Comcast Sued Over Web Interference

Well if we can’t sue them for simply being Comcast I guess we’ll have to settle for suing them over a deceitful business practice.

Hart’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges Comcast misleads customers by promising “mind-blowing” speeds and “unfettered access” to the Internet in advertisements while hindering the use of certain applications such as peer-to-peer file sharing. It seeks unspecified money damages. [From Comcast Sued Over Web Interference]

Gov. Spitzer Flip-Flops Again

This probably isn’t the kind of first year that New York Governor Spitzer imagined. First he’s involved is a major scandal involving abuse of power against the leader of the opposing party, then he is forced by overwhelming public opinion and fleeing political allies to abandon a plan to give drivers licenses to illegals, and just mere days after that he is reverses position again, this time on an onerous, and likely illegal tax, on internet retailers, dubbed the Amazon Tax.

As to the statement below, perhaps Gov. Spitzer can explain to the citizens of New York exactly when is the right time to be increasing taxes on them?

“Governor Spitzer believes that now is not the right time to be increasing sales taxes on New Yorkers. He has directed the Department of Tax and Finance to pull back its interpretation that would require some Internet retailers that do not collect sales tax to do so,” State Budget Director Paul Francis said in the statement. [From New York’s About-Face on E-Commerce Taxation]

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Retail, The Internet Impact, Taxes at Wikinvest

UTR Mobility – Advertising

Rafe just asked the key question: what will customers tolerate for mobile advertising. Every one of the panelists answered with the same theme, advertising has to move from a push model to a rich and interactive pull model. In plainer language, instead of getting an ad shoved in front of you, you go and get ad content and presumably do something with it beyond clicking.

On to the companies, Hovr, Transpera, XOsphere, and Zoove.

I am not going to comment on Hovr because I just don’t get gaming on mobile phones. I’d like to see some statistics on mobile gaming specific to mobile phones. While I don’t doubt there is a significant population of users, I just don’t know what the trajectory is and how they behave.

I got the impression from the panel of judges that consumer behavior in online mobile gaming is difficult to model and fickle with regard to repeatability.

Transpera is a mobile video services platform that partners with video publishers to deliver mobile channels.

I am seeing a lot of similarities between companies offering these kinds of services, including integration with existing web properties, community features (social interaction), and claimed targeted rich media advertising. I’m not sure how one would differentiate on these 3 attributes, other than actual consumer adoption, but the analytics certainly seems to be a key part of the equation.

First question from the panel was “to whom do you sell?”, which is never a good first question in this kind of format. I wasn’t sure either. Video to mobile publishers is not a category I am familiar with, but in all fairness it does sound kind of new so maybe it’s an “inside baseball” definition.

“People have been talking about video on mobile for a while but uptake has been slow, why is that?”. Good question and the answer seems to lie at the intersection of device/network capability and user behavior. Whether behavior is shifting is subject to debate but it is clear that device capability is improving and networks generally suck less for mobile video today. Daniel Rosen from AKQA Mobile, who is a judge, just confirmed this by saying it’s technology led right now and consumers just aren’t there.

XOsphere is the least inspiring of the bunch so far. They are doing something with branded applications for a wide range of purposes, kind of an everything to everyone proposition (summed up by one of the judges, “that was a montage of mobile buzzwords”). This was the longest 6 minutes of my life. Shoot me now. Please.

Zoove promises to make the web dialable by offering a dialing interface for web, content, and promotion. In a nutshell, they are putting a text overlay on SMS short codes. That’s kinda cool.

Instead of “text START to 62466″ for ESPN you dial **3766 (which is ESPN). So what this means is that they are setting up a namespace overlay for mobile devices that, as they say, makes the web dialable. So far this is the coolest presentation because it’s so obvious in terms of why consumers would want it and also because it’s really big in terms of vision.

Obviously there are some carrier issues with regard to the overall success because in order for it to be attractive to brands it would have to be supported by a broad spectrum of carriers. There was some interesting discussion in here about adoption of SMS messaging number and the shift in person-to-person to person-to-application.

Vista’s biggest problem is Windows XP

Who would have expected that the biggest competition for Vista would be Windows itself. It is obvious, both anecdotally and statistically, that Windows XP remains absurdly sticky in the market and consumers see little reason to upgrade to Vista, and enterprises will force Microsoft to continue to support XP for a very long time. There’s a pricing lesson in here and a case study about the changing dynamics of the technology marketplace with regard to upgrade cycles for mature products.

What Microsoft is competing with is the absorbed-cost version of Windows XP that customers already have. But XP wasn’t actually free. Customers were bonked on the head to move from W2K (and I would say it was a good upgrade) and now are being strong-armed to upgrade to Vista, which has minimal upside. [From Vista’s biggest problem is Windows XP | Negative Approach – CNET Blogs]

Under the Radar – Mobility

Swung down to the UTR event on mobility today. I missed the morning session because I had to go to traffic court ($122, no traffic school option), so I missed the search and discovery session that featured two of my recent favorite companies, Boopsie and Buzzwire, and the publishing platform session featuring Mobio.

Here in the messaging/sharing session are Heysan!, Trutap, Utterz, and yoMedia. One thing that strikes me about most of these services is that they abstract and provide alternative access to 3rd party services like Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress. I’m not entirely buying this because the asset they are building is, hopefully, a customer base as opposed to a new process model, master data store, or transaction model.

This may be a little abstract in itself but if your company’s value is by making something else incrementally better as opposed to recasting it, then you are at the mercy of the service in question and their ability to do it themselves. Everyone talks about a social dimension that supposedly creates meaningful value through the archive of interaction and behavior data, but what is the product or data service that is created as a result of having an archive. If the archive of interactions and behaviors isn’t exposed then what is the point?

Specific to the mobile market, many of these companies suggest that because there are so many mobile phones in existence that the opportunities are limitless. I would consider that assumption very carefully because the vast majority of the market takes advantage of just one aspect of the cell phone in their pocket, they make phone calls.

yoMedia is a mobile content community that caught my attention. What I especially liked about their approach is that it is not dependent on endpoint user adoption but private label offerings for organizations. The appeal for organizations working with yoMedia is that they accomplish a concrete objective, such as increasing interaction with customers at a ski resort through fixed cameras and embedded advertising. In the case of Media Mountain the enhancement of customer experience is significant and evident. I really liked this company but acknowledge that they could have a slower ramp because they are dependent on business entities adopting their platform.

Quattro Wireless is a mobile web ad platform. Quite honestly I find the notion of advertising being delivered to my mobile phone to be discouraging. The user experience for mobile web apps is already so bad that adding ads to it surely won’t be an enhancing factor. More to the point, why do advertisers persist in an ideology that is about delivering a message through some ad payload as opposed to a function that not only delivers the ad but also provides some utility for me?

For example, Covergirl is a Quattro client. Instead of delivering a banner to a mobile phone user, why not allow them to take a picture of themselves, upload it and then have a Covergirl service to “retouch” the photo and deliver via text message a shopping list of products.

Vringo is a pretty interesting service, basically it allows you to select a video ringtone and push it forward of a friend you choose. It’s video ring forward. I don’t know what technical requirements you have to meet in order to use this but they did make a point of saying that it works on 2.5G networks, which I assume to mean EDGE.

For more coverage see WebWare’s posts on UTR.