Posts about mobile

Davos08: Wireless

“If you defend the status quo when the quo has lost its status, you’re in serious difficulty,” says Sony head Howard Stringer in a panel on the future of mobile. “It’s a most exhilerating time” because it’s all up in the air. A year ago, he says, cable companies were negotiating from a position of strength. But look at their stock prices now; they reflect the walls falling around them. This has made them nicer to deal with. But he’s not saying he’s sitting in daisies himself. “It’s going to be hard to hold onto the price of content.” Then again, he turns to a Chinese mobile phone mogul and says that if Sony could sell just one song to each of his 500 million users, his music company would be instantly (and apparently finally) profitable.

Stringer, the funniest man at Davos (far funnier than Al Gore), says out of nowhere that he likes Google. Why? asks moderator David Kirkpatrick of Fortune. Because Google’s going to buy wireless spectrum and they’ll be in his business even more. The only reason he came onto the panel to be close to Google’s Eric Schmidt.

NBC’s Jeff Zucker says mobile is not that important to the network. Nonetheless, they’re going to put out 2,200 hours of programming on mobile from the Olympics.

Stringer says young people will drive usage in ways we can’t predict. The hot fact passing around conferences this week is that novels written — written — on mobile phones are selling like crazy in Japan. Stringer says mobile will be the platform for everything.

Google’s Schmidt asks what’s new “and I think it’s the arrival of short-form video as a category.” He says it’s not a replacement for a prior form but an entirely new form.

He also says he is so bullish about mobile as a business because he believes the players are motivated to make sense of the current lack of standards and create a unified platform.

There’s much discussion about openness from regulation to devices to business models. From the audience, Jonathan Zittrain asks about whether an open system will bring us viruses on our phones and a new frontier of unreliability. Schidt responds: “Open platforms are like Linux, not like Windows.” Oohs from the geeky audience.

Michael Arrington asks FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin about the open letter Google wrote requesting openness in the upcoming spectrum auction, wondering whether this made the decision harder — as pressure — or easier, as covering fire with the other commissioners. “The open letter is nothing like the pressure that others can put on in more private ways. I actually appreciated the openness of it,” Martin responds.

Somebody asks whether any of the companies represented planned to include scent — olfactory functionality — in phones since it’s the only sense not addressed by the internet. Gawd, and you thought it was irritating to hear other people’s mobile phones. I dread having their smells waft my way. Another person from the audience whether anyone is working on holographic images to replace the tiny screen on mobiles. That doesn’t seem to be in the works, either.

With beans, please

It was thanks to Yelp on my Treo that I had a good burrito in Austin last night. Now if only it worked with GPS to find me the nearest burrito (having no idea of my damned zip code). Still, this is what mobile and local and the internet are supposed to be doing. Why’d it take so long? Why isn’t it there yet?

The river of news

Dave Winer is up to something important… again. He has been talking about wanting “rivers of news” — that is, headlines stripped of the packaging around them to give him a constant flow of what’s new. And he just created a few to feed his — and our — mobile phones.

What’s fascinating about this is that while consultants and think tanks aplenty are still running around trying to come up with fancy applications made just for mobile but Dave shows that the best application is simplicity: Just the news, sir. And keep it flowing.

He created rivers from The New York Times and the BBC and while he was at it, he created no-ballast versions of a handful of blogs (what about me, Dave?).

Note that the only graphics on the pages he created are an orange question mark that leads to an brief explanation page with a picture of Dave. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s just information. In a sense, it’s like RSS, except it’s even simpler, even dumber: just a page with an address that has the latest from a source. I’ve been using them today and they’re quite compelling just because they are so simple and fast and to-the-point.

At some point, I’ll want to customize them; I don’t want sports. And the sources will have to figure out their ad strategy for the mobile world, but they’re doing that anyway. (He points to Times printer pages, which are sponsored.) But they should take the example from this simplicity.

(Full disclosure: Dave is an investor in Daylife, where I’ve been working; that was where I first heard him push his demand for rivers of news.)

: LATER: Ewan MacLeod explains why this is better than the state of the art.


I don’t know why I would ever sign up to have GQ magazine send me mobile spam. What of value could they possibly say in an SMS: “Remmber your collar stays today”?

Be the DJ of the future

PaidContent has details for a job overseeing Verizon Mobile’s music strategy.