fluix-nexus.jpgActivist-Focused Initiative Opens Door for Innovative Marketing Applications.

Fluid Nexus, a decentralized (peer-to-peer) mobile messaging application that runs over Bluetooth, promises to do for SMS what Napster did for the .mp3 – democratize a key distribution channel by decoupling the medium from the message.

But… while the technology was originally developed to enable such noble causes as citizen journalism, protest coordination and disaster relief management, it also opens up a host of novel and highly desirable marketing applications. Once again, the law of unintended consequences clearly applies, much to the delight of the marketing opportunist in us all.

The open source project is being led by Nick Knouf, with help from Bruno Vianna, Luis Ayuso, and Mónica Sánchez. The Fluid Nexus application, which is already available for Series 60 Symbian devices, was submitted in 1st Round of the Android Developer Challenge on April 14th.

What is it? Officially, Fluid Nexus describes itself as “an application for mobile phones that is primarily designed to enable activists to send messages and data amongst themselves independent of a centralized cellular network. The idea is to provide a means of communication between people when the centralized network has been shut down, either by the government during a time of unrest, or by nature due to a massive disaster.”

Basically, the application (installed locally on each handset – a key “mass market” barrier that we are putting aside for the time being) establishes an oxymoronic-sounding “Wide Range Personal Area Network” of sorts, with each mobile device accepting and rebroadcasting message data to other “network” nodes (i.e. people running Fluid Nexus on their mobiles) all operating over Bluetooth. The word “network” is in quotes because what you end up with is less of a traditional network (where each element in the system is connected to each other via a serial or matrix-level architecture), but rather a dynamic, evolving, almost organic system that can only be described as, well… “fluid.” This is due to the system’s reliance on Bluetooth, which (in addition to having the advantage of not needing connectivity to the wireless “grid”) is also usually limited (at least on a mobile phone, anyway) to a range of about thirty feet.

This is where things get interesting from a grad-school activist, postmodern hipster, technophile-in-waiting perspective. The application’s creators presume that “if we can use the fact that people still must move about the world, then we can use ideas from sneaker-nets to turn people into carriers of data. Given enough people, we can create fluid, temporary, ad-hoc networks that pass messages one person at a time, spreading out as a contagion and eventually reaching members of the group. This enables surreptitious communication via daily activity and relies on a fluid view of reality.” Surreptitious, indeed… and hats off for the twist on Sneaker Nets. Who knew floppies would somehow become relevant again?

Why Marketers Should Care. By now you may be asking yourself, “Well that’s all well and good… but where is the clutter-clearing, super-interesting marketing application I was promised?” Well for me, it all starts at the end of the application’s official description, where Mr. Knauf and company, in an abrupt and seemingly self-conscious reaction to the aforementioned high-minded phraseology, come down from the clouds and throw the pragmatists in the audience this juicy bone: “Additionally, Fluid Nexus can be used as a hyperlocal message board, loosely attached to physical locations.”

The low hanging fruit here is clearly in the event marketing space – where countless applications for the technology easily come to mind. From basic messaging and exclusive mobile invites to celebrity chats and innovative crowd games. With this approach a marketer wouldn’t have to worry about wireless network coverage (a problem that comes up more than you’d think). Other benefits to the technology (over existing mobile messaging channels) include exclusivity (be in the know), cost (once the app is downloaded use is basically free to both the marketer and consumers alike) and the ever intangible and equally elusive “buzz factor.”

And that’s just scraping the surface of message-based, event marketing approaches. This technology also would work well for P2P distribution of other forms of mobile media – such as audio, graphic and video files, opening the door to even more options. Retail executions bring even more excitement to the channel. Extend a branded activation into an urban space and all of the sudden you’ve got a living, breathing, viral distribution path that can scale across any sized market – neighborhood by neighborhood. Combining this technology with other forms of dynamic media, such as digital outdoor – or even good old fashioned radio – provides creative marketers with a whole new set of tools by which they can forge interesting and (hopefully) meaningful relationships between brands and consumers.

If it were only that simple. Obviously there are many reasons why this technology isn’t for every brand. For one, the application has basically zero install base – and getting consumers to download and install a mobile application is a challenging (yet not insurmountable) task. Also, peer-to-peer technologies (by design) are not easily controllable – by brands or anyone else – and are therefore not for the faint of heart. This is especially prescient in light of recent unfortunate (or absolutely hilarious – depending on your perspective) blow-back from poorly managed viral, CGC or P2P campaigns.

Fluid Nexus on Android Video Demo:

Fluid Nexus on Android from Nick Knouf on Vimeo.

AndroidRumors continue to percolate that HTC’s “Dream” Android handset will be unveiled to the world at a May 6th event in the UK. HTC has announced that it will be showcasing many upcoming and widely anticipated handset releases at the event, including the HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Raphael and Titanium. The handset manufacturer has issued no official word about the exact timing of the Dream release, or if it will be making an appearce at the event.

In a move seemingly pulled from Apple’s “secrecy and intrigue” playbook, the May 6th event was heralded by a press invite capped with the conspicuous phrase “Something Beautiful is Coming.”

While on the HTC rumor train, many have also speculated that the handset featured in the BBC clip below is in fact the HTC Dream. Hopefully we’ll know for sure in about a week or so…

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qr codes usiPhone, Android Developers Race to Bring Highly Anticipated Technology to Masses.

While we here at mobilestance prefer to poke fun at market predictions rather than make them, we’ve decided to go out on a limb and draw a big ol’ line in the sand: 2008 will be the year that QR codes become viable in the US, thanks largely to the efforts of Apple and Google.

While recent efforts by Scanbuy, Discovery Communications and Citysearch have been impressive in terms of ambition and overall scale, they were nevertheless hamstrung by two significant flaws: (1) they’ve relied on a non-standard, proprietary code format, and (2) nearly all participants were required to download a java app via SMS prior to engagement – a tall order if you’re activating an OOH general market ad campaign. That said, in either an odd coincidence or boldfaced market collusion (kidding), both Google (directly) or Apple (indirectly) have taken the necessary steps to breakdown both of these barriers… the results of which will begin to take affect in and around the third quarter of this year.

To date Apple’s efforts have been uncharacteristically hands off, although this could quickly change in the next iPhone firmware release. Specifically, Apple has created a near perfect platform for a QR reader: a high-quality handset inclusive of a (good enough) two megapixel camera, a publicly available SDK, a bullet-proof distribution model in the iTunes App store (expected this June), and most importantly, a highly-attractive, early-adopting, data-hungry user base.

All of which makes for extremely fertile ground for the (third party) development of an iPhone QR reader, and develop they have. Even without a user-friendly distribution model in place, developers have been busy porting their existing QR readers for use on the iPhone. iMatrix has already developed an iPhone version of it’s dual use (proprietary shotcode + EZcode / standard QR / Datamatrix) reader, and no doubt many more will follow. The iMatrix reader utilizes the iPhone SDK’s relatively robust API set to not only launch web URLs and initiate messaging and voice call events, but can also “add contacts to your Address Book, add events to Calendar [and] add new notes to Notes.” Until the iTunes App store is online the only way to install the reader is a via a fairly manual process (and only on unlocked handsets), but it won’t be long before the average user can easily download and install the reader via what is sure to be a dummy-proof, Apple-branded experience.

Compared to Apple’s laissez faire attitude towards QR, Google has been far more proactive. In addition to make sure that every Android phone will include a non-proprietary reader preloaded as part of the standard application set, Google is also championing an open-source J2ME reader project dubbed “ZXing” (which supposedly stands for “Zebra Crossing”). Not only is Google helping the app’s development in terms of hosting / distribution, it has also been actively recruiting developers to help with the project (I witnessed this first hand at the Nokia Barcamp in New York last November, when Google’s Sean Owen led a packed house through a four-minute ZXing presentation that abruptly ended with a pitch to java developers to aid in its development).

So which will have greater impact on the market? Well, while Google’s approach has the advantage of having the reader app reloaded onto the handset, Apple has the (short term) advantage of actually having handsets on the market! Also, (as stated earlier) Apple could always add a reader app to the next firmware release and instantly increase the size of the US QR-reader install base by a factor of twenty or so. This scenario is not (purely) speculation, as Apple has been known to “pull a Microsoft” and co-opt a particularly useful software app or two… all in the name of “user experience.” Watson, anyone?

More to the point, the reason all of this is so interesting is because of the perfect intersection between technology and lifestyle. Start with the iPhone user base (mobile-dataphilic, upscale, big spending, early-adopting, Gladwell-style alpha-influencers), then add what we can assume to be first Android buyers (ubergeeks, tinkerers, mavericks and malcontents – i.e. current Linux users) and you’ve got the perfect launching pad for a QR movement – and not just any old QR movement, but one of the advertiser-friendly / “interesting to Sandhill road” variety.

Proof of concept video, iPhone QR reader, below:

Achung! Clip is punctuated with annoying whistling, nauseating camera movement and a few failed demos to boot!

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androidguys-copy.jpgAndroid junkies looking for the latest news and rumor need look no further than AndroidGuys.com, our new go to source for all things “Gphone. ” The site was founded “on November 5th, 2007… the day when Google made their long anticipated announcements regarding the Open Handset Alliance and Android” by “two guys who have a love for smart phones, gadgets, and technology in general.” The site asserts that while they “respect and admire practically all things Google, [they] are not unapologetic supporters.”

The site first caught our eye last week with its minor coverage of the numbers on the “initial round” of the Android Developers Challenge, but upon a closer look the site boasts far deeper Android coverage than otherwise indicated by the inconspicuous post. Sections include standard items such as news, editorials and interviews with industry execs, as well as other juicy tidbits such as leaked handset roadmaps, regular podcast posts, a “Developers Spotlight“, and our personal favorite, “34 Weeks of OHA“, a weekly feature highlighting each of the 34 founding members of the Open Handset Alliance.

Overall, we’ve found AndroidGuys.com to be an excellent resource for the Android fanboy in all of us, and plan on making the site a permant fixture around these parts. Scott, Jamie and Jordan… keep up the good work!

AndroidWho Among Us Can Argue with the Time-Tested Wisdom Of “Whoever Denied It, Supplies It?”

There are few gadgets, mobile or otherwise, more eagerly anticipated than the release of the world’s first handset running on Google’s Android operating system.

So when leaked details from HTC’s upcoming Android handset hit the web late last week many were quick to take notice. The handset, dubbed “Dream” by HTC’s Philip K. Dick-loving creative team, includes “a large touchscreen and a full (flip/slide out) QWERTY keypad,” this according to Infoworld. According to an unidentified source “close to the situation” the “HTC’s Google handset is just over 5 inches long and 3 inches wide, with a keypad underneath the screen that either slides out or swivels out… Internet navigational controls are situated below the screen on the handset.”

The source claims that “the handset will likely hit the market near the end of this year” and that the handset may be the first “Google Android” phone on the market. HTC would not comment on any specific details of the handset, other than to confirm its existence.

The HTC “news” comes on the heels of a string of related Android-related rumors of variable accuracy. Back in January Dell was rumored to be working on the world’s first Android phone that many speculated would be announced in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress the following month. This rumor ultimately turned out to be false, as not only did Dell officially deny any such handset or future Android-related products were in development, but it was also a no-show at 3GSM.

Not to be left out, serious rumors began swirling around Samsung’s Android designs following a Robert X. Cringley post claiming that the Korean handset manufacturer would be releasing two Google-branded Android handsets in 2008; a high-end model in September and a lower-end device around the holidays. Cringley also cites an unnamed person (“you know who you are”) as the source behind the leaked information, who goes on to claim that “both [devices] will include WiFi… The high-end phone will look somewhat like a Blackberry Pearl, but the screen flips up and there is a keyboard for texting. No word on pricing for the high-end phone, but the second model is intended to be less than $100 — AFTER Christmas.” The post identifies both T-Mobile USA and Verizon as potential carrier partners.

We find it curious that the Samsung handset described by Cringley is eerily similar to the leaked details of HTC Dream (including the swing out QWERTY keyboard), perhaps giving more credence to the adage “Whoever Smelt it, Dealt it.” Regardless, mobilestance.com will continue its Android Watch series until an actual sighting appears in the wild. In the meantime, please send us any unsubstantiated rumors, gossip or just pure speculation relating to what will likely be the biggest moment in mobile for 2008: Day one of the Android Invasion.

 

 

nihal-buzzd-mobilestance-copy.jpg Buzzd, which bills itself as “the premier mobile, local search service, providing real-time information for bars, clubs and restaurants on the mobile device,” has been generating quite a lot of buzz for itself in recent days. Coming off an on-deck deal with Helio (the MVNO best described as the “Futurama” of mobile – beleaguered and on borrowed time despite a cultish, geek-friendly following), the start-up recently swept all three MobileMonday Peer Awards in Barcelona last month at 3GSM, inclusive of the Jury, Audience and Global MoMo chapter awards.

Mobilestance sat down with Nihal Mehta, founder and CEO Buzzd, to gain more insight into the company and its plans for the future. Mehta, no stranger to mobile marketing in the US, had previously co-founded ipsh!, one of the first full-service mobile marketing agencies in the US, which he later sold to Omnicom (NYSE: OMC) in 2005.

[mobilestance] Please give us the Buzzd elevator pitch. [Nihal Mehta] Marketers and brands alike are being drawn to social networking in general, due to enhanced consumer engagement & potential virality of the brand msg, for example empowering ‘tastemakers’ to become the ambassador for any given brand to their friends and outside communities. Mobile takes the msg one step closer, with the ability to target not only the most personal medium to any consumer, but in more sophisticated end user targeting (demographic, carrier, handset, and.. location- the holy grail!).

Buzzd offers brands the ability to connect with consumers not only based on where they are right now, but what they have been doing recently as well (behavioral targeting!). For example, Buzzd displays an Adidas advertisement to someone that might frequent a hiphop club. In addition, Buzzd pioneers the latest innovation in mobile advertising– not just tiny little banner ads. We are also experimenting with interstitials and allowing consumers to tag their profile with specific brand identities. For these reasons, mobile social networking portrays the holy grail in targeting consumers for brands and marketers.

[ms] How did Buzzd concept come about? Was there an “ah-hah” moment when the mental light-bulb just “went on?” [NM] The inspiration for Buzzd was purely selfish…. [the] inside of that bar, what was the scene like right now? The guy/girl ratio? How crowded was it? We wanted to create a service that would fulfill these questions, that no other service currently addressed.

[ms] How has the Helio subscriber base taken to Buzzd? Are you looking to do similar deals with other carriers? [NM] Helio is the first of many Buzzd ‘on-deck’ deals by which the operator provides a link on their WAP deck to market Buzzd for their user community. The Helio target has been a slam dunk, due to their 3G handsets (mobile web flies!) and targeted demo who consume lifestyle and entertainment content.

[ms] Let’s talk numbers. What sort of traffic are you looking at right now, and where you think you’ll be at the end of the year? [NM] Through only three products currently marketed (Timeout, Flavorpill & Buzzd on Helio), traffic has been ramping significantly. With many more partnerships on the horizon and an official off-deck launch in Q2 [of ‘08], we anticipate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of users by end of year.

[ms] What business categories are showing the most interest in your offering? Are you selling your inventory on a sponsorship or CPM basis? [NM] We are selling three main categories to advertisers: co-branded/custom sites (see AKQA / Smirnoff nightlife guide), sponsorships (see flavorpill.BuzzD.com/m by NOKIA) and [on a] CPM basis. We will be offering specific location targeting soon, based upon the consumer’s self-identified location or through handset/carrier GPS or cell tower triangulation.

[ms] Where is Buzzd going next? What lies ahead for Buzzd in terms of technology, promotion and integration? [NM] Integration across social networks (Facebook, MySpace, bebo, etc); integration with all available LBS technology (handset/carrier GPS, cellsite ID, triangulation, etc); optimized iPhone/android/blackberry launchers; j2me/brew/symbian; much, much more.. Stay tuned and keep checking back on www.BuzzD.com!

[ms] Finally, give us your insights on the mobile marketing space in the US… where it is now and where it’s headed. [NM] I founded ipsh! in 2001 as a technology company, with a vision to become an agency. today, ipsh! along with a few other successful mobile marketing agencies, are finally full-service agencies, not only doing the execution, but [also] providing valuable creative, strategy and analytics. This is key to providing real value to the customer– 360 integration across MOBILE – i.e. Bluetooth, SMS, WAP, java, QR, etc– and tying it back through traditional channels (print, TV, radio, OOH, POP, etc). It’s finally happening, and we’re seeing more budgets dedicated to mobile marketing/advertising by the day. It’s exciting to finally have the initial vision realized and we hope to innovate with similar results in the mobile local/social networking arena with Buzzd!

The YouTube video demoing Buzzd on Helio can be seen here:

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31849319-2-300-overview-11.gif Today at CES Yahoo! is planning on announcing that they are opening up their “Yahoo! Go” mobile application to third party developers, this according to the New York Times. The Times is reporting that MTV, eBay and MySpace have already created Yahoo! Go widgets that consumers can download either online or directly via the mobile application. Yahoo! Go has been ported to roughly 250 mobile devices, and comes preloaded on some phones made by Motorola, LG, Samsung and Nokia outside the US (domestic carriers force users to manually download and install the application prior to use, although this might change once device manufacturers start selling handsets directly to consumers).

Analysis: Yahoo!’s work on developing Go to a more mature platform is commendable. While the move does serve to further fragment the development environment for mobile (What, another new platform to write for? Better hire another developer!), the platform’s large (for mobile) install base of 250MM users worldwide will be attractive to major publishers and content brands (although some estimates confirm less than half of this base are actively using the application).

A no-brainer for Yahoo!, the move costs them little in oversight, while serving as a short-term defensive move against Google’s open Android platform. Ultimately the long term success of the play will hinge on the ease of developing third party widgets for Yahoo! Go, as well as any advantages that the development environment might afford (access to the address book? GPS data feed?). More on this as it develops.

mobilestance 2007 year in reviewThe slow news week after Christmas is notorious for the oft-derided “year in X” reports, but rather than take time exploring the value of such “Remembrance(s) of Things (less than a year) Past,” mobilestance.com would like to take the time to indulge in our own year end recap of the most notable US Mobile Marketing developments in 2007 (and yes, the illustration on the left depicts “Old Man 2007” knowingly handing an iPhone to “Baby New Year 2008”).

And what a year 2007 has been. Between the flurry of VC and M&A activity, the reality of a declining global ringtone market and the re-orgs that followed, the explosion of ad supported business models, growth in consumer use of key mobile data services, notable marketplace exits, divestitures and bankruptcies, new entrants in the wireless space (yes, I’m talking about Apple here), and the aggressive moves on the part of the internet portals (most notably Google, but also Yahoo and even AOL and IAC), 2007 may yet be remembered as the year mobile finally “happened” -much to the delight of the Business 2.0 crowd.

After reviewing the list please take a second and weigh in on what you feel was the most important Mobile Marketing event of ’07 by participating in the poll at the end of the piece. Also, since 2007 was such a busy year no doubt there’s plenty more that could be added to this list… that said feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to add some additional insight or if you feel something crucial has been overlooked.

Thanks much… and now without further delay, mobilestance.com proudly presents “The 2007 US Mobile Marketing Game Changers.”

  1. Google Steps it up. Not content to merely sit on the sidelines and play by the rules set forth by the US carriers, the search giant spent much of 2007 re-writing the rules of the US wireless industry. With their conspicuous “open access” lobbying effort, leadership in the Open Handset Alliance, the launch of their open Android platform, and their plans to enter the upcoming 700 MHz US wireless spectrum auction has a legitimate player, Google has stirred the 2007 US wireless pot like no other single corporate entity. While it remains to be seen as what will ultimately come of its aggressive moves in the space (although it seems Google has single-handily forced the biggest hole to date in Verizon’s vaunted walled garden) , it is clear that Google is determined to usher in a far more flexible (read: marketer-friendly) US wireless marketplace… a market that will likely be a boon to innovative third party mobile application developers, hybridized business models, and – most importantly – accelerate consumer adoption of “beyond voice” mobile services.
  2. The Rise of MMS. 2007 was the year that US consumers finally got behind MMS in large numbers, exiting news for marketers not satisfied with the simple Joys of Text. In November of 2007 the MMA reported 33% of all US mobile phone users reporting monthly use of “Picture and/or Video Messaging” – that’s up dramatically from a paltry 16% in 2006. In the younger demographic segments the numbers are even more attractive, with monthly usage peaking in the 18-24 year old group at an astounding 55%. So what does this mean? Bottom line, now that MMS has reached critical mass in the US marketers are free to (finally) capitalize on the expanded interactive and multimedia prowess of the enhanced messaging channel. The possibilities are endless… everything from moblogging, MMS-based couponing, photo contests, video alerts, pattern recognition, html email-type CRM communications and so much more. Sure, there’s nothing actually new with all of these tactics… but now we’re talking about the difference between MMS-based marketing campaigns with real ROI back to the brands, versus the eternally frustrating”test campaigns” of earlier years.
  3. Enter the iPhone. So much has has already been written on the sleek Apple device that it’s become extremely difficult to assess its actual impact. Never mind the recent eye-popping stats released on the iPhone’s disproportionate share of the overall browsing universe, or recent efforts (while fascinating and seemingly quite worthwhile) by marketers to leverage the device to deliver hypertargeted messaging to the forward-leaning, early-adopting, free-with-the-dollars demographic. No, the real impact of the device lies in it serving as a “showroom model” for the full potential of the mobile marketing channel. An independently sold (from the carriers, mind you) Wi-Fi/GSM hybrid with a beautiful touch screen, snappy web browser (snail-like AT&T EDGE network speeds notwithstanding), usable video, music and photo management options… and coming in February, a public SDK for the development of third party applications and a (rumored) flash plug-in for the device’s browser – a first for the “mobile” web (and hey just because it’s the holidays let’s not get into a debate on what is or is not actually the “mobile” web – for now let’s just go with it). It’s amazing how quickly the standard for what is “possible” in mobile has been raised since the release of the iPhone less than six months ago – and how what once passed for cutting edge has so rapidly become not simply dated, but altogether irrelevant. More than any other event in the mobile marketing industry’s short history, the entrance of the iPhone has fueled a frenzy of interest in the space – both from brands and agencies alike. The motivational equivalent of the ’69 moon landing… with all the junior rocket scientists that followed.
  4. Mobile Advertising Comes of Age. After a few years of luring in the shadows of the mobile marketing industry, the mobile advertising market became incredibly hot in 2007, punctuated by major acquisitions by leading interactive and mobile firms, as well as a dizzying array of venture-fueled deals in the space. The two leaders in the nascent mobile advertising industry, Third Screen Media and Enpocket were promptly acquired by AOL and Nokia, respectively – while Microsoft, once again outmaneuvered in the interactive ad firm acquisitions game, was forced to settle on European Mobile Ad Firm Screen Tonic. The remaining independent mobile ad firms were also firing on all cylinders, with Amobee, Millennial Media, AdMob, Greystripe, and Quattro Wireless all expanding on the heels of fresh investment capital raised in ’07. Newspaper giant Gannett made a major investment in SMS-based ad firm 4INFO, while Google and Yahoo played a bit of small ball (we can gut Google a little slack here… they’ve been busy rewriting the rulebook for much of the rest of the mobile industry after all). The former taking the much anticipated step of expanding AdSense into the “mobile web,” while Yahoo! announced mobile publisher services and plans to integrate mobile inventory into their Panama ad platform. As for the internet display advertising giants, DoubleClick (soon to be Google) launched their publisher platform, while aQuantitative’s Accipiter Unit (now owned by Microsoft) tied up with NYC-based MoPhap to bring mobile capabilities to their publisher-side interactive ad serving platform. Add daily press releases by major web publishers bringing mobile inventory online, and I think you get this picture: 2007 was the year that nearly everybody in the space simply had to have a mobile adverting play. Sure, there was a bit of herd mentality going on, and no doubt we’re in for… shall we say, a bit of a “correction” in the coming years (this kind of activity surely cannot be sustained indefinitely) – but regardless, the business and technological systems are now in place for brands to reach out and communicate directly with consumers via the mobile handset. Keep in mind this is very different than previous (primarily SMS-based) mobile marketing activity that simply leveraged mobile as a direct response channel activating other forms of media such as television, print and radio (as so eloquently described by Jeff Minsky of OMD in a then accurate but increasingly outdated assessment of the channel – sorry Jeff, but I couldn’t take that one lying down!). Using mobile as a broadcast-type media may be a bit controversial to some, but as long as there remains checks and balances with regard to consumer privacy (yes, the carriers seem to be pulling their weight here, although some needed to be prodded a bit on the subject) an effective system of reaching consumers via their mobile devices should flourish in the months, years and decades to come.

 

Reader Poll – 2007 Mobile Marketing Game Changers

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So much has been written in the last week or so following the announcement by Verizon Wireless that they would be opening up their network to handsets sold by third parties, and that they would be streamlining the (currently) painstaking process of third party application development.

Most have focused on the reactionary nature of Verizon’s move, that it was simply a defensive move to counter the coming Android threat, AT&T’s iPhone, as well as to satisfy the new FCC rules governing the upcoming Spectrum Auction… rules also pushed through in large part to Google’s marginally-successful Congressional lobbying efforts. In general, the bulk of the coverage from the mainstream media and major industry blogs have largely written off Verizon’s move as a token gesture that will have little impact on the market for at least the next several years. In many ways these publications are correct, yet clearly they have missed the larger picture.

But to the mobile marketing community, as well as the marketing community at large, the shift represents the beginnings of a long-awaited shift towards a working Mobile Marketing system. I say “working” because the current environment of carrier-specific technology standards and business practices makes for an overly-fragmented, cumbersome system that seems counter its own ends. Divergent carrier technologies notwithstanding, the idea that third-party developers can now publish applications on the Verizon network without having to be “approved” by the carrier is a watershed moment in US mobile marketing, opening up roughly 25% of the marketplace that was, until now, more or less unreachable to the “free to the end user,” advertising-supported model.

For US consumers, innovative and (just as important) inexpensive (handset and/or ad-supported) mobile applications will become far more commonplace, as handset manufacturers will now have the freedom of preloading applications that consumers (rather than the carriers) are interested in using. While these handsets will inherently carry a higher MSRP due to the lack of carrier subsidy, it is my prediction that pricing for “non-carrier subsidized” / D2C handsets will ultimately not become a barrier to purchase, as consumers will value the benefit of getting the handset they (actually) want, rather than being forced into the handset the carrier wants them to have.

Change is a beautiful thing.