Mobile 2.0, Will it Ever Rival Web 2.0?


While everyone is swarming around the Web 2.0 conference today, yesterday’s Mobile 2.0 conference was a more calm event that showed off some interesting mobile startups and examined trends like mobile-created content, access to the web via cell phones and mobile browsers. Maybe it was the lack of WiFi in the main conference room that shut down most of the blogging noise, or the cave that is the basement of the San Francisco Grand Hyatt that sobered a lot of buzz.

Regardless, while “Web 2.0” companies are getting a rush of funding, mobile content companies are starting to following the same path. I was chatting with Anurag Nigam, the CEO behind the mobile search service 411Sync, about if there would ever be a day where the idea of Mobile 2.0 is as big as Web 2.0. ‘”It’s getting there,” he says. Vodafone’s Dan Appelquist, who helped organize the event says on his blog that the conference helped him realize that “we are at a turning point for the mobile Web.” But he also adds while he’s live-blogging from Web 2.0 that the message of Mobile 2.0 isn’t being heard at Web 2.0. (For his definition of the term check here.)

SoonR’s CEO Martin Frid-Nielsen had an apt comment about the rush of mobile companies on a morning panel at the conference: “One thing that is sad about mobile is that so many startups go under. People just underestimate the costs involved.” (We’re assuming he doesn’t mean his own startup.) There might be lots of losers, but there’s no end to the mobile companies going for it — the conference’s “mobile launch pad,” which showed off a few mobile startups that were worth nothing, was the most interesting of part of the day:

1). MCN: (Mobile Content Networks) The Palo Alto-based startup white-labels mobile search products for carriers, and recently raised $6 million from Meritage Funds, Frontera Group LLC and The Angels’ Forum. MCN CEO Marc Bookman said that mobile search has to be 2 or 3 clicks only, to keep the interest of the user, and that his company has a mobile music search product for NTT DoCoMo that should be live this month.

2). 3JAM: We never thought 3JAM’s reply-all text-messaging was that compelling — it always seemed more like a kindof cool feature than a stand alone company that should raise funding. Though, at the conference 3JAM was emphasizing opening up its API as a way to bring in more content providers and users. Maybe this will help build out the offering.

3). Funambol: The Redwood City-based startup, which sells open source mobile server software, has been around since 2001. But this is the first time we’ve heard them referring to themselves as “the largest mobile open source project on the planet.” The company says it’s had more downloads of its software in the last 5 months, than its had in the combined previous few years. At the conference Funambol was showing off its Phonesniper community program which pays developers and community members to test devices by syncing with the company’s portal.

4). Mojeo: The company execs talked way too fast for us to figure out the ins and outs of Mojeo, but the startup called its service “location-based bookmarking,” and says it launched in the past few weeks. The purpose is to make accessing location-aware web sites like Yahoo, Google and Upcoming, from both your desktop and your mobile that much easier.



For a refreshingly open view of Mobile 2.0, see see (presentation in PDF) – a surprisingly entertaining and quite clueful presentation about why and how they’ve built a new phone that’s designed to have a completely open source stack and framework, using hardware from FIC in Taiwan. Their goal is to really make mobile apps and services take off by unleashing open source community, which would incidentally greatly reduce the cost of developing apps for mobile phones, as it just uses Linux plus an open framework.

Unclear if this will take off, but it sounds a lot more attractive to hackers (the good kind) than current Linux phones which are mainly available in Asia, or are Windows Mobile phones with hackers porting Linux despite the enormous effort that this takes.

Website has a bit more info at but the presentation is the best part.

Salt Merchant

Katie, enjoy your posts. Mobile 2.0/1.0 is a work in progress with the likelihood of very few successful startups. The failure rate of these startups will continue to be high, for as long as Carriers determine the winners/losers.


The real question is will mobile 1.0 happen. We still have not seen a yahoo, google, aol, ebay, amazon etc.. emerge on mobile. Not a single brand that is a “mobile brand”. Jamdat is arguably the only success so far (and only fair success @ 500m mkt cap), but they where unsustainable as public company so EA picked them up.

Mobile is a long way off and we must wait for the carriers to drop their walled gardens before 1.0 will show up.


Mobile cannot be in 2.0 mode, when was 1.0. The time the carriers blocked every useful service. I must say I have used one of the best services in years which could be called Mobile 2.0. (( truphone)) — I have been using VoIP on my Nokia E60 for the last 75 days. I must say I am the happiest customer ever. I have made 65 hours of mobile VoIP calls using the (( truphone )) client to basically every country on the globe (mobile and landline). My average per minute charge with all the free stuff they are giving away (FREE are global landline calls) was 4.7 pence. WOW!!!! I used to be at 25 pence with my mobile network operator (due to the international and roaming stuff)! What a great saving…(I calculated it will come to $6000 per year). This stuff realy works once you manage to install it. VoIP on mobile when in WiFi range is just the best thing happening ever!!!

Song Huang

Katie, I loved your comment .. “the cave that is the basement of the San Francisco Grand Hyatt…” As you know, we were all set up for demos with lots of phones, then we learned that the conference was going to be 75 feet underground! Most wireless signals (except for Cingular at 1X speed) were rendered useless and demos became a bit challenging.

I have instructed our PR folks to always double and triple check that wireless conference venues that we consider are in facilities that actually have wireless coverage. It’s not optional!

It was still a sold out conference! That tells you how hot the space is. It was a long but rewarding day for us.

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