Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mobile phone technology and impact (from WSJ)

There was a nice feature in last Tuesday's WSJ (Feb 12th) about the mobile phone industry and its impact on the World. I highly recommend people to read these articles and present a bulleted list of highlights from this material because it is quite interesting.

1. Apple and Google are using their software expertise to turn phones into small computers. This means that users may finally emerge from the limited and locked-down applications provided by the hand-set manufacturers and service providers.

2. Mobile phone advertising is a high growth segment, with evidence of higher click through rates (e.g. 2% as compared to the 0.4% on the Internet). Moreover advertisers can reach the young demographic on this medium. However, significant problems remain. One is that service-providers are not forthcoming in providing subscriber information owing to privacy concerns. Another is the sheer heterogenity of devices which makes it technologically difficult to deploy universal marketing schemes.

3. Mobile TV is still in its infancy and growing slower than previously projected. Part of the problem is that it is expensive to use 3G for video delivery. There is DVB-DMB sort of broadcast technology in the horizon, but significant legal hurdles remain.

4. "Mobile-phone as your wallet" - near-field wireless technology that lets you swish your mobile phone at the checkout counter to make payments - seems to be taking off. But again, there is the issue of standardization. Should be sorted out in the next couple of years or so.

5. SMS-based money transfer is catching on in developing countries to transfer cash. Apparently some banks are investing in pilot services to see if this technology is viable in other countries as well.

6. There are other efforts to harness mobile phones for delivering market information, agricultural information, etc. in developing countries. However, these are still on the pilot stage. The most important aspect is that the content collection for such applications is highly labor intensive. As I mentioned in a post last year, ICT technologies are going to be less useful to the poorer and non-westernized people because there is a paucity of content. This could also be a very important growth area for media companies.

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