With the ongoing struggle to figure out the “content” market for the mobile environment, it appears that there’s a return to something that sounds very much like Pointcast-style push technology. While others are focused on moving broadcast-style TV to mobile phones, some have been moving forward with what is called Interactive Mobile Broadcasting.
The idea is that, just like with Pointcast, the content is downloaded in the background. While the phone is “idle,” the content displays on the screen — just like a screensaver. It’s not intrusive. It doesn’t bother the user at all, but simply appears silently. It can be news, weather, sports or whatever the operator wants to provide. The subscriber can then click through for more information, making an active move to get the information, but making it easier than going through a typical mobile web or WAP portal.
There’s clearly some demand for this. It’s being used in China and India, and it appears that people are definitely making use of it. Of course, a lot of people used Pointcast as well. While this doesn’t have the problem of overloading the network that Pointcast had, it does require maintaining this separate broadcast network. Furthermore, as Pointcast discovered, this solution is totally limited to what content the providers decide to offer through it. While many mobile operators are still stuck in a walled garden mentality, as the networks increasingly open up, and outside developers are encouraged to make use of the network in new and innovative ways, the idea of staying within walled gardens becomes less interesting. Furthermore, as cellular networks improve in bandwidth and devices become more powerful, the more annoying part of mobile web surfing starts to go away. That’s not to say this version of mobile push doesn’t have potential — but providers would be wise to pay attention to the lessons that Pointcast learned painfully, and try to avoid them. Otherwise, the future of this mobile push will be quite similar to the history of Internet push.
MocoNews: “Operators are cottoning on to the idea of pushing information to mobile phones where it resides quietly in the background until users want it. Its a pretty nifty idea, especially for 2G networks where downloading something might take a long time. The service is best suited to persistant but constantly changing data, in my opinion, such as weather, sports scores or traffic updates. However, the writer compares it to Pointcast, an Internet technology that ended up failing because it was depended on what the operator included.”