More Support for the $499 iPad: Inside Orange Telecom's Free Laptop Offer

OrangelogoThe International Herald Tribune reports that Orange Telecom is offering a new twist on the "free hardware with two year service contract" program: a laptop computer, not a mobile phone.

The "Connected Laptop" offer includes a free laptop from Asus or Hewlett Packard, a USB modem and up to five gigabytes of downloads for £25 to £45 pounds, or $49 to $88, per month. As mobile operators start giving away devices other than cellphones, experts say, the industry is entering a new phase. It reflects market realities: people simply are not calling each other as often, so they're looking at new and exciting ways to lock in data traffic growth.

This echoes a comment I made earlier -- there are reasons other than pure price point for Apple to build an incredibly cheap netpad (to the tune of $499). They see, as AT&T does, how the wired consumer is changing before their eyes.

Meanwhile, the rumors of the Apple iPad - or iPhone Touch, MacBook Air II or whatever you want to call it - are growing. Macosrumors responded to my prediction of a $499 Apple netpad product, saying:

"...Nonetheless, this new bridge between Macs & iDevices will be only the beginning of a huge move on Apple’s part to compete aggressively on value and further diversify its offerings... expect several new products this year, along with aggressive revisions of its high-end systems like the Mac Pro & Xserve to start pulling in major large-scale projects that can help offset its aggressive margin-shrinking moves."

With cheap, internet-connected notebooks, we see a tremendous opportunity for video yellow pages. Just imagine: see a video for a hotel, and if you're interested, you're automagically connected.

Twitter vs CB Radio: What Makes These Mobile Services So Popular

Cb_radioSince its debut 14 months ago at the SXSW conference, Twitter has grown by leaps and bounds. Twitter aims to be an everyday communication utility: you use your phone or PC to share short updates about your daily life.

Businesses are starting to use Twitter for customer service. Business Week tested nine companies by sending a "tweet." Seven responded within an hour and H&R Block was the leader.  HR&Block said this program was instrumental in repositioning the company as being "more responsive".

The challenge for Twitter is going to be its ability to scale. CB radio was a lot like Twitter: in the late 70s and early 80s, millions of people bought these radios initially because it allowed them to communicate with each other to locate cheap gas and to notify others of speed traps. But it fell victim to its own popularity: because of the millions of users jamming onto the grid, channels became incredibly noisy and communication became next to impossible. Once people started to use their radios less frequently, it opened the door for a competing technology: the mobile phone.

Twitter needs to avoid this problem. It has changed its engineering team and its former lead architect Blaine Cook has left the organization. Founder Biz Stone is reported to say that he projects growth to "...grow by a factor of 10, maybe 100." I think this is low...they may be underestimating potential growth once it truly becomes a public phenomenon.

The problem is when you have sudden floods of information. I blogged earlier how New York City's 311 number went from 43,000 calls a day to 65,000 when there was a blizzard. What happens in, heaven forbid, an earthquake or hurricane? Or once the NFL or FIFA seasons begin, what happens when they start getting the same type of traffic as the major sports sites?

The reality is that each one of these crises is an opportunity for Twitter to prove naysayers wrong. If it can

If you don't know what Twitter is, here's an introduction put together by Common Grounds:

American Airline Introduces Their Mobile Gateway

Aa Tough luck, Continental Airlines. Jupiter Research reports that American Airlines has upped the mobile ante beyond flight check-in: the site shows a number of new features for mobile devices that access such as view your itinerary, change flights, book flights, buy upgrades, get delayed baggage status, and support for Spanish.

Users will need their AAdvantage number and password to login. No word on whether there's a version optimized for the iPhone.

It's my impression that the success of many of these mobile experiences would benefit from incorporating interactive voice response as a part of the mobile experience. For example, if you were to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 from your mobile phone, you might appreciate a text message with Tinyurl-style links to the web pages travelers like yourself had found most useful: flight status, weather, or updates to arrival/departure time.

Continental Ushers In the Future of Traveler Dialog

Daily_essentialsAs blogged months ago by The Mobile Weblog and reported today by the New York Times (registration required), Continental Airlines is beginning a 3-month trial allowing passengers at Houston-based Bush Intercontinental Airport to board flights with just their mobile phones. The article goes on to describe how the new service works.

In the article, Forrester Research VP Henry H. Harteveldt is quoted as saying that “...It’s clear that mobile is the gateway to how airlines will interact with their customers in the future for almost anything.”

This is the latest example of how the mobile phone -- like social networks -- are fast becoming digital "swiss army knives".

Both help you make simple, fast connections with people and places you trust. Both platforms (especially since MySpace joined in yesterday) enable third parties to provide applications that create new ways to interact and have fun. While there is certainly a lot of widget spam (Andrew Chen provides an interesting analysis here) -- it reminds me a lot of the early days of Apple and IBM software: lots of crapware! But in Guy Kawasaki's spirit of letting a thousand flowers bloom -- software developed in-house usually sucks, but every time you let developers in, amazing things happen!

I think Continental's application is going to work for one reason: people are always looking for ways to save time. Would-be Web 2.0 entrepreneurs would do well to consider Continental's example.

AreYouHere? How Cameraphones Enhance Tourism

Areyouhere Hotels know that kids often make the decisions on where to go. (The divorce rate might be contributing to this, since the mother and father will often take their kids on separate trips.) Hotels often struggle to find things for kids to do that don't involve staying in the room and playing videogames.

Interactive games using kids' mobile phones might be one solution.

For example, Venice, Italy just launched AreYouHere?, where visitors take pictures of people they meet while visiting the fabled city. Those photos are joined together into a personalized postcard, which will be sent to the visitor at home. These mailing programs provides a terrific way to memorialize the experience without requiring a lot of work on the part of the city.

Here in Colorado, Loveland receives more than 200,000 Valentines annually from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Senior citizen volunteers do the hand-stamping of the Cupid cachet and love verse.

We've begun developing similar cameraphone activities for hotels and the beverage industry. A group of golfers visiting a hotel, could have photos from their weekend posted to a photoblog sponsored by the hotel. The hotel then provides the guest with additional options: turning a photo into a mug or other premium that helps celebrate the shared experience.

Verizon Wireless 1, Wireless Spam 0

Vzw_logoVerizon Wireless announced today (WSJ registration required) it won a $200,000 judgment against a spammer. This has implications for anyone using a computer to send out text messages to consumers that have not given explicit permission to receive marketing text messages.

The initial lawsuit went after Passport Holidays for sending text messages to phone numbers within very short periods of time. When it was found that it was an individual, not Passport Holidays itself, the suit was amended to include the actual spammer, Specialized Programming and Marketing LLC, and piercing the corporate veil, its owner Charles Henderson. Even though Passport never sanctioned spamming, it was fined $10,000 and barred from future spamming.

2007 has been a great year for exploring text messaging as an extension of existing marketing plans. But if you're a business that hires someone to do text message marketing for you, and that person cuts corners (like using a web gateway, not a short code) when they send commercial text messages on your behalf, the potential penalties are starting to add up. Because each message received has an associated cost to the end user, Verizon clearly considers wireless spam to be more harmful than the email variety.

Skipping Airport Lines Using Your Mobile

Jal_touchandgoPassengers in Japan and Europe can check in at the airport by identifying themselves with their cellphone. Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, and German carrier DBA passengers use their mobile phones instead of printed tickets.

An article published the New York Times today reviews the state of the art of using a phone as a passport at airports. The article is careful to point out that phones do not allow passengers to skip lines, but to screen passengers much more quickly than what is currently possible. Every phone has built-in authentication, which makes the mobile phone at least equivalent, security-wise, to most paper identification.

Unisys Airports is building devices which could be used in stadiums, theatres and hotels to rapidly check in guests with their mobile phone (Adobe Acrobat required). "Traditional check-in takes maybe one to two minutes, but often it takes ten minutes because of waiting in line," says Urs von Euw, Unisys vice president Airport Solutions. “Our solution speeds up the process much more. At the kiosk, it takes precisely two seconds to print off a barcode (sent to the phone as a picture message). That is as quick as it is physically possible to do it and the costs are negligible.”

What Hotels Should Learn from AOL


Today's NYTimes (registration required) exposes a security flaw in most public WiFi networks -- the ability for someone to hack in and capture information. In one case, someone was routinely able to capture around 100 passwords per visit at about half the hotels surveyed. 

While not clearly not on the same level today as the notorious leak that left 20 million search queries available for public download, hotels are increasingly finding new ways to use their wifi networks, for their own operations as well as capturing lobby information to create their own database of (guest) intentions.

Inside Lucky Magazine's LiveToBuy

LivebuyitReaders of Lucky Magazine will be able to pay for goods mentioned in that publication by text messaging, thanks to a new program co-developed by Conde Nast, PayPal and NY interactive shop Anomaly.

Sephora VP of Retail Marketing Allison Slater -- clearly not afraid of new marketing approaches -- joins Avon, Liz Claiborne, Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Perry Ellis, Target and Unilever's Sunsilk haircare line in LiveBuyIt. This story, which broke in the July 10 NYTimes, mentions that the companies that participate are among those the companies that are buying a full-page color ad - currently $165,000 for the 1x rate.

Unlike Conde Nast's earlier initiative -- which I estimated brought in $1 million in additional ad revenues -- this new initiative takes two major risks: will people (1) buy using their mobile phones, and (2) will they do it via PayPal?

Earlier research shows that the average shopper conducts 13 searches before making a purchase. If this trial shows that a single mobile search eliminates the need for 12 more comparison searches over the web, this could be a major development for marketers.

Text2Buy, which was developed by Anomaly with PayPal, represents a much more sophisticated approach than previous interactive media added-value programs. LiveBuyIt is a much more focused approach than the Hearst Co's $10 million 30 Days of Shopping campaign, which is reportedly combining blogs, podcasts, text messaging and other interactive marketing vehicles to capture information on what people are buying. Lucky Magazine publisher Alexandra W. Golinkin hopes to launch a "Text To Try" program where shoppers purchase samples of advertised goods using micropayments.

Anomaly reportedly receives a percentage of sales from purchases made through Text2Buy (see previous coverage including processing fee breakdown). 

PayPal has to move fast. Incremental promotions with marketers like Burger King may be useful at selling penny-ante merchandise but do little to change the rules of the game. The advent of Google Checkout - illustrating eBay's increasingly limited growth upside, relative to more traditional businesses - may have already played a role in precipitating the resignation of eBay COO Brian Swette.

Link: MediaPost interview with Anomaly Chief Strategy Officer Mark Kaplan on the future convergence of mobile and mass marketing.

Citysearch's Spin on SMS

Citysearch_send2phone_1 Citysearch has launched a new feature that enables site visitors to save information about restaurants to their cell phone. The text message returns Citysearch branding, the name of the restaurant, the phone number, the address, intersection, rating, and something that looks like a "Visa Signature" ad -- but it's hard to tell.

In the early days of the Web, pages would rarely print in a convenient manner. The logic was, all the information is on the screen...why not just let people print out whatever they want?

As it turned out, lots of people wanted printer-friendly pages, especially if they were doing online research on a place they planned on visiting in the real world.

I suspect that as more research is done on the way people use their mobile phones, we'll find that this "send 2 phone" addresses two key pain points: (1) calling 411 and not remembering the darn phone number, and (2) staying organized while on the road.

Or to look at the opportunity a bit differently, what is the advertiser value of being inserted into a consumer's personal phone directory?

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