Weekly Wrap: Making Music
By Carlo Longino, Fri Dec 24 06:30:00 GMT 2004

Sprint offers streaming audio, Australia toughens up on mobile porn, Chinese handset vendors take a hit, and more...


US carrier Sprint this week began to offer a streaming audio service featuring channels provided by Music Choice, which delivers digital audio channels to cable and satellite TV customers. For $6 a month, users can listen to the genre-based channels on their handset a price that might prove a little high for a service that doesn't take advantage of the interactive potential of the mobile medium, as well as one they're used to getting for free in FM radio.

While mobile music represents one content opportunity for carriers, mobile porn was supposed to be a much safer bet. But many operators are now finding that servicing the adult market can be difficult, as they try to strike a balance between making porn available to their users while not being viewed as pornographers. A new law in Australia says that anybody that wants to surf mobile porn will have to show ID along with a written request to be able to access it a move that's sure to kill off much, if not all, of the demand for the services.

China's top two handset vendors, TCL and Ningbo Bird, gave sales and profit warnings this week, revealing the extent to which Western vendors have clawed their way back in the Chinese market. As consumer tastes have matured, foreign manufacturers' lead in offering feature-packed deviceshave allowed them to pass local makers, who are now looking overseas for growth.

A South Korean government agency reported this week that mobile spam there has overtaken the desktop variety, at least according to the number of reports it saw through the first nine months of the year. During the timeframe, the Korean Information Security Agency received four times the number of complaints about mobile spam as on the desktop.

A British trade group said this week that half the mobile phones in the country now feature GPRS access, and a third are capable of using MMS. But while the numbers might sound impressive, MMS usage remains low, and GPRS ability isn't necessarily turning into mobile Internet usage.

Though MMS isn't taking off, cameraphones are gaining in popularity and notoriety. Every week brings news of some pervert or criminal using the devices nefariously, followed by the inevitable political backlash. Operators must speak out to protect cameraphones and educate the public on their positive uses, rather than let people put the blame for the misuse on the neutral technology, rather than those misusing it.

Another idea that failed to catch on was Internet push technology. A buzzword of the '90s, push didn't go anywhere as people got faster Net connections and didn't like being limited to the content offered by push services. Now, push is coming back, this time on mobiles. One company has essentially made a mobile version of Pointcast, which broadcasts information through a screensaver on a handset's idle screen. But just like on the wired Net, speedier mobile connections and frustration with walled gardens could doom mobile push as well.

Steve Wallage takes a look at RIM's efforts to enlist more carrier partners, Justin Pearse says 2005 will be showtime for mobile video, Douglas Rushkoff weaves a wireless tale for the holidays, and David Pescovitz gets all charged up about the latest advances in batteries.