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Journalism - Mobile Campaign

3G? Forget the killer app - just get me any app

Posted on 29/03/2002 at 12:55

The news gets worse for 3G mobile companies. We all know they have overpaid for licences, that the network to run 3G phones on will cost another fortune and that as yet they have little or no idea what they are actually going to put on the phones. Well, it's worse than that. At a local hostelry yesterday afternoon, the top man of gaming and interactive outsourcer Babel Media, Ben Wibberley, revealed the extent to which the 3G boys are hunting for any and all ideas.

"We put out this release about a new compatibility lab for handhelds, aiming at the gaming market," he told us over a pint of John Smith's. "I was expecting maybe one or two inquiries but it went mental and we had people like Hutchison [3G (one of the 3G licence owners)] on the phone straight away. They're desperate to find something to work on their phones."

So it would seem. Up til now we have heard almost nothing about what fantastic services the 3G phones will offer, aside from vague promises of being able to watch clips on the phone or use the phone as a camera.

But phones already exist that can double-up as a poor-quality camera and the first generation of 3G phones will not be able to show clips at all, thanks both to the phone and the low speeds that the network will run at.

Orange sparked a little bit of interest last year when it said it was going to offer clips of football goals. An excellent idea - except of course that it was mothership France Telecom's plan and hence the deal was only for French football. Who in the UK wants to see Marseilles score a goal on Saturday when Arsenal's game could decide the Premiership?

Also at the pub was a young mobile journalist who, it transpired, frequently enjoyed the game "Call up Hutchison and ask what 3G services they're going to offer". And we thought it was only us that played this game.

There's no intention here to pick on Hutchison but it is an obvious one to watch since its entire business plan is to be first to market as no one in the UK knows who the hell it is. It has signed a contract with NEC for phones and has said it plans to launch at the end of this year - a good six or so months before the others claim they will launch. If Hutchison doesn't know where it's getting its applications from, you can bet no one else does either. And, of course, without new and exciting content for 3G phones the market is going nowhere.

With reference to Babel Media's lab though, it may just be that Hutchison plans to come good on its "Quake-on-a-phone" claim it made in the very early days of 3G hype. But we won't hold our breath.

So, what is the application that will do it? Theoretically or otherwise. Well, Mr Wibberley reckons he knows: "It's got to be sex and porn, hasn't it?" He's right as well. There's no end to people's willingness to hand over money for a brief reminder of sex in any format they can get their hands on.

Perhaps the 3G companies should follow Virgin Mobile's lead and start talking to Playboy about future breast-based tie-ins. Or sell web-cameras...

BTW, if you really want to know what Hutchison got so excited about, the press release is here.







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