Monday, December 06, 2004


Last month, Fox announced a unique series of one-minute dramas based on its hit show 24 for Vodafone Live! and its brand new 3G service. The "mobisodes", as they're being called, will be introduced in January 2005 in the UK and more than a commercial service, I think it really represents a milestone in the entertainment industry.

Let's take a step back here. Well, I am far from being a Hollywood Guru, but when the TV came out, I think we can say that there were two categories of content being broadcasted. First, the type of content that already existed on other mediums - such as movies coming from theatres - that could just fit well on a TV. Second, the made-for-TV type of content as we know it today. TV is still using these two categories, because it is by nature very well adapted to its format, its distribution, but a different business model has been introduced: TV commercials.

Now let's look at the Web. It is an ocean of everything where anybody can put their own content available for others, a many-to-many type of model while the TV has followed a one-to-many approach. I think the mobile space is somewhere in between, since you still have operators who have some degree of control of services - the deck - while you also have the many-to-many paradigm possible. But what does this really imply for our mobisodes here?

Well think about it. 24 on cell phones is like cinema for television, fitting into the first category of entertainment (in our case, 24 will be 1 minute episodes instead of 60 minutes, so there is still some adaptation here). But what is expected to come next is content-made-for-mobile type of entertainment, this is what we could call mobile entertainment or mobertainment. The type of content designed from scratch for the mobile platform, considering its nature: limits (screen size, etc.) and unique advantages (interactivity, anywhere, etc.).

I have been told our 24 case here had its limits, due to what the whole entertainment industry is based on: rights, rights and rights. I have been told that a different cast will be put in the wireless version of the series due to rights issues, because the show has not been designed for wireless on a legal statepoint.

Last week end, I was down in LA, spending some time with the crowed behind The Spot. This show may be the very first one that belongs to the second category, which is made-for-mobile from scratch. And this is because of the format of content they started to use, but also and mainly because of the way rights are handled. The company behind The Spot owns the rights and could launch the episodes on the Web as well as on wireless. Since May this year, Sprint subscribers can access to the daily audio episodes for a monthly fee and the production is talk with television channels as well. I actually did start my Hollywood career there, since I played a mysterious French guy called Alexandre Badeaux (you should check out the free videos online starting this Wednesday!).

What is cool about the Spot is the community built around it and its influence power. Fans can email, send text or video messages to the Spot Mates (people living in the house being called the Spot) and somehow influence how the storyline is evolving. And all of that can be done from a cell phone! I am not a big fan of reality types of shows, but how many people out there would like to some degrees of influence over the people they watch on these shows? I can imagine this becoming big, really big.

I believe 24 and especially the Spot being good examples of how the entertainment industry can efficiently embrace the wireless space, not just pushing what's already available on TV or other mediums.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

A lot of $$$ and a little bit of development

It is only a few years old thing in both Americas and Europe and a little more in Japan and Korea, but dynamics around mobile application development are changing already. By the way I put "Americas" instead of US on purpose, because we should not forget about the Canadian and the very fast growing Latin American markets.

But let's go back to our topic here... As a mobile developer, you can chose which platform you want to support, and will be selling your applications through operators or other distributors including Handango. Until recently open mobile platforms such as J2ME and Symbian had the advantage of guaranteeing low barriers of entry with an upfront investment of $0 or close to close to $0. Wireless carriers could also opt for BREW and its end2end solution providing an appealing business model for developers. But the barriers of entry here have always been pretty high since a $10,000 investment is required for your application to be certified - a must to be considered by carriers.

But despite of this cost factor, BREW happened to become a big money-making solution for both carriers and developers. It is like supporting iTunes rather than Kazaa when you are in the music industry: the artist, record company, and distributor/platform provider are all getting paid.

Now the other mobile platform providers are somehow adjusting their propositions in order to answer to the industry's demand. Wireless carriers do want security and bugs free applications, in order to guaranty good quality in their data offerings along with their voice services. And typically carriers can not and do not want to handle the certification process. So certification programs managed by platform providers started to come into the picture...

J2ME is now providing Java Verified, Symbian launched Symbian Signed and Microsoft Mobile2Market. They all enable applications to be certified (application testing + signature) and may also provide some marketing support as well. Now Nokia is taking both J2ME and Symbian into the next level. With Preminet, Nokia intends to do for these platforms what Qualcomm has done for BREW: provide wireless carriers with a content distribution system, supporting only certified applications. But what does that mean for developers?

On one side it is becoming harder and harder for developers to get their applications on carrier's catalogues. Wireless carriers usually limit the number of apps they are selling. So let's face it as a new, record free developer, your chances to see Sprint or Verizon Wireless propose your game to their customers are becoming very, extremely low. And on the other side, with the industry trend and this Nokia initiative, it would cost you a few thousands dollars upfront even if you decide to support J2ME and Symbian, without any garanty to make a single dime out of your application.

So for independant application developers, it simply means more risks, and you-better-go-with-a-partner such as a publisher and ultimately, the pourcentage of revenues you will get may shrink, but hopefully volumes would balance... But it looks like this community will have no choice and become more and more professional. I don't know many independant developers who are playing around with BREW as much as with J2ME, developing applications "for fun" and submitting them to carriers. The BREW community seems to be more about companies and less about individuals and I believe the same may be applied to the other platforms in a near future.

Monday, October 04, 2004

A new Gold Rush!

When I arrived in San Francisco early 2001, the dot-com bubble was about to burst. Just a couple of weeks later, I met this CEO of a small company at a party and he told me he didn't believe the good times were over. He said that after spending 20 years in the Silicon Valley or so, not only it always comes back, but it even gets more crazy each time. I told the guy that I believed the next one was going to be about wireless and that I wanted to be here when it happens. Well, it is happening now, right now!

It is true that the Highway 101 is getting more crowded these days (which is probably a credible symptom by the way!) but I have some more concrete arguments to raise. One thing: we are not talking about the entire economy here, but definitely about the mobile entertainment industry.

I have done a little bit of homework, and here is how CRAZY has been the past summer when it comes to investment and acquisitions:

  • Sorrent raised $20M, third round, July 2004
  • Airborne Entertainment raised $22M, August 2004
  • In-Fusio raised $27M, August 2004
  • Idetic raised $15M, second round, August 2004
  • Agilix Labs raised $4.35M, August 2004
  • Digital Chocolate:
    • Acquired Sumea, June 2004
    • Raised $13M, 2nd round, August 2004
  • Mforma
    • Raised $44M, 1st round, June 2004
    • Raised $19M, 2nd round, August 2004
    • Acquired FingerTwitch, August 2004
    • Acquired Blue Beck, August 2004

To conclude this crazy summer, Digital Bridges signed a development deal with EA and Jamdat went IPO, a few days ago, raising about $61M, and their stock rose over 40% 1st day of trade!

So now open up your eyes... About a quarter of a billion dollars has been invested into these companies, in the last 3 months! We may not (and should probably not) talk about a bubble yet, since these guys are making money, probably even more than projected a few years ago. But it looks like VCs have been considering investing all at once, just like if they were scared to be out of the game.

This is a very exciting time right now, and I believe the industry has just entered into something big, a new gold rush full of opportunities, and I hope this will get better, crazier and even more fun than the previous one! Later this month, I do not want to miss the Mobile Entertainement Summit.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Orange Code Camp

Orange hosted a Code Camp about two weeks ago in France, and it was a great opportunity to meet with application developers, and keep updated on their experience and issues they are facing.

I was moderating a Birds of a Feather session on 3D in Java, and had a great panel of experts from Apoje, In-Fusio, as well as Nokia. 3D is happening right now, with a bunch of devices reaching the market before the end of this year. These devices will support the standard 3D API: JSR 184. Here is a short list just to name a few: Siemens CX66, Sony Ericsson K700, Siemens CX70, Motorola e680, Nokia 6630, Siemens SK65, Sony Ericsson S700i, Sony Ericsson Z500.

For application developers, 3D will mean acquiring new skills or partnering with graphic designers, so this market is expected to follow somehow the traditional game industry, and I don't think individual developers will be willing to take the additional risks...
But anyway, if you are interested about these opportunities, check this article Sun has just published: Getting Started With the Mobile 3D Graphics API for J2ME.

In addition to that, what I think to be very exciting are the upcoming hardware solutions. Heard about ATI, nVIDIA and NeoMagic? Well, they have all announced upcoming products for cell phones, so yes, you will be able to play Tomb Raider truly, fully anywhere! Such devices are expected to reach the market next year. Now the question is: would you spend $10 or so to get Tomb Raider on your phone?

But going back to the Code Camp, if you are a developer and you are based in the US, stay tuned because you may hear about something cool soon.

Presentations at the last Code Camp are available online on the Orange Partner web site (you do need to register though).


Sunday, September 26, 2004


This blog aims to provide my thoughts about the wireless industry. I plan to have a tighter focus on mobile application development, which I believe is one of the most exciting pieces! Let me give you a little introduction about myself...

I have been involved in the wireless industry in one way or another since 1999. I spent some time in Tampere, Finland living a few minutes away from the main Nokia R&D center, then I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2001 and since worked on different projects at France Telecom R&D, working closely with Orange. Even though I have a technical background, I enjoy looking at the industry as a whole, trying to anticipate the trends, challenges and opportunities this industry has to offer. About five years ago, I attended the very first conference on WAP in Paris on my spare time, and I have since seen the evolution of the wireless world!

I am not planning to publish tens of blog entries a day, but anytime I feel about sharing ideas and thoughts. Please feel free to post comments, I don't promise I will always reply, but I definitely want to make it as interactive as possible.