Monthly Archives: May 2008

Is there a mass market for location-based services?

Another day. Another thought-provoking post from Tomi Ahonen. This time he’s dissecting the latest “Asia-Pacific wide survey of 16,000 consumers in 29 countries by TNS Global.” Included in his analysis are troubling numbers for companies looking to build location-based services.

There’s a lot of positive information for mobile in the TNS Global survey, but before I talk about the positive stuff, let’s take a look at what Tomi says about the location-based services (LBS):

Bear in mind, that LBS services were launched around the same time as music, gaming and the mobile internet here in Asia; and even more alarmingly, LBS services were launched several years before cameraphones and MMS picture messaging. Yet LBS has found a total traction of 3 percent in this time, when other services get 30%, 40%, 50% even 70% usage levels.

I am serious that I truly do not believe in LBS as a mass market proposition. Don’t bet your company, product, brand or career on LBS, ha-ha..

This is pretty stunning for two reasons. First, the established pattern for mobile is that Asia is a year or two ahead of Europe and America is a year or two behind Europe. So location-based services have been there, done that, and not been adopted. Second, I highly value Tomi’s opinion and his doubts about location-based services even without the numbers would be enough to give me pause.

I’m not going to draw any conclusions now. I need to noodle on this a bit more.

Onto the good news.

Percent No. of People Notes
SMS 88% 1.23B More than the total number of email (or IM Instant Messaging) on the internet worldwide
Games 71% 994M So close to 1B
Camera 61% 854M 98% of those who have a cameraphone, use the camera
MMS 47% 672M Lots of recent discussion about whether or not MMS will finally take off. These numbers are encouraging.
Music 43% 602M Only 150M or so iPods in the world.
Internet 34% 476M This is better than I expected. Lots of room for growth.
TV/Video 20% 280M Approximate population of U.S.

Lots of good news there on what the mobile future might look like for Europe and America down the road. I’m particularly happy with the MMS and Camera numbers as they are two areas I have particular interest in.

Finally, all of this data is from Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore’s blog. If you’re into mobile and you’re not reading their blog, you’re missing out.

links for 2008-05-28

Slideshow of the Day

My Web Visions presentation has been selected as the “Slideshow of the Day” on You can view the presentation here. Or use the embedded version of it below.

As soon as the conference organizers post the audio recording of the presentation, I’ll link to that as well. Some of my slides require explanation.

Thanks to everyone who attended my session and to for featuring my slides.

Thoughts on Lynne d Johnson’s UnKeynote

I’m nearly recovered from an exceptional Web Visions conference. I had a great time and the feedback on my session has been extremely positive so far. But more on that later.

I wanted to talk briefly about Lynne d Johnson’s UnKeynote from Thursday and why it prompted me to modify my presentation to add a new slide.

For those who weren’t at the UnKeynote, Lynne started the presentation by encouraging audience participation. She wanted to see what sort of presentation or conversation she could facilitate. She has written more about what she wanted to accomplish and her thoughts on how it went. I encourage you to read about her experiment.

For most of the presentation, people would chime in with a thought or two, but the presentation was moving along fairly rapidly. And then Lynne put up the following slide:

This slide remained on the screen for almost the remainder of Lynne’s presentation. Yet, this slide contains only three bullet points about how Japanese youth are reading and writing books on their mobile devices.

This was information that the audience couldn’t accept. It was amazing to see how many people challenged these three facts as data that was either incorrect, trends that can be explained away by cultural differences, or some variation on how reading on phones may be fine for other people, but “I’m never going to do it.”

The audience was resisting the idea of people reading books on their phone. Not simply that they didn’t want it, but that many couldn’t even begin to fathom how this could be true.

My suspicion is that if Lynne were to have presented the same information to a European audience, that they would have nodded their heads in agreement at her points. The experience of Japanese youth is ahead, but not tremendously ahead, of those in Europe.

So I added the following slide to my presentation for Friday morning:

The data in this slide comes from a great discussion we had on the Forum Oxford mobile list that spurred a comprehensive post from Tomi Ahonen.

The point of my slide is simple: an American audience is so far behind in the adoption of mobile technology that we can’t envision, nor accept, the way mobile is being used in other countries.

Like the prisoners in The Allegory of the Cave, the audience couldn’t accept the new reality and even at times strongly challenged Lynne as they tried to reconcile her talk with their current experiences.

This is yet another reason why I tend to think of myself as a mobile evangelist. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do in the United States when it comes to mobile.

P.S. Thanks to Lynne for a great presentation and for the conversations we had afterwards. One of the highlights of the conference was getting to meet her.

WordPress 2.5 Removes GZIP Option

WordPress 2.5 no longer provides an option to turn on gzip compression. According to Matt Freedman, the “option was axed for the reason that it’s better to enable compression on the server, rather than through WordPress.”

This is probably true because the option was turning on php compression instead of setting it in apache. However, it was still a surprise to realize my site was no longer being compressed.

To remedy the problem, I added the following to my .htaccess file in the root directory:

AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html text/css text/plain text/xml application/x-javascript application/json application/x-httpd-php application/x-httpd-fastphp application/rss+xml application/atom_xml application/x-httpd-eruby
Header append Vary Accept-Encoding

This is the code for Apache 2.0 as suggested by Ryan Williams. Similar code for Apache 1.3 can be found.

The main point is the if you used to rely on WordPress 2.5’s gzip option, you’re going to need to find an alternate solution.

Firefox for Mobile Devices

I’m quite excited about this month’s Mobile Portland meeting. Dietrich Ayala from Mozilla will be presenting the future of Firefox for mobile devices.

I’m greatly looking forward to learning more about the Mozilla plans. It seems like webkit has taken a lead in the open source mobile browser space. IE has a larger installed base, but the browser renders poorly. Opera is great, but not open source.

So far, Mozilla’s plans for mobile have been unclear to me other than their obvious statements of plans to support mobile devices. I’m anxious to hear when their plans and timelines.

Firefox is my workhorse browser for development. I wonder what, if any, of the plugins that I rely on for development might work in the mobile space.

If you have any of these questions or others, I encourage you to RSVP and attend this meeting.

Tricia Starts New Portland Catering Business

My former co-worker Tricia Butler has reduced her hours at her job and started her new catering business Sassafras Catering. I’m so happy for her.

I remember a couple of years ago during one of her performance reviews, Tricia felt like she had to break bad news to me. She talked about her love of her job, her respect for her co-workers, and her thankfulness at being given the opportunity and responsibility of her position.

BUT, she had to let me know that she was eventually going to start a catering business. Owning a catering business was a life-long dream of hers. She was sorry that her path and the company’s path might not be the same in the long term.

To which I replied, “Where is the bad news?”

Too many people spend their lives in fear of their own aspirations. For all of our talk about people in America having the freedom to chase their dreams, most people are afraid to really do so.

So from that day forward I’ve known Tricia as a caterer who happens to work in technology instead of a technologist who happens to love cooking. That’s why I’m so pleased to see her make the jump and get her business going.

I’m also pleased because I can unequivocally vouch for both her ability to cater events and the food that she has provided. Since that meeting, I’ve both attended and helped organize events that she has catered. Combine that with her business’s commitment to sustainability, and you have an amazing combination for the Portland market.

So congratulations to Tricia for following through on her dreams. If you are in the Portland area, I highly recommend hiring Sassafras Catering for your next event.