Friday, June 29, 2007

Had To Give In Some Day

We've been trying to resist mentioning anything about that phone that some company is releaseing in I think it was the US around about now, but this bit of interesting rumour popped up on the rather well-connected Mr Kewney's site recently: 3G iPhone in Europe on Voda/TMob/Carphone Warehouse by end of year.

It all sounds reasonable enough, though he makes the odd slightly skewed comments - suggesting Orange wouldn't take the phone because they have strong branding and like to turn off handset features, which is a trend that Vodafone has led.

The 3G networking obviously would be rather useful over here, though it does rather make a mockery of Mr Job's recent 3G put-down... which appears to be a pretty standard Jobsian diversion from the truth, attempting to sound completely plausible and reasonable whilst not addressing the real issues and covering up for weaknesses in his product.

The dual Voda/TMob thing - at the expense of Orange, O2 and 3 - seems weird though. Working with multiple carriers is far more of an issue in the US, where every carrier has good and bad coverage areas (more bad then good for AT&T, admittedly), number portability is relatively new and the technologies are so different. In Europe these things don't matter so much - coverage is pretty uniformly acceptable and portability is the norm. Without exclusivity you get much less operator money, so why artificially halve your target market?

Anyway, details. Will be interesting, and I'd feel upset if I'd bought the EDGE version right about now...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Monitise To Demand Urgent Correction to Reuters Misquote?

"Currently, 12 million consumers access Monitise's service platform and Lukies expects this to rise to 33 million by the end of the summer" says a Reuters article covering the fact that owner Morse would like to offload its mobile banking subsidiary Monitise onto AIM.

Mobile banking would appear to be way more popular than anyone suspected then, with 12m customers in the UK on Monitise's product alone... except that number doesn't quite ring true.

Monitise don't list clients on their site, but if you backtrack through press releases it looks like they currently have RBS, HSBC, First Direct and Alliance & Leicester offering the client as a trial or full product. First Direct have around 1.2m customers, but I've struggled to pin down good figures for the others - however the UK as a whole reached a record 18.1m online (Internet) banking users in 2006 (according to APACS), split between all the personal account offering banks: major high street banks (Lloyds, Halifax/BoS and Barclays do not use Monitise) and a few minors (again, only A&L use Monitise). Monitise said after RBS signed on they could potantially access 35% of Link-compatible cardholders, which is 95% of the UK's population of 58.8m (at the last census in 2001)... or about 19.5m.

So Monitise appear to either be doing exceptionally well at getting signups - with more mobile users in half a year willing to pay 20p+data charges to get a balance, than all the partner banks have persuaded to use web clients for free after 10 years of UK online banking - or they actually meant "potential users" and their real download figures are too low to mention in such a triumphant press release. Use the client and tell me which you think is the case (or of course read some of the reviews if you can't).

The problem is, mobile banking could be great and I'd definitely sign up immediately - if I didn't need to go through an 11 step signup process to get a terrible UI, to be charged 20p to know my balance just went down 20p (and not much else, though more features are promised). What's wrong with a nice simple phone thick client which uses online logins to let me do everything i can do in my browser - check my balance, move money around, find out if payments have gone through, etc? Shouting so loudly about the wonders of mobile banking and then failing so badly to deliver what customers might want just poisons the marketplace for other mobile applications, and denies users useful functions. The mobile experience is painful enough right now without the additional burden of poor app development.

Bootnote: I meant to post this some time ago but had trouble researching useful banking stats. It appears that in the meantime Morse/Monitise's PR firm have done an exceptional job at spraying the release all over the web and yet been less efficient at correcting the key highly misleading stat. How strange... still, if I understand right, there will need to be full disclosure of finances, users etc before the listing on AIM so no doubt we will all be the wiser soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

OK Today I Feel Like A Cynic

AT&T describe their new Video Share service as 'groundbreaking'. It's a video call. We've had them for years, and no-one uses them, so what was the point? And why did it take so long?

Synergy, Value for Money, and eBay/Skype

I just had a quick look at an eBay auction I'm in and noticed a picture of a phone. Obviously that piqued my interest so I took a look, and it turns out eBay will now send you either an SMS or an IM when you are outbid, the IM containing a link to rebid. Nothing too excited, but I thought I'd sign up with my Skype account... except I can't. They only support MSN, AOL and Yahoo. Given that many people I know now only use Skype as an IM client, because the call quality is so poor and the IM UI quality so much higher than the likes of MSN, this seems like a major oversight.

$2.6bn well spent?

Smell the Desperation - sorry, Innovation

"ScreenTonic innovates once again and creates the first mobile Internet portal skin sporting Coca-Cola's colors" - title of ScreenTonic's latest press release. They should seriously consider looking for patentable IP in that, after all it's not everyone who has the creative genius to make a red wap site with some links on it.

It is possible that there is more to it than that but the rest of the relase descends into pseudo-English so I couldn't be bothered to read it...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I've been avoiding writing anything about iPhones since the announce, because it's just fuelling the hype that leads ultimately to this kind of meaningless infoporn thrown around by bloggers and companies mud-wrestling for reflected glory - and anyway, now it's even becoming trendy to knock the iPhone as more and more people start to come off the kool aid and spot the probable design flaws.

Instead I'm happy to wait until I'm vindicated, but the one iPhone thing I would like to do is make a relatively substantial wager, say £100, that they will sell fewer than half the number of iPhones Jobs is predicting to actual consumers during the first year of its release. I think putting your money where your mouth is is just so much better than mouthing off in blogs - and I wish I'd done the same with Moto stock a year ago :)

I'll wait to thrash out the exact contractual terms there until someone takes me up on my bet - obviously we're talking devices shipped to users not just dumped into retail channels, and we're also not including any which are returned within the 30 day cool-off period (I suspect there may be many there). I'll accept that if they decide to cut their own throats and massively reduce the price to gain market share, I lose my hundred quid though.

Anyone who'd like to take me up on this get in touch,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Après Nous La Deluge

I'm sure I wasn't actually the first to write about the problems of Mobile AJAX, but suddenly I've started noticing others joining the "it doesn't remotely work yet" crowd, which is a refreshing change from the Kool Aid drinkers of old. I liked Mike Rowehl's post so much I didn't even bother rewriting the Mobile AJAX FAQ as if it was part of the real world - it's a nice idea, but it should really try to present an objective viewpoint and make it clear how "ahead of the curve" it is (that's the polite way to say no-one can use it yet).

Thursday, June 07, 2007


OK totally off-topic but too amusing to pass up. Sliding out the door of No. 10, ex-president Blair has claimed that "We want good relations with Russia. But that can only be done on the basis that there are certain shared principles and shared values."

This throws an interesting new light on the last few years of his premiership: those shared values would appear to be the embracement of corruption by his government, undermining of human rights, strong early moves to pave the way for a police state (with some healthy spin on the reasons), political control and gagging of the media and news management to justify meddling in sovereign states... so perhaps we should look East to see what the future holds.

(Obviously this post is taking the piss a bit, and Blair comes a very poor second to Putin in the race to become a dictator - the latter probably blessed with an unassailable head start - but I think Blair's legacy does go to remind us why three terms is just too long for any party to remain in power).

No more politics now, back to mobile!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

There Are Two Ways To Overtake

I was cynical when Orange released figures saying games had overtaken ringtones (no really, I actually was cynical, believe it or not). There are two obvious ways market A might overtake market B - a healthy way (A grows faster than B) or an unhealthy way (B shrinks to become smaller than A). Orange did not make it at all clear which it was.

Now we have Gfk M2 (catchy name) claiming the UK spent £83m on games over the twelve months ending March 2007, overtaking ringtones for the first time which made £76m in the same period. All well and good, but... the UK ringtones market in 2005 made £177m. So I think it's pretty clear what the causes for this "impressive" overtaking scenario are.

Maybe people should stop getting so excited about news management without engaging their brains first. The big question is - will Orange be making such a big song and dance about it's mobile content figures next year? It never bothered to publish them in such detail before...