Rory Cellan-Jones

Going mobile in Barcelona

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 8 Feb 08, 11:00 GMT

I'm off to to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday. Our very compact two-man team (me plus camera/lights/sound/editing specialist Peter Page) is hoping to bring BBC viewers, listener and readers coverage of the most interesting products and stories from this annual shindig of the mobile industry.

Last year was all about the iPhone - or rather fear of the iPhone. Apple's new phone wasn't out, but the established players were all rushing to bring out shiny handsets that might steal the market before its arrival.

This year the theme is not hardware but software. With Google's Android operating system just over the horizon, the battle to be the dominant operating system is hotting up. We'll have interviews with Nokia, Google, and Microsoft, who'll all be explaining why they think they should be crawling all over your mobile screen.

But Barcelona will also see the start of an experiment for this blog. Darren Waters and I are keen to start experimenting with mobile blogging, using a variety of technologies to bring you more video from key stories.

I'm taking a couple of mobiles with video capture to Barcelona, and when I'm not broadcasting for the BBC's TV and radio output, I'll be recording a few shaky clips to post on this blog. It's a modest start - and we'll hope to try various other methods over the coming weeks. Here's a quick video explanation - let us know the kind of thing you'd like to see.

Rory Cellan-Jones

Making money from MySpace

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 8 Feb 08, 09:48 GMT

In a smart London bar last night eager young developers gathered to hear how they might make money out of MySpace. They were listening to the social network's Chief Technology Officer Aber Whitcomb who had flown direct from a similar event in San Francisco. The message was inspiring - start building quality applications for MySpace's 200 million users and you will soon share in the huge wealth generated by our global advertising business.

But hold on a minute. Last summer in a rather grubbier basement bar in London's East End, I heard Facebook executives preach much the same message to an even younger and more eager crowd of software wannabes. Back then we all believed that letting a thousand new applications bloom was a brilliant move for a social network. Everyone - Facebook, its users, and the external developers - would gain as the site became more useful and even more attractive to advertisers.

It hasn't quite worked out like that. First, thousands of applications of extremely variable quality have been lobbed at Facebook users, leaving many of them bewildered and bored by the onslaught of vampires, zombies and super-walls which have cluttered up what was once a clean, simple and elegant service. Second, it doesn't look as though it has proved profitable for any but a tiny handful of developers. Sure, the makers of Scrabulous have garnered a moderate income but

a) they have millions of users
b) the one advertiser I know who used the site gave up after only receiving responses from bored Canadians
c) they are being sued by the makers of Scrabble.

And for every Scrabulous, there are hundreds of applications which are being ignored by Facebook users.

With the economic climate getting stormy, advertisers no longer seem quite so convinced that social networks are the place to be. Sure, MySpace is still a much bigger business than Facebook. And canny old Rupert Murdoch, who was derided for paying $500m for the network in 2005, promptly proved that he wasn't born yesterday by doing a $900m advertising deal with Google. But this week Google admitted that social network advertising had so far failed to deliver what was expected. Or in the words of Google’s Sergey Brin : “I don’t think we have the killer best way to monetize social networks yet. We have had a lot of experiments (and some disappointments)."

So those eager young software devleopers may soon share in that disappointment. Anyway, it was a very nice party, and Aber Whitcomb was kind enough to speak to a confused reporter wielding a mobile phone. Here he is:

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