Today is day 2 of the Handango Partner Summit in Miami and I was able to attend a number of presentations by various companies and get a feel for the direction we may be heading if the industry leaders are correct. The Handango Partner Summit is the annual event hosted by the online PDA software company and the invited guests are the software developers who sell their software via the Handango store. Handango’s sales have grown tremendously since the company formed a few years ago and the sellers present at this Summit represent some of the biggest companies producing Palm, Symbian and Windows Mobile programs.
I am meeting a lot of people with whom I am familiar but never had the opportunity to meet in person. One such person sat at my table this morning for breakfast, Amit Regev of SBSH, the company behind PocketBreeze for the Pocket PC (among other programs). I have conversed via email with Amit for quite some time and it was great to get a chance to meet him. In case you were wondering he doesn’t look anything like I expected from his emails. :)
Handango has invited some great speakers from companies such as Sony Ericsson, Symbian, Microsoft, Palmsource, Nokia, Blackberry and ALLTEL. These leaders run companies and divisions within those companies that collectively are responsible for a major portion of the PDA, smartphone and cell phone products available today and I have gotten a distinct view of the future for mobile computing that these movers and shakers expect. One theme that is very clear from all of those speaking at the Summit is the continued growth of the cell phone market, including software and content. Each of the represented companies that produce cell phones indicate the continued growth of smartphones to meet the demands of sophisticated consumers.
So much attention has been given to mobile content delivery that I have been thinking about it a lot here in Miami. George Linardos of Nokia stated that content delivery is a $17 billion market this year and expected to grow to $59 billion by 2009. With those kinds of numbers it’s easy to see why the companies attending here are so excited. This may well happen but there is something that doesn’t quite click with me about content delivery. By content we are referring to multimedia content, audio, video, movies and TV. The basic reasoning behind these lofty sales expectations is the huge ringtone sales in the last year. Most speakers at this summit seem to think this will evolve into big content sales, but I’m not so sure you can make that leap. I feel pretty certain that teenagers with phones are the primary segment that is spending all this money on ringtones and I don’t think they will be springing for more expensive content. Most ringtones are only a few dollars a pop but multimedia content is going to require some sort of monthly commitment to be profitable and teens won’t (and in many cases can’t) make that big a financial commitment. I just don’t see the majority of consumers committing big dollars on subscription services for audio and video that is tied to a cell phone. Can you imagine watching a movie on a 2 inch screen? This might work on larger devices like portable media centers or PDAs but a delivery vehicle for the content has to emerge in that case.
Handango gave a few presentations today that contained a lot of information that was derived from sales statistics and customer surveys. They gave some information that I found very interesting and in some instances seemed to be contradictory to the expected multimedia explosion. The first thing I noticed was that entertainment and multimedia software was not in the top three categories of software that Handango sold for phones. It seems to me that this category of software would be big sellers if multimedia application was driving sales.
Handango also gave the top ten lists of devices that customers use and I was surprised to find that three of the devices on this list were Palm Tungstens. I expected to find more Zires on this list since they are the cheaper devices in the Palm line but that was not the case. Only one Palm Zire model was in the top ten giving Palm four of the top positions. There were a number of Windows Mobile Pocket PCs on this list but most of them were older models like the HP 2215 and Dell x30. This indicates that perhaps Pocket PC owners haven’t upgraded their hardware in the past year.
The most surprising bit of information that came out of the Handango planning speech actually emerged in the Q & A session at the end. One of the attendees (no it wasn’t me) asked if Handango was going to add Tablet PC software to their catalogue. This was a legitimate question given the presence of myself and several others representing the Microsoft Tablet PC team. Jason Wells, VP of Marketing for Handango, stated emphatically that Handango will be adding Tablet PC software very soon. This is excellent news for ISVs developing Tablet software and I urge those to contact Handango and see if they can offer a good sales solution for your products.