Weekly Wrap: The Numbers Game
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jul 02 09:15:00 GMT 2004

Enough surveys and studies this week, with enough numbers to make an accountant's head spin, and more...

Two new surveys indicated that technology is impinging on workers' vacations, but they don't seem to mind too much. A quarter of those surveyed said they won't stay somewhere on vacation without high-speed Net access, and just over half sad they'd check their e-mail while they're away -- though that number jumps to 76% when it's just IT workers, 85% of whom prefer their laptops to a mobile phone or PDA for work tasks done on vacation.

Next, analysts at Yankee Group say global sales of network equipment will inch up a point this year, then fall 15% through 2008 to $40 billion. The market peaked at $54.5 billion in 2000, and fell to $45.2 billion in 2002. North American spending will stay flat over the period, with significant dropoffs in EMEA and Asia-Pacific, they say, though the figures could underestimate future growth in emerging and underserved markets.

UK carriers are out of touch with their customers, according to another survey out this week, which says 35% of users aren't satisfied with the quality of service they get, but only 86% of senior managers at service providers in the country say something other than improving quality is their top priority. The billing and customer-service software company that commissioned the study says carriers are risking losing GBP 3 billion on customer churn by not focusing on quality.

Another study says that more women play mobile games than men, following previous studies showing that gaming is popular with the gender. Sony Ericsson adds in that it found women would rather leave the house without lipstick than their mobile phone. But regardless of womens' interest in mobile games, just 17% pay for them -- half the rate of men.

A Japanese content-provider trade group said this week that people's spending in the country over their handsets surged in the last fiscal year to 394.1 billion yen ($3.7 billion), a third higher than a year ago. Just over half the total was spent on digital content, while the rest was on real, physical goods. This e-commerce spending was up 70% from the previous year, and looks to steadily increase in the near future.

NTT DoCoMo, which recently launched handsets with FeliCa mobile-payment capabilities, is on the prowl in the UK (again) after its partnership and investment in 3 there fizzled. DoCoMo bought into the carrier in hopes it would choose to use i-mode for its content system; when it didn't, the relationship was understandably fractured. i-mode has gained a foothold in Western Europe with middle- and lower-tier operators that are looking for a compelling offering to compete with the likes of Vodafone and T-Mobile -- leading to speculation that DoCoMo will partner up with mmO2 in the UK.

Speaking of T-Mobile, the carrier launched the mobile music service it first announced in March at CeBIT. Dubbed "Ear Phones", the service currently works on 5 newish handsets that support OMA DRM specs, and users can download EUR or GBP 1.50 tracks to their phone. But they're not full tracks, they're 90- to 120-second "mobile mixes", and can only keep up to three at a time. Interestingly, carriers blame the high cost of "real" ringtones on onerous licensing demands from the labels, raising their costs to end users much higher than for the longer song clips offered through the service, though they too are licensed.

News out of Asia this week: South Korean carrier SK Telecom is taking handset customization to a new level there, buying outright a device manufacturer. And Canning Fok, CEO of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, said this week the company's 3G operations around the world could break even ahead of previous estimates.

Eric Lin visited the JavaOne trade show this week, and found handset manufacturers pushing their devices' Java speed -- which has improved both in apps as well as in the time it takes Java engines to fire up. But while this and other enhancements like big screens and nice keypads are enhancing the user experience, developers are still frustrated by the myriad implementations of Java that require separate testing and tweaking for apps to work across different handset models.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Douglas Rushkoff says mobility is changing people's sense of individuality, Howard Rheingold reports on advances in augmented reality and Mike Masnick says convergence carriers are missing out on mobile.