Mobile Internet 2009 summary

April 1, 2009

Here are the main themes I picked up from the conference. I also presented case studies of how clients have achieved success in mobile and took part in a panel discussing the issues around mobile applications.

iPhone

I missed the beginning of the conference, but the iPhone effect was still clear to see on day 3. Everyone in the industry accepts it as the standard everyone has to aim for. The problem is that it is different in so many ways that people end up cherry picking from it to support their own causes/interests.

Platforms

What are going to be the dominant platforms in the next few years?
There was consensus over the fact that only 3-4 will survive. With Limo and Symbian reppresented, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they felt that mobile OS’s are going open. iPhone is however the notable exception.

Bondi amongst others also suggested that whatever happens in mobile OS, the browser is going to be the most viable runtime platform, with more standardised support and additional (and hopefully also standardised) APIs plugging into device functionality.

Mobile Operators

Mobile Interet 2009 saw a heavy reppresentation of mobile operators and releated service providers, so most of the discussions about revenue were focused on mobile operators.

The long term picture isn’t so rosy. In several countries, flat data tariffs are expected to become the norm and have been pushed to fairly low levels due to competition within the industry and with fixed line providers (with the broadband dongles). The operator’s concern is getting to the situation where 4% of users consume 75% of the network traffic and where they many not ultimately benefit from the expected growth in data traffic.

On reflection, flat tariffs may have a wider implication for the whole industry: operators have so far encouraged mobile internet development with the expectation of increasing revenues. Flat rate will put a cap on those expected revenues and will actually introduce an incentive to reducing/optimising network utilisation – unless network operators find alternative ways of generating revenue from the mobile internet. A few thoughts/models:
+ charge for different bandwidth levels (the problem being that people won’t necessarily appreciate how high the limit is and may therefore limit their behaviour)
+ charge for service packages, similar to digital TV broadcasters, where higher bandwidth services like video streaming are charged at a higher rate
+ control the advertising (more below)
+ establish themselves as the payment method of choice
+ sell value-added content and services

 Advertising

The general feeling is that mobile advertising is still in its infancy, but that it is bound to grow and become a significant source of revenue for the industry. UK mobile web advertising spend last year was less than £10M. Brands and agencies want to spend, but they need the right data to support mobile as the channel of choice (although they do not seem to need much data when commissioning iPhone apps).

TeliaSonera are experiementing with content transcoding as a way of adding advertising to off-portal sites. The PR spin on that is that it enhances the user experience by allowing access to sites that would otherwise be inaccessible and providing a control bar. The real reason is that off-portal content transcoding promises 5-6 times more inventory than on-portal.

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