Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moto JPG Vulnerability: No Need To Panic

A vulnerability affecting Moto RAZR handset's JPEG decoding was kept quiet until this week, whenone of the remaining Motorola staff confirmed that there were no known active users of Motorola handsets any more and so it was safe to tell the public as it could not be used as an exploit against real people.

VC Watch: Better ROI Available on Bank Account

The good thing about bank accounts is that, whilst they don't offer much interest, you're unlikely to lose anything either (even these days). Not so the latest $13m investment in Skyfire, a company which makes a Windows Mobile browser.

With Opera doing pretty well with their Mini Java browser, and the open source WebKit gaining traction with Nokia and Apple, where is the potential money in another brand new browser? The Windows Mobile market, whilst allegedly growing nicely particularly in the US (otherwise known as: not selling much outside the US), is pretty tiny and already relatively difficult to gain traction in, with the (poor) IE Mobile bundled and many devices also shipping with the mature Opera Mobile. It would be interesting to know how many downloads that first round of $4.8m bought.

The company now plans to expand into other platforms with its browser, that supports "Java, Flash and Ajax". That means the browser is top-end only, so they can only be planning to port to top-end smartphones - maybe S60 (which already comes bundled with a confusing pair of browsers), and possibly Android (current shipments: 0). It has become increasingly less fashionable to predict that smartphones will become the mainstream, in fact many commentators are saying the opposite these days, so again it's interesting to see where the users will come from.

Having got on a handset, where's the revenue? Web sites already deliver ads and frown on people upstream wrapping their own advertising around the content (Opera have got away with it, but other more intrusive players haven't). The whole point in the web becoming the platform is that the browser, if it works nicely, becomes invisible - and free. Mobiles don't have enough screen real estate to show many sidebar ads, and Google referral fees will only pay so much.

So I'd have to say, without knowing any detail about the company's business plan, that this is yet another utter waste of cash by a VC who doesn't know anything. Though I'd love them to tell me why my assessment is wrong.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Beattie Offloads Mowser

Russel Batty*, the man the mobile web doesn't believe in, has just cleared his debts selling his Mowser project on to .mobi, surely the spiritual home of badly thought out mobile web ideas (try typing .mobi on a phone's numeric keypad, and compare it even to .com. 'Nuff said).

Congratulations are certainly in order - we would never wish a struggling entrepreneur into debt, it's a nasty place to be - but it doesn't make the Mowser idea very good. The future of mobile services will be things you actually need on the move, delivered in the most pain free way possible, and that doesn't necessarily mean big web content mangled through a transcoder, whatever Sprint et al might wish.

Now Russell is back on his feet we'd suggest he concentrates more on doing some useful work and less on blogging during work hours, his voluminous outpourings whilst at Yahoo! being the thing which first drew him to our attention and even helped inspire this blog. For that, we owe thanks - cheers Russ ;)

* juvenile I know, but I still can't help but be amused by the rather strenuous complaints Russ had against (in particular) British people mispronouncing his name, insisting it be pronounced pretty much like (as any British person would know) the favourite insult of that American-ganster-wannabe from Staines, Ali G. I think the more you travel, the less you get worried about the mangling different countries do to each other's languages and names...