Thursday, January 07, 2010

Sliding into the Mobile Internet

Morgan Stanley have released "The Mobile Internet Report" (December 2009). They argue mobile Internet will happen more rapidly than previous Internet technology and have a more effect on companies involved. They argue this will be fuelled by 3G adoption, social networking, video, VoIP and improved mobile devices (they fail to mention mobile web standards as a leading part of the process). They argue the success of charging for mobile Internet in Japan provides a model for the rest of the world. This has proved not to work, with implementations of the Japanese mobile web (iMode) failing in markets outside Asia, as an example, Tesltra's abandoning their licencing of the service in Australia. MS also argue that developing nations will provide a model, which is hardly news for anyone who has visited India in the last few years.

Unfortunately MS undermine the credibility of their own report by providing it in a mobile unfriendly format: as hundreds of slides in very large PDF documents. In somewhat of an understatement they warn: "Note that the report is 50MB and may take some time to download.". The web page about the report scored only 3 out of 100 with the W3C mobileOK Checker.

Had MS taken the trouble to read their own report and perhaps done a few web searches, they might see that producing documents this way does not make them easily accessible on mobile devices. There are well developed mobile web technologies now available which they could have used (I have been teaching Mobile Web Design to ANU undergraduates for years).
Our global technology and telecom analysts set out to do a deep dive into the rapidly changing mobile Internet market. We wanted to create a data-rich, theme-based framework for thinking about how the market may develop. We intend to expand and edit the framework as the market evolves. A lot has changed since we published “The Internet Report” in 1995 on the web.

We decided to create The Mobile Internet Report largely in PowerPoint and publish it on the web, expecting that bits and pieces of it will be cut / pasted / redistributed and debated / dismissed / lauded. Our goal is to get our thoughts and data into the conversation about what may be the biggest technology trend ever, one that may help make us all more informed in ways that are unique to the web circa 2009, and beyond. ...

Our key takeaways are:

Material wealth creation / destruction should surpass earlier computing cycles. The mobile Internet cycle, the 5th cycle in 50 years, is just starting. Winners in each cycle often create more market capitalization than in the last. New winners emerge, some incumbents survive – or thrive – while many past winners falter.

The mobile Internet is ramping faster than desktop Internet did, and we believe more users may connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within 5 years.

Five IP-based products / services are growing / converging and providing the underpinnings for dramatic growth in mobile Internet usage – 3G adoption + social networking + video + VoIP + impressive mobile devices.

Apple + Facebook platforms serving to raise the bar for how users connect / communicate – their respective ramps in user and developer engagement may be unprecedented.

Decade-plus Internet usage / monetization ramps for mobile Internet in Japan plus desktop Internet in developed markets provide roadmaps for global ramp and monetization.

Massive mobile data growth is driving transitions for carriers and equipment providers.

Emerging markets have material potential for mobile Internet user growth. Low penetration of fixed-line telephone and already vibrant mobile value-added services mean that for many EM users and SMEs, the Internet will be mobile. ...

From: "The Mobile Internet Report", Morgan Stanley, December 2009 (also available in Simplified Chinese - 移动互联网研究报告摘要).

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Telstra Ending I-Mode Web Mobile Service in Australia

According to news reports, Telstra will cease its iMode service on 10 December 2007. The service started in November 2004 and provides web like information on mobile phones. The service is popular in Japan but has not taken off elsewhere. The UK O2 mobile carrier is also reported to be phasing out iMode.

I tried iMode when it came out and it worked okay. The iMode phones were slightly modified GSM phones and also capable of displaying ordinary web pages. However, it appears few in Australia were willing to pay a subscription for news or information on the iMode phones, when they could get the same information free on the web. No one knows why iMode is popular in Japan; one theory is that because it can be used in crowded trains on long commutes.

iMode uses a derivative of HTML called Compact HTML (cHTML). It was designed for hand held devices with small screens. This differed from the Wireless Application Protocol Version 1 (WAP 1) developed by other phone makers, which is an XML format not compatible with HTML. WAP 1 also failed to attract much support from consumers.

Current mobile phones have WAP 2 which includes a subset of XHTML and thus have more compatibility with the web. Smart phones, such as Apple's iPhone have more advanced web browsers supporting HTML, XHTML and some new features of the proposed HTML 5.

However, web content on mobile phones has still not become a popular consumer product. It is not clear if large screen phones, such as the iPhone, with more advanced software will change that. Features of CSS allow web pages to be automatically adjusted, to some extent, for hand held screens. However, compromises need to be made to the web design to suit both desktop and hand held screens.

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