Expanding the horizons of Mobile Web 2.0 to boost the developer ecosystem: An overview of the latest work and progress to move on to the next stage of evolution

"The Mobile Web is a Disruptive Innovation": this is not business as usual, we need new practices for how we develop and engage with the community.

  • New markets: e.g. social networks opening up customer segments not served by web players (e.g. ItsMy);
  • New players (Google, Apple);
  • New business models (e.g. app stores);
  • New customer expectations (UX, working out-of-the-box, sharing with friends);

We have turned a corner in the industry: as of yesterday, Dans wife is using the mobile web :) We don't need to talk about how to get people using it any more.

Current industry trends:

  • Location apps and the location-based web;
  • Social apps going mobile;
  • Web browsers become runtimes - web as platform, more application development moves to the web with HTML5, widgets, rich APIs; this decreases fragmentation. As an agency you don't have to think separately for mobile - the same skills are transferable for PC web and mobile;
  • Open source;

Clash of civilisations between web and mobile:

  • Web: fast, software driven, scripting, APIs, iterative;
  • Mobile: market size, scale, control points, regulation, customer ownership;

Mobile web apps

  • Web has moved from page-metaphor to application metaphor;
  • Mobile web is going the same way;
  • Widgets are at the epicentre of mobile/web convergence;

Presents the Twiggy Widget: they got Carsonified, a web shop, to build a widget that does Twitter search.

Location is one of the most important device APIs right now. Working within W3C to build geolocation APIs for the web,

Widgets are made for the mobile web.

Ends with a personal please to end version numbering of web sites.

Panel discussion

Tim Green

Dan Appelquist

Raphael Gourmot from Orange

Sten Minor, VP of software and platforms, Sony Ericsson

TG: Dan showed a vision of web applications and open standards. How much of a hindrance can the device be, with different form factors etc. - Stan?

SM: We need to improve on standards. We have middleware, web runtimes, application ecosystems. In an ideal world you can combine these layers in ways you want. In practice you have vertical clusters (Apple). It's a nightmare to develop apps in this environment, advanced applications have to be made specifically for different clusters or across J2ME.

DA: The widget and runtime environment works well. It's easy to build an app that only makes sense in one screen size/form factor. There's skill in doing device-independent UI. There are tool chains underway to help developers here.

RG: We're helping developers with porting to devices and operating systems. Things have improved a bit, in 10 years. We still face fragmentation. W3C with device APIs runs the risk of following J2ME, with manufacturers implementing standards differently. We're working with middleware to do multi-publishing (e.g. Celsius). But who is the audience.

DA: Regarding the comparison between JSRs and web apis: there's a rabid web developer community intent of ensuring browsers support standards correctly. We need to engage early adopters and developers first, to try and bring this culture to mobile.

SM: We should differentiate on top of standards, not by supporting them.

TG: How?

SG: In services on top - not by locking in users.

DA: Users want a consistent experience when they pick up their phone too.

RG: People are buying devices for form factors, looks. Some of us might buy for features, but we're geeks. For services, differentiation is difficult: how do you do it? You update your browser on the desktop every year, but you don't tend to do this with your mobile. I'm seeing lots of single-platform developers at Orange, who want to reach beyond where they are now. To be more positive, the real benefit from the web.

Panel discussion: impact of form factors. Role of the mobile browser. Ideas on how a more open web might enable more social applications. Where does the handset company sit in a mobile-web dominated future?

Group 1: lots of industries will be trying to apply their industries to the mobile web. Look at broadcasting, say - the mass market want content from broadcasters, aren't fussed about technology. We need to be talking more to the content industry.

SM: Within Sony, there's a lot of collaboration - Sony Pictures, Music, Playstation

DA: It's always good to get the content industry involved earlier on in the standards process. It's hard to engage broadcasters in sometimes-speculative standards work, because it's not really part of their business model. The BBC is definitely on the leading edge.

RG: Content providers were very involved with standards, but it was all push-based. Now they're waiting for standards to be ready. What about DRM? The content industry want their content protected.

Group 6: We collectively wailed when standards were mentioned. The consensus was that they don't work.

DA: I completely disagree. The whole value of the web - the most succcessful interactive media ever - is interoperable standards.

Group 6: Yes, but the web is a case of an individual driving standardisation. But in a business environment the dynamic is different. Telecomms industry has thousands of useless standards.

RG: Standards covers a wide number of layers. The web industry creates upper-layer standards, transport-level layer standards are lower layers. The web industry is moving down the stack whilst the mobile industry moves up.

Q: When we talk about mobile web, we're often thinking about firing up a browser: Safari is one app on the iPhone. Need the mobile web be about the browser? Is the browser the only way to go or will individual mobile applications be it?

DA: The UX of the web runtime environment is that you invoke an application; this is the widget experience. The stock and weather widgets on the iPhone are built in this environment, but Apple don't open them to developers.

Funding the Future of Mobile Web 2.0: The Investors viewpoint in 2009 – is Mobile Web 2.0 the next growth opportunity?

Tony Fish, AMF Ventures, Angel investor

Roberto Bonzaninga, Balderton Capital

Mark Gracey, Scottish Equity

Daniel Waterhouse, Welington Partners

Hugh Fey, OpenVantage

Hugh Campbell, GP Bullhound

Moderator: Tim Green

TG: Why are you an awkard git, Tony?

TF: I'm independent so I can challenge assumptions.

TG: Give me an example of counterintuitive thinking.

TF: The last panel. Standards for applications at the edge are bollocks, driven by people who own the infrastructure.

RB: We as an industry would be better if we thought about consumers. Forget about technology, standards, consume.

TG: Why are there fewer fast-growing mobile companies in your recent list Hugh.

HC: There were 5-6 out of 50. Our table was based on revenue growth; startups in mobile are struggling to deliver this here. Mobile advertising is shot for the next 18 months.

TG: Is it getting harder to generate investment interest?

HC: It's hard for mobile, software and content businesses to raise money right now. VCs have made bets which didn't work out and it's a tough ecosystem for a young company - very busy value chain, problems getting a big enough revenue cut to support yourself.

MG: We've invested in Surfkitchen for longer than we would've liked and they've been through ups and downs. In the last few years we've seen interest in this company grow, operators have long-running projects that have wasted money - they want valuable companies to help them transition to what the iPhone has done. It's tough for startups in mobile infrastructure as well as apps.

DW: The investment community has been scarred by history - mobile gaming, music, LBS have all unravelled in a bad way with few success stories. The ecosystem is improving but there's hesitancy.

TG: Do investors hunt in packs?

TF: No. Mobile has to interface with lots of other things. To talk about it in itself is naive. The industry is scarred because operators promised lots of data consumption and failed to deliver: people create more than they consume. This is where mobile is relevant.

DW: I'm not seeing mobile being an adjunct to the web service. We invest in Qype who have a simple iPhone app contributing a significant percentage of content to the service, though still a small number of users.

RB: VCs are guilty of a bit of homogenous thinking. We need to look at things with fresh eyes: the world changes, ecosystems change.

HC: If you'd have taken the Crazy Frog to an investment committee, it wouldn't have gotten funded.

MG: Jamba wouldn't have made it past our investment committee.

TG: What's the current situation like, in terms of quantity of available funding, and approaches from mobile startups.

RB: We've started a new $100m fund. I spend a lot of time on mobile startups. We don't see much truly new stuff. I'm a bit disappointed that Twitter was created in San Francisco - we had SMS here for years. But today it's exciting that When we look at something, it's not about what I, or operators, think... it's about what consumers think. You can see consumer traction - we can be wrong, but the consumer is normally right. We see lots of small startups, 1 or 2 guys with 1m downloads.

TF: There are fewer startups now, I'm happy about this. We've stopped seeing the same startups come back again and again. Folks are leaving corporates with good ideas.

RB: From an investment POV, App Stores have given us data to work with as to what users are downloading. There's money in the big funds in Europe, but we need great ideas!

TG: Are companies coming with next-generation ideas, or ideas for folks with feature-phones or with wide distribution across the world?

MG: On-device portal is a dirty word these days, it's v operator-centric terminology. We're seeing a lot of companies, but the plans are more plausible. Applications have been proven. It's easy to test, tweak and improve businesses; to invest less and see how it goes.

Q: What areas of the value chain, and what subsectors, do you think are most interesting for investment?

TF: Don't care. Is the market big enough, can it work, is there an exit?

HC: Mobile communities is an area seeing tremendous growth, there's so many interesting things here. Micropayments, smart ad tracking,

RB: As a fund, we don't think like that. OpenVantage are using an old technology; it's the consumer proposition that's working. I think less about the space they're in, and more about the proposal. But it's time to do disruptive consumer propositions now.

HF: Yes, VCs hunt in packs. City events last year made things tighter, valuations are lower. The technology doesn't matter; we're supporting the accessibility and support of spontaneity. We bring this to sports betting.

Q: How many mobile investments do you expect to make this year, when did you last do a new investment?

DW: Last time was 6m ago, first question don't know: we don't have an allocation.

MG: Twice this year. Again, we have no allocation.

RB: Same for us; last one is *now*, we're closing a round. No quotas for us.

TF: 60 days ago.

Q: What's the one thing you'd like to see change in the industry to help you invest more:

RB: Consumers.

TG: What's the most common mistake.

RF: Operator deal: that one deal will change the world. I'd like operators broken back down to providing capacity.

Beyond SMS voting - mapping the future of Mobile Media 2.0

Barry Houlihan, CEO, MIG

SMS voting isn't happening in the UK right now, but the future is optimistic.

MIG: 120 staff, £65m revenue, organic growth, no funding. Freemantle Media, Comic Relief, etc.

Jigsaw: mobile interactivity agency, doing mass-participation in the UK. NewToy, a live experience technology agency.

Kilrush: mobile internet publishing platform, making it easy to integrate mobile with web. Drag and drop, feeds, etc., to help team build services easily.

Walkers crisps activity geneated 60/40 activity in favour of mobile, all by SMS.

47% of all written communication between 15-24yo is by text.
UK consumers send 28 textx messages a week, only make 20 calls.
24-44 year olds are 70% of UK mobile browsing.
67% of the UK mobile browsing internet in the UK is male.

Freemantle aren't seeing a return on their mobile content investments, and are publicly saying they're going to cut back. Endemol have said their biggest challenge is working with application providers: ensuring that apps deliver engagement.

Are You Ahead of Time? A Crowdsourced Vision of Mobile Media, Monty C M Metzget

An interactive session....