Thursday, March 27, 2008

Zygo Hubs: Group SMS

Although text messaging has been such an enormous success, it could have been even bigger if it had been designed to support M:M messaging. The vast majority of the messages we send are to one person, yet so much of our non-mobile communication is in a group context - forums, bb's, group email, conf calls, etc etc.
The problem with M:M SMS has always been the economics. In Europe, i pay to send an SMS, but if it has multiple recipients, my operator wants to charge me x times as many recipients that receive the message. It gets costly and so i dont bother. What the outdated and simplistic mobile operator interconnect model misses is the financial echo of that first message. So i send a message to 5 people, I get two replies that also go to the other 5 people - my operator gets 2 x the interconnect receipt (assuming i'm the only person in that group on that one operator) + any revenue from any additional messages I send to that group. For an operator with 30/40% market share - this starts to look quite fruity as you increase the amount of originating revenue in accordance with your share of the group participants.

I looked at this in quite some depth at Voda and found a way to make this work. We conducted a social network analysis of SMSC data to understand the social footprint and fabric of messaging. Even though there was no 'product' in place, customers were already demonstrating this behaviour - i.e. a % of SMS was being sent to multiple recipients and there was evidence of repeat conversation. Productising and promoting this would surely have been profitable.

Anyway, I'm digressing, the point is there is a gaping opportunity in this product space and a company called Zygo Communications (which was founded by some of my ex-colleagues at Orange) have just launched a proposition to address this; Zygo Hubs.

The service allows you to set up a group with up to 20 participants, you get allocated a dedicated long number, and every message you send to the number will be forwarded to the other group members. You can set the group up via mobile or web, and the communication history of the group is accessible via a web interface. You pay your normal operator message rate for every message you send to the group, and for every message that is sent to group members, a credit is deducted from the group account. You get 50 free to start with, and can top-up via the web. SMS credits start at 7.1p each and decrease in price in accordance with the amount of the top-up. This seems a little pricey given the wholesale cost of SMS, and may not be cheap enough to draw users in v's what they have today (1:M SMS included in their bundle).
The site, brand and design seem targeted at the 'youth', who are the most price-sensitive segment of all, and who may be unwilling to swallow 7p per text given the relative pricing of bolt-on SMS offers on both PAYG and PM price plans. Despite this, there is clearly a market for this kind of offer within SME's, Education, Public Services and other areas - re-branding the site for these verticals will be cheap and easy.

"Social Advertising"

The corporate part of the Zygo site explains that the Zygo platform can be used by Brand partners to engage in targeted conversations with the groups that use Zygo. Presumably, the per message pricing can be subsidised with mobile advertising - this is neat, and a nice example of how mobile VAS can be funded through advertising. What impact this has on the customer experience (e.g. share of ads to group messages) has yet to be seen.

• Allows anyone to set up their own group messaging service (via the web at and provides that group with a single central telephone number through which any member can contact the whole group instantly.
• One text message sent to the group number and the ZygoHub relays it out to all members, similarly any reply goes back to the whole group creating an instant and true group text conversation.
• Is designed to be inclusive for everyone in a group so works on any network, any handset and is as simple as sending an individual text message.
• Has an easy to use web interface that allows the members to add profiles, send sms, manage their group and archives the group’s conversations.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mig33 update

A while back I wrote a post about the future of mobile voice and text. At the time, I was working for Voda and somewhat overexcited at the thought that flat-rate data plans would enable consumers to bypass the mobile operators messaging and voice billing mechanisms.

Today I read a PR release about Mig33 offering a pre-paid credit platform. I wasn't too interested in that, but what did capture my attention were the claimed stats;

"more than 11 million people in 200 countries around the globe have already signed on to use mig33's mix of free and inexpensive Internet
communication services, including VoIP calls, instant messaging, e-mail, text
messaging, photo sharing, and social networking features. With more than 2
million sessions per day, users are sending more than 45 million messages
each day and sharing more than one million pictures a month. mig33 enables
users to carry their entire social community with them wherever they go, on a
device they never leave home without, creating an instant global social

If the numbers are true, this is huge! 11m people, 45m msgs/day, 1m pictures/month!!! Most of these apps weren't around before 2006, so in 2 years quite a considerable category has been created.
What i'd like to know though is 1) what the usage motivation is - does the base use it avoid paying their operator, or are they drawn in by the community? 2) how this claimed usage maps geographically - i.e. do high usage territories correlate to high ARPU markets? and 3) what is the related SN usage/penetration in these geographies (are these mobile apps filling a need where PC access is low and as a result, web based SNs e.g. MySpace/Facebook etc haven't caught on) or are these apps being used in addition to web-based SNs?

So presumably the pre-pay platform is now an attempt to monetise the base. This may prove somewhat tricky if the answers to the above questions indicate that the motivation for usage is an allergy to paying their mobile service provider.

Others include Pica, TruTap, NimBuzz, and BluePulse

Friday, March 14, 2008


I've just been playing with the recently launched WeGlu. It's caught my attention because it purpose and mission sounds similar to naked. The team behind WeGlu say they built the site because they "wanted to create something that helps us stay close to our friends - the people we see all the time". They also talk about 'living in the moment' - i.e. you shouldnt be tethered to your PC, so they've the launched the web app at the same time as a J2ME version. (Jason Delport over at Paxmodept has an overview of the J2ME client).

The most striking thing you notice about WeGlu is the intentional move away from tradition UI and UE paradigms. The application presents elements in a very different way to other SN apps, and is comparatively quite complex. A status update or 'what I'm doing' message is now 'Currently doing', 'Location', 'PostCode', 'I'd love to', and 'I'm feeling'. The design does feel fresh and funky, and therefore is likely to be targeted at generation 'why' - something that is reflected in their marketing tie-up with the E4 show 'Skins'.

WeGlu enables you to send 3 types of messages in addition to the 'updates'; an Event, Place or Message, although all three types appear to use the same message format. Once you've created the message, you then choose who you want to share this with, presumably enabling you better control over what you share with who - so what you send to your friends, might not be visible to everyone.

There seems to be a strong community element to the app, where WeGlu members can check out what others are doing and saying. This seems somewhat in contradiction to the teams gripe in the 'about' that other social networks "were trying to get us to spend time on their website in the hope of meeting people we’d never really ever meet".

WeGlu is a bold move, and a neat re-combination of the SN experience. I've yet to check out the J2ME app, but their decision to include this from launch illustrates the need for closer and tighter integration of web and mobile. One to watch...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bebo acquired by AOL for $850m

more here

Guitars v's Art v's Wine v's Stocks

Sources – The Liv-Ex Index/, Mei/Moses All Art Index, The Vintage Guitar Price Guide, Bloomberg

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

US Mobile Access, Data & Info research...

The Pew Internet and American Life project have just released some results of a research project in to US use of mobile data, wireless, mobile phone usage by age, income, gender, education, region etc. go here.