It's a chat-show format! Tim Green hosts.
First up: Mike Short, VP R&D, O2.
TG: How's mobile going to be affected by an economic slowdown?
MS: Anyone in the room feel a slowdown? It's still a growth industry; there's a lot left to do wrt content and applications.
TG: Isn't a discretionary spend on content threatened?
MS: There's bound to be some belt-tightening, but people are going wireless over fixed. We're seeing 38% year-on-year growth. Public sector are starting to show an interest - unheard of a few years ago. Some areas (e.g. some aspects of content) might slow down, but overall growth.
MS: Operators don't want to do content themselves, they want partnerships. They've not been happy w/slow growth of WAP, iPhone has shown that usability stimulates growth.
TG: O2 are not supporting all Nokias because of conflicts (with Ovi?)
MS: Yes, but operator ranges are always limited. We can't stock them all.
Helen Keegan: What's your top tip for what'll be big in the coming year?
MS: More of the same. More mobile/web combinations as web players come into the market.
HK: How can we get web and mobile side of our industry playing together?
MS: Education helps. Events like this help. Trialling things with the customer in mind helps - some web ideas don't fit well.
David Wood, Symbian: Will we seem more of the same delivered more efficiently thanks to companies being more cost sensitive?
MS: Efficiency will come, but we'll start thinking of new ways to do things. How can mobile help in new application areas? e.g. NFC trials with TfL embedding Oyster into handsets.
Mark Curtis, Flirtomatic: Did the NFC trials involve O2 taking 35% revenues, or normal content revenues?
MS: Normal commercial arrangement for Oyster (i.e. no huge revenue share for operators). We won't see a revolution in the next 2-3 years, but rather an increased range of devices to increase utility.
James, Truphone: Your team did well to secure the iPhone. What's the one thing you learned from the iPhone user experience?
MS: The Store - there's a lot of lessons in there as strong as the usability angle; which is why we're setting up O2 Litmus.
Will, D2C: We've battled fragmentation for the last few years, but it's getting worse and there's a trend towards applications. How do you see this moving?
MS: Fragmentation isn't O2's responsibility, but if customers want something new we won't stop them. We have some influence, but they're asking for different things. We're interested in global, not UK-centric standards.
Next up, Russell Buckley from Admob.
RB: iPhone is becoming #1 device worldwide (out of 12m sold worldwide).
TG: What are the form factors for advertising?
RB: CPM graphical banners are UK/US only, much volume comes from outside. 30/70 in favour of graphical and iPhone banners.
TG: How do you see the vocabulary of advertising changing? Banners are form the Internet and a bit lame, after all.
RB: New media tend to borrow from older ones. Same is true of the mobile Internet: we've borrowed formats from digital and this has worked well, but the iPhone lets us do new formats to play to mobile for the first time (e.g. click-to-call, location-based).
TG: How realistic is it to take the iPhone formats and profilerate them across handsets?
RB: Other models (e.g. RIM Blackberry) let us play to strengths of mobile. We're transitioning from old WAP to iPhone type experience, but whether the iPhone is the winner is moot: it's given the rest of the industry a vision.
TB: What about brand-building? Is the Carling iPhone app an advert?
RB: The old model of interruptive advertising is starting to fade. The people having big success (e.g. Jaguar) are more concerned with the overall customer journey.
TB: How many of your advertisers are mobile content/handset companies?
RB: We spoke to them first, if we can't sell to ourselves who can we sell to? The US is more receptive to new adverts/formats, the car sector in particular have taken off.
TB: Where's the line between advertising and marketing?
RB: CRM is untapped and important. Don't cancel my credit card when I spend abroad: send me texts re transactions to save me hassle and make it my responsibility.
Andy Walker, Geomoder: Asks about LBS.
RB: We're prenatal about LBS. We've not cracked delivering messages yet - we've tried LBS alerts via text, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Mapping shows us the way but it's a huge logistical problem to get this into the heads of the sales force.
Scott Beaumont, Mippin: What can we do to bring better quality brands onto mobile?
RB: I'm global chair of the MMA. P&G want to talk to their "next billion" customers, not the mobile industry... Admob have a lot of inventory in this part of developing world.
James, mJelly.com: Much of your traffic is in India, Indonesia, etc... not that much value to advertisers though. What's going to happen?
RB: Our biggest market is the US; UK is in the top-5. 1.5bn in Indonesia leaves lots of potential: a few clicks will matter (sounds to me like the old "we just need 1% of the market" play to me tho). A click today in the UK/US is worth more than in Indonesia, but for brands wanting to talk to these customers for the first time it's got potential.
Half-time with the Mobile Industry Review team. Fairly harsh slagging to the G1: "it's really shit hardware, but Android is really amazing. The screen is crooked. Good points: browser is nice, stable."
Next: Madhuban from Irini (sp?).
M: Investors are looking beyond applications to investments in IP rights.
TG: If there's no liquidity in financial markets, can we expect money to flow (in mobile)?
M: Trade buyers are coming from the US, UAE and India.
TG: Are India and China looking to invest outside their home territories?
M: In markets like this you'll see some bargains. Mobile is high-growth and in overdrive. India and the UK have common themes: from an operator POV they're the most competitive markets, but in terms of ARPU they're the opposite: so in one you play a volume game, in the other value-add.
TG: Russell, you've had your share of VC money. How do you feel about the situation?
RB: You've seen the Sequioa "RIP" presentation. Investment now would have been on different terms to a few months back. Cost of doing a startup is much lower now than 10y ago, you can work on a shoestring and build value in the downturn so that when the market recovers you're well positioned.
TG: What companies are you looking at?
M: The fundamentals of investment haven't changed. Using mobile as a means to deliver a piece of technology is interesting; cites example of an Ecuadoran community using mobile without operators, or mobile used as card reader/scanner for couponing.
TG: Some of the technologies are disruptive - doesn't that make for a high risk investment?
M: Yes, good VCs can see opportunities before they become mainstream. Skype etc were disruptive investments.
And now, Bill Thompson, "a hairy man".
BT: I get to play with things and see how they might be useful. Mobile has been the most interesting area for the last 8-9 years. It's like a waterwheel: someone is always drowning, it certainly has it's downside.
BT: I have seen 1 videocall in the wild, in a bar in Barcelona. It reminded me of cable where the cable companies tried to get us to buy TV, when we wanted IP connectivity. All the talk of advertising etc., masks a reality: phones will become Just Another IP Device. Many of the models built around its affordances as a phone will stop being workable and new things become possible. People challenging the status quo of operators etc. will have a difficult time, but will prevail. We will change handsets and expect portability of UI. Portability will bring audience loyalty.
TG: What timeframe for this to be a mainstream consumer choice?
BT: Vested interests tend to decay. As technologies emerge, so do new possibility of making money. Incumbents either self-cannibalise (rare) or die. (He's talking about strategy tax I think). New entrants with nothing to preserve can offer something fantastic - e.g. a handset that clones the UI of your current phone?
TG: If the handset companies become clones and networks become pipes, who are the big forces?
BT: The OS developers (if they're lucky) or the applications and services. It's all IP in the long-term, all bits on a processor. Phones become commodities, but no-one has a "right" to make a profit.
TG: How can Vodafone reposition for this?
BT: Buy a foundry. Make chipsets. Be Qualcomm. Support the multiplicity of handsets in software as well as hardware.
BT: Binge drinking is a side-effect of mobile phones. My daughter will arrange to go out, but not to a venue - just-in-time socialising. Landlords need to offer cheap beer in happy hours to keep customers, hence binge drinking.
Dan Applequist, Vodafone: There's a lot of entrenched cynicism in the industry, that real people don't want these services, preferring hand-holding. What do you say to people who take that view?
BT: Good UI design is like a new sexual partner: revealing him/herself slowly. As you explore you discover new opportunities for pleasure, ideally at minimum cost. I'd like big, thrusting bandwidth.
DA: Where's the balance point between disruption and disrupting yourself out of business?
BT: In next 4-5 years we'll see failed disruptions ("peaked too early"), have their ideas picked up on, giving them an opportunity to build new businesses. The worst thing is that someone large (Google) sees your business as their marketing expense.
TG: What will move people in this direction? Most people still only want voice and text.
BT: Imagine Nokia 8600 running Android. You don't need to give people interfaces today, but you do need to give them platforms which support what they want - so when they want these services, they're there.
RB: Opportunity is for incumbents to be disruptive (e.g. O2).
David Wood, Symbian: On the question of UIs changing according to your mood. Have you seen what QT do?
BT: This is the way things will go - it's a question of how much functionality you reveal to the user and when?
James, Truphone: Network operators annoy me when they tell me what I can do - e.g. the Blackberry Storm with Wi-Fi taken out for Vodafone. I want a phone with everything open.