Liveblog: 3's mobile internet seminar

Mobile phones

3logo.jpgThis morning, mobile operator 3 is holding a mobile internet seminar in London, with speakers including the likes of Skype, Yahoo, and Jaiku. I’m sitting in, tapping away on a laptop to bring you the most interesting bits.

The latest entry will always be below, but click over the jump to get the whole seminar in chronological order (i.e. read down from the top)

10.50: Skype didn’t launch SkypeOut on 3 not for commercial reasons, says Tony Saigh. It was more about getting a client that worked. I always assumed 3 had nixed the idea due to fears about it cannibalising voice calls. Anyway, apparently SkypeOut is still on Skype’s mobile roadmap.

9.20: We’re kicking off with 3’s John Penberthy-Smith, introducing the event. He kicks off with a bold assertion – in 10 years time, more people will be using the mobile internet every day than use fixed-line broadband now. “That’s quite a bold statement, but I think it’s quite conservative – it may come sooner…”

9.25: He believes 3 has started in the right direction with X-Series, but there’s more to do. Some of its key services are popular though: between July 2006 and January 2007, Yahoo got 82 million page views through 3. After X-Series, between March and June 2007 it racked up 62 million. Meanwhile, 118 million MSN Messenger messages were sent and received in May 2007 alone through 3’s network (does this mean 59 million actual messages?)

9.30: 3’s John Penberthy-Smith outlines the future of mobile internet as far as 3 sees it. It’ll involve software downloads becoming the norm, advertising having an impact – but only if relevant – and the mobile operators working with established internet companies as partners. Although if everyone will be used to downloading apps to their phone, I wonder what the internet firms will have to gain by these partnerships – won’t they just be able to promote their applications independently?

9.35: Carsten Sorenson from the London School of Economics is talking about information systems – right now, there’s a diagram on-screen called ‘Leavitt’s Diamond’. I think you can probably Google it and get a far better explanation than I could give live. But it’s leading into a discussion of how changing family structures will affect mobile internet usage. I think.

9.37: He’s now talking about ‘the illusion of fluid working’. It’s about how most meetings last less than 90 seconds, and are unscheduled. And mobile phones and mobile email suit this really well, but there’s a difference between fluid working – being able to communicate with anyone you want to at any time – and constant interruptions. “If I keep my phone on all the time and reply to calls and text messages immediately, I see that as a freedom, but the more I do it, the more I become the guy who always responds, and so people get annoyed if I don’t!”

9.40: Are we in control of our communications, or are they in control of us? That’s the current question. I’m not entirely in control of understanding the presentation – not because it’s rubbish (it’s great, and very funny), but it’s one of those where ideas whizz past you at 120mph – I’ll have to listen back to my tape later to digest it. The clips of Grumpy Old Men are helping, mind.

9.45: Organisations and families spend all our time trying to cultivate boundaries. Who do I want to spend time with? Who do I want to talk to to innovate? Who’s allowed to have my mobile number and who’s not? The problem is, once you give it out, you can’t take it back. So when mobile technology erodes these boundaries, it’s good and bad news – thus, we need to cultivate and organise our contacts – which is where things like buddy lists come in. That’s the gist.

9.48: Tony Saigh of Skype is now giving his presentation. Quick facts: Skype has 196 million users now, having added nearly 25 million in the first quarter of 2007 alone. 4.4% of long-distance calls are now done over Skype. Cor.

9.50: Skype’s Tony Saigh: “We’re moving on from free calls.” Cites three products launched in Q1 2007: Skype Prime (experts selling their advice), SkypeFind (promote businesses) and Skype Send Money (using PayPal to send dosh to your contacts). The slogan is basically ‘from free calls… to free conversations’ – so it takes in video calls, using Skype Send Money to chip in with mates for someone’s birthday present, or about turning phone numbers on websites into ‘click to call’ buttons.

9.52: Now Skype’s Tony Saigh is talking about alternative ways to use Skype, focusing on Wi-Fi home phones, and now moving on to mobile handsets. On screen are a few devices, including what appears to be Sony’s Mylo. Not sure if that’s been announced already…

9.54: Now Skype’s Tony Saigh is talking about how Skype is working with mobile operators. Claims people’s mobile Skype calls are “incremental” to regular voice calls, not replacing them. Apparently Skype was subject to a fair usage policy when X-Series launched of 3,000 minutes a month, but that’s been raised now to “4,000-5,000 minutes” now.

9.57: Skype’s Tony Saigh points out that Skype is only on 3 in the UK: “The market isn’t ready for Skype to be available on every operator”. I’m not sure why that’s the case – is the market really not ready, or is 3 paying Skype a big enough sack of cash to make it say that? ;o)

10.00: Now Yahoo’s James Tipple is up to speak – the presentations seem to be capped at a very reasonable 10 minutes. Yahoo thinks more people will be accessing the internet from their phones than from their PCs too. Now he’s talking about Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0, which launched in beta last week. Check me with my real-time links…

10.03: Now Yahoo’s James Tipple is demoing Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0, showing off its Flickr aspects, which look very nice indeed. He’s also using the term ‘social reporters’, which is helluva better than ‘citizen journalists’. Go’s mapping and directions features also look purdy, and he’s also showing the way Go’s Yahoo Mail app can now open attachments. Sorry, I’m wedded to Gmail’s ace mobile client.

10.05: Now Yahoo’s James Tipple is talking about Yahoo’s new oneSearch mobile search tool, which was developed apparently after Yahoo big cheese Jerry Yang decided that existing mobile search methods were rubbish. The example here is searching for pizza restaurants. Instead of chucking a bunch of links at you, mobile phones should know where you are, and suggest some local pizzerias, complete with reviews, directions and phone numbers. And whaddyaknow, that’s what oneSearch does. It looks very good indeed.

10.07: Jyri Engestrom of Jaiku steps up for his presentation. I didn’t even know they were working with 3 – but then, I’m not sure Jaiku had even launched when the X-Series was announced. Anyway, he’s saying that Jaiku’s aim is “to find a way to disrupt blogs”, not in a ‘posting pr0n spam comments all over them’ way, but in a ‘find an innovative new spin on people’s desire to blog’ way.

10.08: Just to reiterate, Jaiku does not, and never has been involved in pr0n spam. Just in case the lawyers are reading.

10.12: Jaiku’s Jyri Engestrom is talking about the coming together of two trends – people wanting to blog and share their thoughts with their friends, and the availability of better mobile browsers and faster mobile internet. And he’s showing how Jaiku links all your different Web 2.0 services (Flickr photos, links, YouTube vids etc) into one place online. When you look at it, Jaiku is way slicker than Twitter, innit?

10.15: Jaiku’s Jyri Engestrom is showing off a new Jaiku feature – group channels, where lots of people can microblog about one subject, which is great for conferences, TV shows etc. He also talks about how the problem with traditional blogs is that you still usually need a full web browser on a computer to view them, whereas something like Jaiku is designed from the ground up to be accessed from all manner of devices. I see his point, although some blogging platforms are working on it (for example, Six Apart has made Vox more mobile-friendly).

10.19: Jaiku’s Jyri Engestrom is talking about all the different mobile clients for Jaiku, including BlackBerry, Java, Series 60 and so on. On Series 60 phones it replaces your traditional phonebook contacts, apparently, making it look more like an IM buddy list, with presence and location details. The latter is supplied by users (i.e. you input ‘I’m in London’), but could be done with operators to automatically list your location. “In the future, you could also have the option to share what music you’re listening to or what TV show you’re watching on your phone”. That’s share the name of it, obviously – not actually share the music file. That’d be bad, Kids.

10.23: Jaiku saves you money, explains Jyri Engestrom. How? Instead of texting ten friends asking them to come to the pub, you just post a Jaiku saying you’re off to the Dog & Stoat. And then weep when nobody turns up, and they all pretend they didn’t see your Jaiku feed, obviously. Also, Jyri classes Twitter as ‘group messaging’, Jaiku as ‘microblogging’ (“a geeky term, I hope someone invents a better name for it”), and Facebook as ‘social networking’. Interesting, albeit a good way to not position Jaiku as a direct rival to Twitter.

10.25: Jaiku’s Jyri Engestrom: “We’ll see a future where celebrities cannot afford NOT to be on these things [microblogging services], because they give you such a reach to your followers.” Peaches Geldof is signing up for an account as we speak, I daresay. Also he talked about the applications for reality TV. I’ve got an idea: next series of Celebrity Big Brother, give each housemate a microblogging account…

10.30: Is it still super-early tiny usage days for mobile internet? 3’s John Penberthy-Smith says 3 has “hundreds of thousands of people” using these services. “I think we have gone through the adopters, and we’re into the next stage of the adoption curve. We’re now starting into the adoption of people for whom this is everyday life for them.”

Stuart Dredge
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