Flash or Silverlight or both?

Microsoft scored an important success with a recently announced a deal that will see its Flash competitor Silverlight (with the most Apple-esque logo ever issued in Redmond) installed on the mighty Nokia's s60 and - low-end - s40 devices (or multimedia terminals as the good folks from Finland like their posher phones to be called). Interestingly of course, Nokia also embeds Adobe's Flash Lite... Tasty!

Now, is Silverlight really this good? Or is it only another product the people from Microsoft thought they should have on their shelves (arguably not being too happy that Adobe carved out for itself a nice niche for some)? I don't know and I won't be able to answer that without embarrassing myself. So: the news tonight is simply that Nokia is a good catch for Microsoft. And, now, the weather...

One small piece of advice to MS though: choose your showcase sites carefully. The Yugoslav maker of one of them (I don't really know what they're doing) does not really offer the latest and greatest in web design and functionality...

LiveWire in the Groove

LiveWire Mobile (part of Nasdaq-listed NMS Communications Corp) acquired former ringtone and now full-track platform provider Groove Mobile for $14.5m in what commentators call an "unexpected swoop" (why? because they waited with the PR until the deal was closed?).

Groove Mobile runs the music decks for 12 carriers, including most notably Sprint in the US and 3 UK. It also holds contracts with all major music labels.

Now, why should this be unexpected? The press release lays out the "strategic reasons" for the acquisition and, whilst it is all a bit embellished in the usual PR blurp, it is relatively plain to see: LiveWire Mobile are - or so I understand - specialising in ringback services (their website says they are deployed on 30 carriers with that). However, those carriers do not seem to give them too big a footprint: the release states that the acquisition triples their "addressable market".

Also, ringbacks are a bit of a beast to run as they require deep integration with the carrier on which it is deployed (you need to be on network level to integrate this), and the relationships of a company that runs the music platforms for some carriers are naturally quite valuable to someone like that (although someone still needs to explain to me what turn-key means in mobile telecommunications terms). So: you get someone who is already integrated with a carrier, you increase your chances that that carrier will choose more services from you. Compelling, huh?

If it is a good acquisition remains to be seen: ringbacks are utter flops in some countries (people query the value of a service that the person paying for it never experiences...) and huge hits in others; not consistent though... Also, digital music distribution seems to be a field with utterly low margins; great if you can deliver VERY efficiently and to enough consumers but tough as you always face margin pressure from every side you are involved with: the labels that are struggling to replace retail sales and the carriers (and, increasingly web players and OEM) who want to be amply "reimbursed" for allowing you to sell to their customers. If the above considerations can deliver, it should have been a good buy: at about 2 x revenues, it was at a relatively sane valuation multiple.

Good luck, folks!

Mobile Content on the move!?

According to a report, mobile content is moving off-deck. The consumer survey (presumably for the US market only) found out that today's consumers use a mix of sources for their mobile content, namely the web, side-loading (called "their own collections") and the carriers.

When it comes to watching video on their phone, 35% of the consumers would choose YouTube vs 31% who would go for the carrier's own offering and 28% who side-load.

For music, side-loading leads overall with 48% of the total followed by 35% who bought off the carrier deck.

With games, the situation is yet different: 60% of consumers would only play the games that are pre-installed on their phones.

The report expects this diversification of content sources for mobile phones to increase, which sounds reasonable: just look at what Thumbplay does in the US or Jamba and Zed in Europe! Check out Nokia's Ovi initiative (including "Comes with Music") or Sony Ericsson's PlayNow Arena. Falling walled gardens and a general move to flat-rate data will contribute to consumers looking for alternative shop fronts, in particular as carriers have not always shown to be the best retailers out there - at least not for content... No big surprises then.