|Craig Daitch also writes the blog Thought Industry.|
And this was a good thing.
For years now (about seven but who's counting) the mobile industry has insisted to marketers that "it's right around the corner." Predicting the elusive year of mobile has gotten tiresome, and I admittedly suffered from a serious case of fatigue.
So although I was curious what service was going to blow me out of the water this year, I was also nervous for an industry that, in my opinion, has never truly delivered on its own promises.
As I walked into the Moscone center, I could sense a difference in attitude. Instead of a conference built around the art of possibility, I saw real working examples of products and services I could use in my day-to-day life. Here's a quick overview of my most intriguing observations:
While Microsoft was there front and center to greet you as you walked onto the conference floor, there was nothing too substantial from their booth to report other than a presentation on Windows 6.1. In contrast, however, Yahoo went all out, serving up gelato and margaritas and autograph sessions with San Francisco 49er great Roger Craig. They even had a private party on the floor of the event. But with all the style did they have the substance?
The quick answer is absolutely. Yahoo showcased a number of interesting products, both updates of previous ones (Yahoo Go, for instance) as well as brand new ones, such as their Yahoo One Connect. One Connect reminded me of a cross between the social media tool FriendFeed and the Yellow Pages. Aggregating all of your social-networking sites into one gorgeous interface, One Connect proved to me that, for now, it's the king of the iPhone applications. Though solely designed for the iPhone, I was assured Symbian and Windows versions will be right around the corner.
Though Samsung didn't have an official presence at the conference, they did have representation via the Microsoft booth. Remember this product, people: Samsung Omnia. The Omnia had, hands down, the best camera I've ever seen on a mobile phone and its Panoramic Mode blew me away. The best analogy to Panoramic Mode would be the Realtor.com 360-degree virtual tours you see. This could be a game-changing product.
Single Touch is an SMS aggregator here in the states but SMS networks weren't what piqued my interest. CEO Anthony Macaluso met me briefly to review a Single Touch product called abbreviated dial codes. Similar to short codes, dial codes use the "#" sign followed by a vanity number. This will take you through an automated voice-based menu that drives you to content, customer service, anything that you want. They've done campaigns for BET, CBS, MTV and Coldstone Creamery.
Lack of U.S. MVNOs
No ESPN phone, no Boost Mobile, no Amp'd. The U.S. MVNO has gone the way of the dinosaurs, which is a bummer because I still feel the Amp'd Moto Q had one of the coolest user interfaces I've ever seen.
Last but not least, Blackberry not only had the best display at the conference -- it used RFID cards and unmanned kiosks to download Blackberry partner content information, such as Facebook Mobile to your e-mail address with nothing but a swipe -- they also had the most user-friendly and easily accessible representatives, who offered to show you demos on their new Blackberry Bold (gorgeous resolution) as well as a service to swap out your battery for a charged-up new one. Given the amount of twittering I was doing, this was a needed service and one I was thankful for.
There were other great moments at the conference. I'm skipping the keynotes because quite honestly, I skipped them.
I wanted to see the action on the floor from the moment it opened, and from Tele-Atlas to Tele-Nav to the small company from Edison, N.J., offering mobile application development for $22 an hour (it was on the sign), my impression was that, finally, we had real services that could launch today. I'm looking forward to next year already.