Aussie mobile providers “like deer in the iPhone headlights”

Dropping into Day 2 of the Mobile Content World conference last week was a step back in time. And not in a healthy Kyliesque mirror ball way. The hyper-connected Twitter rumour mill had told me something was wrong: they didn’t seem to understand what was happening. The rumours were right.

When user experience expert Oliver Weidlich of Ideal Interfaces showed them screenshots of the iPhone on the big screen, around 80% of the 150-odd audience sat up, alert, seeing it for the first time.


Sure, Apple’s groundbreaking product isn’t officially available here until the (rumoured) 19 June opening of slick new Apple stores in Sydney and Melbourne. You don’t have to have bought into the whole Steve Jobs personality cult, bought one overseas and hacked it for Aussie networks. But if you claim to be professional and haven’t at least read about the iPhone a year after its release you should be shot.

Serial entrepreneur Randal (Rand) Leeb-du Toit thinks the industry has got it very wrong. The iPhone changes everything. “They were deer in the iPhone’s headlights,” he wrote. “The full browser experience is going to shake their businesses to their foundations.”

And the iPhone is completely different. “When you take it out of its box, it feels like they’ve built this product with you in mind,” says Leeb-du Toit, who’s been using an iPhone for a couple of months. “A mobile phone feels like it was designed by an engineer with engineers in mind, by the people who put the content on there, the telcos’ walled gardens.”

A lot of the conference was about getting users watch the content from big TV, movie and games houses. Twice the guy pimping one content management system said, “It’s all about creating a more addictive experience for young people.” What sort of ethic is that?

One session talked about “bringing the lounge room experience to the small screen”, which seems as sensible as bringing the tennis experience to the swimming pool. Meanwhile, iPhone users download stuff that’s meaningful for them, connect to their own computers to access their own data and, according to Google, generate ten times the search traffic as non-iPhone mobile users.

“The carriers see they’re about to be hit by the truck, so they’re over-analysing and over-complicating the situation with all their business models about content,” Leeb-du Toit told me. “They should be going open and simple.”

It’s appropriate that the conference was held at Sydney’s Star City Casino. Anyone ignoring the iPhone is gambling big. The dice are rolled 19 June.

9 Replies to “Aussie mobile providers “like deer in the iPhone headlights””

  1. Can’t wait to find out what was in all those Apple crates shipped around America and the wolrd in the past few months.

    Could be iPhone v2, but I’m sure they have something to do with Steve’s cocaine habit.

  2. I’ve just read your coverage via Crikey today, and feel compelled to make comment about the iPhone, and also the takeaways from the Mobile content conferences — I was there too.

    80% of attendees had never seen an iPhone? Rubbish!

    Randal’s comments about the industry getting it wrong are wrong. The real killer app will be about delivering the right information for the right device. The iPhone is not going to give the best user experience by delivering web pages to a mobile.

    I don’t see anything wrong with “‘pimping” content using your words. What is the problem with getting users watch the content from big TV, movie and games houses? What the speaker did intend was to emphasise making content worthwhile, engaging etc.

    From my perspective the sad thing was about the lack of support for local content.

    The next AIMIA Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index will be launched in mid to late August so I will send you a copy then to get a more accurate picture of what consumers are interested in.

  3. @Claudia: Well, my comments about Mobile Content World weren’t based on science, no. But when Oliver Weidlich put stock-standard iPhone screenshots up there, the vast majority of the audience was sitting forward, alert. My contention is that if this was familiar stuff, they’d have sat back, more relaxed rather than alert. I don’t think it was just down to Oliver being such an engaging speaker — even though he is.

    There’s nothing wrong with people watching content from big TV, movie and games houses on their phones. But I did hear the speaker use the specific word “addictive”. Twice. If the content’s any good, then people will choose to watch it — it doesn’t have to be made “addictive”. And, I still maintain, anyone who continually talks about “addiction” in the context of children has an ethical problem.

    But I think the real strength of this technology isn’t a mass audience watching pre-packaged content from major producers. It’s about people linking directly to other people, making and sharing media that’s of direct relevance to them. Increasingly, people will realise they don’t need Big Third Parties for that, they can just do it themselves.

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