#TBT: The ‘dark ages’ of mobile social media; iPhone drives a data explosion; Did you ever ChaCha?… this week in 2010

5G Top Stories

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Mobile social media still in the ‘dark ages’
SEATTLE — If you ask the head of mobile at Facebook Inc., he’ll tell you we still have a long way to go before social media really spreads its wings in the mobile environment. “We haven’t yet even begun to see the true potential of what social looks like on your phone,” Erick Tseng said yesterday at Mobile Future Forward. “From our perspective we are still in the dark ages on what that should look like.” The end-goal sounds simple enough: “All of that social intelligence that you have built around yourself … all of that goodness should be available to you on the phone,” he said. With more than 500 million active monthly users worldwide and almost one-third, or 150 million, of those users accessing the site via mobile, it’s astounding to just think how much Facebook can achieve and deliver on mobile. “We don’t have an operating system, but we do have a platform,” Tseng noted. Back in mid May, the social networking phenomenon launched a “stripped-down version of the web site” at 0.facebook.com that gives users (mostly in developing countries) access to their account with no data fees. Facebook has signed up 70 carriers for the service in barely more than three months. Except for the United States, “pretty much every other country out there is head over heels for this,” and Facebook isn’t paying a single penny to any carrier for the service, Tseng said.
Tseng and others on his panel has a wide-ranging discussion about a series of other pressing issues for mobile. “There’s no question that open is important and in some ways there’s an unstoppable trend toward open in mobile,” said David Weiden, general partner at Khosla Ventures. But in the same breath, he admitted that closed platforms are still consistently gaining clout in the space, particularly with Apple Inc. and its iOS. That’s not something that he would have predicted more than three years ago, before the iPhone came onto the scene. … Read more

Mobile broadband use explodes, driven by iPhone
EATTLE — Mobile broadband usage has grown an astounding 5,000% over the last three years on AT&T Mobility’s network, Fred Devereaux, the carrier’s president for the western region, said this morning at Mobile Future Forward. Meanwhile, the carrier is preparing for mobile broadband connectivity to leap 40% to 60% during the next five years, he said. No doubt, much of that growth is coming from apps, an area where the United States handily eclipses the rest of the world. In 2009, more than 833 million apps were downloaded in the United States, according to data from Strategy Analytics that Devereaux provided during his keynote. Japan, the next closest app-happy country, captured 642 million app downloads. China hit 296 million app downloads last year while South Korea hit 149 million and Germany rounded out the top five countries with 146 million app downloads. Devereaux also talked about AT&T’s emerging devices organization, which is responsible for driving AT&T’s growth on connected devices and in the machine-to-machine space. At a lab in Austin, Texas, AT&T tests and approves a whole range of these emerging devices, ranging from e-readers to netbooks and tablets. To make its terms more flexible for partners that distribute and sell these devices, AT&T is striking unique, custom deals with each, he said. While Devereaux declined to give details about how much money AT&T makes on M2M and connected devices, he said, “we’re OK with low ARPU because the volume is so great.” “It’s amazing how many people have $200 for a smart phone. It doesn’t seem to let up,” Devereaux said. “People are not buying basic phones anymore. It’s changing very quickly.” Much of that shift is due to the wild popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and the increasing momentum of devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. … Read more

Broadcasters tune into mobile TV
Mobile digital television has been a long time coming and broadcasters have taken another step to push their dreams for a nationwide broadcast mobile TV solution into reality. A group of 30 broadcasters, which collectively own 346 TV stations in 167 markets, formed the Mobile500 Alliance on Wednesday to that aim. With more than 90% of the U.S. population covered by their TV holdings, the group hopes to adopt the Mobile DTV standards which have been defined through years of work at the Open Mobile Video Coalition. The OMVC, which is comprised of 29 members representing more than 800 stations across the country, showcased live demonstrations of the technology earlier this year and recently wrapped a trial in select markets. Despite years of fits and starts, OMVC has worked faster on this standard than any other in broadcast history. The OMVC has successfully pulled together an ecosystem for Mobile DTV in just a matter of years while high-definition television took almost a decade to find a footing and color TV standards took decades to complete. The technology being pushed by OMVC and now further shepherded by Mobile500 Alliance will simply pull live broadcasts tailor-suited for mobile devices from the existing digital transmissions of at least 800 TV stations across the country. The Mobile DTV approach is much more traditional from the outset: live local programming supported by advertising that will only reach as far as each broadcast signal allows. “The Mobile500 Alliance aims to develop a Mobile DTV business model permitting consumers to view popular broadcast content, as well as non-broadcast content with enhanced features,” said Colleen B. Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fisher Communications, Inc. and Chair of the Mobile500 Alliance. “To that end, we will work to secure content arrangements with program suppliers and enhanced consumer device features with electronics manufacturers.” … Read more

Apple eases some developer restrictions and smiles for Flash
Apple Inc. knows that much of the success of the iPhone comes thanks to the creative apps that developers have brought to the iPhone experience. In yet another attempt to keep developers in its good graces, the company announced today that it is making some changes to its iOS Developer Program license “to relax some restrictions” it put in place earlier this year. “We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart,” the company wrote. What comes as the biggest surprise in Apple’s changes is an apparent about-face on restrictions covering development tools used to create iOS apps. Apple says it is “relaxing all restrictions” on this front “as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.” In effect, this could open up the iOS platform to Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash for the first time ever. Upon analyzing the changes, John Gruber at Daring Fireball wrote: “I believe that tools such as Adobe’s Flash cross-compiler are no longer banned from use. If you can produce a binary that complies with the guidelines, how you produced it doesn’t matter.” This move could prompt Adobe to breathe new life into its currently-dead-in-the-water Packager for iPhone. As promised when it first imposed the new restrictions last June, Apple has removed language in its developer agreement that banned third-party ad networks like Google Inc.’s AdMob. Finally, Apple is also publishing App Store Review Guidelines in an effort to give developers a more clear picture of the general app review process at Apple. … Read more

Crown Castle buys NewPath Networks
Crown Castle International Corp. (CCI) closed on its previously announced acquisition of NewPath Networks Inc. Crown paid $115 million for the Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) networks provider, adding 35 DAS networks to Crown’s portfolio. As part of the acquisition, Mike Kavanagh, co-founder and CEO of NewPath, has been named president of DAS operations at Crown Castle. “We are pleased to be combining the NewPath and Crown Castle DAS teams to capture opportunities in the market and provide customized infrastructure solutions to wireless carriers,” Kavanagh said. “Increasingly, we believe that distributed antenna systems will be an important complement to traditional tower installations,” said Ben Moreland, Crown Castle president and CEO. In its second-quarter earnings results, Crown said it expected to have 44 DAS networks operating or under construction once the acquisition closed. DAS networks are increasingly popular in dense urban environments as operators seek to add capacity or increase coverage in those environments. … Read more

Did you ever ChaCha?
ChaCha, the increasingly popular service that provides free answers to questions asked by users via text messages, today announced it has expanded its capabilities to include multimedia messaging service offerings. The new MMS feature will support videos, including movie trailers, and images such as coupons and logos, on nearly all mobile phone models. “This is a big deal for both our advertisers and users,” said Scott Jones, CEO of ChaCha. “Many marketers view sight, sound and motion as major enhancements to their brand’s message, and we are now in the ideal position to support these objectives in mobile channels. “Smartphones have whetted the consumer’s appetite for mobile, rich-media content,” continued Jones. “MMS allows media to finally reach virtually all mobile phones in a way that advertisers can have their messages seen and heard.”
The company said it plans to offer a variety of ways for brands to use its MMS offering, including showing a coupon for immediate local redemption using barcodes; providing users with a text response code within a text message that launches video when consumers respond … Read more

Intel’s WiDi debuts
Wowing the crowd on the first day of its developer conference in San Francisco, chipmaker Intel showed off its WiDi technology, beaming content back and forth between a handheld tablet and large-screen HDTV wirelessly. WiDi technology is not exactly new, having been shown off at CES back in January on specific Intel powered laptops, but now the firm seems to have found a more practical use for the technology, on Atom powered tablets. This means Intel powered tablet users will be able to stream high-def video and games from their laptop, desktop or Atom powered TV to their tablet. “Toilet gamers rejoice!” ran the twitter commentary as many realized the maybe not entirely earth-shattering potential. WiDi is built on a Wireless HD standard which is supposed to offer up to 4 Gbps at a 10 meter range, with no requirement for ‘line-of-sight’. It operates in the 60 GHz Extremely High Frequency band, which some fear may suck rather a lot of life out of the battery of any tablet beaming content back and forth, but as long as it’s destined for indoor use, that shouldn’t be a critical problem. It will be interesting to see whether Intel attempts to use its old trick of bundling WiDi with Atom in order to boost sales of the little CPU, or whether the firm will push the WiDi technology itself by allowing it to work on rival ARM’s processors. … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.

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