Zed's community is precious!

Zed announced that it "will unveil a bunch of hugely ambitious community services at CTIA". The new stuff was apparently previewed at a closed press briefing in Madrid today, to which, alas, I was not privy... Test services will apparently go live in two weeks’ time during CTIA.

Zed had announced it had invested a whopping EUR50 million in a web 2.0/mobile 2.0 strategy to drive subscriptions around community services "such as multiplayer gaming, IM, blogging and so on".

After former owner Sonera had sunk legendary fortunes into developing Zed into some monster brand, most people thought it was more or less doomed. When Spanish group LaNetro took them over though, it re-positioned itself and, with 85% in-house produced own content (no royalties) and sometimes contested subscription bodels grew revenues to a rather impressive $320m in 2006.

Now, in the community area, Zed is said to contribute some of the cash it invested into statiOn, an application for PC and mobile that consolidates all these services in one place for Zed subscribers. Version 2 (what a fitting version number for a web 2.0 app) will apparently be launched at CTIA.

Whilst I believe it is entirely on the money to predict that "the mobile market will go the same way as the wired internet in the direction of community services", I am not sure if a - arguably complex-ish - PC-mobile application is the way out; this does not give anyone anything new. In fact, a lot of social networks and communities already today seamlessly evolve into platform-agnostic things: Jaiku uses mobile as a major part, Facebook Mobile sees more users, MySpace and, again, Facebook have announced recent deals in the mobile space, Yospace (acquired by Emap; see also here) is serving 3 and O2 UK, my fine employer Hands-On Mobile has launched Yatta-Video on SFR and soon on other carriers, and everyone else has a "social network" or "community" suite on offer. So will we really need a specific application (downloadable?) that will help connect the two media? Isn't it much rather about seamless -- dare I say it? -- convergence WITHOUT the need for additional (complex) application layers? Isn't this one of the public secrets of web 2.0, its incredible ease of use?

Zed concludes its analysis that "the future is certainly not in solo personalisation products". Well, yes, that might be true but is it really well enough positioned to capture users on their quest into the social networks, too, in particular in the light of the above? I will never ever discount Zed again, so I am truly intrigued by what they will announce and I really hope it is something exciting and innovative. Go on!

Nokia pushes content: deal with Telefonica

Nokia is a lot in the headlines (and this blog) these days, but the good folks from Espoo are very busy, it seems. Today, they announced a deal with Telefonica concerning Nokia's content solution. This includes customizing the multimedia menu on Nokia's devices as well as cooperation on billing and some other technology issues. Whilst Ovi, Nokia's new open doors solution to the world of content, was not expressly mentioned, it very much feels like it, and this will be welcome news to Nokia that is said to be slightly miffed over the carriers' recent devotional tour past Apple and the monstrance iPhone; understandably, since Nokia never got a revenue share from carriers in spite of having carried a lot of the weight in developing device capabilities.

This would then be fantastic news for Nokia: finally a mobile network operator that does not throw the NCD off the Nokia devices. Telefonica said, it wants to ensure that customers have access to the best in Internet services. The goal is to drive a "dramatic" increase in user uptake of these new services over the coming years.

The press release mainly focuses on ease of use, easy access, etc, and this is indeed an area of concern for many carriers hindering a larger uptake of mobile content. Nokia natually intends to make sure that any multimedia experience will be best on its own phones rather than competitors' and this, coupled with its respectively designed Ovi service shall further solidify the Finnish giant's lead on the handset market. Carriers on the other hand have continuously struggled to deliver content to consumers in an enticing and exciting way. It became all too often painfully clear that content was not the stuff carriers knew well...

Besides the pretty obvious goals of both parties, it is a noteworthy deal as it may be one step in a shift of the "home of content" from operators/carriers to third parties: D2C has often struggled. On-device-portals were largely marred by carrier reluctance to support them (and often requests to wipe them off the devices), etc. With Nokia moving in, this might change: if this cooperation would indeed result in superior content experience (including the resulting increase in revenue for all parties concerned), this might trigger follow-on deals on both sides: the large OEM will be watching as will be other carrier groups.

Watch this space...

Emotional attachment to mobile content...

Yay, another study is out! This time, we are being told that users have "strong attachment to the content on their devices, which includes address books, ringtones, text, pictures, music, games, and other applications". Ah, it includes the address book and pictures - presumably those primarily taken themselves with the phone's camera. Astonishingly, users reported that losing their phone is far more painful than [...] breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Hello? Did they only ask specialists in speed-dating? Over half said that losing their phone would cause their social life to suffer. Well, yes, your evenings can be pretty lonely if you don't have any number of any friend anymore...

66% of the users re-enter new addresses manually into new devices. Have they never heard of the software suites delivered with every phone these days that make this a piece of cake?

There is of course some truth in this, such as the grown significance of mobile phones and mobile-created/stored content, and, yes, because people tend not to use the tools readily available, it can be a pain in the neck when you need to swap the beauties. However, much of the findings appear to be slightly distorted by the above mentioned contacts and pictures. 70% of the users find it extremely or very important to back their contacts up. Doh! Why don't they? This already goes down to 30% for photos - and these are arguably as personal. No word on ringtones and games. Whilst I can see people sweating over having lost 450 telephone numbers including the one of the rich auntie, I struggle to see a user weeping because his Tetris highscore is no longer available on his shiny new phone (although then, they just might). This is in spite of the cost of mobile content, which can be significant when you add up content purchases over the lifetime of the device.

Who commissioned the study you're asking? A company called FusionOne. And what does FusionOne do you say? Well, in their own words: "mobile applications that help consumers protect and manage the personal content on their mobile phones, including contacts, calendar, photos, music and messages." There you have it.

Google goes "livestreaming", acquires Jaiku

Now, this is not strictly mobile BUT then it is considering that the target of which I report here today is heavily using mobile as a tool to feed its community, namely SMS (plus web and IM). It morphs online and offline worlds (nicknamed "bothline"; see here), and mobile is a huge component of this.

Anyway, Google, it was announced, has acquired the good folks from Jaiku. For those not that familiar with the radically new web 2.0 applications: Jaiku is a Twitter competitor where you basically "speed-blog" or "live-stream". Jaiku adds proximity settings: users in the same area can/will be able to get in touch with each other and interact.

At PICNIC'07, I recently had the pleasure of listening to Jaiku's co-founder, Jyri Engestrom (plus the good guys from Twitter, Plazes, Dopplr and Hyves), talking about the relevance of applications such as Jaiku. There is a video of the session available here.

It is (still) all about relevance and context. Jyri observed that context evolves around objects (such as office, Manchester United, kite-surfing, babies, red Bordeaux, and, yes, location...). The object defines the (social) context: you might be interested in the capability of webservers in your professional environment and discuss this wholeheartedly with someone else with who you would not have a single point of mutual interest outside of work. Change the object, change the context. Jyri (in his rather interesting blog) calls this object-centered sociality (yes, he is a sociologist).

Jaiku supposedly helps making focus on any object easier as it provides quick and universally accessible tools to see the activity streams of your contacts. The mobile version does this by getting those streams directly into your phone's contacts. Cool stuff.

However, why would Google buy them (apart from it being cool and Google being cash-rich)? Relevance and context, again. These are the core pieces around which Google's core business evolves: put ads in a relevant context and you improve click-through. Jyri characterized this by drawing the history of content discovery from catalogue (Yahoo!) via pagerank (Google) to what he termed "facerank", combining the power of the search algorithms from Google with the power of the social network from Facebook. The latter is e.g. a search result that would take the social context of the, say, search string (the object). Friends, people close to you, colleagues, other fans of your club, etc are more likely to have come across something that is relevant to you than someone who has no touch-point with you whatsoever. You don't have to know them personally: connoisseurs of Bordeaux wines might only have "met" in the virtual world. Still, since the context evolved around a common object (Bordeaux wine), it is more likely that you will hit a relevant spot through them. The higher the socially-enhanced rank of a search result, the more relevant it is likely to be... Compelling and rather inspiring!

So this is what Google may have in mind: bring the context to the people -- again! Well done, guys!