A fun conference opener, where moderator Dave Ullmer, senior director of entertainment products at Motorola and MEF Americas Vice Chair challenged attendees to do a series of increasingly difficult tasks on their cell phones – and please DO try this at home: call home or office, take a photo, hand the phone to their neighbor to take a photo, set the alarm on their phone, find the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations and tune in to CNN live.
Get the point? Cell phones are not intuitive or easy to use. Very few devices are intended to be difficult to use; the exception is child-proof caps on medicine bottles. People will pay with quality paired with convenience.
Panelists included Ira Cohen, senior direcctor of biz dev and marketing at SanDisk; Dick Wingate, president of media development/COO at Nellymoser; Sanjaya Krishna, principal of advisory services at KPMG and Adam Sexton, CMO at Groove Mobile (recently purchased by LiveWire Digital) and MEF Americas Board Director, and Rob Podoloff, vp of R&D for Zeemote.
Zeemote makes wireless controllers that work with the cell phone; a fully analog joystick allows a full console-like gaming experience. The SDK is provided free to game developers who can incorporate it into their Java-based games. SanDisk is active in the mobile space. Known as a memory company, they have also been looking at the user experience, says Cohen. “I want to be able to download something for all of my devices, much like Thomas Gewecke said in his Warner Bros. keynote. The experience of trying to access content isn’t there. When I go to a PC, I can use any PC in the world. If I’m a Mac guy, I can use any Mac in the world. But when I pick up a cell phone, even from the same manufacturer, everything is different.”
Sandisk makes small memory devices, with the idea that the content can be taken elsewhere. It comes with an adapter, like a mini-SD card, which has a USB dongle built-in to it, so it can be plugged in, and slots on the side to take any kind of card. The latest is a USB dongle with a tiny 8-GB micro-SD card that can be used with the phone, and then plugged into the computer for download, for same content on the phone and PC. “This is a protected Flash memory device, so the content is protected on the device,” Cohen says, “So the content owners don’t have to worry about me stripping away the content and giving it to my friends.”
KPMG‘s Krishna wanted to broaden the definition of user experience. It’s also how users interface with customer service, how they react to marketing messages, their phone bill, and so on. When you look at the mobile content value chain, there is fragmentation for the user experience, and lots of opportunities for finger-pointing. We’re seeing lots of lawsuits around people who thought they were just downloading one ring tone and find they’re on a subscription service.
He said he’s thinking of buying his father a Jitterbug phone with large keys and only one or two features. “The idea – is there a way to be able to tailor interfaces?” he asks. The user experience for people who are tech-savvy versus people like my dad, he asks, is there a way to dynamically tailor the experience? In terms of side-loading and smart phones, he believes that more people will download content via side-loading (via USB), because that’s an easier user experience.
The vision is to get the technology out of the way and let consumers do what they want to do, says Ullmer, who brought some gadgets from Motorola to show off what the company is up to. First is a camera phone where you press a button to go into camera mode instantly. Taking photos off your phone is difficult and most people ultimately delete them. Motorola built an automatic uploading to the camera site of your choice, such as Kodak gallery. The “save” also sends the photos to that site. Carriers did try to stop this in the beginning. The use of this features was huge in the beginning…until the bill hit. So consumers went back to sending photos via PC and other less expensive ways. Now, data rates are going to start making the first model possible again. (The MEFCOM group on Facebook features photos he took and uploaded this way.)
The first way to do this, says Ullmer, is to make it not a phone. On a glass surface, when he pushed the “music” button, the phone buttons went away, leaving only buttons related to playing back music. In the same way, the consumer can go into camera mode, with the keys swapping out to keys germane to the function.
Are we using towards any universal interface, asked one attendee? To rueful laughter from the crowd, the answer was: Nope, and if you could develop one, you’d win a Nobel Peace Prize. “We are in the early days,” says Ullmer. “Think about the PC industry. Remember DOS and OSII? That’s where we are now with handsets.”