Juniper to the Rescue...

We can depend on the researchers from Juniper after all (or maybe they simply felt bad after reading my post on their last report). Whichever the reason, apparently the mobile content industry could be worth a hefty $167bn (!) if - yes, if - the operators would resolve to allowing a workable commercial environment, namely by limiting themselves to lower revenue shares. Whatever the caveats (which are, as usual, hidden in the expensive main report) this number is topping even the loftiest predictions to date; right on in times of the doom and gloom. The key apparently lies in whether operators would act as dumb pipes (no richness for anyone) or a smart pipe (lots of play money for all players on the value chain). In their own words:

"If MNOs are to benefit financially, they need to move away from their Dumb Pipe roots to the Smart Pipe model, though they will clash with the content providers which already dominate the Smart Pipe. A compromise needs to be found."
A smart pipe is understood as one where operators would offer flexible, application-centric value configurations, allowing lean, efficient content offerings from third parties. A dumb pipe is one where content (and value) would merely rush through the pipe without any value being added by the operator. The prevailing model in the mobile games world, namely the on-portal approach where operators implement comprehensive vertically-integrated models ("walled gardens") is suggested to be somewhat doomed as content providers would gain bargaining power (presumably through consolidation of the supply side plus entry of meatier traditional media players in music, video and TV).

This is all pretty speculative though, and without some background it is quite frankly impossible to analyse the numbers some more. Mobile content appears to include (as per their report from March) games, music, video, TV, social networking, adult content, gambling and so on, and so forth. However, the exact calculatory basis is again hidden in the depths of the report, so I don't know (do they e.g. take the gross gambling revenue or on;y the rake, which is only a few percentage points of the former). Anyhow, due to these foggy conditions, commentators seem to either merely re-print the PR blurb or mock it (Stuart Dredge thinks that "only gas could do that kind of money"), which is a shame really; just think what you could with this much money...


Vivendi Mobile Games is History

It had been announced previously and now it seems to be confirmed: Vivendi Mobile Games, the mobile games publishing arm of what now is Activision Blizzard, has closed its doors in Europe (after it apparently already did so in the US two weeks ago). 

Background information on any reasons is hard to come by. Inability to control costs is a rumour frequently heard. One might also think that the overriding business outlook of Activision, which has been licensing out its titles pretty successfully to the likes of Hands-On Mobile (Call of Duty 1, 2, 3, True Crime: NYC, True Crime LA, Guitar Hero III an IV) and Glu (Call of Duty 4 and 5) - and perhaps less successfully to the now defunct Infospace Mobile (see here where they ended up) who did or planned to do Tony Hawks et al on the one hand, and the Blizzard unit that has a game on its hands that is awesomely succes
sful but hard to translate to mobile (namely World of Warcraft) did not leave room for a unit that could successfully compete internally. 

Given that Activision's CEO had also announced (transcript of its respective earnings call here)  it would divest/retire a lot of its more casual Sierra unit (because they could not be sequelled on an annual basis; see some analysis here), the demise of VMG might therefore point more to a strategic decision on Activision's side.  

Blackberry's (My)Space

Would you believe it? The marriage of what was seen only a short while ago as the quintessential businessman's phone and the latter's presumed opposite, the music-centric, young, urban web 2.0-type has is complete. I am talking of course of the Blackberry client of social network MySpace: only a week after being released, the two partners, Blackberry maker RIM and MySpace, reported a rather staggering 400,000 downloads of the application and, perhaps even more staggering, 15 million messages sent and received through it, accounting for 2 million status and mood updates (that's an average of 5 for every user).

The stats in themselves are impressive. However, what it does show is that a) Blackberries aren't only for the cold-nosed investment bankers anymore (or maybe those investment bankers now have the time to go off on a social networking frolic of their own) and b) social networks are not only for the wild at heart anymore (or maybe they never were but we only never realized behind those nicknames).

It might only be a footnote in the mobile applications space but it is a noteworthy symbol for those two things: both smartphones and social networks are very much mainstream. The always connected worlds of both smart(er) phones and social networks always were somewhat akin to each other: both grow in value when availability is pretty much always there. So this shows once more the power of the concept of contextual and relevant connection and connectedness.  Hats off!


China Mobile puts on turtleneck

The theme starts becoming lame, I know (and I herewith promise to look for new semi-funny references to Steve Jobs). However: if the world's largest operator by subscribers changes its dress culture, that is to say swaps from a tightly controlled walled garden to a free store concept, that surely merits this. So, without further ado: China Mobile plans to launch its very own AppStore. Its Chairman & CEO Wang Jianzhou (who was, I think, not sighted in Mr Job's favourite garment) announced this at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress in Macau. Now, with a whopping 436.1m subscribers, this opens fairly interesting vistas for mobile content - if, yes if, one can hit Chinese taste, that is. They specifically cite Apple's success with its iPhone as a trigger for them to do it. Truly impressive that a company so big would move so quickly.

This will surely hit the news wires some more in the coming days but I will now retire and brush up on my Mandarin...


Et tu, Juniper?

It must be truly bleak: even the best friend of every young telecoms entrepreneur on the fundraising trail whose reports rarely failed to feature as a footnote in an investment memorandum for the next big digital thing now sounds a word of caution. Juniper (whose reports I still cannot afford) issued its latest report on mobile gaming and it actually reduces (for the first time, I'm sure, even if I haven't checked) its prior predictions on the growth and size of the sector in the next, erm, 20 years...

They see growth stifled by the restrictive operator business models. Dare I say it? May they be right? They refer to Apple's AppStore, which is the anti-christ to every operator's walled garden: free for all, free price-setting, Darwinian survival of the fittest (or least-charging), thousands of applications, games, etc, etc, and relatively generous revenue shares on top (although 80% of $0.00 is not very much at all).

Juniper points however to 2 important and true factors: the tolls demanded by the operators to access their precious customer base are very high indeed considering that many do not provide a very compelling service in return. Secondly, marketing and marketing opportunities on-deck normally - well - suck. This was all well and good as long as their were no alternatives (other than the likes of JambaThumbplay and few others). But with the ascent of the iPhone, everyone seems to erupt into a frenzy of trying to replicate the "beautifully simple and compelling UI" for which the purveyors of the Big Black Turtleneck are so famed for. This, Juniper fears, will lead to players exiting that business (I have heard unconfirmed rumours that SEGA decided to call it day on internal J2ME development following their huge success with Super Monkey Ball on the iPhone). 

Other than that though, not much new. And Juniper would not be Juniper if they would not predict "significant" growth in the next 5 years (conveniently long in order to be basically unpredictable): they see the market to roughly double in the next 5 years, which would be 20% growth per year (on today's terms), which is not all that bad after all. 

Blyk's CEO speaks

I post on Blyk, and the next day its CEO rushes to give an interview... Was he upset about what he read and unleashed a PR storm to rescue his company to fight sentiment of the blogosphere? Perhaps, perhaps not. Well, maybe not. On the merits, there is nothing dramatically new but it is worth mentioning, I guess, nonetheless. Judge by yourself.


Blyk gets money

I know I have been depriving you lately (the day-job demanding more of my nightly attention than I would like) but this is remarkable: Blyk, the ad-funded MVNO, which I have covered previously (here and here), raised - financial crisis or not - a rather substantial amount from its existing investors, namely €40m (which apparently translates into $50.4m). Now, do they not read my blog? Or do I not get it (as Blyk's UK MD would probably suggest).

Blyk has by now collected 200,000 subscribers and wants to roll out internationally, namely in Germany (as if the cut-throat market there, including Aldi and Tschibo's money-scraper MVNOs, wouldn't be enough), Spain and Belgium, which would constitute decent growth. My concerns over the financial viability still stand though (cf. here): I cannot see them making money from this longer term (unless you mean the really, really long term; then it might work). And perhaps, just perhaps, the words of Blyk's CEO, Ala-Pietala, who noted (which MoCoNews somewhat fittingly called "ominous") that Blyk also felt the impact of the world's financial situation, point that way, too. Is that to say that they might have got money but they don't make any (or not enough)? Do I get it after all?