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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Now iPhone viewable

For those of you with Apple iPhones, Notes From Anywhere should now be a more enjoyable experience. Let me know what you like and don't like about the template.

Friday, February 15, 2008

iPhone simplicity drives Google searches and Anywhere revenue


The Financial Times observed an interesting phenomenon about iPhone usage from Google yesterday:

Google on Wednesday said it had seen 50 times more searches on Apple‘s iPhone than any other mobile handset, adding weight to the group’s confidence at being able to generate significant revenues from the mobile internet.

“We thought it was a mistake and made our engineers check the logs again,” Vic Gundotra, head of Google’s mobile operations told the Financial Times at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

[From / In depth - Google homes in on revenues from phones]

I completely believe the 50 times number cited in the article. In fact, my own experience last night demonstrated how much much the elegant, yet simple iPhone user experience encourages Google searches.

I sing in my local church choir, and we are currently rehearsing Paul Winter and Jim Scott's Missa Gaia, a rather interesting contemporary jazz mass. As we were listening to a recording of a piece of the work, one of the tenors commented that he wondered how the guitarists were playing these jazz chords listed in the music, especially a D11 chord. I had my iPhone with me, so I popped "D11 chord" into a Google search, clicked the top link, and showed my tenor friend the fingering shown above, all in the course of about 10 seconds using ATT's EDGE network. His jaw literally dropped.

Despite being an ex-Compaq engineer, I don't think my tenor friend expected I could display a guitar fingering on a mobile phone at all or that I'd be able to do so quickly. Yet, for people who own iPhones, the experience is fairly routine, mostly because the iPhone delivers a simple, first-class Web browsing experience. And when things are simple, consumers use them more. It's the essence on what I think of as an Anywhere experience; in this case, it's an Anywhere Web experience.

Some carriers and handset vendors may just think that delivering a simple Anywhere experience is just a nice to have. But I think both Google and AT&T are starting to recognize that Anywhere is actually money in the bank, based on figures cited later in the same article:

If the trend continues and other handset manufacturers follow Apple’s lead in making web access easy, the number of mobile searches will overtake fixed internet searches “within the next several years”, Mr Gundotra said.

Google’s comments echo figures released recently by AT&T and O2, which carry the iPhone exclusively in the US and UK respectively.

In the US, AT&T said average revenue per user for iPhone users was nearly double the average, because iPhone users took large data packages on top of their voice calls.

Said another way, mobile phone companies have two choices: deliver great Anywhere experiences to mobile customers or see consumer dollars flow to competitors who do. It's really that simple.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apple's iPhone raises the bar at Mobile World Congress

As reports from analysts and others attending the Mobile World Congress trickle in, one theme stands out: the iPhone is on the minds of nearly every company in the mobile phone ecosystem. The title of this article at EE Times really says it all: Users' love affair with iPhone stumps Mobile World panel.

That said, some of the panelists had what I thought were important insights on the fact that marketing, not technology, may be one of the factors standing in the way of consumers:

Panelists cautiously agreed that the current user experience — at least compared to the iPhone — is not very good. Predolin said that one problem is that many people are reluctant to tap the vast potential of mobile communications — especially the mobile Internet — because they fear the eventual cost. With so many telecom companies advertising heavily the cost of their services per minute, users hesitate to explore possibilities that might devour their precious minutes. Predolin said that this deadline consciousness is so strong among mobile users that they even constrained their consumption of minutes in a Buongiorno-sponsored trial in which participants were given mobile phones free for a week. "Operators are putting together cost plans that people can't understand," said Predolin. "It is not just cost but the way you market your cost."

But all this said, the iPhone appears to have set a new bar that carriers and handset makers alike are struggling to clear. Because mobile phone development typically takes anywhere from 18 to 36 months to get from concept to shipment, we'll only be seeing the first "iPhone-killer" hopefuls at next years Mobile World Congress. The only problem: by that time, Apple will have its second generation iPhone in the market. And knowing Apple, the bar will be even higher then.

Let build mobile phone for you

With the Mobile World Congress winding down, I'm sure some folks are now undergoing withdrawal from the endless procession of handset announcements form the likes of Nokia, Samsung, LG, and others. So while you are waiting for the big guys to build the ultimate mobile phone, why not spec out your own? For about one fifth the price of a Nokia N95, you can buy an equivalent, and they'll be happy to enhance it with features like high resolution cameras, four stereo speakers, and TV/RM receivers. zzzPhone builds the phone for you in China and ships it to you directly. I'm skeptical these guys are going to dominate build-to-order mobile phones (after all, what's to prevent Nokia or Motorola from imitating the model), but it is a pretty cool idea. And $150 for a full-featured, touchscreen-capable phone will certainly attract attention. But buyer beware; the only mobile OS offered is Windows Mobile, so don't expect iPhone-like usability. Let's just hope they don't imitate Dell with a guy spouting, "Dude! You're getting a zzzPhone!"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mobile ESPN browsers eclipse PC users and your favorite mobile Web sites

One of the pieces of research I'm just starting is a report on mobile Web sites. In the course of my research, I came up on this piece of news from January:

The biggest upset of this football season may have been Appalachian State University's victory over Michigan. But for the mobile-marketing industry, it came the day ESPN had more visits to the NFL content on its mobile Web site than it did to the same area on its PC site.

[From More football fans hit ESPN's mobile site than its PC pages - RCR Wireless News]

I think everyone now accepts that the number of global mobile phones now easily eclipse the number of Internet users in the world (2.7 billion phones versus 1.1 billion Internet users as of 2006). But many still think that's all about voice communication, not the Internet. But with the advent of first-class Internet Web browsers on platforms like the iPhone, Nokia's S60 series, and others, we're just beginning to see the impact of the mobile Web. My prediction: it's going to be even bigger than the PC Web. And the ESPN watershed moment noted above is just the start.

So here's a question for readers that would help me with my research: What's your favorite mobile Web site? Ideally, it would be a business site (I am, after all, director of Enterprise software, not consumer), but even if your favs are consumer sites, I'd love to hear about them. Leave a comment below, and in the process, tell me what mobile phone browser you are using to access that site. I'll start the ball rolling by saying my favorites on my Apple iPhone are Facebook (amazing functionality for a mobile site), Bank of America (, and FedEx ( -- they always embrace new technologies quickly). What are yours?

Monday, February 11, 2008

BlackBerry Service down throughout North America -- again

According to the Huffington Post, BlackBerry service is out throughout most of North America. This is the second outage in the last 10 months and in my opinion, reflects a fundamental flaw in Research In Motion's (RIM's) service strategy. If you want a service to work reliably Anywhere, you can't run every single network connection through a single point of failure. Yet, RIM's network architecture routes every single Blackberry connection through its Network Operating Center in Waterloo. People may claim that Apple's iPhones aren't ready for enterprise use, but at least they don't all stop working when Cupertino has a problem. One big outage is an accident. Two is a design problem. And it's time RIM started fixing theirs.

Imagine if you didn't hate your mobile carrier

CNBC today kicked off its coverage of the World Mobile Congress today with an article titled, The Mobile Industry Has an Innovation Emergency.". I have to say, I agree with CNBC's point of view that many players in the mobile industry are stuck not knowing how to innovate. But after fighting with making mobile calls from my office in downtown Boston the last week or so, I have a dream that I think would challenge today's mobile carriers in their quest to become Anywhere providers:

Imagine if our mobile phone carriers actually tried to exceed our expectations?

Today, we tend to give mobile phone carriers accolades for just doing their jobs some of the time, like placing phone calls and delivering text messages. I've been trying to place and receive mobile phone calls from my office in downtown Boston over the past few weeks, and despite having a contract with the largest mobile phone company in the US, my success rate is about 75%. Said another way, my carrier doesn't deliver the service I pay for 25% of the time. Not exactly the poster child for world-class service, is it?

Imagine what would happen if they not only delivered service 100% of the time, but actually made it a fantastic experience?

Truth be told, dealing with any mobile carrier today is about as much fun as a root canal. Assuming you can actually make a call (see paragraph 2 above), calling to complain doesn't help. The carriers may claim that our phone call to complain is important to them, but that doesn't provide any salvation from their hell of automated phone trees. I'm happy to key in my phone number to allow them to access my records, but having to repeat that number verbally with the customer service rep after I've done it online just adds insult to injury. And the fact that I have to do that every time I get handed off to another representative just reinforces the impression that my business just doesn't matter to the people running these carriers.

Am I a dreamer to expect anything better? Perhaps. But there's data that suggests that if a new entrant delighted customers, the old guard of mobile phone companies could see serious trouble. The data I'm referring to comes from a study that Changewave released this week about the iPhone.

According to Changewave Research, Apple's iPhone has become the most popular choice for consumers planning to replace their mobile phone, which you can see below


Why? Here's a pretty good reason: 72% of iPhone customers are "very satisfied" with their phones, compared with only 55% for RIM customers, and even lower results for all the other manufacturers. Here's ChangeWave's chart for that result.


This data would be impressive for any manufacturer. But the really key point here is that the iPhone is made by a company that wasn't even in the mobile phone business a year ago. Further, Apple completely ignored the requirements of old-guard carriers; instead, it insisted that carriers do things that would help consumers, like instituting unlimited data plans and visual voice mail for the iPhone. It focused on delighting the customer, not perpetuating same old way of doing business.

Now I know that very high barriers such as spectrum rights and infrastructure costs block new carriers from entering the mobile phone business. Yet every successful new business overcomes some sort of obstacle that previously seemed insurmountable; after all, FedEx's overnight delivery business model was panned as impractical when the US Postal Service had a near monopoly on package delivery. And what better recipe exists for success than millions of unsatisfied customers willing to pay a monthly fee for a better service?

I don't know if there's a Steve Jobs, a Fred Smith, or a Herb Kellaher (Southwest Airlines) out there thinking about creating a great mobile phone business. But imagine if consumers were so excited about a mobile carrier that they'd line up for days to sign up for their service, like they do at the Apple Stores today. Imagine if that carrier guaranteed your satisfaction with their service or your money back. Imagine if that carrier had only a few, simple to understand services that took a few clicks to sign up for and another few clicks to get rid of if you didn't like them. And imagine if that carrier actually had customer service people who had both the power and authority to turn dissatisfied customers into satisfied ones.

I don't think Steve Jobs, Fred Smith, or Herb Kellaher have any plans to get into the carrier business. But I can dream, can't I?