ESPN Mobile gets 4.9m hits in 24 hours (10% more than on PC site)

MoCoNews points us to an article reporting about some noteworthy stuff on the usage of the revamped ESPN Mobile (you will recall that the full-blown MVNO they had tanked horribly and the service was then re-launched as a mobile internet destination). They (well, not they but "an executive briefed on the data") said that for one 24-hour period, ESPN's wireless NFL section, with 4.9 million visits, topped the PC NFL section's 4.5 million visits. And that's impressive!

In the same article, M:Metrics was quoted to point out that it was convenience that did the trick, and this is of course where the data might be a bit distorted (it might not be but it's unclear): ESPN Mobile is available in two flavours. ESPN MVP is exclusively to Verizon high-end data subscribers who get it for free. So this basically supports the case that the mobile internet will become a fully-fledged "competitor" to the "old" internet once bandwidth and cost for bandwidth will be similar to the internet proper; and that is not a big miracle, is it? The normal ESPN Mobile is available to anyone but may be subject to data charges. It would be interesting to know the shares the two sites/apps have in the above data.

But I don't want to divert from the fact that 4.9m mobile hits inside 24 hours is great by any measure. Sport is a wonderful starting point for mobile internet usage anyway as it is so time-sensitive (it is not really the same thing to record a live game and then watch it hours later after the city is steeped in the team colours already) and people all over the world are so passionate about their favourite sports and teams. Great stuff, surely!

Handmark gets its hands on Astraware

One is a leading content provider for the niche smartphone market, the other a leading games developer for the niche smartphone market (Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc), now they will become the leading content publisher for the niche but quickly growing smartphone market. Enter the reported acquisition of Astraware by Handmark.

Handmark publishes smartphone versions of e.g. Tetris and Scrabble and also runs the Pocket Express mobile news service. Astraware does the same for Bejewelled, Zuma and Chuzzle but also has a sizable portfolio of generic games and applications. They also have their coding hands in iPod games. As a lot of high-end smartphone stuff is retailed through shops where Handmark has a decent footprint, the two should improve margins on Astraware titles immediately. Presumably their distribution footprints for the remainder (e.g. is Astraware a Microsoft Gold Partner and embeds lots on Windows Mobile devices) also provide for some synergies.

Unfortunately nothing was reported on deal terms but, on the merits, this makes sense. Good luck, guys!

Yahoo follows suit: presents development platform for mobile

After all the buzz in the back-end of last year over the Google-led Open Handset Alliance and their Android OS, Yahoo! has now presented its own view on how to reduce the complexity within the mobile landscape by announcing a development platform for "mobile internet applications".

It is, alas, not the full bag of tricks: Unlike Android, which is of course basically an OS, the Yahoo! scheme only foresees tools to allow the creation of widgets to run under the company's Yahoo! Go mobile service or in any mobile web browser. This means that "mobile internet applications" in Yahoo speak do not include "classic" mobile applications (developed in J2ME, BREW, Symbian, etc, and then downloaded to a user's phone), and the latter will not benefit from the initiative.

The question (and this may well be one of the big ones for 2008) is therefore if the (short) age of downloadable applications is already dawning. Because, unlike the Internet, mobile is a cluttered space with a gazillion operating systems and middleware layers on even more different devices competing for market share. Ease to port applications at least across handsets and ideally also across operating systems is therefore the crucial factor. Only if downloadable applications (including indeed a software package like Yahoo! Go) really are displaced by the mobile internet proper would this change.

Commentators note that Yahoo! Go is not normally available on handsets as most tier-1 operators will (and apparently each and every US carrier currently does) simply remove pre-installed applications prior to delivery to customers. However, this does not seem to matter too much as far as the new initiative is concerned as it is said to run on every browser, too. It may take away from discovery and therefore usage so this is where it appears to chip away on the benefits: Whilst the Yahoo! move would seem the much less complex initiative compared to Google's attempts to take on the OS heavyweights, it comes at the cost of lower usability for users and also less actual benefit for developers: why would you develop for that platform if visibility, discovery, usage and therefore commercial reward are foggy at best?

I'm not convinced (yet).