Games shine on Orange

Mobile games outsell other types of content, including ringtones and wallpapers on Orange UK, we read. Orange published its first digital media index which also showed that Orange customers send 872m text messages a month, with most sent between 4pm and 8pm as people plan a night out.

In Q1/2007, almost 750,000 games were downloaded. This compares to only 65,000 and 250,000 tracks, ringtones and music video. This is rather noteworthy. So why is it?

Games are the only category of the above that is tied to the commercial ecosphere of today (be it via carrier deck or from a D2C portal, etc): I can download a picture from the web and bluetooth it or sideload it to my phone and it will work. Phones understand jpeg. I can do the same with a music track. Phones understand mp3. I cannot do the same with a Java game. Phones do understand Java but it is an executable, so you need an installer file, etc. Higher complexity. Too complicated to do it for me, buy it then...

Games have an additional particularity and that is that they need to be thoroughly adapted to the small screen. A song sounds the same (assuming you have a good pair of headphones), a picture will be, well, smaller on a small screen but otherwise undistorted. A game requires interaction, and this is being done very differently on a phone. So we may well see the above numbers drifting further apart...

Real Networks buys Sony NetServices

Real steps it up again: After their acquisition of WiderThan last year (ring-backs, music-on-demand, etc) catapulted them to the forefront of mobile music services, they have now acquired Sony's NetServices division that runs Vodafone's audio-streaming services in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Romania and the UK as well as the one for TeliaSonera in Finland.

The whole audio-streaming thing still puzzles me though: the original commercial model for ringtones was clear but it was based on hardware barriers and constraints rather than the fantastic content (let's face it, monophonic ringtones were pretty horrific). However, with Bluetooth and memory cards now being on virtually every phone and storage of 1GB and more not raising an eyebrow anymore, this would seem doomed (also see my post on declining sales here).

One could argue that it is sensible to then move on to streaming but can anyone explain to me why I should pay for what basically is radio when even a shabby old Nokia 6230 comes with a stereo FM receiver that does the trick, too, and for free? That, I believe, is the difference to ringtones: I do have alternatives to getting to basically the same content - it then comes down to packaging, ease of use, etc and carriers haven't been particularly good at that, have they?

Buongiorno buys Flytxt... and it goes on...

Consolidation of the mobile marketing sector seems to happen faster than people can blog: Italian mobile content distributor Buongiorno has acquired UK and US operations of Flytxt for c. $ 5.4m. With Buongiorno's platform and D2C focus and Flytxt's background (they provide a tool that allows marketing types to run their own campaigns), this is a somewhat different twist to the approach Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and others have been taking. A D2C player should really be better positioned to bridge the gap between advertiser and consumer as they are much closer to the latter.

Here's what they say: "Mobiles allow marketers to reach individuals in new ways, which are not possible with other media and open up dramatic new opportunities for marketers to interact with consumers. Flytxt's work with Orange on its 'Orange Wednesdays' campaign is testament to how powerful the use of mobile can be as a marketing and advertising tool". By way of background: Orange Wednesdays are a BOGOF cinema service that has mobile ticketing components (i.e. you can sign up/participate via mobile), and if we get this right, the mobile component is based on Flytxt's propositions...

No numbers on usage and/or take-up though, and that is a pity... Other than that, this combination could be intriguing. Bring it on, folks!

Does RIM move from Hardware to Software Model?

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) pushes into Windows Mobile reports Telephony Online. As it sets out to create a BlackBerry Virtual Machine, this would imply a move from a hardware-driven to a software-driven business model but RIM is playing this down: they say they will continue to build their Blackberry devices and merely react to market demand.

Analysts seem sceptical as loading the BlackBerry software onto a Windows-powered phone is apparently tougher than it sounds. They also claim that vendors may be reluctant to include it in their phone's basic software stack, and carriers may be reluctant to support it.

And that seems logical: a few years ago there had not been any alternative, so everyone might have played along. However, now alternatives, most prominently from mighty MSFT itself (Microsoft ActiveSync), are here, and one wonders if it will be just as easy. Given Blackberry's cult following and the wariness towards Microsoft's dominance, one cannot help but wish for a powerful competitor. However, it might very well be that RIM fell for the old Apple mistake, i.e. trying to marry hardware and software for too long: once the real world has moved on and worked around proprietary systems (even if they are superior), there is no winning anymore.