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Gateways and Barriers to Mobile Startups at Future of Mobile

Mike Butcher from TechCrunch UK was originally slated to host the ‘Gateways and Barriers to mobile start ups’ segment at the upcoming Future of Mobile Conference.

Alas Mike’s had to dash off to China so the chaps at Future of Mobile asked if I’d be up for chairing it. Right on. You bet.

I’m no fan of the lumbering giant mobile operator. Indeed, I am hugely, hugely critical of the bollocks that a lot of them have been trying to shovel out the door in years gone by. My favourite piece-of-shit example of a mobile operator without a clue was Orange releasing a music store for (if memory serves) it’s Windows Mobile C500 handset.

The store had 250,000 tracks, all of which cost a few quid and downloaded in piece of shit quality.

I used it once and was hugely disgusted. The Windows Mobile device was rubbish (mostly due to the Windows OS) and the music service was so uninspired it looked like it had been half finished and rolled out the door. Appalling. I suspect it must have been quietly removed from the planet 6 months later as I never heard about it again.

Goodness knows how much money was burnt with that rubbish.

All the time I kept on meeting mobile developers and startups who were desperate to get their idea in front of a Mobile Operator. That’s the Holy Grail for this industry, isn’t it? Sell your software to an MNO and woosh, you can live off the royalties.

Only, the MNO simply wasn’t built to deal with more than, say, 5 mobile developers. The way the MNOs worked necessitated the developer to have a huge cash pile to be able to afford to sit while the various departments in the MNO picked their noses and hunted for ‘clarity’ and ‘engaged’ with each other before eventually knocking out the software to the bewildered end users.

And of course the handsets were bollocks, too.

But we’re entering a bit of a renaissance now.

Only last week, Pieter, the Head of Social Networks for T-Mobile UK was telling me (I’m paraphrasing) that they’re delighted that, for once, they don’t have to do the work — and the guessing. The market does it. The provide the marketplace (in the form of the G1 Android ‘Market’ – equivalent to iTunes Application Store) and the users get on with it.

Likewise o2 have got something similar coming along in the form of o2 Litmus. They’re putting on a hack day soon!

You never know… if we’re not careful as an industry, we might,… shock horror… end up with something resembling a distribution network that might, shock horror, deliver value to the end user, to the developer and to the MNO.

Which brings me back to this segment I’m chairing at Future of Mobile.

I think there’s potentially room for one or two more startups and mobile operators. The ubiquitous Daniel Appelquist of Vodafone is on the panel already — as are MIR favourites, Justin Davies of NinteyTen, Carl Uminski of Trutap, Alfie of Moblog and James Body of Truphone. I’m hoping to see if one or two other mobile operators will represent too.

If you’re a startup or a semi-startup, drop Dominic Travers of Carsonified (the event organiser) a note and tell him you’ve got something to say on the gateways and barriers to startups in the mobile industry. Let’s get you on the panel.

Or if you’ve any suggestions for people who should participate, talk to Dominic. He’s dominic at carsonified dot com.

Future of Mobile is shaping up to be a wicked conference. You can still get a reduced ticket by using the code MIR20 (all caps) and I strongly encourage you to do so.

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