Re: Happy days be here again?

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By kotobuki
February 28, 2005

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With 3G, voice is still king. There is no killer data application. Data could remain simply PC cards for the business elite. As such, there is no money to justify the continuing investment in infrastructure other than the increased voice efficiencies that may be produced.


I'm not disagreeing with you yet... just looking for some clarification.

I would consider picture mail a killer application. It is easy to pooh-pooh this without giving it some thought. I was still living in Japan (wistful sigh) when J-phone first brought it out, and I thought it was a gimmick doomed to die. It didn't; pixel quality improved dramatically, inter-operability issues became non-issues, and it took off-- it tornado-ed, if you will. The success of so-called "sha-mail" (sha being the reading of one of the kanji in "picture") was partly responsible for 'au' and J-phone's capture of market share from DoCoMo. EVERYBODY wanted sha-mail; if you were getting a phone, then you got one with a camera. The screen quality and camera quality has improved so much that you can take fairly decent pictures with these. People in my office used to download them from their phones for use as screen backdrops on their PCs, and the pictures really weren't too bad.

This application is going to take off here (America) and elsewhere (Europe, the sub-continent, the rest of Asia). I have no doubt about it. What teenager or 20ish youth is not going to want this?? And what teenager or 20ish youth these days does not have a phone?? (And who is to say that 'adults' wouldn't want this either?) Before I teach my classes, I have to remind my students to turn off their phones. Everybody has one. I caught a few students a few years ago text-messaging answers to test questions...

The video mail that 'au' introduced several years ago is a natural extension of this, and also something that is likely to drive adoption of 3G phones. Is it a killer application? I think so. Again, the ability to videotape something on your phone and send it to someone is just too tempting to pass by for many. It has all sorts of practical applications as well. "Honey, what does the restaurant look like?" "What does the house look like?" etc. "Let me stream you a video of where I am..."

How about GPS applications? I used to be able to download a map of where I was in the city, and navigate to wherever my friends were... this was particularly helpful in Japan, where most streets aren't named, but there is no reason why somebody wouldn't want GPS-type Yahoo maps on their phone. I hate having to print these things out every time I need a map to go to some new movie theatre or store.

And then there is the FOMA videophone that DoCoMo rolled out. I think I first saw these three years ago, and was again (as with all these other applications) questioning whether it would take off. It is beginning to. I am not saying that you always want to see the person whom you're talking to, but it is nice to have the option. I think a quicker adoption of the FOMA phones was hampered by the high cost of the phones, the limited penetration in early phases, and the high subscriber cost. This is all changing.

On-line gaming is popular, and there is no reason 3G phones can't handle cell-phone gaming. Obviously, there are limitations because of the screen size, but there are millions of youth that would jump at the opportunity to have a cell phone AND the ability to game with friends. Why wire-up your Gameboys, when your phone can do that, and video mail, and everything else it does? Phone to phone chess anyone? Scrabble (with a zoom option so you can better see parts of the board)? RPGs?

How about downloading music?? Once again, the grand innovator 'au' has come out with phones that act as mini i-pods. You can download songs and store them on your phone. I tested one of these back in December, and thought the sound quality was sufficient for the needs of most (and I am a musician). Tinker, I know what you think of iTunes downloads, and I agree that the quality needs some improvement, but most users just don't think about it. This is going to be the killer application I think. You can look at the success of i-pod minis (or even i-pods) to see how much people could want these. Can your iPod call friends, stream e-mail, do video-conferencing? No, but your cell phone will be able to. And imagine if radio stations, TV programs, whatever, start saying, "And you can download this song on your cell phone now at...."

And then you have music video downloading. This is already a possibility. Tie up a deal with MTV and artists where you have exclusive video (like you have exclusive songs on iTunes), and you are going to have quite a few people in the teen to 30ish age range downloading this stuff.

I could go on: animated greeting cards, educational tools (my friend and I are developing a kanji flash-card system for cell phones), voice-recognition programs, touch-screen applications, movie-clips, (on a side note, the porn industry is apparently ten times the size of Hollywood, and has already made its way to phones, in Japan at least. I'm not saying this is a good thing or bad thing, but it is an enormous amount of money that will be a part of cell-phone revenues), health industry applications (cell phones track elderly people who suffer from dementia and may wander or become lost), Trenchrat chart extravaganza applications (can't you see him on his Treo watching streaming charts and firing off ripostes to the RMBS board?), even mobile programming (actually, this would be an interesting way for QCOM to push BREW)...

You mention voice, but I just don't see how this is going to be king, or extremely relevant to 3G. I taught English on the side for several years to Fujitsu employees who were working on improving voice quality. Technology may have changed, so that you have an enormous amount of voice data coming into the phone, but it was my understanding that the hardware had more to do with voice quality than the need for bandwidth or 3G networks... I'm curious what you were thinking of.... VOIP over 3G? (Here we go with SONS again.)

I guess the point that I am trying to make is that there are a dozen or so applications that you and I and most of the people on this board might not care about. I for one got so damn sick of my cell phone (and my employers who required that I keep it on so that they could call me in the middle of dinner, of vacation, of dates to get me to translate stuff so other people could get rich), that I ditched it on coming to America, and refuse to carry one now. But I do recognize that there are millions of people who would jump for any one of these applications, even if for simple entertainment. I use the 'youth category' by default and because it is easy to envision them as consumers driving adoption, but many of these applications appeal to users irregardless of age, ethnicity, background, etc.

One or more of these things are going to become killers aps to drive 3G. Many of them were already possible on older networks, but 3G is going to significantly enhance the experience. And the more apps the merrier. I am just wondering why you think voice would appeal to users more than any of these things. Are people screaming for better voice quality? Or are do they want their favorite laptop applications wherever they go? I can't imagine not investing in the infrastructure to attract all the people who want this.

Maybe this isn't fair, because on reading back through all of this, I see that you are simply suggesting that there just isn't any money yet from a killer application to justify more spending. I am kind of off topic, but I think we are on the cusp of an enormous amount of money-- money that you could justify pouring back into the infrastructure (and the pockets of shareholders in this big value chain, like you and me. Go QCOM, ARMHY, SONS, OPWV and all the rest!)


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