Apple Love Fest at Digital Hollywood Panel

Monday, May 5, 2008–Today was the first day of Digital Hollywood, appropriately enough in the heart of Hollywood at the new Highland Center complex. For the next couple of days, I plan to post from the conference (or slightly thereafter)

First up, a panel on the Mobile Platform 2.0 – Establishing the Personalized Video, Music and Communications Experience, moderated by Sharon Wienbar, managing director at Scale Venture Partners, was an Apple love fest.The panel featured speakers from Nokia Interactive (Jeremy Wright, global director of mobile brand strategy) and Motorola (John Hallman, manager of market development for video and mobile television) as well as reps from Universal Music Group (Julie Lee, vp, biz dev) and AOL (Jai Jaisimha, vp of mobile technology and product development). Also present was Rick Doherty, co-founder/director of The Envisioneering Group.

Panelists both praised the iPhone for the fact that “it just works” – and the fact that if it doesn’t, Apple’s customer service will replace it, no questions asked. The 3G phones will kick up the game a big notch, but Wienbar noted that Apple’s 25-year old problem is delivering on time after an announcement.

Mobile phones are also huge in developing nations in Asia and Africa, although the features of an iPhone are not useful for these users. Over time, Hallman said, Nokia and Motorola will look at iPhone features, just as Apple will look at what works in Africa and Asia.

Panelists all concurred that the disruption of iPhone is positive for the industry, even as new features such as the touch-screen moves onto center stage.“That’s what we need – competition and the freedom to compete,” said Wright,pointing to progressive de-regulation. “Everyone has opportunity in the wake of the iPhone,” said Doherty. “We’ll see a flood of applications.” Wienbar agreed that the developer environment is “very fertile.” Currently, because Java- or Brew-enabled handsets are not heterogeneous, Apple has the biggest footprint with 5 million users – and thus the most fertile ground for developers.

And Google’s Android? Will this take advantage of the door opened by Apple? Jaisimha stressed the importance of platform heterogeneity. “Google Android is a placeholder, not a finished toolkit,” said Doherty. More important, said panelists, is that Google and Apple have awakened developers that handsets are “it” [as in, the “it” platform for development], whether Apple or not.

The panelists also talked about LBS (location-based services), which they recognized is in its earliest days in the U.S. market. Although the conversation first turned to privacy concerns (Wright reported that in the U.K., the carriers must seek permissions from users), the focus quickly changed to a discussion of LBS’ biggest competition in the U.S. market: the automotive navigational system. If you’ve got a GPS in you car – and in the U.S. (especially in L.A.), you’re always in your car, why do you need it with your cell phone?

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