has agreed to acquire a Boston-based Enpocket, a company that displays ads on cellphones, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal said the acquisition is another step in the handset maker's push into software and services. The push started last month when it launched a Web services site called "Ovi," Finnish for door.

Nokia also bought Seattle-based Loudeye, and more recently Redmond-based Twango to work on this mission.

Nokia did not say how much it paid for Enpocket, a 120-person start-up with technology that can display cellphone ads in a variety of formats, including banners for mobile Web pages, video spots and text messages. AOL recently bought mobile advertising startup Third Screen Media. Still independent is Seattle-based Medio Systems, which is developing a search-plus-advertising approach.

Enpocket works with Sprint Nextel, Vodafone and Bharti Airtel of India, and has run ads for brands such as Hyundai and Pepsi.

InfoSpace sells Switchboard.com

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:39 PM

Bellevue-based InfoSpace said today it has agreed to sell its online directory business, including Switchboard.com, to Idearc for $225 million in cash.

"The sale of our directory business is part of the board of directors' ongoing review of our company and the opportunities available to enhance value for our shareholders," said Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Voelker. "In addition to unlocking the value of our directory business that was not reflected in the company's market valuation, this transaction is extremely tax efficient, allowing us to capitalize on our net operating losses to significantly maximize the cash proceeds from the sale."

The sale follows numerous restructurings by the company, which has struggled to convince the stock market that its businesses are worth what InfoSpace thinks it is.

The press release said the transaction is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.

At closing, InfoSpace said it will return the net proceeds from the sale to shareholders as a special cash distribution. This follows a previous cash dividend to shareholders of about $200 million this summer.

The sale of Switchboard.com raises the question of what InfoSpace's overall strategy is. Left in its stable are online search properties, such as Dogpile, and its mobile infrastructure business, which provides search capabilities and helps carriers build storefronts that sell ringtones and other digital content.

Last week, a report surfaced that InfoSpace's mobile business may be for sale.

Triangle Business Journal reported Sept. 14 that Durham, N.C.-based Motricity is raising as much as $175 million in capital to buy InfoSpace's mobile business before attempting to go public.

The report even went so far as to say that a deal was expected to be announced soon.

If that's the case then InfoSpace will be pared back to its online properties, or perhaps it's selling off the company piecemeal and giving the cash back to shareholders?

In trading today, shareholders definitely congratulated InfoSpace on the sale. Its stock price jumped $4.13.to $17.38 a share.

T-Mobile buys SunCom

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:26 AM

T-Mobile USA, the fourth largest U.S. wireless carrier, said today that it is acquiring SunCom Wireless for about $2.4 billion in cash and assumed debt.

This includes a cash payment of about $1.6 billion and assumption of $800 million in debt. T-Mobile USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, a German telecommunications giant.

T-Mobile said the acquisition will add to its network coverage in the southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. SunCom serves customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Similar to T-Mobile, SunCom operates a GSM/GPRS/EDGE network. It has been providing roaming to T-Mobile in these markets since 2004.

In a release, T-Mobile President and Chief Executive Robert Dotson said:

"The strategic fit of the SunCom operations will make this a near-perfect acquisition. It will round out our domestic footprint, allowing us to serve 98 of the top 100 markets, and will significantly benefit our financial position by reducing roaming expense. Furthermore, it will add a talented group of employees that will enable us to serve more than one million new SunCom customers with industry-leading national products and services available under the T-Mobile brand."

SunCom has about 1.1 million customers. T-Mobile reported almost 27 million customers at the end of the second quarter.

That still puts T-Mobile well behind Sprint Nextel, the third largest U.S. carrier. It reported that it had about 54 million customers at the end of the second quarter on its two networks.

September 13, 2007

Sprint launches look-alike shopping portal

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:27 AM

Sprint Nextel said today it launched a mobile shopping service that allows people to purchase from 30 online retailers from their phones.

The service is powered by Boulder, Col.-based mShopper.

Sprint is claiming to be the first carrier to launch a mobile shopping portal. But I wrote a story in July about Verizon Wireless using Seattle-based mPoria to create a shopping portal of its own.

The conclusion I came to in my story about mobile shopping is that it is really in its early days, but interest is mounting with Amazon.com, eBay and other big online retailers starting to consider the technology as a serious opportunity. The hope is that all the mobile users who buy ringtones and other digital goods on their phones will eventually switch over to physical goods. You can see some baby steps already occurring, such as when people pay for parking or buy a bus token with their phones.

Since my story ran, mPoria announced a strategic partnership with Seattle-based Medio Systems. Medio will provide mobile advertising campaigns to mPoria's retail customers, who will pay only when their ad is clicked on.

From today's papers, here is the WSJ's take on Sprint's mobile shopping service, and here is AP's take.

September 10, 2007

Clearwire partners with ICO

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:21 PM

Clearwire, the Kirkland-based company that is helping to build a nationwide wireless broadband network using WiMax, said today it is partnering with ICO Global Communications, a satellite company.

The joint agreement will include collaborating on mobile video trials -- starting early next year in Raleigh, N.C. ICO is also planning a similar trial in Las Vegas, Nev.

Although ICO is based in Reston, Va., it has very close ties to Clearwire.

For starters, its human resources and finance office is based in Kirkland, near Clearwire. Also, Clearwire founder and Chairman Craig McCaw is an investor and the chairman of ICO's board. Overall, the company's board includes some of the top executives from Clearwire's ranks, including Gerard Salemme, a Clearwire executive vice president, and Ben Wolff, Clearwire's CEO.

The press release issued today said the collaboration between the two will test connecting wireless broadband and satellite TV, allowing for interactive mobile video -- something that is gaining attention as wireless and entertainment worlds start to merge. People are starting to look at how joint relationships could be more valuable than just combining mobile and TV on one bill (I explored that topic in this story on the so-called triple and quadruple play).

"Our next generation wireless personal broadband networks are built to deliver data, voice and video over a single network," said Scott Richardson, Clearwire's chief strategy officer. He said it makes sense to work with ICO to test "an interactive mobile video element" that can add to Cleawire's offerings in areas where it doesn't plan to build its nework, while also enhancing the use of infrastructure and spectrum where the coverage overlaps.

Tim Bryan, ICO's CEO also weighed in by saying, "We are well positioned to be the first provider of next-generation mobile satellite services, and we have a clearly differentiated offering by leveraging integrated satellite and terrestrial networks to deliver advanced consumer mobility services."

Who knows exactly what the trial will look like for users, but the company said ICO will provide multiple TV channels to "large-screen user devices."

Alcatel-Lucent will supply the system architecture and design based on mobile multimedia DVB-SH (an open standard, unlike Qualcomm's MediaFlo mobile TV proprietary technology, which is used by Verizon Wireless and others). Hughes Network Systems will provide the device as well as interactive elements.

September 4, 2007

iPhones for sale in China, but no bargain

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:05 AM

When the hottest electronics gadget in years meets the world's biggest producer of counterfeit goods, it just seemed inevitable that fake iPhones would spawn.

What's surprising is that some unauthorized iPhones sold in electronics markets in China's biggest cities, according to a Chinese news story, are actually more than double the price. It's not clear to me whether the iPhones in question are real or copies. The phones are manufactured for Apple by Hon Hai Precision Industry in Shenzhen, one of the cities where shoppers can find the unauthorized gadget for sale.

The fact that at least some people in China are willing to shell out $1,170 for this device speaks to the nature of the world's largest mobile phone market. Here's a good photo comparing a real iPhone with a Chinese version on the right.

While Chinese consumers seem unwilling to pay much for software, they're obsessive over the latest hardware. To keep trend-conscious users interested, new versions of mobile phones are released every six months, a much shorter time frame than they're updated here.

By the time Apple releases its iPhone in China in 2008, perhaps the country's more advanced mobile phone users will have moved on to the next craze.

August 31, 2007

Sprint's helpful new ad campaign

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:08 AM

Sprint Nextel rolled out a new ad campaign a couple of weeks ago to highlight the speed of its network.

Now, a somewhat stealth Sprint Web site has popped up giving people tips on how to save time in their daily lives. The site is at http://waitless.org/.

The slogan at the top of the page says: "Fast-forward through the boring parts of life."

Then it provides a daily video called a "Sprintcut." The current video, called "Speedy Sorbet," shows you how to make sorbet with a scoop of orange juice, ice and a couple of zip lock bags.

The video claims to save you two days of your life, or as Sprint claims: "Turn tedious tasks into fleeting moments with Sprintcuts -- tips that'll refund your time and amaze your friends."

Of course nothing comes without warnings.

The fine print says that Sprintcuts should not be attempted at home, but "Oh wait, tha'ts what they're for! But seriously ... Sprint is not responsible for the outcome of any attempted time-saving maneuvers. Actual time saved may vary."

The more useful ones involve quick peeling an egg and speed tying your shoe, which both claim to save four days of your life.

August 29, 2007

Nokia relaunches Loudeye's music service

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:19 PM

Today, in London, Nokia announced a new series of Internet services for the mobile phone.

The brand name for the services will be Ovi, meaning 'door' in Finnish.

Ovi will allow users to have more access to communities and content. As part of Ovi, Nokia announced today a new music service, N-Gage video game strategy and Nokia mapping services.

The event is fairly important for Nokia as it shifts from being primarily a handset manufacturer to a multimedia services company.

"The industry is converging towards Internet driven experiences and Ovi represents Nokia's vision in combining the Internet and mobility. Nokia is the number one mobile device company in the world. Looking into the future, we will deliver great devices, combined with compelling experiences and services, to make it easy for people to unlock the potential of the Internet," said Nokia President and Chief Executive Officer Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

The music service is based on the technology Nokia bought from Seattle-based Loudeye for $60 million a year ago.

To flush out its Internet services even more, last month Nokia also bought Redmond-based Twango, a photo and media sharing and storage service (for a reported $96.8 million). Perhaps, Twango will be the next service that's integrated into Ovi?

Nokia used the Twango service to post online some photos from today's press conference.

Check it out:

August 27, 2007

Former T-Mobile COO on the move

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:38 PM

Former T-Mobile USA Chief Operating Officer Sue Swenson, who left the Bellevue company under strained circumstances, has landed a new job under the same title at New Motion of Irvine, Calf.

If you don't remember, T-Mobile filed suit against Swenson about two years ago, accusing her of violating a noncompete provision. An agreement stipulated she would not work for a competitor for a year after leaving T-Mobile and that she would not disclose confidential materials to third parties.

The lawsuit was filed the same day that Amp'd Mobile -- a wireless startup in Los Angeles -- said Swenson would become its new chief operating officer.

Amp'd attempted to skirt Swenson's noncompete agreement by firing her as COO and then rehiring her as the president of Amp'd Mobile's International division, but that didn't work and a judge barred Swenson from working at Amp'd.

Swenson waited a year until her noncompete provision expired and then she rejoined Amp'd in the fall of 2006. About six months later, she encountered even worse luck when Amp'd filed for bankruptcy and went out of business.

Her new job at New Motion, a digital entertainment products company that is listed on the over-the-counter bulletin board, also sounds a little temporary.

According to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Swenson's employment agreement has a term of two years.

Google can manage a wireless network

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:09 PM

Ever since Google showed interest in participating in the next auction selling airwaves for a wireless network, the Internet giant has received a fair amount of skepticism.

But take this into account: Google's Mountain View, Calif. Wi-Fi network is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Where many telecom companies and others haven't been able to get Wi-Fi networks up and running on a reliable basis, perhaps Google has.

On its anniversary, it provided a few data points. It said 400 Wi-Fi routers cover 12 square miles and 25,000 homes. Google said about 15,000 unique users connect to the network each month, and since the beginning of this year, traffic has grown almost 10 percent each month.

Google used this anniversary to get across two messages. The first is why it built the network. It says it is into promoting alternative platforms for people to access the Web because many people still don't have access.

Second, Google said that if it can do it, surely EarthLink and San Francisco can figure out how to roll out a citywide network. The two have been working on a plan for some time to blanket the whole city, but without showing much progress.

It's also worth asking where else Google is headed in the wireless world. There are rumors floating around that the company has developed a Gphone that will launch next month. The Business Standard reported that the phone's launch will come with a financial committment of $7 billion to $8 billion.


Google also has said it earmarked a minimum of $4.6 billion for the spectrum auction in January if the FCC would approve a number of Google's proposals. The FCC did not approve all of them, however Google said it still might participate.

August 23, 2007

InfoSpace undervalued and misunderstood

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:35 AM

An analyst released a report today calling Bellevue-based InfoSpace "undervalued and misunderstood."

In response to that statement, Scott Sutherland, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, upgraded the stock to "buy" from "hold." It is maintaining a price target of $19 a share.

InfoSpace's stock jumped 52 cents or nearly 3.5 percent in afternoon trading today to $15.42.

To be sure, the company has gone through a series of transitions: It lost a major revenue after losing its ringtone business with Cingular; it laid off 250 people to become a much smaller company; shareholders protested that it was sitting on a bunch of cash; InfoSpace issued a $200 million special dividend.

Sutherland wrote: "We are upgrading shares of InfoSpace to BUY from HOLD, as we believe the company is nearing the end of a tough transition and that the recent sell off is overdone."

Part of InfoSpace's focus going forward is in providing back-end technology to wireless carriers, including mobile search.

"We believe revenue from mobile search and directories are emerging growth opportunities," he wrote.

Disclaimer: Wedbush Morgan said it does and seeks to do business with companies covered in its research reports, and that investors should be aware that the firm may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of
this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision.

August 22, 2007

More than math is off with T-Mobile's ad

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:37 PM

One of T-Mobile USA's offerings is myFaves, a feature that gives you unlimited calling to five phone numbers -- cellphone or landline.

It's been something the company has been really proud of, launching a whole ad campaign focused on it. Most of the time, the tagline was something like, "Who is in your Fave 5?"

But one 30-second clip strayed from that theme, and has been getting quite a bit of heat. I have received e-mail from people who find the ad offensive.

In short, the ad shows a dad running into a room, telling his family of five that if they all have myFaves, then they can make unlimited phone calls to 26 people. The kids correct the dad, saying, no five multiplied by five is 25. It ends with the mother telling the kids to stay in school.

Check it out here:

Here's what the backlash has been like so far.

One e-mail sent to me and top executives at T-Mobile says:

I am writing to you in response to T-Mobile's new television ad in which the father has difficulty processing and understanding a simple math problem, only to be ridiculed by his wife and children. I was personally offended by this ad. Must T-Mobile used the tired and overused 'stupid male/father' device in order to sell its product?

I guarantee that you would not have aired an ad in which the mother was depicted as ignorant and stupid and the father told the children 'this is why it's important to stay in school.' Your company has disappointed me by choosing to use this tasteless and insulting (but unfortunately very prevalent) method of advertising.

A second e-mail said:

I am appalled and ANGERED, when I see your company portraying an idiot father in front of his children. Then the pompous mother further demeaning the father by telling her children to go to school.... Rest assured, I will never use your product and if I do meet someone with your product I will inform them of your callous commercials, anti men, anti fathers.

That one is signed by a father who has who "painstakingly guided his children to become a lawyer and a CPA, CFA MBA."

The YouTube site also is collecting a few comments. You can see them here.

The first comment says: "Clueless dad? Check. Kids correcting him? Check. Mom disappointed and embarrassed by her husband? Check. Yep. Just another day in the life of advertising making out men to be moronic buffoons. Thanks T-Mobile. I guess I'm never giving you my business."

I think it's safe to assume T-Mobile is not in these people's Fave 5.

UPDATE: This is generating a fair amount of response on the blog and via email. Here's a couple more comments I've gotten personally.

-- "Good grief! Have these upset people not watched any television lately? Most of the sitcoms humor is entirely based on this sort of mockery of one family member against another. Is it right? Maybe not but apparently it sells because it is watched. These people need to find something to do....."

-- "Wow - lighten up people - it must be nice to have a life so simple that the ad of a mobile telephone company can OFFEND, ANGER or APPALL you. I could only wish that there were less important things in my life so that I too could give a rip about T-Mobile's method of advertising - shoot, I'm even a customer. Pick a different battle. I'm sure the ad execs bantered about the same anti-father, anti-men thoughts mentioned in email number 2 and I'm guessing someone in the room told them it was tasteless and insulting but they ran with it anyway. C'mon - get a grip and go worry about where your property taxes are going and who's ruin...I mean running your city. Please - go a day without a Starbucks."

-- And, here's another sent to execuitves: "I generally do not write to complain about advertisements but your ad really made me sick inside....I generally charge for training but I am willing to develop a diversity and sales training program free of charge for your company. Who knows, with good training, good hiring, and good management of the new individuals you hire to replace the team who thought this ad was a good idea. You might acquire a new creative talent pool who won't create ads that generate customer churn and ultimately give your competition new activations from former T-Mobile customers."

Is Europe really more advanced?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:43 PM

When it comes to well-made, fine leather Italian shoes, maybe.

But cellphones?

Definitely not.

The American Consumer Institute studied whether Europe was in fact more advanced when it came to wireless technology. It concluded that the U.S. is ahead.

"International statistics suggests that the U.S. wireless market, in fact, leads its European counterparts, and the U.S. wireless market, compared to Europe, appears to be more competitive and vibrant," the study's summary said.

I thought maybe the The American Consumer Institute was paid to conduct the survey on behalf of the U.S. cellphone industry, but it claims that's not the case.

"No -- we are a 501(c) (3) nonprofit educational and research group and do not conduct paid-for research," a spokesman said. "The study just tests a common belief that the U.S. lags Europe. It uses widely available empirical evidence in its analysis. The result somewhat of a surprise to me too. It could be Europe once had a lead and it has vanished, but the belief has remained."

The question is an important one, especially as the FCC is evaluating how to make the wireless market even more competitive, so that innovation can move even faster.

The study cites multiple sources and suggests there are actually more wireless operators (155) in the U.S. than in most countries, and that even though the top three carriers have a majority of U.S. subscribers, there's still a lower concentration than in other countries.

The study then tries to answer the question: If the U.S. market is not as concentrated as its European counterparts, could it still operate as a "cozy cartel," effectively driving up consumer prices and restricting supply?

Once again, the answer was no.

The average price of a minute is far less in the U.S. than in other countries. In Germany, it was about 27 cents a minute. In the U.S., it's closer to 7 cents. Only one country was listed as cheaper -- Hong Kong at about 4 cents.

However, in Europe customers get billed for making a phone call, whereas the person receiving the call does not get billed. In the U.S., we pay for both types.

An independent study found that even though this is the case, the minutes are still cheaper in the U.S. than in all European countries.

Check out the report here.

Google may bid on airwaves

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:27 PM

Google is still leaning toward bidding in the U.S. mobile phone airwave auctions in January after the FCC detailed its plans for the spectrum.

At a conference of regulatory leaders in Aspen, Colo., Reuters reported that Google CEO Eric Schmidt said his company would "probably" move ahead with plans to bid for wireless spectrum that's ideal for providing wireless broadband access.

I asked Rick Whitt, Google's telecom and media counsel in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago whether Google was going to participate. The company had said it would bid $4.6 billion in the auction as long as the FCC agreed to designate the spectrum for open access. The FCC agreed to some of Google's conditions, but not all.

Whitt said Google had to take into consideration the rules the FCC was laying out and how the bidding would take place before he could say for sure.

Reuters said it was Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA government relations chief Thomas Sugrue who asked at the conference whether Google planned to take part in the auction.

Schmidt replied: "Probably would be the way to answer that."

Only iTickets for Seattle Opera

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:48 AM

The Seattle Opera announced Tuesday that it is now selling tickets over mobile devices -- actually, only on iPhones.

That's somewhat forward thinking of the Opera, although targeting only one phone (and one that costs up to $600) seems somewhat elitist.

But perhaps the technology bent has to do with one of its biggest contributors.

The Opera house was renovated with the bill mostly footed by the McCaw family, which has a long history of technology innovation. Most notable is Craig McCaw, who founded McCaw Cellular Communications, which later became AT&T Wireless. Today, he is the founder and chairman of Kirkland-based Clearwire, a wireless broadband company.

The hall is named after his mother -- Marion Oliver McCaw -- and nicknamed the MOM Hall.

The Opera said ticket buyers can go to mobile.seattleopera.org on an iPhone to search by production, find a seat or call the box office.

The application was designed by Seattle-based POP, a digital marketing agency. POP developed the site using ExpressTix Mobile and Tessitura, an ticketing software.

The opera said it will soon also be available on other high-end devices.

August 20, 2007

Analysts set buy ratings on WiMax companies

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:01 PM

Two analyst reports released today and Friday lent favorable views of the WiMax market, and stocks responded by trading upward.

McAdams Wright Ragen said today that it has initiated coverage on Kirkland-based Clearwire with a "buy," setting a 12-month price target at $28 a share.

On Friday, C.E. Unterberg, Towbin analyst Richard Church wrote in a note to clients that he was upgrading the shares of WiMax equipment maker Alvarion to "buy" from "market perform."

Clearwire increased 89 cents today to close at $24.12 a share.

Alvarion jumped 42 cents today to $11.58.

In a note to investors, McAdams Wright Ragen said that although Clearwire is in its early stages, it appears to be well positioned.

Sid Parakh wrote:

"Clearwire has a strong experienced management team that has successfully executed scalable and replicable business models, as evidenced from prior ventures as well as progress made in several markets launched over the last couple of years, giving us increased conviction in our BUY recommendation."

Alavrion, an Israeli wireless broadband provider, got a boost for being associated with a high-growth market, even though it isn't involved in WiMax rollouts with Sprint Nextel or Clearwire, according to an AP story.

"We believe Alvarion is the best-positioned pure-play on wireless broadband adoption and should see significant growth as WiMax gains traction," Church wrote.

Spectrum auction date set

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:54 PM

The FCC has set a date for the upcoming airwave auction that has generated quite a bit of debate over the past few months as Google and others push to change the way wireless networks operate.

The spectrum, considered valuable for providing wireless broadband Internet access, will be auctioned off startng Jan. 16, 2008. The FCC is also seeking opinions on how it has chosen to sell off the spectrum.

I wrote a story last week explaining what's going on, here's an excerpt:

Q: What is at issue?

A: For any company or organization to operate a wireless service, it needs access to a sliver of airwaves, or so-called "spectrum," much of which is controlled by the federal government. The FCC will conduct an auction in January to sell rights to a swath of the spectrum that's ideal for providing wireless broadband services. Technically, that swath is the 700 megahertz band.

The spectrum will become available after television companies vacate airwaves they don't need as they convert to digital or high-definition television. That deadline is Feb. 17, 2009.

Q: What is Google asking for?

A: Google and other companies, including Frontline Wireless of Greensboro, N.C., proposed to the FCC that a portion of the spectrum being sold in January should be set aside for an "open access" network, one that would allow consumers to choose the device and applications they want regardless of whether a network operator has approved them.

This auction is quite significant. The FCC is estimating that the spectrum is worth $10.1 billion.

The FCC came up with that number by taking into account another recent auction, called Advanced Wireless Services (or AWS-1). The agency said in a document released today that comparing that sale with the upcoming one is fair, but that the 700 MHz band is better:

For instance, spectrum in the 700 MHz Band possesses superior propagation characteristics to AWS-1 spectrum. In addition, as of February 18, 2009, the 700 MHz Band spectrum will be unencumbered, while full access to AWS-1 spectrum requires the relocation of both Government and commercial incumbent users. Thus, other factors aside, 700 MHz Band licenses with comparable geographic service areas and bandwidth should have a higher market value than AWS-1 licenses.

If you remember, Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA was big participant in the AWS auction. It spent more than $4 billion, doubling its spectrum holdings in the top 100 markets.

In a news conference last October, T-Mobile detailed plans to start building out a 3G network on its new spectrum. It said at the time that it intended to provide the service commercially in mid-2007, and that most markets will have 3G by 2008.

Rumors have circulated that T-Mobile is getting ready to turn a few markets on soon.

CrunchGear is reporting that T-Mobile's first 3G device, also called a UMTS phone, will go on sale starting Sept. 10. At that time, it will be interesting to see what products T-Mobile will be selling to justify the higher-speed network.

August 17, 2007

Sprint Nextel's YouTube message

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:07 PM

Sprint Nextel announced Thursday that the brand name for its new WiMax service will be called Xohm (pronounced "Zoam").

And because Sprint is partnering with Kirkland-based Clearwire to build a nationwide network, the two companies will share that name.

In my story today, I talked about how Sprint unveiled the name first to employees in a short video that has now been posted on YouTube.

The video features Atish Gude, Sprint's senior vice president of mobile broadband operations, and Barry West, Sprint's chief technology officer. Both are casually dressed in jeans and polo shirts.

Check it out:

August 15, 2007

DirecTV tunes into powerline broadband

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:02 PM

DirecTV said today that it signed a wholesale agreement with Current Group to provide high-speed Internet service over electric-power lines, according to The Wall Street Journal..

The story said DirecTV will bundle Current's broadband and voice over Internet services under the DirecTV brand.

The satellite TV company also recently announced a partnership with Kirkland-based Clearwire to bundle its wireless high-speed Internet access with DirecTV's TV service. In addition, it also resells Internet access from AT&T, Verizon Communications and Qwest Communications.

DirecTV has lined up all these partnerships to better compete with telephone and cable operators that have started to provide the quadruple play -- that means, bundling together TV, phone, wireless phone and Internet access. Obviously, it's not placing any bets on any one technology.

High-speed Internet access is not technically possible over satellite, or at least the way DirecTV provides service today.

Broadband over power lines is a fairly new technology that allows customers to plug a modem device the size of a cellphone into an electric outlet and connect a cable from their computer for Internet access.

Social networking on the phone

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:22 PM

Logging into social networking sites, such as MySpace, from a mobile phone is fairly common, especially in the U.S., according to Seattle-based M:Metrics, which conducts surveys.

It found that 12.3 million consumers in the U.S. and Western Europe reported accessing a social networking site on their mobile device in June.

A majority of those occurred in the U.S., where 7.5 million, or 3.5 percent of all subscribers, logged in.

Trailing behind the U.S. was Italy with 1.3 million users, the UK with 1.1 million, and Spain with 751,000.

M:Metrics said that MySpace got the most attention in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom, whereas MSN was the No. 1 choice in the other areas surveyed.

August 14, 2007

Mobile phone trends in Q2

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:25 PM

In the U.S., 33 million phones were sold in the second quarter for a total of $2.4 billion, according to The NPD Group. And there were a few interesting things to note.

The 33 million represents a 17 percent decline from the previous quarter, but a drop in that period is typical because of seasonality.

Here are a few things to note:

-- Sales increased 14 percent compared with the same time a year ago. Perhaps that's because people are paying more for their phones. Still, a plurality of phones -- 28 percent -- were free. NPD said another 28 percent cost less than $50; 11 percent cost more than $150; and 4 percent were more than $250.

-- The top five handset manufacturers are the same: Motorola at 32 percent; Samsung 18 percent; LG 17 percent; Nokia 10 percent and Sanyo 4 percent.

-- Almost 70 percent of phones sold in the quarter were equipped with Bluetooth, an increase of 9 percent from the first quarter.

-- Less than half, or 45 percent, of new phones were able to play music (up 11 percent from the first quarter).

-- 11 percent were higher-end smartphones (up 32 percent).

NPD said it gets this data by surveying 150,000 consumers each month.

Crush or Flush gets boost

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:49 AM

Bellevue-based IceBreaker said today that its Crush or Flush application is now available to 4.5 million Boost Mobile subscribers.

If you don't already know, Crush or Flush is a mobile social networking service that helps people meet each other on a cellphone.

For 69 cents a day, users can chat by text message if two people have a mutual crush (without revealing each other's cellphone numbers). They can also sort and view profiles based on age, gender, orientation, location, and interests; and can find out who has been "crushing" them. If anyone remembers from middle school, a crush is someone interested in you.

Icrebreaker said Crush or Flush has more than 250,000 members since launching in January. On average, members access the service twice a week and use the service for 20 minutes a session.

A closer review of Intelius

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:08 AM

I wrote a story Monday about how Intelius's new cellphone directory is being received by the wireless industry.

The short answer: not very well.

Today's edition of RCR Wireless News, an industry publication, reviewed the Bellevue company's service to see how well the directory worked.

The marks were not very high.

The reporter said not only did the service (at $15 a search) never find an accurate phone number, but some searches returned with a note saying it would take Intelius 24 to 72 hours to complete, but results were never sent.

From the story:

"I tried five searches for cellphone numbers total: three for information that I already knew, as a way to test the service, as well as for Barack Obama and --just for fun -- Verizon Communications President and COO Denny Strigl."

It turned out that Strigl's "number" returned a busy signal; Obama's was for a different Barack Obama, and results for the three others were never returned.

In my experience, I purchased three phone numbers. The first number was for Washington's Attorney General Rob McKenna, and the search returned a number for another person of the same name. I also searched for Steve Largent, the CEO of CTIA, the wireless association, and it was not correct (he did a reverse search using his number, which was also not correct). And I searched for the former CEO of Qsent, which has a contract with wireless carriers to help build any future directory. I still don't know whether that was the right number because no one returned my call after I dialed it. and other people were unwilling to give me his number to verify whether it was correct or not.

August 13, 2007

Do not call my cellphone

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:09 AM

My story today regarding Bellevue-based Intelius's claim that it has a fairly comprehensive cellphone directory brings up the question of privacy and how to retain it.

About two weeks ago, Intelius launched this new feature on its site; it claims that it will have about 240 million cellphone numbers in the next couple of weeks, or about the equivalent of every subscriber in the U.S.

Each one costs $15 to look up, so there's a little hurdle before people can go crazy looking up everyone they know.

Still, you ask: what can a subscriber do?

First off, if you aren't already in the database, be careful with your phone number going forward. Don't fill in your phone number on sweepstakes or forms that aren't going to a trusted source. Oftentimes, those companies will resell that information to another company.

Second, if Intelius does have your phone number, you can request to have it removed from the database. Intelius executive Ed Petersen said that the company will remove it if you fax a copy of your driver's license to verify who you are. In that case, you may want to black out everything but your picture and your name (being paranoid might be your best defense).

Third, add your cellphone number to the do-not-call list. There's been some debate about this in the past -- and it was exacerbated by a mass e-mail that urgently called for people to put their cellphone number on the list.

To be clear, there is a federal law that makes it illegal for telemarketers to call your cellphone whether on the list or not, so there's no emergency. However, if those telemarketers buy a list of numbers, and your cellphone number happens to be on it because it was combed from some third-party database, it wouldn't necessarily be identified as a cellphone number.

When the news that there is a so-called cellphone directory reached the CTIA -- The Wireless Association, the trade association was stumped. Folks there didn't know how a company could get such a comprehensive database.

Steve Largent, the former wide receiver for the Seahawks who is now CTIA's CEO, said such a comprehensive list was unlikely. But he was going to have his wife add her number to the do-not-call list just to be sure. The state's Attorney General said the idea wouldn't hurt, either.

It remains to be seen how accurate the database will be since Intelius is saying it will be more complete in the next couple of weeks. For now, Largent's number hasn't made it in, nor has a handful of numbers I tried before writing the story.

I also think there's a smaller number of people who would like their number listed. Intelius says it will fill those requests as well.

August 10, 2007

Clearwire to buy part of Amp'd Mobile?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:48 PM

Two online publications are reporting today that Clearwire will acquire about 50 employees from Amp'd Mobile's content division out of its bankruptcy proceedings to build out an offering for the Kirkland company's upcoming mobile WiMax network.

The move would be really interesting because Clearwire to date has been a network company -- and its founders, led by Craig McCaw, have all been network people.

Clearwire declined to comment on whether the rumors were true; phone calls to Amp'd and to Amp'd's bankruptcy attorney went unanswered,

For now, who knows if it is true?

RCR Wireless said that reportedly Clearwire has reached a deal, but it didn't quote a single source.

MocoNews.net reported that the transaction has taken place, adding that Amp'd Mobile's founder and former CEO Peter Adderton and most of management for its content team "are close to joining" Clearwire.

It further said, the team moving to Clearwire includes Seth Cummings, Amp'd's former secnior vice president of content, who is the current executive producer of "Lil Bush on Comedy Central." MocoNews said that Cummings had already changed his LinkedIn profile to reflect the move, but a check of the site lists him simply as a media and entertainment consultant.

Sprint Nextel, which is also rolling out a WiMax network, announced recently that it was going to work with Google to build a portal for the wireless broadband service.

Perhaps Clearwire was looking for an equivalent content partnership.

Roger Entner, an analyst at IAG Research, said he hadn't heard the deal was completed, but that it would make sense for Clearwire to start beefing up its content initiatives if a service and new devices were going to be available during the first half of next year.

Entner disagreed that it may be an equivalent to the Sprint Nextel and Google announcement.

"I'm not sure if they'd use the team to do a portal. More likely it's more for dedicated content that may or may not be tailored to whatever device that would be used," he said. "The Google thing -- that's a pretty vanilla portal, similar to an Internet portal. To me, the important thinkg that says is that they have the search and advertising piece. That's implied by that."

Regardless, the market seems to be responding positively to the potential pair. The company's stock, which dropped significantly after it reported a wider than expected second-quarter loss, gained about 5 percent today, or $1.20 to $27 a share in late afternoon trading.

August 7, 2007

Cellfire fires off mobile coupons

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:06 PM

Cellfire, a San Jose, Calif.-based company, said today it has launched its mobile coupon service in Seattle.

Cellfire said more than 80 Seattle-area merchants are issuing discounts and coupons to those who sign up for the service. Restaurants such as Alfy's, Round Table Pizza and Cold Stone Creamery are participating, as are other retailers such as Hollywood Video.

Moving the coupon business to mobile phones is one more step toward mobile shopping. I wrote a story last month about how there is an increasing amount of buzz around that phenomenon and how various players are testing a lot of intermediary steps before it becomes a very big market.

With Cellfire, consumers can access mobile coupons on their phone and redeem them by showing them to a clerk at the point of purchase.

The company said it supports more than 600 different mobile handsets -- I was even able to log in to my 5-year old Sanyo.

You can sign up by going to cellfire.com, or texting "WA" to the shortcode 22888.

August 6, 2007

FCC gives 'white space' device an early thumbs down

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:54 AM

Earlier this year, Microsoft, Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Philips -- working together as the White Space Coalition -- built a demonstration device to lobby the government to open up unused television airwaves -- called white space -- for wireless Internet access. The effort got the backing of Rep. Jay Inslee, for one.

But the Federal Communication Commission's initial review of the device was negative.

Broadcasting and Cable reports on the FCC's statement:

"This report determined that the sample prototype white-space devices submitted to the commission for initial evaluation do not consistently sense or detect TV broadcast or wireless microphone signals," the commission said, striking a blow to the hopes of companies looking to use the spectrum for portable devices like PDAs and game controllers.

The prototype was meant to demonstrate that accessing unused TV spectrum would not interfere with existing technology, such as TV broadcasts on adjacent channels and wireless signals.

The FCC review pleased the National Association of Broadcasters, which worries that using the white space would disrupt their signals.

NewsFactor Network covers the NAB reaction:

The FCC's latest tests "confirm what NAB and others have long contended, that the portable, unlicensed devices proposed by high-tech firms can't make the transition from theory to actuality without compromising interference-free television reception," said NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton in a prepared statement.

Open Access network not so open

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:18 AM

Two reports released today questioned the future impact of an "open access" wireless broadband network based on an FCC proposal.

The idea is that a consumer would be allowed to use any device or any application on a network. This revolutionary concept contrasts to how the world works today, where carriers reign supreme and OKs both phones and services a consumer can use.

The spectrum designed to have open access is set to be auctioned off soon, and would be available in 2009 after TV stations vacate the band for HD content.

However, two voices spoke up today, saying that by designating a swath of spectrum for open access alone probably won't work -- that life won't change much for the consumer.

The reality is device manufacturers will unlikely make phones or other consumer electronics specifically for this band without having the support of an operator's sales channel. And no one can take just any device and stick it on any network -- it has to have the proper radios installed, and there's a high price to sticking another radio in a device on the off chance someone might want to use another network.

Avi Greengart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, said this in today's edition of RCRWireless:

"The bottom line is that the mobile device world is actually getting more fragmented and more complicated.... Despite the FCC's new open-access provisions, the tight carrier control over most wireless devices will remain, and devices taking advantage of the open access provisions will either be expensive or risky propositions for the vendor."

Lynette Luna of FierceWireless said:

"The mobile industry is a long way off from being that third pipe the FCC dreams of, and that reality should sink in shortly as open access advocates stop cheering and begin to dig down and try to interpret what the 700 MHz rules really mean in a wireless environment, especially when it comes to 'reasonable network management conditions' and how open access requirements will really be enforced."

Nokia and Microsoft partner

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:40 AM

Nokia plans to use Microsoft's PlayReady mobile entertainment technology on the Nokia S60 and Series 40 mobile phones, the Redmond software company said today.

The announcement builds on the two companies' existing collaboration around mobile entertainment. It is also one of many recent moves Nokia has made in the Seattle area. It bought Redmond-based Twango two weeks ago, pledging to open a Nokia office here. It also bought Seattle-based Loudeye a year ago.

More than two years ago, Microsoft and Nokia announced a partnership to work together on Nokia's music strategy. Nokia said it would enable its handsets to play music in Microsoft's format and work with Microsoft's digital-rights management system. Its music service would also use Microsoft's digital media player to handle music played on PCs.

This time around, Nokia is embracing PlayReady's technology, which makes it easy for content owners and service providers to deliver any type of digital content in a flexible manner. As part of the agreement, Nokia and Microsoft will also collaborate on simplifying accessing and moving digital content using mobile devices for the consumer.

As an example, a consumer could purchase content directly from their Nokia device and then transfer the content to other devices, such as PCs or mobile devices.

"People are increasingly using their mobile devices for enjoying digital content, such as music, games, videos and photos," said Nokia's Senior Vice President of Multimedia Experiences Ilkka Raiskinen. "By adding support for Microsoft PlayReady technology, we are enabling service providers to offer a wide range of content and create truly compelling experiences across mobile devices, personal computers and online services."

Nokia plans to support PlayReady across a range of S60 and Series 40 devices starting in 2008.

July 31, 2007

Google's role in telecom

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:02 AM

An obvious question to ask recently is whether Google is a friend or foe of the telecom industry.

On one hand, Google is very interested in building and developing applications for the wireless industry. Last week it signed a partnership with Sprint Nextel to build a portal for its emerging high-speed wireless WiMax network.

On the other hand, it has rocked the industry by proposing to the FCC that the winning bidder in the next auction for wireless broadband airwaves be required to provide an open network allowing any application or handset to run on it -- a far cry from the closed wireless networks available in the U.S. today.

CNET speculated in an article today what all this means for the telecom industry.

The story asks: "Will it build its own wireless network using spectrum from the upcoming auction? Or will it strike more deals like the one it signed with Sprint Nextel? Will it come out with its own Google phone that will take on the likes of the Apple iPhone and other manufacturers like Motorola and Nokia?"

The answer for now, CNET reported, is Google's intentions are all about providing Internet access, whether it's in competition or in partnership with telecom operators.

"Mobile is the fastest and cheapest way to reach the largest number of people," said Chris Sacca, head of special initiatives at Google. "There are billions of people on this planet who still don't have access to the Internet. And we think mobile presents the biggest opportunity to get them on the Internet."

The story didn't get much more information out of the tight-lipped Google.

To be sure, wireless operators have been wary of the Internet giant. Google packs such a strong brand and typically the carrier wants its name to be the stand out. That attitude has led companies such as Bellevue-based InfoSpace and Seattle-based Medio Systems to create white-label, or non-branded, search applications for the phone.

But now that Sprint Nextel has choosen Google as a partner, perhaps more will follow?

July 30, 2007

Windows Mobile marketing head resigns

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:53 PM

Suzan DelBene, a longtime Microsoft employee, is resigning from her job as corporate vice president in charge of the Mobile Communications Marketing Group to "pursue other opportunities," according to a spokesman with Microsoft's outside PR firm.

The announcement was made internally this morning. Her responsibilities included global marketing strategy for Windows Mobile. She reported to Pieter Knook, senior vice president of Microsoft's mobile communications business.

DelBene joined Microsoft in 1989, left in 1998 to work at drugstore.com, later led Seattle-based Nimble Technology, and returned to Redmond in 2004 to take on Windows Mobile position. She and her husband, Kurt DelBene, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Office Business Platform Group, made up the only husband-and-wife team serving in Microsoft's executive ranks.

The spokesman said Suzan DelBene did not indicate what other opportunities she may pursue. A replacement has not been named.

Update: Her last day will be Sept. 1.

July 27, 2007

Phone Sherpa, Jamglue sing with Blue Scholars

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:45 PM

Two local startups and the popular Seattle hip-hop group Blue Scholars have teamed up to promote a contest at tonight's Capitol Hill Block party.

The two companies are Phone Sherpa, which handles the Blue Scholars's ringtone sales on the Jamglue site, and Jamglue, which allows users to create their own song by chopping up bits and pieces and adding new vocals.

Together, Phone Sherpa and Jamglue created an MC and DJ contest for making your own mix to the Blue Scholars' song "Fire for the People." Blue Scholars will pick out the best of the mixes made on Jamglue and add them to their ringtone store.

Also, the first thousand Block Party-ers to show up at a special Jamglue Web page where the contest is taking place will get a free Blue Scholars ringtone when they sign up for a Jamglue account.

InfoSpace finds the iPhone

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:34 PM

Bellevue-based InfoSpace said today it has launched a version of its local mobile search application -- called Find It! -- for the Apple iPhone.

InfoSpace Find It!'s application is available on the Sprint network for a subscription and on BlackBerries for free.

The application for the iPhone was tweaked to look like the phone's homepage, displaying a number of colorful icon boxes. The boxes link to six categories: Dine Out, Go Out, Shop, Travel, Health and Services.


InfoSpace

InfoSpace's FindIt! application was launched today for the iPhone.

Because the iPhone does not have GPS, the user will have to enter a Zip code or city and state to find services near them. On the BlackBerry, GPS is integrated so the listings are automatically loaded based on the person's location.

iPhone users in the U.S. can find Find It! by visiting http://fiweb.infospace.com/iphone/ on their iPhone Safari Browser. If you don't have an iPhone, you can check it out from your PC here.

The iPhone is a closed system, which means third-party applications are built to work through the browser rather than the phone itself. The downside is that the application may not be super speedy. It must connect to a new page to get new information, but still in the brief session I tested on the iPhone, the pages loaded fairly quickly.

The bigger downside is the lack of GPS integration -- narrowing down restaurants by Zip code won't get you to the closest one that quickly.

"As consumers increasingly seek locally relevant information on their mobile phones, InfoSpace Find It! for iPhone helps users quickly and easily discover what's nearby -- anytime, anyplace," said Jeff Torgerson, senior product manager at InfoSpace.

July 26, 2007

Third Screen gives update on mobile advertising

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:55 AM

In May, AOL bought Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising company, which today gave an update on the merger.

Boston-based Third Screen Media sells ads for mobile sites for such organizations as MSNBC and The Weather Channel. A publisher can either use the company's software to sell its own mobile ads, or Third Screen Media will also act as a sales force.

Since the merger, the company has been able to gain mobile sites, including all of AOL's mobile properties, such as Mapquest. In doing so, Third Screen Media claims to reach half of the mobile Internet users in the U.S. The company also gained AOL's sales force.

Even though the company is making a lot of progress, Third Screen Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Janer said there's a lot to be done to ensure that mobile advertising market is big.

He cited at least three things:

1. A third-party needs to step in to help validate and measure the market. To help with that, Third Screen partnered with mobile measurement firm Telephia, which was recently purchased by Nielsen.

2. The advertising inventory needs to cover more ground. Eventually, in order to capture a big market, it needs to include both sites that are on the mobile Web, but also sites that subscribers discover through the carrier's portal, or "deck."

3. Ads should be more targeted. On the Internet, Web sites know a user's behavior through cookies, which track what a person does online. But cookies don't exist in mobile. The carriers do have that information, but it's not readily available.

"It's scattered all over in databases, and it's a big effort to build a targeting database that's anonymous," Janer said. "For instance, you should be able to say: 'I want to reach men between 18 and 25 in the Pacific Northwest who are sports enthusiasts and are looking to buy a car.' But that's not possible today."

Seattle-based Medio Systems is also creating a mobile advertising network.

July 24, 2007

Weather and sports No. 1 on phones

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:23 PM

A report released today found that mobile phone users in the U.S. use their phones to access weather information the most; in Europe, subscribers prefer sports information, according to Seattle-based M:Metrics.

M:Metrics said it found some similarities in behavior between Europe and the U.S. Below are the top 10 news and information sites accessed by 23 million people in the U.S. and 19 million Europeans in the three months ended May 31.

U.S.
1. Weather
2. News
3. Sports
4. Entertainment news
5. Maps and directions
6. Movie and entertainment info
7. Finance news
8. Business directories
9. Financial account access
10. Travel

Europe
1. Sports
2. News
3. Entertainment news
4. Weather
5. Maps and directions
6. Movie and entertainment info
7. Financial account access
8. Finance news
9. Business directories
10. Travel

The company said this information has become important because advertisers are wanting to know more and more what people are visiting on their mobile phones.

"Increasingly, consumers are looking to the mobile Web to find a wide variety of information, and marketers are keen to learn about this new audience," said Paul Goode, M:Metrics' senior vice president and senior analyst.

When broken down by gender instead of geography, the survey found men in the U.S. were most interested in sports news, while women were most interested in weather. In Europe, men were most interested in sports, while women were most interested in general news.

Amp'd Mobile shutting down

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:18 PM

Amp'd Mobile -- the youth-oriented mobile operator that runs on the Verizon Wireless network -- is shutting down.

The primary reason seems to be that the service, which had filed for bankruptcy protection, had a hard time collecting money from its youthful client base, and that's painfully obvious from the company's Web site at get.amp'd.com.

Among the ads -- amazingly still trying to sell its services, flashing the coolest new phones it is offering from fiery red Razrs to the Motorola Q -- there's almost an equal number of advs relaying to the user how to pay their bill. It says: Now paying your bill is even ea$ier. It says you can pay on your mobile phone -- without ever listening to hold music.

Not sure what the incentive is at this point. If customers, or potential customers, bothered to click on the "Customer Q&A," they'd find out a host of interesting things:

Q: Is Amp'd going out of business?
A: Amp'd is potentially suspending U.S. operations July 31.

Q: How long will customer service be provided?
A: It will not be available after July 23.

Wait a sec. They'll shut off the operators before the service? Yikes.

Q: Do I need to pay my outstanding bill?
A: Yes, failure to pay may result in reporting to a credit agency.

Darn.

Nokia acquires Twango, Part 2

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:34 AM

I wrote a story in today's story about Nokia's acquisition of a Redmond startup, Twango, which allows people to store their digital content online.

Here's a few more details that didn't fit in today's print edition:

First off, I wrote about the company in June last year before the public launch of its product.

What's interesting to note is that Twango, founded in 2004, has spent a lot of time building a platform and doing its homework on what a service requires on the backend in order for customers to have a good experience.

That may have justified the acquisition price. Although the specific price was not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal quoted a person familiar to the deal saying that Nokia paid less than €70 million, or $96.8 million.

That's a lot when you compare it with Loudeye, a publicly held company Nokia acquired in August last year for $60 million (which itself was a far cry from the $1.4 billion Loudeye was valued at after its public offering in 2000).

Anyway, let's go back to the platform that Twango is building. It's considered an open platform, meaning it will allow other developers to take the code and build applications around it. It also uses open features, such as RSS, podcasting and maps.

Serena Glover, one of Twango's co-founders, said that could mean that even though Nokia has bought the company, a developer could still create an application for a Motorola phone using Twango's work.

The open platform allows consumers to link multiple devices, services and networks. In theory that means if those consumers use their mobile phone to upload content to the Web, they'll continue to be able to do so if they change carriers. That differs from other services on the market, such as Apple's, which requires you to use an iPod or iPhone if you buy your music on iTunes. Or applications found on one carrier aren't always available on another.

I asked Nokia's Gerard Wiener what he thought about this, and he said that follows the handset maker's vision -- it's are going after a bigger market encompassing all phones instead of just Nokia ones.

"We are big believers in open source, as well. That is the way of the Internet," he said. "Far be it for us to fight that trend. In our services strategy, open source is a critical part of that, and we are pushing for it.... If we look at even Motorola and other companies, and we look at markets, the imaging services market is where we see a significant opportunity.

"Ultimately, the consumer is our master and we want to put ourselves in the situation that involves acquiring great teams and talent like the Twango guys," he said.

AT&T gives iPhone update

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:17 AM

AT&T released second-quarter earnings today, disclosing that it activated 146,000 iPhones during the first two days of sale (which coincided with the last two days of the quarter).

The number appears a little lower than what analysts had expected, but that could be because it's reporting activations and not sales, and in the first two days the iPhone was available, AT&T had a hard time getting all the phones up and running.

But if the initial numbers provide any idea of how sales are going, and if the activations are close at all, then the numbers could be slightly disappointing.

Following the opening weekend of iPhone sales June 29, CNNMoney.com reported that they might sell as many as 500,000, according to an estimate by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster.

The analyst had previously forecasted that the first weekend's sales would total 200,000, which appears closer to the mark. But even though numbers may not have hit half a million, sales have been good to AT&T, the exclusive seller.

Of the 146,000 iPhone subscribers, AT&T said 40 percent of them were new customers. In all, the wireless carrier said that it gained 1.5 million subscribers during the second quarter to reach 63.7 million -- allowing it to maintain its lead over the second-place carrier Verizon Wireless.

The company also noted that sales continued to be strong in July with store traffic above historical levels.

We might get a better picture Wednesday on real sales vs. activations when Apple reports its second-quarter earnings.

Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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Angel Gonzalez
Angel Gonzalez
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Kristi Heim
Kristi Heim
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Benjamin J. Romano
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Mark Watanabe
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