Archive for the 'Mobile Events' Category

MEX CONFERENCE, LONDON — The second session of the first day of the MEX conference examined the evolution of community services and social networking in the mobile environment. This session was in a panel format, meaning that following the speaker, discussion took place among subject matter “experts” invited to weigh in on the topic. I was fortunate to be one of the members of this panel, along with Frederick Ghahramani of AirG, Neil Cox of the CMO Council and Antonio Vince Staybil of GoFresh and

Although only a very small percentage of Vodafone’s subscribers use its mobile internet and content services, Al pointed out that that represents about 4 million users. He expects these numbers to grow as the range of content offered on the mobile internet grows and becomes easier to access via mobile devices.

Al was candid in his talk about the challenges Vodafone has faced in translating a community experience from one context, that of the fixed or PC-based internet, to mobile. He astutely reasoned that a literal translation won’t be succesful and that only those aspects of the PC experience that are meaningful in the mobile context should constitute the mobile experience.

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Cliff Crosby, Nokia
MEX CONFERENCE, LONDON — Well the day has wound to a close here in London, and my mind is a-swirl with new ideas for the mobile experience. The format of this conference is rather refreshing, with a mixture of speakers, panel discussions, and group breakout sessions, which has been conducive for both keeping things interesting and providing opportunities for much-needed elbow-rubbing with other like minds shaping the mobile space.

The day kicked off this morning with Cliff Crosbie, Global Director of Retail Marketing for Nokia. Cliff has spent many years working in the retail space, and asked us the question, “When does exceptional service happen?” He pointed out that the big idea, the big brand, rests in the hands of the young person who is working in the mobile retail environment. It’s on them to deliver on the brand promise, which may be difficult if they are distracted, disenfranchised, or simply not knowledgable about the product.

Cliff quoted a recent article from The Sun, which said that “owning a mobile phone can improve living standards more than being given the right to vote.”

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Jared Benson will present “Designing the Mobile User Experience” today at 11am, Pacific Time. The free webcast is hosted by Dynamic Graphics. We hope you’ll join us.

UPDATE: The archived presentation is now available for viewing. Requires Real Player or Windows Media Player.

UPDATE 2: A text transcript of the Q&A session has been posted up to the DGUSA website. Enjoy.

Joe Pemberton

Mobile User Experience Manifesto

The MEX organizers have published a Mobile User Experience Manifesto as the theme for their upcoming conference in 2007. Readers are encouraged to read and respond.

The manifesto covers some familiar (1-3, 5, 9) and some bleeding edge (4, 6, 7, 8, 10) themes. I’ve given these a 10 second breakdown, but it’s well worth the 10 minutes to read the manifesto.

1- Too much industry focus on getting to market quickly, instead of getting to market effectively (in other words, the features are there, but the UE suffers).

2- The walled garden is holding back industry growth.

3- Mobile advertising can be useful if it’s contextual. Replicating traditional disruptive advertising is a recipe for failure.

4- Phones should adapt to an environment and employ multi-modal input.

5- User experience performance must be measured if it is to be improved. Organizations aren’t recognizing the value of user understanding because they don’t know how to measure it.

6- Embedded information, or the ability of handsets to communicate with an environment represents a big shift.

7- Deeper personalization at every level of the value chain; beyond wallpapers and themes

8- Enhance, don’t replicate, the desktop experience (user-generated content, social networking and community interaction)

9- Improving and simplify input from the “standby” screen, or as we call it, the idle mode.

10- Service pricing is misaligned with user spending behavior. (Or, carriers pricing is whack.)

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The Idlemode team descended on CTIA last month to check out the latest in the world of wireless. While there was plenty of gadgetry to gawk at, we found the six most interesting trends and takeaways to be these.

Video, and what was being done with it, was seemingly on everybody’s mind. The biggest buzz went to a Qualcomm technology called MediaFLO. It’s a solution designed to “efficiently and cost-effectively distribute mass volumes of high-quality mobile multimedia to wireless subscribers,” according to the company; in a nutshell, it’s an ingenious way to use a DVR model on a phone. While a DVR is a hard drive, and of course this isn’t, it does record media in the background much like a DVR does. When you’re ready, you just browse your phone and watch. In our opinion, this is an ingenious way to combat the constraints of bandwidth.

Consumer Interaction
There was plenty of discussion about how consumer behavior will affect the adoption of new wireless features. For example, if video is the Next Big Thing, what are the relevant customer behaviors to focus on?

A cautionary tale might be found in the fact that several movie studios and retailers recently cut back support of Sony’s proprietary Universal Media Discs (UMD), aimed at the Playstation Portable market, due to poor sales. Despite the PSP’s beautiful screen – we think it’s arguably the best on any device out there – users may to be rejecting the idea of watching feature-length films on a mobile device. Alternatively, perhaps Sony shot itself in the foot by requiring users to deal with yet another proprietary format.

The bottom-line focus is whether people will actually embrace full-length video on a portable device.

Killer Apps
From our vantage point, it seemed as if a lot of the energy at CTIA was focused on what applications were being created for the wide range of devices showcased. What really caught our eye were apps that enable you to use your camera’s phone as a bar-code reader in order to conduct a transaction, obtain instant review information, or comparison shop. Players in this field include Nextcode Corporation, Ontela and its PicDeck technology, Scanbuy and its ScanZoom technology, and Qualcomm’s BREW-based EZ Appli application, which was launched by KDDI and Okinawa Cellular and is starting to gain traction in Japan.

Interface Design
While the range of apps we saw was great, we found them to be lacking from an interface design perspective. It’s evident that there is a need for better interfaces, better graphics, and better consideration of the interaction flow as part of the interface. Most of them are very minimalist and very basic; it’s obvious they’ve been driven more from a technical feature perspective rather than a rich interface perspective, with a focus on concept rather than execution. We think it’s important that the industry realizes that along with functionality, you have to create an effective and engaging interface.

The IP Switch
Plenty of people were talking about the ramifications of the switch to IP from traditional telephony. It really changes the equation for the carriers. Right now, they can charge 10 cents a pop for text messaging – but what happens when the phone becomes just a bitpipe to the network? Or when anyone can write an app that allows you to communicate freely over the Internet? All of a sudden, the billing models change, and even the playing field for voice services could undergo some dramatic makeovers. They are scrambling to figure out how to avoid a commoditization of their services. On the other hand, users and handset manufacturers are excited about the benefits they could enjoy.

What’s Up Apple’s Sleeve?
Although Apple is playing it close to the vest and hasn’t said much of anything about the wireless space, the possibilities were on everyone’s mind. Several panelists were speculating about what would happen if Apple decided to jump in with a handset – what it would be like, what services (if any) would Apple provide, and how it might change the industry. A panel of top manufacturers’ representatives said that while they’re interested in seeing what Apple might come up with, they’re not anticipating anything earth-shattering because creating an RF device is harder than building a memory-based one. By contrast, a Microsoft representative opined that an Apple device could set a new bar for the industry. Only time will tell what, if any, impact Apple might have…but in this iPod-crazy world, we’re not counting them out.