From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo
San Jose, CA–Moderated by Frank Bernhard of OMNI Consulting Group, the panel included Andrew Shikiar of the LiMo Foundation, Sagar Golla of AppVoyage, Faraz Syed of DeviceAnywhere and Michael Kurtzman of Sybase 365.
The LiMo Foundation was launched in February 2007 by six leaders in the mobile industry; three key goals are centered around creating a mobile platform centered around Linux. “There are three key areas we’ve had our eye on,” he said. “The first is to engage with the mobile industry, and our organization now has 50 active members. Secondly, the platform itself has been developed, with the first version finished and second version ready by end of this year. The third goal has been to distribute devices into the marketplace. We’ve quietly introduced 23 LiMo handsets to different markets, now in the hands of tens of millions of consumers. We’ve been expanding the LiMo ecosystem, and now see interest from mobile content providers and many others.”
Golla described AppVoyage as a mobile web application gateway to simplify and personalize complex
web applications for mobile use, providing an ecosystem with personalization so that people can engage in mobile applications. DeviceAnywhere, said Syed, enables remote testing of mobile content on 1,500 devices. “We see an increasing surge of interest in the mobile Internet,” he added. “It started with the iPhone and now with all the other similar phones coming out. It’s encouraging people to browse, whereas in the past it was mainly downloadable media.”
Sybase 365, the mobile subsidiary of Sybase, has a primary focus on a couple of areas: one of them is inter-carrier messaging, mobile banking and connecting content providers to carriers. Kurtzman related that he works in the mobile marketing group.
Bernhard made a pitch for OMNI’s publication, slated for release in January 2009. Mobility and Factors Driving the Broadband Economy will show how consumers are using the devices. “The work we do is based around econometrics,” he explained. “It’s important to get the historical perspective as well as looking forward. We look at subscriber profiles, service provider scales and where voice, data and mobile content is going.”
Convergence of platforms was the first topic addressed. “What we’re seeing is that while handset manufacturers are still trying to differentiate themselves, there’s also convergence,” said Syed. “More developers are focusing on limited sets of platforms or operating systems. At the same time, we’re also seeing increasing fragmentation. When Apple comes out with iPhone and Android and LiMo…all these smart phone platforms are gaining ground. The other proprietary platforms are still there and growing. From what I can tell, I don’t see the market collapsing into a few standard platforms, but more developers are focusing on the smart platforms.”
Shikiar noted that Linux phones have been in the market for years but that the LiMo foundation is designed to standardize the operating system for all Linux-based phones. “In addition this is creating greater efficiencies inside companies,” he said. “We’re seeing a move towards consolidation here.” Sybase 365 Kurtzman asked how we get the rest of the handset market to follow. “The demand and opportunity is to find a forum where all the parties can communicate in a fair and open way,” Shikiar said. “Governance doesn’t sound exciting but it’s the key to collaboration and to the model itself. It’s imperative that the OS reflects a number of companies and interested parties in the mobile ecosystem.”
The smart phone evolution creates a new user paradigm of mobility, said Bernhard, who asked how the device itself can come to fruition. Syed said the biggest promise of the smart phone is to enable a better mobile Internet experience. “People will start shifting away from downloadable stuff,” he said. “These smarter platforms are powerful enough to deliver a rich experience over a web platform. On the other side, how do you leverage their capabilities? Creating awareness in the consumer space about what’s available is also needed. Most people aren’t aware of what’s available. Apple’s app store brought awareness to all these great apps that could be downloading. Marketing channels and discovery mechanisms that are more cutting edge is needed for smart phones.”
Content rights and digital rights management was another topic that the panelists addressed. The discussion quickly turned to privacy rights. Kurtzman noted that there are two schools of thought. “That if a user wants to make their information made public, their actions can be tracked to a certain degree, as long as it’s relevant,” he added. “There’s a good case for being able to share that information.” Security is an important aspect of his company’s work, said Golla, who pointed out the other “case” to be made for privacy issues. “If you don’t respect consumer privacy, no one will come to you,” he said.
Bernhard asked what strategic role the industry plays in determining the future of application and device standards. “Very honestly, handset manufacturers wants to participate in standards bodies, but the fundamental thing they’re also trying to do is differentiate themselves from one another,” said Syed. “My feeling is that any kind of standardization in the hardware is far from reality. I don’t see standardization taking over the industry quite yet.” [As Kurtzman noted, DeviceAnywhere is predicated on that lack of standardization.]
“We tend to not see that reverse flow of information coming from subscribers telling us what they need and want,” said Kurtzman. “It’s from the top to the bottom.” With Google Android being launched, Bernhard asked Shikiar what will happen with competition. “Android is an example of how Linux is relevant,” he said. “We think openness is a profound trend that the industry is moving towards. I believe people will begin to understand the importance of a truly collaborative, equal forum where all companies can collaborate for a common code layer to be implemented across devices.”
How change is impacting the relationship of carriers to application providers was addressed by Kurtzman. “The carriers want the garden walls to fall,” he said. “They see the future. We think they’re resistant to change, but it’s just hard to change. The direct relationship between the app provider to the consumer is a chicken-and-egg scenario and I don’t know how you fix it so it’s more like a PC experience. No one calls their Internet provider if the application doesn’t work. But it’s a different environment. Maybe we need a consortium to help educate the consumer that he or she can get to these applications directly.”