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From the show floor at CES: Mobility is the golden child

Nic Covey

Nic Covey is director of insights at Nielsen Mobile

What recession?

That's the impression one gets from the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show, which officially opened yesterday in Las Vegas.

Attendance may be down and fewer major announcements may be made, but the sheer magnitude of the show and the absurd opulence of dozens of over-compensating or perhaps pre-recession booked exhibits may trick one into thinking what a marvelous year it will be for consumer electronics.

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At Nielsen I spend my days closely monitoring consumer behavior related to media and mobile, trying to bring clarity to what consumers use today and what they will be looking for in the future.

I come to CES, then, to get a sense for what those consumers may actually have at their disposal soon. Mobile Marketer asked that I send over some notes after my first day on the floor, so here goes.

Verizon taps Microsoft for mobile search, advertis

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivers the pre-event keynote at International CES 2009

Mobility is the golden child of this year's CES.

With two dedicated mobile technology halls ("Wireless World" and "Mobile Broadband"), plus mobile-focuses across other segments such as memory and content, it's clear where everyone's chips are.

Within mobile, it should come as no surprise that video, social networks and mapping are the shining stars.

Valerie Christopherson

Valerie Christopherson is managing director of Global Results Communications

It's these categories that add value to next-generation phones and service, so progress in this area is being trumpeted accordingly.

When you step back and think about it, though, the attention to mobile media at such a broad conference as CES is perhaps disproportionate to mobile media's place in the consumer electronics spectrum.

That attention is encouraging, though, and demonstrative of the industry's huge commitment to the quick evolution and adoption of mobile media.

It will take me a couple more days to see the array of mobile devices, service and accessories that may affect mobile media and marketing, but I haven't seen much that is game-changing.

The Palm announcement of the new PRE device was well received at the show and elsewhere -- as evidenced by the quick uptick of Palm stock -- and, in my opinion, it's great to keep that dog in the fight.

At Nielsen we have watched closely as Palm's market share amongst smartphones dropped from 33 percent just a couple of years ago to under half of that today.

There's still plenty of room for strong competition to breed innovation in applications and operating systems, and let the reception of this announcement be a reminder to marketers that the iPhone isn't the only smartphone that should be in their sights.

Nokia had a prominent booth to show off their mobile media innovations. The marketing one that most caught my eye was "Point and Find," which I hadn't looked closely at until now.

Launching in 2009, Point and Find helps us move further into the world we have been imagining where a picture taken by phone and tied with GPS information, will deliver critical information to the mobile user.

The best prior example I had seen -- and perhaps arguably a more applicable service -- is the recently launched Amazon Remembers service, which allows you to snap a picture of an item to learn more about the product.

What Nokia is launching is similar, in that you will snap a picture of -- in their initial launch, for example -- a movie poster and then receive relevant information to that image -- movie times, locally, for instance.

The application of this that gets me most interested is that Nokia is making it possible for any company to "tag" items to be snapped through the service. The example the Nokia executives gave me was a local real estate company.

I think, too, that there will be interesting applications for a local chamber of commerce, for instance, whih wants you to have information on any business in town with the snap of a picture.

Granted, that idea works best if everyone in the town is carrying an enabled Nokia device, but the innovation and other such services are indicative of the importance the camera, in addition to GPS, will play in mobile marketing.

I spent most of my time yesterday thinking about mobile video, this as we launched just yesterday a new white paper on mobile video use in the U.S. and abroad (see story).

Having spent the last couple of weeks thinking about consumer receptivity and interest in mobile video, I wanted to see what was in the market to advance the mobile video experience.

Notably, it's not just an arbitrary interest our clients or I have in mobile video, given the broad range of mobile media available.

I have taken a special interest to mobile video lately because we have noticed higher degrees of mobile advertising receptivity amongst mobile video users, compared to users of other mobile media.

It strikes me that we have come a long way on mobile Web advertising, but we still have a lot of opportunity to realize in mobile video ads.

The most important mobile video information yesterday came from a press conference by the Open Mobile Video Coalition.

To a packed room of designer suits and old-school TV technology folks, the coalition announced today that a first wave of broadcasters have committed to launching mobile DTV services in 2009.

As you will find in the white paper we released yesterday, we believe that rollout of mobile DTV is a critical component of the growth of mobile video.

Access to local TV content over the phone and other mobile devices, at preferably no service cost, will make mobile video a reality for a much larger audience.

OMVC announced that they have enough stations and markets launching in 2009 to cover 35 percent of households in the United States. That's a great first step.
Mobile DTV will come over a variety of devices, most of which were displayed at the press conference.

I suspect the USB toggle to provide access to laptops will be the simplest to launch and perhaps the one with the largest initial interested audience, mobile phones from LG and others should be close behind. That is, if arrangements can be made with the carriers to allow for it.

I believe mobile DTV will offload some of the video bandwidth from cellular networks and provide other benefits of loyalty and interest in premium video content to the carriers, but it wasn't clear from yesterday's press conference that the carriers have the same optimism. This will be a great story to watch unfold in 2009.

My other nagging curiosity on the mobile video front had to do more with accessories. How is it that mobile video consumers will come to physically watch mobile video comfortably?

A couple of accessories caught my eye: one I like and one I am not sure I will be getting any time soon.

From Myvu Corp. I tried on a set of Personal Media Viewers, the glasses you have seen elsewhere that allow you to watch portable television as though it is on a large screen.

Having never tried these on, I was anticipating a remarkable new way to watch mobile video, helping us steer around the concerns over video on a two-inch screen. I was less than impressed.

I admire the innovation and I think some similar device may be an important development for mobile video use to expand further, but the feeling I got when wearing the devices was that I was either in the back row of a movie theater.

A simpler gadget which I will consider acquiring was the kickback from Scosche -- essentially a slick-looking case with a kickstand for the iPhone, a notably unobtrusive accessory to improve the mobile video experience on at least one device.

As I was walking out last night -- rather, trying to find my way out of the maze like a lost rat -- I noticed an interesting placement of exhibits: Victorinox, maker of the Swiss Army Knife, had a nice spot right within the Wireless World exhibit. The sentiment was not lost on me.

Drawing impressive interest for its own traditional wares, Victorinox's decision to be placed right in the middle of the wireless turf is a keen reminder to all of us: help consumers do more with less, in a simple fashion.

The analogy of the Swiss Army Knife to the expanding capabilities of the mobile phone may be overplayed, sure, but as I walk the floor today to look more closely at all of the new phones, I will be trying to see which new device will serve as our best digital Swiss Army Knife in 2009.

Click for images from CES

John Eck, president of NBC Television, talks about NBC's commitment to mobile DTV in 2009

Reporters get a look at a range of Mobile DTV launches that manufacturers say are ready for production

What recession? Crowds flock to the Wireless World exhibits at CES 2009's opening day

Victorinox's Swiss Army Knife: A poignant adjacency

LG shows off several mobile DTV-ready devices

A kickstand built into an iPhone case could make for a much more appealing mobile video experience

Entrance: 2009 International CES kicks off in Las Vegas

Reported by Nic Covey is Chicago-based director of insights at Nielsen Mobile. Reach him at


Mobile apps all the rage

Roaming through the convention halls and standing in the cab lines, you get a feel for the buzz at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show.

Here's what is happening at CES.

Last year, all the talk centered on mobile devices. This year it's all about mobile applications.

Word on the floor is that companies, marketing firms and marketers everywhere are beginning to see advertising on mobile platforms as far less expensive and cost-effective than traditional print and broadcast advertising.

Companies such as the Quattro Wireless mobile ad network naturally are predicting huge upticks for mobile advertising in 2009, despite the slow economy.

Beyond mobile advertising, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed the convergence of the PC, mobile phone and TV -- all enabled through Windows, of course -- during his keynote Jan. 7.

A beta of Windows 7 was announced.

None of Mr. Ballmer's presentation was new news, per se. The big point here was that he specifically emphasized the more than 1 billion mobile phones that are sold each year as being a pivotal part of today's converging world.

Speaking of Microsoft and convergence, the company unveiled a version 2.0 of its Sync voice-activated communications and entertainment system, which is available exclusively on new Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles.

The second-generation version will be available free for three years on all 2010 Ford models and will include new features, such as traffic updates, turn-by-turn directions, weather for specific areas and personalized news, including sports scores, stock listings and entertainment.

The Sync system is powered by precise, multi-language speech-recognition technology by Nuance Communications, which is at CES.

Mobile applications still need mobile devices, and there were a lot of device launches yesterday. Hey, what would you expect from CES, right?

Palm and its new Nova operating system was the headliner. But new models from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and T-Mobile grabbed my attention, mostly for their social networking-oriented feature sets, including "high megapixel" cameras and direct-line connections into sites such as YouTube.

Reported by Valerie Christopherson, managing director of Global Results Communications, Irvine, CA. Reach her at .

 
Related content: Columns, Consumer Electronics Show, CES, Valerie Christopherson, Nielsen Mobile, mobile marketing, mobile

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