MoMo – Mobile Mondays
I turned up to my first Mobile Monday event tonite in Sydney. Mobile Mondays are chapters or societies in different cities dedicated to learning more about mobiles, mobile marketing and for networking opportunites for those in the mobile industry.
The event began by talking about general industry trends relating to mobile and internet. The most interesting fact was that China has now overtaken the US as the greatest number of internet users. Which is suprising given that the U.S has 70% penetration of its population using internet, while China only has a fraction at 19%. Kinda scary numbers as the internet hasn’t been fully adopted in China yet.
Xumii – Mobile Social Networking
The warmup act was Xumii, which is a company from San Francisco. It is developing a platform to use across existing social networking applications for mobiles. It’s great little application where you can chat to all your friends across different instant messenger platforms like MSN, AIM, googletalk, etc.., check the status of your friends, have RSS sent to your mobile, access facebook, myspace, etc… Consider it like a friendfeed for mobiles. It doesn’t really create anything new, it just lets your social networking applications talk to your mobile.
Friendfeed is brilliant in this way, and Xumii‘s use is quite similar. It allows you to keep track of your social applications and gives you a single access point from your mobile. They have worked together with Facebook, youtube, etc.. to use their existing features and security log ins.
You can drag all your contacts from online to your mobile and it lets you have private conversations with different groups of people. Instead of sending an SMS to all your friends to find out where they are, consider this scenario: check the status of your friends to see whether they are on the computer or on their mobile Xumii’s. Message the group of people that’s out and about telling them where to go and also upload a gif image of a map to direct them.
For me, what we are seeing, is a mobile being used as a greater social tool to organise and keep in contact with your friends. We don’t have to talk to them to know what they are up to. That is the beauty of facebook, its allows you to voyueristically see what your friends are up to by looking at their status, what’s going on in their lives by checking the messages on their walls and perusing their photos. Xumii brings that mindset and capability to the mobile.
The biggest question facing Xumii and its competitors is how to monetise this platform – because Xumii is free. The presenters mentioned having wall or profile page where advertisers could display current events coming up that the user is interested in – like local concerts, discounted offers, etc… They also mentioned revenue share with the carriers and so on. But as a business proposition, one really has to wonder how they will make money off Xumii. It is the same problem facing other social media like Facebook, Youtube, etc…
Overall, I thought it was cool application bordering on a product pitch to VC’s in Silicon Valley. My other concern besides monetisation is competition. Because of the similarities to Friendfeed, if Friendfeed developed a mobile application, would Xumii have trouble competiting? That remains to be seen, despite this, I think this is a step in the right direction for the future of mobile.
However, do people want to be contactable by their 400 friends on Facebook, so they can see what they are up to all times via their mobiles? For someone like me, who is really into web 2.0 products like RSS, social bookmarking, folksonomies, facebook, etc… I think its pretty cool. But they are times where you just dont want to be bothered by other people, I can understand if people simply switch off their phones to escape from the madness of the world.
Future of Mobile – Google Android
The main event of the night, was Google’s presenter Justin Baird on the future of mobile. He started off by presenting some interesting stats such as there being 1.3Billion people having internet access versus 3.3Billion having mobile phones. Obviously, mobile presents a wealth of untapped opportunites. there are more people sending SMS than using search engines. Everyone in the developed world has a mobile – if not one, than two!
Justin talked about a bunch of other stuff, but the only stuff which I remember was what we had all been waiting for – The Andriod – Google’s answer to the Apple Iphone. A very cool device I must say. Again, this bordered on being a product pitch, but that’s what happens when you attend a marketing event.
The Android is really different to any other phone because it an open source product, which I found rather interesting. The Apple Iphone or any other phone, is a static device because you only use the applications already found on your mobile i.e. they have already been preprogrammed on there. Being capable of open source, means that new developments and applications can be constantly added. Google is adopting a similar practice to its igoogle portal which has open source for its applications. I’ve got a igoogle portal, and I’m fascinated by the amount of widgets they have developed for it. You name it, and they’ve got it. If they dont have it, you can develop it, if you have the necessary know how. That is one of the reasons facebook is so popular, because new apps are constantly being developed by the user community.
I think we will see a lot more mashup apps involving google maps. What the phone does is triangulate your position using cell towers, giving you a fairly good idea of where you are. The thing that really blew me away was compass function using google maps. Imagine having a screen showing you where you want to go. When you move, the phone acts like a compass and adjusts the picture based on where you have moved, giving you a real picture. Very cool.
In addition, because Google is behind it, you know that search has to be incorporated somehow. the stats really surprised me. The click through rate for display ads on google typically is 0.2%. However, on mobiles, that rate is 2%. That’s a 10 fold increase. I tell you why – because the ads become even more relevant based on your location. If your current location is say Parramatta, and you search for restaurants and ads come up for that area, you are more inclined to click on those ads on your mobile. With the unleashing of True Local, we will really see the power of geographic based ads.
From the presentation and my own experience overseas, Australia is really behind globally in the mobile experience. But we are catching up. I remember friends of mine in New York, using blackberries to search for places using google maps. In the U.S they also have unlimited data ability for their phones. Phone data charges here are quite prohibitive – the carriers have to work together to find a way to somehow get to the level of unlimited data downloads. But its probably not going to happen because we can’t get enough people onto the network to make that feasible.
After this presentation, I really do think there are lot more marketing and innovative opportunites we can use with mobiles. I mean more people have mobiles than computers. A mobile is our social currency and keeps us attuned with our friends and family. It is only natural that it becomes even more extended into our lives. Once we can get full internet functionability on our phones, we will really see the true power of mobiles. And there really won’t be a distinction between online and offline. We’ll always be connected.
I’m out like dial up phones.