December seems to be Launch Month for us! We launched our first direct-to-consumer product onto I-mode today: SnowSpy.
It's a service for skiing and snowboarding fans, with both a practical and a more airy-fairy aspirational element to it. Basically we've mobilised a vast amount of data on ski resorts across Europe, from resort details through to weather reports (and forecasts), as well as webcams which are set up on location.
So, from a practical point of view, this lets skiers see where the best snow is, take a look around resorts and get a feel for what's out there. But more interesting (to me) is the aspirational stuff. When we booked a summer break earlier this year I found a webcam of the village we were staying in, and found myself obsessively checking it in the run-up to our stay: hmm, wouldn't it be so much better if I could carry my holiday around with me, before it even started?
The service right now is basic, but functional: this is phase 1. We've got about 5 or 6 new features and facilities which'll be going up there in the next week or so; and next year we'll be starting the task of bringing SnowSpy to other operators and territories across the world. It's not the only product we have planned, either (but we don't want to go overboard: our core business is, and will remain, service-based).
As for the I-mode platform: it's nice. Simple, sensible, coherent. It feels pragmatic rather than clever, which I quite like. CHTML isn't any quicker to develop for than WAP, in our experience, but it's certainly less intimidating to someone who's not done it before. And we're in the fortunate position of only having to cater to a few handsets (there are only 2 I-mode devices which are currently on the market in the UK). As we roll out elsewhere the behind-the-scenes magic which lets us deal with device diversity (a subject close to my heart - sad I know) will become more apparent. And yes, of course it's WURFLy :)
All credit to recent(ish) FP hires Mr Falletti for driving this internally and externally, to Mr Skinner for doing all the donkeywork of getting it up and running, and to the O2 I-mode team, who've been extremely helpful.