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Mobile Telephony + iPod

MotopodApple has sent out invitations for a special event to be held September 7th at their favorite venue, San Francisco's Moscone Center.

"1000 songs in your pocket changed everything." notes the invitation. "Here we go again."

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has reached an agreement with Cingular, the nation's largest wireless carrier, to carry the Motorola-made product. The image shown here is a creative imagining of what the phone might look like and is in no way authorized by either Apple Computer Inc. or Motorola.

As Apple faces its own battles with the recording industry over song price - and as significant new players like HMV and Virgin provide more distribution options - Apple might find its hands full.

Apple will need to change its song price strategy. I've been a strong advocate of simple price models - as I've noted before, Sprint's Dime-A-Minute strategy years back was brilliant in cutting through complex multi-state tarriffs to provide a simple, understandable value proposition. The problem is the need for legal music is far greater than the typical iPod target market. Not all songs on a disc are equal, and there are millions of businesses who should be iPod users but at ninety-nine cents a song, the economics - and the appropriate licensing - might as well be on Mars.

We are just seeing the beginning of how touch-tone phones are intersecting with music - not just ringtones, but services like Shazam and others that let you know what song is playing right now (call 703/286-6454 for a slightly different take on this same concept). I think Apple needs to rethink the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) model that ESPN, Boost, Amp'd and so many others have begun to popularize. I think Apple is still too proprietary ... and this market, like before, may just slip through their fingers if they don't find a way to accommodate the major labels.

Men's Vogue to Launch

Vogue_hommeIn a little over two weeks, Men's Vogue will be at your friendly neighborhood newsstand, begging the question of Vogue's strategy in an age of luxury.

So what's new?

The Seven Sisters have become The Gang of Four (People, US, In Touch and Life & Style generated over $295 million in retail revenues, or 18 percent of the $1.6 billion market), taking away the oxygen of lesser titles. At the same time, you're seeing many similar magazines targeting an upscale audience given away for free - especially to the right clientele, as I've noted before. And Vogue's online initiative? looking at ShopVogue's numbers, merely listing the URL in the magazine clearly isn't driving the traffic.

Shopvogue_trafficSo what is there to do?

Conde Nast will have a more nuanced approach to the male market with Cargo at the sub-35 crowd  who's looking to accessorize their identity and now Men's Vogue targeting the guy who makes over $100K a year and pretty much knows what he wants out of life.

And as for the mass giveaways, magzine audit bureau ABC changed its rules governing agent sponsored-circulation last month, causing a stir among publishers, many of whom sought clarification. As many pioneers of web content found out the hard way, you can only give things away for free for so long.

As for ShopVogue.com, after a brief run, it's been taken down again, to be relaunched at a later time. I think it was brilliant to give advertisers an incentive to become more involved with the publication, but I think given the magazine's Manhattan-centric perspective, they might have done well to emulate their little sister Lucky in providing basic level of information on a much broader base of retailers, regardless of whether they are or have been advertisers.

Sprint Nextel in NFL Exclusive

NflFresh from announcing the creation of the third-largest wireless company on Friday, Sprint Nextel Corp. announced Monday it has signed a five-year deal with the National Football League to become the league's official wireless sponsor. The company said it will use the estimated $600 million arrangement to provide exclusive game highlights, updated scores, live game video and Fantasy Football statistics to its wireless customers. It said it is working with the NFL to develop much of the original programming, which will feature content from the NFL Network and NFL Films.

Expect this to affect the fortunes of two major initiatives: ESPN's MVNO deal with Sprint whereby ESPN wants to become its own mobile carrier in the same mold as Virgin Wireless and Boost; and efforts by SBC and other carriers to deliver television over Internet protocol (IPTV).

Taking pro football - the best performing sports franchise by most any calculation - out of ESPN's platform is like imagining ABC without Monday Night Football. It's not an absolute deal-killer, but it potentially robs the nascent platform of what should have been its number one draw. I say "potentially" because Sprint Wireless, with its heritage and ongoing commitment to cable operators (Adobe Acrobat required), understand TV programing trends better than the other carriers.

And as for IPTV, which I've blogged here and here - I think a critical aspect of tomorrow's IPTV platforms isn't going to be "how" the programming is delivered to the home, rather "how" and "where" and "when" the consumer is going to choose to watch the video. The early successes of TiVo demonstrate both the consumer appetite for being able to choose when to watch, and also the ease with which the market may be lost. Sprint's less-heralded efforts in IPTV may have a leg up, as they learn how consumers prefer to consume mobile video.

MPEG-LA Redux: The New RFID Consortium

Mpegla_2Good news for retailers and other RFID watchers: a group of 20 RFID leaders have announced their intention to form an intellectual property (IP) licensing consortium, based on the highly effective MPEG LA, which I've noted has been highly effective in negotiating with both the mobile phone industry and Apple's iTunes effort.

Signatories include Alien Technology, Applied Wireless Identification Group; Avery Dennison; Moore Wallace; Symbol Technologies; ThingMagic, Inc.; Tyco Fire & Security; and Zebra Technologies. Intermec Corp., one of the largest holders of RFID intellectual property is holding out in hopes of maximizing the value of a number of important core patents it holds.

In the meantime, MPEG LA keeps on rolling, having just acquired further intellectual property from European firms QOL, V.T.V. NV and kdg Mediatech. As globalisation spreads, MPEG LA's portfolio approach provides both commercial opportunities and control mechanisms. Currently MPEG LA manages MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (the software behind iTunes), DVB-T (important for the FCC-mandated switch to digital television in 2009) and also DVB-H (video for mobile phones and other handheld devices).

Link: Forrester Research "Evaluating RFID Middleware" (registration required)

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