Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Offline content distribution...

There is an increasing interest in allowing mobile users to access content offline. I posted earlier about SurfKitchen, which is a customisable user interface client for mobiles, but with an offline capability via some form of "push".

Other players include Silk, whose customisable client also includes the ability to work with Flash Lite. The Silk content delivery solution allows content to be pushed continually to handsets over-the-air (OTA), although this is essentially implemented via a polling channel.

Another player in the market is Austrian 2K Development with their jbag.net solution, also allowing data content to be pushed for subsequent offline viewing.

These developments are interesting from a number of perspectives. Firstly, the richer user experience is a key driver. The aim here is to exploit the now well-established principle that usability can drive usage, which drives conversion rates (hits to money). Clearly, the usability of WAP-based presentations is not cutting it.

Secondly, we have the emergence of an offline model for mobiles. I intend to discuss this with some of the offline players, because it would be interesting to know exactly what the key drivers are. Offline access to content was once considered important back when data coverage was deemed problematic. In other words, if I could only access my emails via a live connection, then being out of coverage is potentially a problem.

Ubiquitous and improved data coverage has lessened this problem, although not entirely. With 3G it should only get better and the improved data speeds lessens the problems of having to re-fetch data.

However, there are other advantages to offline content that are appealing. Firstly, and probably most important, the mere fact that content can be pushed to a device means that it can brought to the user's attention. This is the interrupt-driven model, which via other means (such as Cellticks cell-broadcast solution) has been shown to work.

Pushing the content is not enough. Richness improves the likelihood that the content will be viewed - and, more importantly - acted upon. The other advantage to pushed content is improved responsiveness. If the top 10 news stories or gossip snippets can be reviewed just by rapid clicking through, as opposed to waiting for each item to load from a distant server, then the usability experience is improved. Again, this can convert more easily to cash.

I guess what's worrying to me about all this is that these solutions aren't compatible and they are potentially closed (although that's always a possibility for any operator-deployed solution). If the offline content paradigm is valuable, which it seems to be, then we need a standard approach, which we currently don't have.

MIDP 3.0 are discussing the inclusion of a background communications mode, which could potentially support a push model for offline content aggregation. However, a background communications channel is only one part of the solution.

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