Weekly Wrap: Nokia Makes A Content Play, Carriers Agree To Play Nice
By Eric Lin, Fri Oct 29 07:00:00 GMT 2004

Nokia takes on BREW, Yahoo! takes on Google, Samsung closes in on Motorola, and more...

After a number of small content deals, Nokia is taking its own shot at becoming a full fledged content player, not by buying applications, but by launching a backend for others to buy them. Carriers can fully customize the front end of Nokia's Preminet, a content distribution system that will be populated by Symbian Signed and Java Verified applications for subscribers to download without any compatibility worries.

The operators are having a much harder time controlling access to pornographic content than to downloads of the latest Lemmings or Bejeweled knockoff. After content filtering's shaky start this summer, a new study suggests they need to come up with a solution that works quickly before they lose out on what could be a billion dollar business in a few years.

Porn isn't the only thing operators still need to work out access to. MMS interoperability is still nowhere to be seen in North America and networks around the globe are about to launch additional incompatible technologies like different Push to Talk and video calling. North American operators have announced a pact -- for the second time -- to facilitate MMS interop. Despite consistent historical eevidence, carriers still launch new technology with the belief that constraining it to their own network will increase subscribers, and thus revenue.

While interoperability is an obvious winner, a good strategy for successful mobile video is far less clear, even when it comes to sports. Some content providers are streaming video. Others are using MMS to send highlight clips. Sports network ESPN is taking a third approach: video downloads. Although part of the success of sports video is the immediacy, ESPN is betting that in the age of TiVo users would rather see higher quailty video whenever they choose to rather than lower quality video as it happens.

Google fired the shot heard 'round the world when it launched SMS search. Now a number of competitors are entering the market. Some entrants are trying to beat Google at its own game, launching SMS search applications designed to take on one of the functions Google offers. Yahoo! has fired back with a mobile search page for smartphones. It offers traditional web searches, as well as image searches. In order to compete with Google and other fresh-faced entrants, it also offers local directory service complete with maps and driving directions.

Everybody won as far as handset sales for the third quarter went. Shipments increased 25 percent over the same quarter last year. Good news for Nokia, its share was back up over the 30 percent mark. Better news for Samsung whose share increased 50 percent of last year, which was bad new for Motorola. Samsung is nipping at its heels for second place.

The engineers have done a good job solving 3G's hardware problems, now it's the designers turn. User interface, both for the hardware and the software is the next step in making 3G more appealing to subscribers. Part of the responsibility lies with the handset manufacturers, but the carriers need to do some work too. They have to come up with better ways to help users find the content that's interesting to them.

No matter what the carriers do, it's going to be tough to get the content to subscribers quickly enough. Latency, the delay between clicking a button and actually seeing the results on screen, is the next big hurdle when if comes to speeding up the mobile Internet. No matter how fast they are, even the fastest 3G technologies will appear to take longer than the wireline broadband.

Geordi La Forge, eat your heart out. David Pescovitz uncovers a head mounted display that draws directly on your retina. Kevin Werbach paints a picture of a city covered by municipal Wi-Fi. Peggy Salz uncovers secrets of marketing to teens. And Steve Wallage tells us how to keep our mobile data a secret.