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.