Thursday, December 11, 2003

Another day, another article about banning camera phones: N.Y. Times

The New York Times today published an article about municipalities banning cellular phones and quotes government officials, lawyers and analysts. But what struck me was the article's lead, and how the cellular industry -- as I've been writing -- has been shooting itself in the foot.

Here's the lead: "'What grabbed my attention,' said Alderman Edward M. Burke, 'was that TV commercial when the guy is eating the pasta like a slob, and the girl sends a photo of him acting like a slob to the fiancée.'

"The commercial, for Sprint PCS, was meant to convey the spontaneity and reach afforded by the wireless world's latest craze, the camera phone. But what Mr. Burke saw was the peril.

"'If I'm in a locker room changing clothes,' he said, 'there shouldn't be some pervert taking photos of me that could wind up on the Internet.'"

Another commercial for the moron in you

I certainly understand why the cellular industry runs these commercials. They're trying to show the fun, crazy uses of camera phones. But these commercials also are showing the moronic uses of camera phones...and government officials are taking notice!

To be fair, who cares if someone takes a photo of a guy eating like a slob? It might be embarrassing, but this is not a national security issue! You can take the same photo with a regular digital camera, too, although you can't immediately send it.

I'm not going to suggest that the wireless industry shouldn't advertise the fun aspects of camera phones. But wouldn't you think that with all the money the handset vendors and cellular operators can spend on advertising and marketing, they would be able to come up with commercials that not only target the right demographics, but also wouldn't wave a red flag in front of people who want to ban phones?

Educate, educate

The article also highlights, once again, why I think it's so important for the cellular industry to promote the valuable uses of camera phones. Perhaps you wouldn't want TV advertisements promoting real estate agents, construction workers and "citizen journalists" using camera phones (then again, if you're going after business users, perhaps you might!), but the industry certainly should use other ways to get out the word.

The industry launches good products and then screws them up, often with onerous pricing or "walled gardens." With camera phones, the industry was surprised with the strong reactions by corporations and municipalities banning the device.

So instead of trying to highlight to value of camera phones, cellular operators are focusing on the lowest common denominator -- which isn't helping their cause with potential corporate users.

Catering to morons

What we're seeing now in some camera phones commercials is the moron factor. As a misanthrope who thinks the human race's collective I.Q. is barely above that of a slime mold, I understand that appealing to the "mass "market" sells products (as so-called reality shows, morning TV "news" shows and sports programming illustrate).

Indeed, as a wireless data consultant I help companies sell wireless products to the mass market! But the handset vendors and cellular operators have simply got to begin promoting the value of camera phones or they will face more criticism in the press and more government regulations.

The New York Times article notes that as early as December 17 the Chicago City Council might vote on Burke's proposal to ban camera phones in public bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.

Certainly there are places where you shouldn't be allowed to take photos; there are legitimate privacy and security concerns. But what we're seeing in some jurisdictions and hearing from some corporations and analysts, is a sledge hammer approach to banning phones.

Thursday, December 11, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Customer education, Marketing camera phones, Privacy, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, November 21, 2003

Use text! A picture usually isn't worth "a thousand words"

Most moblogs, like most Weblogs, are banal, boring and useless to just about anyone except the person who is posting and a small circle of friends, relatives or voyeurs from afar. That's okay. If you enjoy writing a Weblog or posting photos to the Web, go to it. Much of life is banal, boring and useless.

But if you examine, as I do, how to build viable wireless data businesses and create real value for all participants, you look for ways to ameliorate or eliminate banality.

How do you increase value in moblogs? Text!

Pictures versus words

You'll get no argument from me about the value of photographs. I love photography. And all you have to do is spend a couple of minutes at the National Geographic Society Web site to see the beauty, power and value of photos -- that don't require text to explain them.

But most of us aren't National Geographic photographers. And even National Geographic photos can benefit from text, which is why the magazine also includes words!

That's why I'm using this opportunity to rant and express the need for customer education -- and to impress upon moblog users the value of text. It's also why I think the future of moblogs will be greatly enhanced by the continued introduction of keyboard-based cellular phones.

Increasing value through text

Americans generally hate to use a cellular phone's keypad for entering text, although the younger generation might be more willing (is more willing) to use the keypad. For most moblogs -- such as conference moblogs -- photos without text have far less value.

As an example, look at the moblog textamerica created for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association's Wireless I.T & Entertainment 2003 conference. (Disclosure: I consulted for textamerica for the event, but don't do consulting for the company now.)

I looked at every photo on that moblog. The overwhelming majority included no text. Some -- many posted by textamerica employees -- had a line of text. Even a few words can be a big help, such as identifying an exhibit booth.

More text is good!

The person who included the most text? Uh, me! I took three camera phones to Wireless I.T., but the one I used the most was my Hitachi G1000 from Sprint PCS because it includes a keyboard.

textamerica_ctia_moblog_my_posting_of_hataguchi.jpg

Without text, the photo (see above) of the head of a Japanese moblile computing association would be pretty useless, except to him! With text, the value to others increases dramatically. It's funny -- I shouldn't have to write about this.

Including text with a photo -- why is that a big deal? Alas, for most mobloggers, text is still a big deal because it's a pain to enter.

No blame

You can't blame textamerica. The company included a box on the CTIA moblog that strongly recommends people should include text, but most people didn't take that advice.

Customer education is the key. Camera phones with keyboards are important. Too bad Research in Motion isn't likely to offer a camera phone model in the foreseeable future. The company's newest BlackBerry pager/phones incorporate the best keyboard on the planet for this type of handheld.

But RIM doesn't see cameras as being important for business -- and neither do many businesses.

That attitude will change.

One suggestion

My consulting includes helping companies to make it easier for users to employ wireless data. Here's one recommendation for camera phone users: Suggest that users store a generic phrase in their camera phone's "quick text" section. Phones typically include the ability to store stock phrases, such as "Thanks," "One my way," etc. for use with SMS messages.

If you know you're going to be at a conference, for example, and want to post photos to your moblog, enter a phrase, such as "CTIA Wireless I.T." You only have to enter the phrase once, and you can use it whenever you post a photos at that event.

While it would be better if you also included more text to explain the photo, some text is better than none.

Friday, November 21, 2003 in Customer education, Future, Group moblog, Marketing camera phones, Moblog hosting | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

It's time to begin intensive customer education about camera phones

With all the frenzy about banning camera phones, it's time -- right now -- for the wireless industry to begin educating consumers and businesses about the value of camera phones. I'm not talking about mindless PR drivel about the sweetness and light of snapping a photo of grandma, but about how camera phones can be really useful.

Take a look at the articles I wrote in the "Security" category. (I love TypePad's category feature.) Corporations want to ban camera phones even when there's no legitimate reason to do so.

Publicity barrage

In the relatively short time that camera phones have been available in the United States, there has been a huge number of articles in the press about privacy and security considerations. On October 31 the Pioneer Press for Minneapolis/St. Paul published an article headlined, "Health club locker rooms lock out phones."

The article leads with, "It's a health club patron's nightmare: Someone surreptitiously snaps a digital photo of said patron in a shower or locker room, then shares the snapshot far and wide via e-mail or by posting the picture on a Web site.

"The likelihood of this happening has dramatically increased in the past year or two as digital cameras have shrunk in size and become inconspicuous parts of everyday devices such as mobile phones." (By the way, the reporter has a good technology Weblog, Your Tech Weblog, which is hosted by TypePad.)

In just a few months, these sorts of stories have become cliches -- very bad cliches for the wireless industry.

A solution is education

The solution isn't to whine about the problem but to do something smart about it. I've been analyzing the wireless industry since 1978 and my business is to build wireless data businesses around the world. If you've got a problem with a product or service, you fix it, promote the good, admit and discuss the bad and provide enough information so people can make up their minds -- independent of hype and hysteria.

The immediate need for customer education about camera phones popped into my sluggish mind when I saw an entry about one of my posts by Stuart on his Henshall & Associates Weblog. Stuart writes, "Time to show the organizations all the good things photoblogs can do."

Absolutely. It's time to show corporations -- time to education them about -- the uses of camera phones. The wireless industry has done a remarkably rotten job of educating business users about the value of camera phones. The industry itself is still learning about business applications and many people involved in the retail side of camera phones are rather clueless about the potential for corporate use.

Starting the education process

Cellular operators and handset vendors, among others, need a section on their Web sites for businesses that discusses the value of camera phones. There should be examples of current and future uses in specific markets and specific applications. There are plenty of applications to discuss, as a start, covering a variety of markets, such as real estate, construction, journalism, meetings and conventions, and field service.

You also need to confront camera phone problems head-on. All too many executives want to ignore problems, thinking that if they make them public they'll only make the situation worse. There is a name for this type of attitude....moronic.

Camera phones can be abused, just like non-wireless digital cameras and all sorts of other products. You need to discuss the problem and suggest solutions. You need to write about what other companies have done.

Deal with it!

This issue isn't going to disappear. In fact, it's going to get worse before it gets better. It's one of the reasons I suggested it might be a good idea to create a camera phone association.

(If you're a wireless company or a corporation that needs to understand this issue and how to ameliorate the problems, feel free to contact me for consulting services.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003 in Customer education, Marketing camera phones, Privacy, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack