Universal Mobile Interface

Viral distribution of mobile services

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on March 26, 2009

Within the Internet world we see one example after the other of successful services that manage to utilise viral marketing and distribution, and many times in combination with a sophisticated PR strategy. We also see examples of services that seem to take off by themselves mainly due to accidentally good timing and due to that the service gives an exceptionally good user experience or something unique. Working in the mobile space I have long been quite envious of the speed by which new services can reach new users within the PC-environment. We have struggled so hard trying to get a decent take up of new mobile services, but to be honest with limited success.

Viral marketing is in essence quite simple in theory, but in reality not that easy to achieve. The key is that there has to be a value for the individual to give and for the receiving party to receive. It also has to be easy and possible to give and receive. Regarding distribution of services that are expected to be used frequently, then the efficiency in distribution becomes even stronger when there is a mutual value for both parties that the services are used. This leads to limited churn as individuals then encourage each other to continue using the services. One example of this is the area of communication services, such as the IP-telephony service Skype.

Looking at barriers to viral marketing and distribution, comparing the mobile environment with ordinary Internet services, huge differences can be seen. The value for giving and receiving services may not be so different, but when it comes if it’s easy or even possible to share digital content mobile to mobile is quite a different story. On the PC sharing a link, a program, a movie etc is more or less just a few clicks away. On the mobile you need to take many other considerations into account. Does the receiver have a device that can use the service, do I even know what device she has, does she have the same operator, does she have the correct settings etc. Even if the answers to all these questions are positive, which may happen in some rare cases, just needing to even being worried about them have most probably discouraged the giver enough not to even try.

46936_communicationBut do not let the present situation stop us from further exploring the opportunities. To distribute content freely mobile to mobile does hold one of the most interesting potentials and new forces of the Internet. Once the barriers to sharing content freely mobile to mobile an even faster viral distribution can expected compared to the present PC experience, as: there are about four times as many mobile phones as PCs; the phones are always on and they are personal and the phone is always accompanying the user. The UMI concept holds the potential to overcome the barriers to mobile viral distribution and doing so before any standardised and universal mobile operating system is agreed upon. Some basic success factors for mobile viral distribution are:

  • Creating value for the giver
  • Creating value for the receiver
  • Additional value for the giver if the services is used by the receiver
  • Notification to giver that the service given is used
  • Distribution independent of what device the receiver has
  • Distribution independent of what operator the receiver has
  • Services are easy to down load, install, find and use
  • That content and services are free or initially for free

The right timing for mobile marketing

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on March 19, 2009

I just come from yet another meeting with a major consumer retail brand that would like to explore the potential of the mobile as a new channel to communicate with their customer base. I remember an executive in one of the leading European mobile operators stating: “Within two years all major brands will have mobile presence – or they will not exist”. This was about three years ago but seems today as a rather relevant statement.

There is today a general enthusiasm over mobile marketing combined with a healthy awareness regarding the limitations. The initial a bit naïve view that just doing an app will solve my needs as a brand to reach the technically advanced customers, have now matured into understanding what can be achieved but also that this is not just about doing an app.


Looking at mobile marketing successes in the past, they are mainly sms-based campaigns. But this is not a scalable approach. If we should redirect marketing spending to this type of activities then each consumer will be spammed far beyond what anyone can accept, eventually totally killing the opportunities. Will then moving from the sms-approach to the app solve the issue?

Moving into an app-approach is mainly to extend the present web marketing with a mobile extension but with some pros and cons. You then get the same issues as on the web like: how do I become visible and searchable; how to incentivise customers to return frequently to my digital shop; the need to log in to get there personal offers; etc. The mobile do except for its given limitations also bring some additional values like: the mobile is always accompanying the consumer, all offers can be reachable from the mobile when on the move as well as club memberships; you get a strong tool for viral marketing campaigns; etc. Mobile marketing has a fantastic potential but sms-campaigns and apps are not the complete solution. We need to find ways to extend the present web into the mobile and taking advantage of the unique benefits of the mobile, but without ending up in an app jungle.

Coming back to the consumer retail brand and their ambitions. What do they ask for? They want to explore the mobile as a new communication and marketing channel for their key customers. They want to be able to reach all customers irrespectively of what phones and what operator they have. They want to have simple solutions based on existing web services and functionality and that they can manage real time themselves without involving it-departments or consultants. This all sound very reasonable and is essential to get this to work. What they ask for is a Universal Mobile Interface.

Finally some general advice to those that plan to utilise mobile marketing:

  • The mobile channel will not replace print and web but will act as a complement to the existing channels.
  • Mobile marketing will initially attract a limited but growing segment of the customer base.
  • Base the mobile solution on the present web services and do not build a separate mobile system.
  • Incentivise and educate the customer base to gradually move from print to digital channels.
  • The content on the site needs to be updated even more frequently on a mobile site. A “dead site” will immediately loose the attention of the consumer.
  • Build in viral elements such as mobile to mobile coupon distribution.
  • Choose scalable solutions that have the potential to reach and be used by the majority of the customer base.
  • Start with limited pilots gaining experience and avoiding disappointing customers with immature services.

Human-Computer Interaction Group at School of Computer Science and Communication on March 16th

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on March 13, 2009

On Monday March 16th 2009, the Human-Computer Interaction Group at School of Computer Science and Communication in Stockholm will organise a seminar with Martin Vendel and Bo Karlson.

The UMI seminar will be held 09:30-10:00 at Torget.

Some reflections on the Mobile Glasnost panel discussion at Mobile Life, March 4th

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on March 6, 2009


I participated in the in the industry panel at Open House at Mobile Life Centre in Kista. Represented in the panel were, except for myself representing Squace, Ericsson – Martin Körling, Sony Ericsson – Troed Sångberg and TeliaSonera – Johan Wickman. The panel was moderated by professor Lars Erik Holmquist, Mobile Life Centre. The topic as phrased in the programme: “Mobile services have been stuck in a winter, closely guarded by specialized engineers and proprietary business models. Now, the ice is melting – operators, device manufacturers and infrastructure providers are opening up their walled gardens, telling their most valuable secrets and sharing opportunities with the masses. Or are they?”  


There was clearly a joint understanding that an open approach is needed and that walled garden and vertical approaches will slow down the development and limit the success of the mobile Internet. However, we may put different meaning to the word “opened”. Operators and device manufactures have over the years shown a clear reluctance to open up to not decrease their competitiveness. We can hope that this will now change but take their somewhat conflicting strategic agendas into account. This change will not come easy, both due to their need to differentiate but even more importantly due to mindset and culture which is very seldom changed very quickly.


The direct question on if the solution to overcome the complexity and key barriers to innovations and growth is a common operating system illustrates the core of the issue. This is a very technical approach to the problem and the panel have somewhat different view on if this is even necessary and if it will happen, how long this will take. The concept of a horizontal layer over all different operating systems were discuss as a faster and most probable solution as the present players presently have limited incentives to agree on a common operating.  This is what the Universal Mobile Interface is, one generic interface towards the content providers so they don’t need to bother about all different operating systems etc. and at the same time a generic interface for the end user so that they can freely change from one device to the other without being lost.


In conclusion we may now see a “Mobile Glasnost”, but this just one of the first steps and there are still many obstacles ahead. Remember that Glasnost created a very painful transformation phase for Russia. As Russia do, we will have to deal with many future issues, they are probably not be called mafia, oligarchs, Putin and Chechnya, but we need to remember that the Glasnost was probably necessary start and that change of mindset and culture is one of the hardest things to accomplish.

Please, take a cup of coffee, sit down, enjoy…

Posted in UMI by universalmobileinterface on March 2, 2009

Another great and yet important piece is:
This is not the most recent information in the world – but still. Good stuff. Please, take a cup of coffee, sit down, enjoy, and absorb Jason Grigsbys learning.

A summary of mobile Internet (browser) experience of today.

Posted in UMI by universalmobileinterface on March 2, 2009

One of the usability legends, Jakob Nielsen, has put together this well worth reading summary of mobile Internet (browser) experience of today. The simple conclusion is that – we are back in 1998. The mobile web experience of today is like the desktop web experience back in the late 90s. The last nine (9) years of development has in fact only lead to four (4) years worth of progress in mobile user experience. Not that efficient! And if the mobile web of today is at the level of the wired web in 1998, the handsets themselves are just 2-4 years behind the computer in terms of performance. In short – a gap of 4-6 years in user expectations.

Jakob, I do agree on most things, but the solution is not to create mobile web versions of every site and service. “That will not solve the issue – How do you get to the site (you have to know the URL and then tap a lot – tap, tap, tap), or if you find something of interest on that site – How do you share that with a friend?


useit.com: Jakob Nielsen’s Website

“Article in Swedish from the “Mobile Business idg.se“)