What Qix Means to Wireless Profits
Virgin Mobile launched Qix, Zi Corporation's cell phone navigator software. Qix tries to anticipate what you're looking for as soon as you start using your keypad. In the example to the right, touching '3' then '2' brings up 'Dad', 'eBay', '326-3524', and any other similar phonebook contact, browser bookmark, installed application, short code, etc. The default is to let you continue entering numbers, as you normally would. This approach reminds me of T9's predictive text technology, which makes it easier to enter text messages on most mobile phones.
Qix has the same name as an old video game that used the classic Etch-A-Sketch interface but was surprisingly addictive. With any luck, using Qix will be just as addictive for Virgin Mobile users.
It needs to be. For MVNOs like Virgin to make their hurdle rate, they need a mobile platform with lots of paid applications. Most cell phone navigational tools make it easy to buy apps. Yet somehow after the first few uses it's far too easy to forget those apps are even there.
At MocoNews.net, Virgin Mobile Sales & Marketing Director Graeme Hutchinson commented, "One of the biggest challenges we face is to entice customers to start using the plethora of features and services on their phones, and to use them frequently." He went on to compare Qix to search engines like Google or Yahoo.
I think the Google/Yahoo analogy is wrong. Google thinks about programing as if they were datafeeds, rather than focus on gateway management issues. Yahoo is going to be a great studio in the grand tradition of Paramount or MGM, and is going to be a huge supplier of content.
Graeme and mobile carriers should look at better examples like TV Guide - the cable network, not the magazine. The onscreen guide was the key to profitability for early cable networks, and arguably became the most popular "channel" for male viewers. Without the guide, we might never have discovered gems like Nickleodeon or the USA Network. For third-tier cable networks like Great American Country, being given a channel number like 132 was effectively like exile. In a way, onscreen guides were the long tail for cable companies.