@ MWC: No Twitter-Branded Smartphone, Says Costolo


Credit: Twitter

INQ and HTC may be launching “Facebook phones” this year, but another social brand growing at lightning speed will not be taking that route, at least for now. In a keynote speech today at the Mobile World Congress, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo said that although 40 percent of all of tweets come from mobile phones, Twitter does not want to “own” its own mobile handset.

In a speech long on Twitter’s role in the changing world of communications, Costolo said that he would like to see deeper Twitter integration on mobile, but that this — like the length of a tweet itself — has a limit:

“I believe there is a need [to better integrate] Twitter in existing platforms for phones, but not for a Twitter-branded smartphone,” he told an audience of people more used to seeing operators, handset makers and network vendors than they are social media juggernauts keynoting the event.

What does a deeper integration mean? Costolo pointed out that currently on an Android phone, a person can snap a picture and automatically send it in a tweet to his followers. There needs to be more of that kind of removal of complexity, he said. “What I would like are more single sign-on experiences, more apps that can tweet without having to go to another app.”

Currently some 40 percent of all tweets come from mobile devices, and Costolo also noted that 50 percent of all active Twitter users are active on more than one platform. That underscores not just how strongly mobile figures in Twitter’s business today, but points to Twitter services that we might see launched in the future.

Twitter started its life as a mobile service, with the idea that people could write and send a group of followers short messages using the short code 40404. But it didn’t really take off until it expanded to become a web-based service. Costolo says Twitter processes some 130 million tweets every day (with spikes for events like the TV show Glee, or the Egyptian protests) — compared to 100 million only a couple of months ago, and daily tweets numbering in the thousands only a few years ago.

Twitter has not abandoned its short codes, though. These have become a significant way for users to communicate with their followers, and the rest of the world, especially in countries where PC and smartphone penetration is not as dense as it is in some Western countries. Yet there are still countries where these short codes have not been enabled.

“We still need to get short codes up and running,” he said. The company is working with carriers and regional OEMs to secure these agreements, he said, particularly in countries where users might face difficulties with other forms of communication if data networks are down or the government has shut them down, which recently happened in Egypt.

“Shortcodes allow people to tweet freely,” he noted. But in some countries, even though they may be shortcode-enabled, they could face other issues. Take countries where Arab is the predominant language: “We still don’t support right to left languages yet,” he said. “We need to do that.”

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