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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 16:47 GMT
Mobile services vie for attention
Dan Simmons
By Dan Simmons
Click reporter

A record 50,000 visitors and nearly 1,000 exhibitors crammed themselves into the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. Is this year really going to be as big for mobiles as the industry seems to believe?

TV on a mobile phone
Everyone at the 3GSM show was desperate to push their product
Our handsets have been slowly turning into PCs, with almost one in six now running on Windows Mobile.

And a new system, iMate, means you can hook up to your desktop wherever you are and access all the documents on your hard drive.

"It'll make lives easier because when you've forgotten something at home or in the office you can go and get it", says iMate CEO Jim Morrison.

"Whether it's that PowerPoint presentation you're working on, that Word document you're working on, or a photograph you took of your last holidays that you want to show people, you can actually go and get it where it is."

And, if you happen to lose your phone, you can back-up the information and then wipe the contents remotely, providing it is turned on.

Big brand internet portals are getting more interested in the mobile market too.

IN PICTURES

Yahoo! Go offers user-friendly e-mail and instant messaging services, so you can see who else is connected if you fancy a chat. Already in the US, the service rolls out across Europe in March.

This is all part of an industry trend towards more high profile content providers, says Thomas Husson, from Jupiter Research.

"We'll see more and more strong brands offering their own content directly to consumers, instead of mobile operators, because consumers do want trusted content they know."

Internet inspired

The latest trends on the web are now being mirrored on our mobiles too.

Mobile dating
Phone love: the new way to date
Mobile blogging sites like NewBay's FoneBlog encourage us to use multimedia messaging to upload pictures to a website. It saves sending it to your friends individually, and helps create a sense of community.

"We've actually seen a doubling of traffic in the last three months", says Newbay's Mark Ward.

"This is mainly being driven by the fact that people are using their camera phones, they're realising that mobile blogging is a cost-effective way for them to share their photos with friends and family while they're on the move."

Internet dating has proved a big hit and, with more video phones on the market, the voice technology company Intervoice expects some networks to start carrying its new mobile dating service this year. Just make sure you look the part before you press send.

Expect that blog or website you are searching for on your mobile to look a lot smarter with the launch of the new Apple Safari-style S60 browser. It ships on some new phones within the next six weeks.

It is hoped the popularity of RSS feeds online can be switched to the mobile too.

Critical Path is one of several launched at the show. It pushes updates as MMS messages, whereas others automatically go and fetch updates over the net when you go online.

Many of these ways of using more data services work on more basic handsets as well.

Next big things?

Other new services include barcode ticketing: why wait to be sent or collect tickets for events when you can get them via your phone?

Barcode ticketing
A barcode scanner will read the ticket on your phone
Moqiba was showing off its mobile ticketing system, and this year the buyers' picture is included for added security.

Music downloads to mobiles are being joined by mobile radio stations offering music-style channels without the DJs or the ads.

This is likely to be based on a subscription model so you know how much you will be paying. Two on display at Barcelona were Visual Radio and MobiTV.

Clearly in the mobile world, video has not killed the radio star, but this year video downloading could be pushed aside by what many people here see as the next big thing: mobile TV.

Sporting events and big brand channels are expected to drive demand for live TV this year.

As well as streaming video over the net to individual 3G phones, there are a number of competing over-the-air broadcast systems, most of which require us to buy new handsets with receivers but promise a more reliable service.

People are going to snack on content, they're not going to sit down and watch a movie for an hour and a half. It has to be short and quick
Mark Newman, Informa
British Telecom is leading the pack in Europe with Movio, offering broadcast TV using a system already in place, as Emma Lloyd, managing director of BT Movio, explains.

"What BT Movio is offering is building on top of DAB digital radio - which we're all familiar with - a brand new service which utilises that technology to deliver digital television as well."

And yes, you will have to buy a handset fitted with a DAB receiver. Virgin Mobile will launch the service in the UK this summer. Others are likely to follow.

Understanding the consumer

But in the rush to be first to the small screen, some experts think the industry has not paid enough attention to what we might want to see.

"The mobile industry hasn't focused enough on how people will use mobile TV", says Mark Newman, a senior analyst from Informa.

"People are going to snack on content, they're not going to sit down and watch a movie for an hour and a half. It has to be short and quick.

"The fundamental problem we have today is understanding how and when people use content. We all go on long train journeys, that's one place where people will consume this content.

"Interestingly, the trials have demonstrated so far that people often end up watching mobile TV at home or in the office."

Which begs the question, if we are expected to squint at a two inch screen and pay for what we watch, will TV on the go be compelling enough?



SEE ALSO:
Mobile hardware goes on show
17 Feb 06 |  Click
Mobiles look to entertain you
15 Feb 06 |  Technology
Virgin looks to offer mobile TV
14 Feb 06 |  Technology
In pictures: Barcelona 3GSM show
14 Feb 06 |  In Pictures
Mobiles aid drive for development
16 Feb 06 |  Technology


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