Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sharpcards secures deal with T-Mobile UK

Sharpcards has just announced its agreement with T-Mobile in the UK to embed its EMMA system (that's Enhanced Mobile Messaging Application to you and me) on certain of T-Mobile's handsets in the UK. This is to create a better MMS messaging experience for T-Mobile customers.

"Under terms of the three-year agreement, EMMA will be embedded within the messaging menu of the specific handsets. EMMA allows T-Mobile customers to send high quality ecards as easy as sending a text message, by putting the service right in front of the customer at a time when they're texting.

Ecards are designed as an imaginative was to send picture messages – fun and flirty animations for everyday sending, from the world's top brands.

EMMA comes in both Java and Symbian and is a fully integrated part of the handset software that requires no further installation by the customer. Content is continually updated and the customer does not pay a data fee to access the ecards."

T-Mobile in the UK, happens to be the cheapest MMS provider (as far as I know at least) at just 20p a message. And this represents very good value. The idea behind including the EMMA system, means that customers can access sophisticated mobile content such as animations and include that in their MMS messages. There's a one-off fee of 75p for the animation you choose, but once downloaded to your phone, you can use it as many times as you like.

I encourage ways to help normobs increase their usage of more sophisticated aspects of their phones and this is a great start. My only question is the pricepoint... is 75p too much for the average teenager (for I'm guessing it will be teenagers who might drive this) for something like this? I suspect once the service has gained some traction and is out there on a selection of handsets in the market that we'll see some ad-funded models emerging or specific sponsored content... I can already visualise Coca-Cola traditional Christmas animations and Love Hearts at Valentine's Day. I do hope so, as I think it will be at that point that this will really take off and could be an interesting spin on mobile marketing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A little bit of social media history happened today

The more time I spend on this planet, the more I'm fascinated by human behaviour, the more I enjoy seeing the norms being challenged, the more I'm interested in how real people engage with and use technology. And I got a cup of that this morning.

There was a social media coup this morning over at Thomson Reuters in London. The Prime Minister was coming in for a press conference to discuss the measures the Government is taking to ease our current UK and global financial situation. Of course the usual suspects were there - kosher journos from The Guardian, Telegraph, City AM, BBC et al. But in amongst them were two of our own - Mike Atherton and Christian Payne aka Sizemore and Documentally. Both of them are regulars at the Tuttle Club. Both are very experienced in writing, filming, photography, blogging, vlogging, lifesstreaming and other bits of social media. But they're not journalists. They're not political analysts. They're just ordinary folk like you and me who happen to have an interest in this social media mullarkey. And they were there, in the front row, courtesy of Thomson Reuters, live streaming the event, with live chat on the side via Qik and Twitter.

You might say, 'so what?'. And I suspect you wouldn't be alone. Well the 'so what' element for me is that the powers that be recognised alternative media. They realise that blog distribution helps them reach the parts that other media doesn't. It means that I actually listened in to the press conference live. And it was even better because I could see the live chat going on alongside on Qik and Twitter. It was also fun to see how excited Mike and Christian were to be involved.

It makes this stuff real for normal folk. It's not about the City's suited and booted. It's not about having a press pass. It's not about being a political analyst or being in the inner circle. It's about being there, from the comfort of your own home, with your friends (and a lot of my friends were twittering about it and I expect are also blogging it as I write and you read).

Ok, so a lot of the questions were above my head (I was suffering from Continuous Partial Attention as usual - but that's another story) but it did mean I could tune in very easily. It didn't need fancy cameras (I watched a lot of it from Christian's Qik channel which was from his mobile phone I hasten to add), and it didn't need the BBC to broadcast it either. Thomson Reuters own video was much better quality in terms of production values but the Qik was definitely good enough for me.

It was also good to know that Downing Street's PR team was paying attention too. A friend who works with them told me the team was watching with interest.

I guess the interesting thing now is to see how this activity has galvanised the community in some way. Yes, of course conversations are important and news coverage seems to specifically encourage conversations. But conversations are just part of the story. As they say, talk is cheap. I would add that community is what you really want to galvanise. And I felt a little bit of that today. The community where I hang out were tuning in and chatting about what the Prime Minister was actually saying and doing our work at the same time and chatting with each other (you see, it's that Continuous Partial Attention thing again - I wonder if that means the PM should use shorter words and sentences or something?). And it felt really good to be part of it.

Well done Ilicco, Christian and Mike. Your community is proud of you.

More about it here and here.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pinking it up, does it work?

I've often asked the question as to what research has been done into what difference gender makes (or not) in terms of how we use technology - laptops, software, mobile phones, whatever. I've asked user-interaction designers, marketers, commercial folks, media owners and no-one has been able to point me to anything tangible. I suspect that the mobile network operators may have done research in this area, but they're not telling. And maybe the nice folks at What If? have done something in this area? (They happened to hold a lovely evening a couple of weeks back to celebrate the women in the mobile industry and I was invited.) Or maybe there's no need for stuff that is used equally by both genders?

Anyway, the few attempts by the handset manufacturers to appeal to women have had mixed results to say the least it seems. It feels like phones designed for women look prettier but are often dumbed down when it comes to functionality and applications. Is this just a reflection of how Western society views women anyway (i.e. they like us to be pretty but not too clever because that's scary)? Maybe I'm stretching the analogy a bit, or maybe there's more truth to the stereotype than I care to admit.

Anyway, I digress. A pal sent me a link to this article from Marketing Week talking about marketing to women and how successful 'pinking it up' is or isn't. It talks of Motorola's new Moto Jewel handset launch. which is certainly pretty, and has lots of features you may want from a phone at the sub £100 price point. And is aimed at women when mostly Motorola aims its handsets at men.

I know that putting a gadget in pink does sell product whether it's a pink kettle or a pink phone. But where is the insight into marketing a phone to women beyond making it shiny, pink or bejewelled? We probably don't necessarily need different phones (I'm very happy with my Nokia N-95 and I'm certainly tempted by the G-phone in white - neither handset is aimed at women specifically) but maybe men and women need them explained to them in different ways. Maybe changing the language is all you need rather than changing the model.

What do you think?