Deal-making and proprietary interfaces retard mobile publishing

It’s going to be a long, long time before 3g goes anywhere, if this story is the norm for how content makes its way to mobile phones:

  • SmartServ Online made a deal with a big, unnamed handset manufacturer to include the company’s financial news and data application inside some of the manufacturer’s Java-capable phones. The press release says, “The agreement contains three revenue components: upfront development fees, licensing fees and a share of recurring subscription revenue from wireless carrier subscribers.”
  • Summus Inc. said its photo messaging service available through AT&T Wireless Services Inc. now supports the Panasonic GU87, Nokia 3650 and the Sony Ericsson T306.
  • Verizon Wireless announced it will offer The FOX Sports On-Court Live Basketball game developed by Sorrent using Verizon’s BREW application download service.
  • Boost Mobile announced it will offer snow reports from SnoCountry.

Apparently, to offer content on 3g phones, you have to make a deal with each mobile carrier, each handset manufacturer, and then customize your application for individual phone models. If that’s not discouraging enough for developers, you must pay upfront development and licensing fees.

When will the mobile carriers (and their suppliers) realize that having nondiscriminatory access to content is more compelling to consumers than a few exclusive content deals? Probably about the same time they realize that lack of number portability is costing them more money by limiting their market than it’s saving them in churn.

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