Google Gears on Mobile Devices

Google has announced Google Gears for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 devices.

Google Gears works in exactly the same way on a Windows Mobile 5 or
6 device as it does on a desktop PC. If you’ve already written an application
that uses Google Gears, your application will also work on a Windows Mobile
5 or 6 device. Except, of course, only within the limitations of that
device
. This means you need to consider things such as small screen
and limited ability to input text as well as the limitations of the Document
Object Model and CSS APIs present on mobile devices.

If Google Gears is expanded to work on Safari (Desktop and iPhone), then Gears might provide an easier way to develop for an iPhone than even Apple’s own SDK.

World Mobile Conference- The Year of the Browser

The number one thing that jumped out at me during the conference was Google’s report that there are 50x more searches originating from the iPhone than any other mobile handset.

Just to put that in perspective there are 4 million iPhones in the wild compared to 3 billion other mobile devices. This goes hand in hand with O2’s report that 60% of U.K. iPhone users are sending or receiving more than 25 MB of data a month- which is unheard of on other handsets.

Android was only available on a few booths- AMD, Qualcomm, etc. From the demo I saw, it’s clear that Android will offer iPhone-like touchscreen functionality along with a tightly bundled suite of Google Apps and browser. It’s important to highlight that Android is using WebKit- the same as Safari on the iPhone (and Mac OS X desktop).

Opera was demoing their latest 9.5 release- showing off Opera Desktop, Opera Mini, Opera Mobile and Opera Wii. They’ve created a browser for many, many other non-handset devices (Wii, Airplanes, Archos, etc.) They allow users to sync their profile, bookmarks, widgets, etc across all devices. (This is the exact same functionality that Apple should be offering.)

I didn’t see Mozilla, but Firefox is coming soon.

Great browsers, combined with device specific site optimization (e.g. iPhone) or server-side optimization (e.g. Novarra) mean 2008 could finally be the Year of the Browser on mobiles.

Symbian Smartphoneshow

I heard from DoCoMo, Vodafone and Nokia this morning (but Sling Media stole the show in the early afternoon).

I wanted to highlight a few key points that jumped out at me:

Smartphones represent LESS than 10% of the market in every western country except Italy

Smartphones are primarily used by males, over 35 earning circa six figures (except Italy).

Smartphone use is going from “snacks” to “utilities” (no mention of Italy)

Wow.

The smartphone show as really packed- and they’re all rushing for sub 10% market? Obviously, this is going to grow and obviously more services are going to become available, but today’s conference has really reinforced how risky it is to be making early stage investments in the mobile application space (unless there’s a solid web tie-in?). You definitely want to be selling the shovels, not digging for the gold…

Some of Tim O’Reilly’s Address Book 2.0 thoughts came out, but on balance, I was pretty disapointed with what I heard… hopefully FOM will be much better.

Mobile Video Content

Apit_060525_starwars
iTunes has released Star Wars "The Clone Wars" formatted for release on iTunes. The first series  consists of 20 three-minute episodes.

It’s a great example of the right content for portable devices. I’ve been discussing with different companies providing video to mobile networks here in the UK what impact the iPod video, PSP, etc they expect to see on video sales/downloads to mobile phones. There are mixed opinions, but most believe that video downloads on mobile phones will be a long time coming.

I’m convinced that unless the consumer experience can equal that of iTunes, mobile video on phones will never really take off. If you have $10 to burn, I recommend you grab the Star Wars series and Channel Frederator (free) on iTunes.

London Start-ups: Flirtomatic

Flirtomatic
Normally, I can’t post regarding companies I’ve met with. However, since this post is out in the wild on alarm:clock, I’ll make a few observations.

Flirtomatic approached London Seed Capital and London Business Angels earlier in the summer looking for a different sum than what they raised in the end from Doughty Hanson. Unfortunately, DH offered more money at a higher valuation that what we were considering, and the company made an understandable choice to go with the larger funding round. I’m not convinced they need what they raised since their marketing spend should be limited to an initial London-based splash and then feed on the viral aspect of the business and I doubt the ownership structure varies significantly from what we were proposing.

The team have an excellent skill set and represent the type of company you long to see in early stage VC: experienced management, with directly relevant skills starting a business with explosive growth potential.

The company has approached their business model in a novel way compared to previous mobile companies, and it’s one that I’m seeing more frequently: they are effectively cutting the network operators out of the value chain. Because their app runs on data transmission, and not premium SMS, they hold on to the lions share of the revenue. Plus, because it’s subscription based- there’s a nice recurring revenue stream.

Congratulations Mark and Avi on successfully launching the service.

(And a tip of the hat to Alarm:clock for covering London-based start-ups.)