Carnival of the Mobilists #37

Welcome to the 37th Carnival of the Mobilists. If you're not familiar with the Carnival, it's a weekly collection of posts submitted by mobile-related weblogs. Each week is hosted by a different blogger. I have the honor of being this week's host.

The idea of the Carnival is to create more visibility for people doing commentary on the mobile industry. So please click on some of the fine articles below. You'll make a blogger's day.

What is a carnival anyway?

Say the word "Carnival" and you'll conjure up different images around the world. A Brazilian may think of incredible costumes and samba schools. Someone from the Caribbean is more likely to think of steel drum bands. An Italian might think of elegant masks in Venice.

Where I grew up, the word "carnival" brings to mind the sideshow of a traveling circus. The elephants and clowns were in the big tent, while the carnival was the place for the games (inevitably rigged so you couldn't win), rides (dangerously rickety), and oddities. No carnival was complete without a carnival barker, the guy who enticed people to pay to see the bearded lady and the man who ate radio parts.

Which type of Carnival are we running this week? Maybe a little of each...

Samba time. About the closest thing to a samba school in mobile-land is the ongoing debate over the fate of mobile data. Will it ever really take off? Is there a killer app? Like a samba school, the discussions are almost endless and very complex, and it seems like the same schools of thought come up again year after year.

The mobile mono-culture. Stephanie Rieger writes a very interesting commentary on regional differences in culture, and asks why despite the diversity of the world's cultures, so many mobile games and content are the same worldwide. She suggests we need infrastructure that enables much easier creation and distribution of locally-produced content. Amen.

Let the users create their own content. This one isn't strictly mobile, but I think it's interesting in light of Stephanie's post. Anders Borg discusses how user-generated content can sustain an online community, even in the face of big competitors.

Will mobile TV be a killer app? Kevin Evans is a newcomer to the Carnival, and he starts off with a nice article summarizing some of the danger signs surrounding mobile TV. Is it another SMS, or another WAP?

What if you built a smartphone and nobody cared? Steve and Rafe over at All About Symbian mix it up on the subject of whether smartphone users know they can add applications, whether they should care about it, and whether that will change in the future. It's a good discussion, and a subject near and dear to my heart.

Beautiful noise. In the hierarchy of musical instruments, the steel drum isn't very high up. Mozart never composed for it, and you don't see a lot of them in the world's great orchestras. But even though they don't get much attention, they make a beautiful noise. I'm not quite sure how to draw an analogy from this to the mobile market, but maybe our equivalent of steel drums would be the mobile devices that aren't mobile phones. They're not always as well publicized as the phones, but they have their own special charms.

The better $100 PC. David Beers injects himself into the $100 laptop PC debate with a post suggesting that a dockable mobile phone might be a much better investment for the developing world. He makes an interesting case, and he apparently got some pointed replies from $100 PC supporters after Robert Scoble flagged his earlier comments on the subject.

I'm reminded of a conference I went to earlier this year, where there was a speaker who's active in education for developing countries. He was asked about the $100 PC, and his response was to gently suggest that it might be nice to buy those kids a few books first.

Goodbye LifeDrive? If you follow the online rumors, the Palm LifeDrive has been reported close to extinction more often than the spotted owl. The saga continued this week as Palm reportedly has stopped shipping the LifeDrive to Europe because it includes hazardous substances that are no longer legal in the EU. Tam Hanna asks whether this signals the end of the LifeDrive.

iPod RIP. By far the best cat fight of the week is the discussion spawned by Tomi Ahonen's lengthy post declaring the death of the iPod at the hands of the MP3-capable phone. "The battle is totally over. Apple cannot recover," he writes. Tomi makes the mobile-phone-conquers-all argument very forcefully and in great detail. Check it out and decide for yourself.

Elegance and sophistication. What could match the elegance of a Venetian masked ball? I'm not sure, but most of us would agree that the average mobile phone user interface doesn't come close. A couple of posts supported that point this week.

Is it a bug or a feature? MobHappy talks about mobile phone usability this week, noting a recent study which reported that 63% of the mobile phones returned as defective actually have nothing wrong with them. (Or that is to say, whatever's wrong with them was designed in deliberately.) The post discusses why this happens, what it costs the industry, and what we should do about it.

Mobile interface and Google's mobile plans (not). MoJordy reports on a recent seminar on mobile Web trends. The speakers were from GotoMedia and Google. The Google discussion, unfortunately, was focused more on what's wrong with the industry rather than what Google plans to do about it. Still, there were some very interesting tidbits.

The Sideshow. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up to see the most amazing, the most colossal, the most spine-tingling posts in the mobile world this week. (Well, actually these are just the posts that didn't fit into the other three categories.) I must warn you, ladies and gentlemen, some of these posts might provoke or amuse you, and if you're not careful you might actually learn a thing or two.

Tagging on the go. MPulse is creating a tagging and content aggregation system for mobile Web content, and building some interesting functionality into it. MoPocket has a very nice overview of the product, complete with lots of screen shots, something that I really appreciate in any product discussion.

MinuteWatcher vs. TMobile. Darla Mack comments on TMobile's recent decision to block access to Minute Watcher, a service that tracks mobile phone usage. She feels it's not a self-serving move by TMobile.

Skepticism about the hosted Blackberry server. Enough of this consumer stuff, let's talk mobile enterprise. Daniel Taylor is very skeptical about the ability of RIM's new hosted Blackberry server product to increase Blackberry sales in small and medium businesses.

Barcode status. The Pondering Primate discusses the status of various standards for phone-readable barcodes.

Unimpressed with Motorola's mobile plans. Strong disappointment about the new phones coming from Motorola was expressed by Tarek Speaks Mobile.

Will the operators control the mobile Internet? It just wouldn't be a carnival without a little gratuitous nudity, and Open Gardens provides it along with an interesting commentary on the speculation that "naked" SIP will outsell IMS in the mobile world, undercutting the operators' ability to control and tax the mobile Internet.

Post of the week

As host of the Carnival, I get to choose a post of the week. The winner gets acclaim, and is eligible to be voted the Post of the Month, which carries a $250 prize from Khosla Ventures. Tomi's iPod post is definitely the most passionate (and longest), Stephanie's was very insightful, and I really like the way Kevin Evans thinks. But the point-counterpoint at All About Symbian was my favorite, so that's the post of the week. Congratulations, guys!

Next week, the Carnival will be at Howard Rheingold's SmartMobs. See you there!

[PS: If you subscribe to the RSS feed from my site, you may have received multiple copies of this post. I apologize -- Blogger has been giving me some formatting trouble. Again.]