In-Brief: For-the-record – a roundup of news & developments that matter. Companies covered: Blyk, Clear Channel Outdoor UK, Google, Jaxtr, Latin-Pak, LinkedIn, mobilePeople, MobiTV, Nokia, Opera, Skyhook Wireless & Xanga.
OPERA: As of this weekend (March 1), Opera is switching from offering Yahoo and making Google the default search engine for Opera mobile web browsers, which include Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. (BTW: Opera Mobile has been shipped on over 100 million handsets so far, including devices from Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and HTC. Some 35 million people use Opera Mini. Opera claims that every month, Opera Mini users browse more than 1.7 billion pages, with much of that traffic generated through the search function in the browser.) So why did Opera effectively dump Yahoo? Sources at the companies are predictably tight-lipped, but here are some theories to ponder while I wait for responses to my briefing requests.
Could Opera be nervous about MicoHoo (as this post suggests) and painfully aware that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is a direct competitor? Has Opera brought Google into the fold to avoid fragmentation (as this post suggests) and ensure a uniform and satisfactory user experience? Or has Google has effectively “bought” itself a mobile browser (as ReadWriteWeb ponders) and bet the farm on click-through to sweeten the deal? Hardly out of the question if you consider these reports that Google has already won over mobile operators with offers too good to resist… (It’s great -actually, an honor – to read that ReadWriteWeb points its readers to “the blog of mobile search specialists MSearchGroove ” for coverage. You can be sure MSG will have more soon.)
The final word from Yahoo is also open to some interpretation. According to a company statement, Yahoo decided to call off the agreement and “elected not to continue its mobile search partnership with Opera at this time.” The statement adds: Users with Opera browsers will continue to have access to Yahoo oneSearch, “and as long-standing partners, Opera and Yahoo will continue to work together.”
GOOGLE & NOKIA: Google & Nokia recently announced a tie-up to provide access to Google search on Nokia devices via Nokia Search, the app that brings together scores of search companies including Microsoft, Baidu and a slew of local search providers. (Seen in this context, the announcement doesn’t signal a tectonic shift in Nokia strategy; it’s “business as usual” and Nokia’s business is to build an all-inclusive mobile search offer. Google has certainly earned its place at the table. Even more so if we consider Google search has previously been available on Nokia Internet tablets, and last year the Nokia N95 8GB became the first mobile device to fully support YouTube, the video-sharing platform owned by Google.) Last week, Google’s official blog reported the company had streamlined mobile search for Nokia N-series & E-series devices. According to the post, users can “download a small search shortcut directly to [their] phone’s homescreen.” In practice, users can bring up a Google search box without opening their browser, type in a query and get straight to the results. The move means fewer clicks and less time waiting for pages to load. “Judging from our research, there is as much as a 40 percent reduction in the average time to complete an initial search.” Check it out at mobile.google.com and circle back with your experience.
BLYK: The ad-funded MNVO is not meeting expectations, according to reporting via Techncrunch & New Media Age. The low user numbers (30,000 reported against a target of 100,000 by September) indicate the company’s target audience of 16-24 year olds literally aren’t buying into the scheme. The SIM-free handsets that Blyk sells are pricey and a far cry from the free, subsidized handsets that youth have come to expect. What’s more, rumors abound that users are cleverly turning off the advertising messages which they are supposed to opt into in the first place. (BTW: I had a great briefing with Steven van Zanen, Acision’s VP Messaging Futures, late last week in which we discussed, among other topics, just why an ad-funded-only business model is flawed at best. More when he goes on the record in a proper podcast later this month.)
LINKEDIN: Better late than never, LinkedIn has launched a beta version of its website for mobile users on the fly as well, as a customized beta version of the mobile product for iPhone users. Initial features available on the mobile version will allow users to search and view profiles and invite new connections into their networks without having to know the e-mail addresses of invitees. This may help users bone-up on people they are meeting for the first time, but the bare-bones functionality (translated: no interactivity) fails to impress. As this insightful post/rant from Information Week points out: The WAP site “lets you perform some basic tasks related to your LinkedIn database of professional contacts. And when we say basic, we mean basic. You can’t view your contacts’ contact information, accept invitations, nor even update your own profile. LinkedIn Mobile has its work cut out for it if it intends to catch up to other social networking sites’ mobile capabilities.”
Fortunately, future versions of LinkedIn Mobile will likely support additional messaging capabilities and provide mobile access to its LinkedIn Experts and Answers. The one to watch: When (and if) LinkedIn News, which launches in beta at the online site and features daily news from a network of over 10,000 publishers and blogs, becomes available on mobile. The News that a LinkedIn member sees is determined by the relevance their connections deem it has to their business. News that is sure to matter…What a great starting point for the delivery of truly targeted mobile advertising.
JAXTR: Konstantin Guericke (who happens to be LinkedIn co-founder) is also the CEO of Jaxtr, a great reason to track what this “social communications company that links your phone to the Web” is up to. Last week, Jaxtr formally took the wraps off release 1.0 of its social communications offer, the centerpiece of which is café jaxtr, a place where users socialize around the question: “What do you want to talk about?” More importantly, the company announced it is “implementing its revenue model via the integration of text and display advertising within café jaxtr.”
As a social communications company, Jaxtr – which itself counts 10 million+ members – is focused on providing users unified access to, and control over, all their text and voice communications from social networks, blogs and other forms of social media. The café jaxtr service is focused on phone-based communications, but SMS is also supported.
In a nutshell, this service lets members talk to others who share their interests using a phone and bypassing the need to download software and use a microphone, as is required with Skype or voice-enabled instant messaging programs. How does it work? Visitors to www.cafejaxtr.com can find people to talk to by topic or country and then click through to the jaxtr member’s live contact page. On the contact page they can learn more about the member and view the online profiles the member may have on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or 15 other social networks and blogging platforms. Visitors can also review the topics the member is interested in talking about and call them using their regular landline or mobile phone. The member’s phone number stays private, and jaxtr gives members complete control over which callers can ring through to their phone and which get routed to the digital voicemail box that is included for free with their jaxtr service.
The best from the rest…
mobilePeople, a local mobile search provider, has introduced its liquid Advertising Suite. The solution is designed to improve monetization opportunities through presentation of contextually and geographically relevant mobile advertising to mobile users. (more)
Clear Channel Outdoor UK, a provider of outdoor advertising products, is launching Clear Channel Interact, a suite of mobile services that will enable uses to opt-in to find out more information about an advertiser, download mobile vouchers for special offers, access mobile websites or find the nearest store, gym, cinema or other desired location. Advertisers will now be able to book outdoor advertising campaigns that include a call to action for consumers to use their mobiles and text a Clear Channel operated shortcode number which provides access to a world of bespoke mobile information selected by the advertiser. (more)
Skyhook Wireless, a provider of Wi-Fi positioning solutions, has tied up with locr, a geo-tagging focused photo-sharing community, to enable geo-tagging of photos with Wi-Fi. The move brings location-awareness for photos to millions of Wi-Fi handsets and can improve the accuracy and availability of location information for locr users. The locr software (for mobile phones, digital cameras, GPS dataloggers, and PC) automatically tags photos with GPS data, shows their position on digital maps, and generates for each photo descriptions of the locality. The locr online community enables users to upload photos, archive them in albums and swap them interactively with friends. (more)
Mippin, a mobile portal operated by RefreshMobile in partnership with blueapple.mobi, a mobile search and transcoding video delivery company, has launched video functionality that will convert and distribute flash-based RSS video content of any publisher to mobile users worldwide. The process enables video to be transcoded automatically to the .3gp mobile standard in real-time for viewing on users’ handsets. The service will also give users the ability to search and view video immediately on request, providing a choice of preview, streaming and download options. (more)
Xanga, a social network with more than 30 million members headquartered in Hong Kong, and CSL, the largest Hong Kong mobile operator, have launched Xanga Mobile to CSL customers. The tie-up – enabled by Intercasting’s ANTHEM platform — gives CSL customers direct access to Xanga through a dedicated mobile application. (more)
Latin-Pak, a Hispanic direct marketing company, has introduced Hispanic Mobile Advertising, an offer that connects clients to consumers via SMS, WAP and MMS format mobile marketing to target specific demographics within the Latin-Pak mobile database of over 2.5 million Hispanic users who have elected to receive mobile marketing. (more)
MobiTV, a provider of mobile and broadband entertainment services, has released mobile television advertising and viewership data it has gleaned from more than 60 million handsets enabled with the MobiTV service in the U.S. market and three million plus subscriptions. Among the findings: Interactive tests have demonstrated that viewers of the MobiTV service not only watch, but also take action on contextually-based ads. (more)