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BEATING THE DRUM FOR MOBILE PHONE CONTENT

iHollywood Summit Positions Handsets as 'Lifestyle Enablers'

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NEW ORLEANS (AdAge.com) -- Underscoring the bullish atmosphere that pervaded a conference of wireless phone executives, keynote speaker Mitch Lasky, CEO of Jamdat Mobile, lambasted the "misconception" that the market for mobile entertainment content is in its infancy.
Phones like the Samsung SPHi 700, above, represent the future for content producers as iHollywood attendees see it. The device is typical of the new generation of mobile handsets that include a phone, camera, voice recorder, video player, PDA, Web-surfing computer, e-mail terminal, text messaging, music player and mini game console.
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And there were plenty in the audience of 1,200 at Sunday's iHollywood Mobile Entertainment Summit that not only agreed with Mr. Lasky but also could point to recent deals to bolster the claim.

Basebal deal
Executives noted how entertainment offerings for mobile phone users are becoming more robust. Major League Baseball, for example, announced plans to become the first major sports league to offer mobile-phone broadcasts of all its games, starting this summer. George Kliavkoff, senior vice president of business development for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, said the league would offer, for subscription, entire games as well as 3:30-minute video clips.

Verizon Wireless next month will offer subscribers 26 mobile phone episodes, or "mobisodes," of the Fox TV reality series The Simple Life 3: Interns on its six-week-old V Cast service.

American Online is moving into the mobile phone space, which it views as a natural extension of its online presence. "We recognize life doesn't stop at the desktop," said Himesh Bhise, vice president and general manager of AOL Mobile.

Hoping for a hit show
And despite the challenges of developing compelling entertainment content for the small mobile screen, Paul Reddick, vice president for business development and planning consumer solutions at Sprint Corp., said he would "love to see a hit start out famous for what it had done on mobile. That’s when we would know we’ve made it."

The iHollywood summit is part of this week’s Cellular Technology and Internet Association show, which is expected to host 40,000 attendees before its over. Industry insiders are championing the idea of rolling video and other advanced mobile phones into a convergent device they like to call a "lifestyle enabler." The terminology, like the gathering, is as vibrantly evangelistic as pre-2000 Internet seminar.

Lifestyle support tools
Nobuharu Ono, president-CEO of NTT DoCoMo USA, said his company’s goal is to evolve the cellphone into a must-have lifestyle device. "Our handset will become a lifestyle support tool," he said. Showing a list of all the cards from credit cards to airline mileage cards consumers keep in their wallets, Mr. Ono said, "Our ultimate goal is to replace the wallet with the handset."

NTT DoCoMo is Japan's largest cell phone carrier, with 48 million subscribers. Mr. Ono said of the 45 million consumers who use NTT DoCoMo's iMode service, 31% access ringtones and wallpaper, 24% use other mobile entertainment, 21% games and 13% information services.

Already, Mr. Ono said, NTT DoCoMo has begun to introduce into the U.S. through Japanese expatriates a new service called Namikiteru, which translates to "the wave is coming."

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