Thumbplay and Comcast: convergence looming?

Comcast (for you fellow non-Americans: this is one of the larger broadband providers in the US) and Thumbplay (for you fellow non-Americans: these are the guys who kick serious a** in D2C mobile content over there) announced a deal whereby Comcast will sell mobile content source from Thumbplay through a dedicated website to their highspeed Internet customers. Items available comprise everything from Thumbplay's catalogue, that is to say, music, ringtones, video, games, you name it.

With Comcast recording serious traffic (14.4m highspeed Internet customers, 3.7bn page views and 17.6m unique visitors per month) and Thumbplay offering one of the larger catalogues on mobile content (100,000+ pieces), this could be intriguing: consumers have so much better opportunity to look and choose if they can do so in the warmth of their home and the giant size of their 21'' computer screen rather than on a 128x128 mobile phone screen. Content discovery, previews, all the bells and whistles long known on the Internet could thus be married to mobile content as well. Will it work? I am thrilled to hear about it. Traditionally, one loses a lot of people whenever one crosses from one medium to another (Internet to mobile), so the question will be if the additional churn recorded there is less than the probably improved conversion rates due to the superior content choosing experience online.

Tell us more, guys, when you know it!

Apple's App Store rockets through 100m

Following the iTunes success story, we could see it coming, I guess, and indeed after a mere 3 months of going live the mother of all black turtlenecks informs us that the Apple App Store rocketed past 100m downloads for iPhone and iPod. Impressive numbers! And another example how simplicity and a good eye for ease of use wins the day: put applications (games are apparently leading the pack, too, with no less than 700 of them [that's nearly 25% of the total available]!) into one place where a) people can find them and b) it is easy to download, install and run them, and you are on to a winner (operators, listen to this!).

However (there had to be a but, huh?), what the master of PR did not tell us is how much money was actually made with this. We hear the following stats:
  • There are 3,000 apps on the App Store, 600 of which are for free. Now, for what percentage of downloads these 20% are responsible for, we are not being told though...
  • 90% of the apps are priced at less than $10 (this will include the 20% free ones, I guess). However nothing is said if it is $9.99 that is the prevalent price point or perhaps $0.99 a pop.
The App Store certainly is a success for Apple (in particular considering the relatively low number of devices that access the store, and this deserves our unreserved applause! The only thing is: it might just be that 90% of the downloads were of the unpaid kind and another 8% of the less-than-$3.00 kind, and that would mean that it is actually not such a great success for the developers hoping to make a buck from it (rather than only showing off the funky logo on investor presentations).

The Apple App Store provides a wonderful opportunity to test market prices and all that even though there are probably a lot of people who currently publish stuff there because of its "strategic" value, which will contribute to distortions of the true numbers in terms of values and price points. However, notwithstanding those distortions it would be great if they could share somewhat more meaningful numbers with us; just so we know how hard we should try to flog to those green Apple meadows.

Oh, and, yes, I write this on a MacBook... :) 

Re Tira: there are others!

My post on Tira Wireless' apparent demise triggered a few e-mails, and it was pointed out that, whilst my observations generally seem to have been accurate, I forgot a few players that actually do deliver porting solutions across platforms (e.g. from J2ME to BREW) rather successfully (and do work with some of the larger publishers, too). There is for instance Innaworks, whose Alchemo solution is pretty powerful.

So, I stand corrected: it is actually possible to ease porting nightmares with smart transcoding solutions. I would still maintain though that porting from a single J2ME build (rather than a reference code base) to all devices under the sun is only possible with severe constraints. If that is understood though, the likes of Innaworks and Metismo provide a great ease of pain!

Mobitween bought by Zed

Every reader of this blog will have realized for some time that I am a fan of mobile Flash and the good folks at Mobitween (just see here and here), the mobile Flash pioneers from Paris. And, boy, would I have wanted to work with them some more but, alas, it seems this will remain wishful thinking as they have been the first prey of D2C giant's Zed M&A fund: yes, they have been acquired.

The deal - unfortunately for me, I guess - makes a lot of sense to Zed, who have been raising their revenue numbers to heights so dizzying they would nearly make the initial investments comprehensible... (if only the initial investors had seen anything of that success; but well...): Zed famously claims to make up to 85% of their revenue with
 predominantly in-house produced generic content, and when it comes to speed and efficiency, mobile flash in general and the guys at Mobitween in particular have no match.

So, well done them, and let's hope Flash will continue to roll as it started to promise, so that we can all marvel at dramatically reduced time to market and, consequently, hopefully a vastly improved content offering all around (oh, and buy Zed shares if you can).

Tira in Tears?

Are they no more? I haven't called or sneaked around their offices, so couldn't tell. However, my much more investigative fellow blogger from the MobileGamesBlog seems to know more: according to him, Tira Wireless is no more.

Tira Wireless had a bit of a mixed following: there were the ones who didn't believe in the black box (one build in, builds to support 500 handsets out), and there others who thought this was the best thing since sliced Siemens phones. Now, I admit I ranted mercilessly on a panel (ironically sponsored by Tira) at MEM back in 2005 or so against the black box approach, and the width of their endeavours might have killed it (if it did then; no one can confirm or deny as yet...). To use one build and port it across to handsets from the (in)famou
s T-610 to the N73 is hitting natural constraints, and this is arguably a reason why they never got their hands on the heavy hitters of the sector: their customer list doesn't show a Gameloft, EA, Glu, Digital Chocolate, Hands-On, etc, etc...

A leaner (meaner?) and more focussed approach can get you there as is currently shown by mobile games veteran John Chasey's (of IOMO and Finblade fame) Metismo: not another black box, they don't even claim to being able to do everything under the sun and then some more; theirs is a cross-compiler from J2ME to native C++, and this alone is worth quite something. Smart coding and development environments can and do ease the pains of handset fragmentation, and to have dedicated experts for this makes sense, considering the significant cost contribution of porting to the overall cost of producing a mobile game.

Anyone with more solid news on Tira's fate, please call, e-mail or comment on this thread... Thank you!