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The truth about transcoding Sham Careem - MD, MoMac UK Dec 5 Moves by some operators and others to transcode web sites to mobile might promise to put the web in the hand, but they can play havoc with developers’ hard work... Depending on your viewpoint, the arrival of the iPhone either heralds a new era in making the internet truly mobile, or simply creates another closed environment for content transactions, controlled by the Apple mega brand. While the latter is true, the former is less so. You see, although many phones now come with browsers that can view full internet pages, some operators are using so-called ‘transcoding’ solutions that automatically re-format web sites so they display ‘properly’ on handheld devices. While the technology is great for mobile users who want access to the web from more basic devices that are unable to render sites in their full glory, it’s ruining many a mobile content provider’s income. The true open mobile internet should give consumers the power to interact with compelling sites that complement the uniqueness of the mobile proposition. The fact is the iPhone and web-enabled devices like it are hitting the market at a time when a host of conditions are coming together to make mobile, truly, the fourth screen (after cinema, TV and PC). Widespread 3G penetration, better search and discovery applications and flat rate data pricing plans are all making it possible for any brand to ‘talk’ directly to its audience via the medium of mobile. With the ‘billshock’ factor removed, users will be liberated to experiment and consume the new mobile internet services on offer. In addition, other barriers are being removed: cross-operator WAP billing solutions are emerging, giving mobile users a one-click payment option for off-deck content. The mobile internet is becoming a market in its own right, both in terms of size and value. What now lies before us is a credible channel for media companies, brands and publishers. Happily, mass-market media companies from magazine and newspaper publishers, social networks, broadcasters to mainstream media owners are entering the market. This is all great stuff, but in terms of usability, it’s not sufficient to rely on transcoding technologies that change and re-render an exisiting internet site for a mobile phone display. Crucially, re-formatting sites using this method masks the ‘user-agent’. What’s a user agent? In basic terms it’s a piece of code that any web-enabled device transmits to identify

itself when attempting to access a web page. It’s like a virtual handshake. Once the visitor has been indentified the server can then offer up the correct and optimised content, whether its for an Internet Explorer or Firefox broswer being used on a desktop computer or an Opera broswer in a mobile phone. Transcoding is therefore causing a big headache for companies that have gone to the time and trouble of creating versions of their websites – if their servers can’t read the user agent, then the mobile page won’t be served up to the user. Herein lies the problem: a transcoded page can be a mess (just visit CNN or WSJ on a transcoded site) delivering roughly chopped-up sites and cluttered mobile pages. What is really hard to understand is why operators would adopt such an approach. It simply alienates the mobile developer community and spoils the efforts of companies that have created good mobile versions of their web sites. If a brand intends to integrate its mobile offering with a cross-platform digital strategy, it will need to develop a fully a functional mobile internet site with a quick, intuitive and made-for-mobile user interface. MoMac is already working with companies like EMAP, ITV, Ministry of Sound and even the Mobo Awards to foster mobile interactivity, advertising and even m-commerce via integration with Pay Pal. With so many of the real barriers to usage being removed, the open mobile internet is finally arriving. It would be a shame to spoil things now with short-sighted technical approaches that comprimise the allimportant user experience. • Email a friend

Previous Article Next Article Other Features • The Pocket Internet: What does it mean for mobile content? Jul 30 • Ringtone rip-offs: Where does D2C go now? Jul 29 • The future of mobile advertising, Part Three Jul 28 • The future of mobile advertising, Part Two Jul 14 • The future of mobile advertising, Part One Jul 10 • ME's Top 50 women in mobile content Jul 04

Time to address D2C content abuses Jul 01

What are the implications of the Symbian Foundation? Jun 24

Interview: Lewis McDonald talks to ME Jun 23

ROUNDTABLE: One year on, what has been iPhone's impact? Jun 10

The ultimate entertainment handset? Jun 03

How to unleash developer creativity on the mobile web May 28

How Guitar Hero went mobile May 23

Do mobile consumers have too much choice? May 15

How can we improve mobile user experience? May 12

The times of India May 07

Mobile content - experience urgently required May 06

Let's make mobile games pricing more flexible May 06

Why we launched

May 01 • What do mobile games and Phil Collins have in common? Apr 28 • The best tool for promoting content? Social networks Apr 21 • How sharing could be the key to better ARPU Apr 17 • Getting the market ready for video Apr 11 • Why is mobile content a magnet for venture capital? Apr 08 • Motorola brand - which way now? Mar 27 • US spectrum auction - the winners and losers Mar 26 • For better adult mobile sales, think Tesco Mar 20 • What does the EC's decision to endorse DVB-H really mean? Mar 18 • Does the British mobile content industry punch above its weight? Mar 16 • Mobile advertising: the opportunity and the danger Mar 10 • Can mobile boost the big social networks? Mar 06

Defining the mobile user experience Mar 03

Can C++ save mobile gaming? Feb 25

The secrets of a mobile games localiser... Feb 18

INTERVIEW: Javier Pérez Dolset - CEO, Zed Feb 08

INTERVIEW: Luca Pagano - UK MD, Buongiorno Feb 07

The mobile video paradox Feb 05

Microsoft/Yahoo: mobile could be the icing on the cake Feb 04

Outsourcing games portals - good news for all Feb 01

How to succeed with sideloading Jan 25

Mobile Video - it's all about the UE Jan 22

INTERVIEW: Anssi Vanjoki - EVP of multimedia, Nokia Jan 18

What are you on? About. Jan 14

What lies ahead in 2008?

Jan 09 • Let messaging drive the mobile internet Dec 18 • Some ancient wisdom from carriers, please? Nov 08 • What happened to the Chinese D2C market? Nov 08 • What's Google's real agenda? Nov 05 • Mobile advertising’s lack of transparency Nov 01 • Which way for US now? Oct 19 • INTERVIEW: Javier Perez Dolset - CEO, Zed Oct 17 • No show at the showcase Sep 06 • COUNTRY PROFILE: Nigeria Sep 06 • The challenges of the UK content market Sep 06 • INTERVIEW: Peter Mercier - Head of Mobile, BBC Worldwide Sep 06 • Where are we going? Sep 06

Adult ready to grow up Sep 06

All to pay for Sep 06

INTERVIEW: Anthony Douglas - Head of Games, O2 Aug 09

Have it your way Aug 09

Location aware Aug 09

INTERVIEW: Ashu Mathura Aug 09

Embedded advertising Jul 05

How to improve your mobile website Jul 05

INTERVIEW: Gautum Sabharwal Jul 05

Jamba grows up Jul 05

Vertigo3G Selatra

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