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Last Christmas Expansys ran out of netbooks. Repeatedly. Shipments of the EEE701 sold out before they were delivered. And if you were after a black one you might as well be after an Hermés Birkin.

Back then only geeks wanted netbooks, and even geeks had thought the Palm Folio was a bad idea, then the Asus with the unpronounceable name sold a million units and a new category of device was born. OK, reborn. Today it’s the big thing.  The Sunday Times even ran a “which netbook” feature and Carphone advertises them on the X-factor. You don’t get more mainstream than that. A new category is just the thing we need. Handset sales have slowed to 4% growth and everyone is worried.

It’s a telling tale for the future: there will always be new categories of products. While operators might bemoan dropping ARPUs and handset manufacturers the slowing of sales, the march of new areas continues, albeit a tad abated.

A fantastic opportunity for developers. Just as consumers don’t want a full-fat laptop they will want OptiFast applications.

So what operating system should they be developing for?

The answer is Symbian. Never shy of trying something different L’Amour/N-gage/Vertu, Nokia is looking at the Netbook market. It could be an N810 with a keyboard running Linux  but rumours point to something more exciting: A Symbian netbook. This ties in well with the battle between Nokia and Microsoft, Intel and ARM and growing the Symbian Foundation. Imagine an HTC Shift but done better. It wouldn’t be the first time either.

The spies say this plan was pulled from being announced at Nokia World and won’t be at Barcelona MWC either, it’s a leisure device with a focus on blogging, social networking and entertainment. Not unlike the N97.

Nokia is showing itself as being increasingly agile. The company which said people don’t want two-handed touch screen phones was quick on the heels of the success of the iPhone, brining touch down in price and adding free music. Proper aggressive response to Apple.

Lighter than a Macbook air with all-day battery life, mobile broadband and best of all almost instant on and off. Ok, given the overhead that’s happened to Symbian in the form of Series 60 – it’s multiples of the size it was in the EPOC days, this might be a bit of a dream, but it’s a good one.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.


First a bit of self-promotion. Accesses to my site are growing apace. There were over 7,000 unique visitors in November and December has started very strong with over 2,000  in the first week. If you want to promote your product to an influential and knowledgeable base of mobile phone industry people please contact me about advertising.

What have code and music got in common? People think they should be free. With Android being open source and Symbian going Foundation, it seems that the value of software is disappearing. Just as at the same time music does the same thing. All you can eat music deals are the current battleground in Sweden.

Sony has announced that its cutting 8,000 jobs, but this does not affect Sony Ericsson which in the throes of shedding 2,000 jobs announced last summer.

There are 14 new members of the Open Handset Alliance , which is the name Android uses when it is wearing a suit. They include ARM which is no surprise since they have been demonstrating Android at shows, , ASUSTek  the PC manufacturer, Ericsson which one would guess is looking for a port to the Ericsson Mobile Platforms chipset, Garmin International which having killed Nuvifone seems to be having another stab, Huawei Technologies which will be doing what Vodafone tells them,  The Japanese companies Omron Software Co. Ltd and  Softbank Mobile Corporation, Sony Ericsson, Teleca AB, Toshiba Corporation and Vodafone.

The latest mobile marketing innovation is to send you a ring-back tone which sells something to people who get to hear it before you answer the phone. Coca-Cola’s 2008 annual Christmas campaign, bringing Christmas onto user’s cell phone. Coca-Cola is offering its famous Christmas song ”Holidays are coming“ as a free ringback tone for T-Mobile and Vodafone customers in Germany. Ah, the true spirit of Christmas: commercialism. It’s only on T-Mobile and Vodafone in Germany. You’ll notice I’ve not included a link for this one.

Orange has launched Orange Money, an M-pesa like mobile payments system in Ivory Coast. The system uses an extension to the existing pre-pay billing platform. It’s a shame they were not brave enough to licence M-pesa from Vodafone as critical mass matters.

But not everything is wonderful in the M-pesa camp either. A deal with Western Union to send money from that great centre of Kenyan community that is Reading (not) to M-pesa phones in Kenya is horribly expensive as this blog post notes. They claim that this is to promote small value payments but the numbers don’t stack up. A typical M-pesa transfer is about £10, or about $15. If you send that from Reading to Nairobi the recipient gets 619 Kenyan Shillings, or about $8. Half the money goes in transfer fees. This compares with a cost of less than 2% on an M-pesa to M-pesa account. Western Union argue that this is just a trail and that when there are phone to phone transactions that cut the Western Union agents out of the loop it will be a lot cheaper.

Talking of doing things cheaper is BillMonitor a site which you supply with the password for your online billing account. It then reads your mobile bill and works out which tariff you should be on. It’s a shame Orange ditched OVP, the two would work together brilliantly.

The six winners of The Vodafone Foundation’s UK World of Difference programme have started their year working for their favourite charities. They have been sponsored by Vodafone with £25,000 towards outgoings and expenses and £20,000 for each of their projects. Winners met the Queen during her recent  visit to Newbury. The 2008 UK winners are working for the following charities:

SolarAid - Miguel Ramirez will research renewable sources of energy and train local communities to modify devices such as kerosene lamps so that they use solar power.

Spitalfields City Farm - Naomi Glass will work with the City Farm in London to educate disadvantaged young people and their parents.

Mzizi Africa - Lucy Calson will dedicate her time to fundraising to help relieve the hardship of AIDS orphans in Africa.

Engineers without Borders UK - Andrew Lamb will place engineers on voluntary projects to learn about technology's role in helping to reduce poverty worldwide

Cerebral Palsy Africa - Jean Westmascott will establish a training centre to educate therapists in Africa who will design and make low-cost equipment to improve the lives of those with cerebral palsy.

African Prisons Project - Alexander McLean will set up projects that help improve the welfare, health and education of detainees in African prisons.


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