Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mo Mo, Mo Problems

I usually don't write about Mobile Monday events, but last night's was pretty memorable, so I will.

It was held at Nokia again, and I guess word about it has spread, because the place was PACKED. I arrived roughly on time, around 7, and had to wait for fifteen minutes to get through a line to sign an NDA and get inside. People kept pouring in, and about half ended up needing to stand during the presentations, with a few dozen being barred from the event entirely. That's the first time I've ever seen that happen at MoMo, and I felt a little bad for them.

On the other hand: more food for me! Nokia puts on the best spread this side of Google, including heavy hors d'oeuvre, sweet nibbles, and free booze. I loaded up my plate, found a seat next to a woman from a French operator, and started munching away.

The Bebo presentation was good, and made me feel a little guilty about canceling my account last week. (I had only joined because one of my friends has a blog there, but they keep sending me notices, with no way to unsubscribe that I can find, and any time you try to change your account settings you need to click through a half-dozen ads.) Jordy, the presenter was really cool... I think he's done a MoMo presentation before. Oh, I should probably mention here that the topic of the night was mobile social networking. Anyways, Jordy focused a lot on the logistical challenges to developing in this space, and came up with the memorable rule, "If it doesn't run on three billion phones, forget it." He had some good insight into the relative stickiness of different technologies, the way you can move a user up the chain to more compelling content (with GMail being Exhibit A), and the nuts and bolts of SMS pricing.

Next up was loopt from Mountain View. I'd heard of them, but hadn't seen their app before, and must confess that it's incredibly cool. Not the sort of thing I would use, but I could see people like my sister becoming addicted to it. It's now available on boost and Sprint/Nextel, so if you're on one of those carriers and have a supported phone, it's definitely worth a demo. It's basically a really powerful location-aware friend tool. You can, say, pull up a map and see where your friends are; you can send an SMS to everyone you know in a two-mile radius; and it hooks from the app into some great facebook-style networking tools so you can share photos, do public chat, and more. Besides a cool app, they had a great presentation. Continuing with a theme raised by Jordy, loopt talked about how interoperability was a huge need; they also discussed the state of LBS in the US. As I tend to really enjoy in the MoMo events, the presentation was casual and honest; the presenter was candid about working with different carriers, their frustrations, and how cool they thought the app was. Oh, and the speaker (who is loopt's co-founder and CEO) looks about 16 years old. Needless to say, this is awesome. I love living in Silicon Valley.

Last, our Nokia hosts presented MOSH, a new community portal and content distribution framework being pushed by the company. It looked interesting, though what I'll most remember came at the end. When ready to demo the product, he walked over to a large plasma TV and plugged a cable into his N95 (at least I think that's what it was - wasn't close enough to see for sure). The screen immediately popped up on the display - and at a fine resolution, too. He continued to navigate through the phone, then paused and said, "By the way, I suppose that you've noticed that, like any decent smart phone, I can display my output on a standard video monitor." There was appreciative laughter. He added, "Also, you'll notice that I can hold this microphone in one hand while using my phone with the other, which is how any decent phone should operate." More laughter followed.

For those not as obsessed with the industry as me: both were not-so-subtle jabs at the iPhone, which is being increasingly positioned as a competitor to Nokia's lucrative top-shelf offerings. People laughed not necessarily because they hate Apple, but because they love conflict, and he had good points. The iPhone doesn't have real video out, and any complex task demands the use of two hands. That said, it may not have been a great idea for him to bring up the iPhone comparison at that point. Yeah, he got some good points off of it, but then we were all thinking of the iPhone for the rest of the presentation. Like when he was uploading pictures, and you saw that every one of them had a name like "MV7J63W.JPG", with no thumbnails, dates, or other ways to tell what the heck you were sending. For better and for worse, Nokia feels like a company driven by engineers, not by product designers... the quality is top-notch, and they're among the best at exposing hooks, but it just doesn't carry the same level of polish and thoughtfulness that the iPhone demonstrates.

There were some good announcements at the end, including a bunch of companies pleading for applicants, which made me feel good - it's always nice to be in demand. I grabbed some more food and did a tad more socializing, before I turned into a pumpkin and rolled back home.

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