Weekly Wrap: I See London, I See France, I See Paris'... Address Book
By Carlo Longino, Fri Feb 25 09:00:00 GMT 2005

In a slow week, the supposed hacking of the Hilton heiress' mobile phone made headlines, along with some fallout from last week's 3GSM World Congress.

In case you've been asleep all week, Paris Hilton's Danger Hiptop got hacked, exposing her address book and other data -- not to mention herself -- to the world (again). Ho-hum, really, but that didn't keep the media from blowing the story way out of proportion. Although it appears a poorly chosen password was used to access the account on a wired server, and the device itself wasn't "hacked", Hilton's celebrity, combined with the "arrival" of the Cabir virus created a press feeding frenzy -- where, of course, the facts haven't gotten in the way of some good ol' FUD.

The Great Hilton Hacking of 2005, however, provided a useful illustration for one study released this week, where a third of people said they'd lose touch with their friends and contacts if they lost their phone, since they rely so heavily on its address book. Paris, though, is facing the opposite problem: since her fame-laden contact list has been exposed to the public, which is duly harassing Hollywood's finest with phone calls, her friends are losing her.

After last week's industry confab in the south of France, this week was light on news. There was, though, some digestion of the 3GSM World Congress and mulling over its implications. With everyone announcing plans for "music phones," it's clear that it's easy to make one, but perhaps not so easy to make a good one. In the rush to add music-playing capability to handsets, there's a chance they'll fall into the converged device trap: doing lots of things, but none of them particularly well.

Another takeaway from 3GSM was the absence of WiMAX. Other technologies like HSDPA and even UMTS-TDD commanded a higher profile in Cannes, and vendors -- WiMAX Forum members, no less -- seemed to be talking down the massively hyped technology.

While EDGE may not offer the speeds of these other networks, Cingular in the US is using it to offer businesses a backup system for their wired networks. The relatively meager bandwidth might not be useful for much other than bandwidth-thrifty, absolutely mission-critical applications, but it shows the operator is looking to plant some seeds of demand ahead of its 3G/HSDPA launch.

There was a lot of talk at 3GSM from operators about changing business models to increase the value a company gets from each customer. One approach sees carriers offer bundled services, of which mobile is a key part. While companies offering bundles are seeing a lot of success, they must figure out a way to customize their offerings for each user to fend off competition.

It's still early enough in the year that "2005 will be the year of..." releases are still coming out, and one analyst firm says this will be the year contactless payment systems will hit the big time. Again, Japan is leading the way, and offering up a number of lessons for anyone providing mobile-based contactless payments: for a system to succeed, it must be ubiquitous and extendable. People must be able to use it in a large number of places, and systems must take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technology to expand beyond simple identification-based debit payments.

People love to play games on their handsets, and maturing technology means the experience will only get richer and the games will get better. But two Silicon Valley-area companies are taking very different tacks: Digital Chocolate, founded by game industry veteran Trip Hawkins, is looking to take advantage of the functionality the mobile phone allows and create new games and experiences, while publisher Sorrent is looking to create mobile versions of well-known console brands. In the nascent mobile gaming space, the successful strategy remains to be seen.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Douglas Rushkoff takes a look at how the University of Southern California is looking to make mobile a key part of Hollywood 2.0, and David Pescovitz reports on a new technique to secure public hotspots.