It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s News: No, It’s Infotainment!
by Marjorie Dorfman

What is infotainment and why is it so popular? Where will mobile phones take us next and will we be able to keep up with technological advances? Read on and hold onto your hats and your phones, and whatever else whizzes by your modern ever-changing world!

There’s no ‘tainment like infotainment, like no ‘tainment I know… ~
George Gershwin (sort of)

Infotainment, that lucrative combination of information and entertainment, has become the logical outgrowth of the increasing reliance on mobile phones as a primary means of communication. Users seem to have handsets growing out of their necks, and who knows with the quirks of evolution if that may not some day happen automatically? Text messaging, emailing and other highly successful services and technologies are designed to accommodate the life style of "the user on the move," simultaneously insuring future profits and the positioning of the mobile phone as the key repository for future non-voice and voice adjunct mobile services.

According to Alexander Resources, a leading research, consulting and education firm specializing in wireless communications, the world-wide market for wireless infotainment services is expected to exceed $7.2 billion in the next year, quite possibly making the mobile phone "the indispensable tool for modern living." By supporting rather than competing with entertainment services and by building on highly successful services and technologies, infotainment strategies can insure the future of the mobile phone industry and its profits too!

The "Total Communications" service strategy provides a frontier where people can communicate while flying by night, running by day and at other unspecified times. It encompasses the heart of communications, namely options for the many different ways mobile phone users communicate; namely as individuals, groups and communities. With this special concept in operation, many options are available to the user including: talking, voice messaging, emailing, text messaging, chatting and conferencing.

To implement such a strategy, operators require an open, IP based architecture that is prepared for growth. Such a flexible and modular environment will permit infotainment operators to adjust service offerings to reflect the most recent applications. There are also some shared, centralized components to the ideal infrastructure, such as the multimedia store, network address book, notification server and subscriber profiles across all the services, which makes the Total Communication vision one of achievement, management and last but far from least, profit. The combination of Total Communication and infotainment services connected by a common user experience generates a formula for future success.

Infotainment service providers become "smart pipes" for mobile phone subscribers. In a perfect mobile phone world, users should be able to access their choice of infotainment options such as news, weather, sports, financial news, dating, etc on a pull or push basis. Third party content can now be sent directly to subscribers’ mailboxes via converged networks in an open IP based environment.

The emphasis of the industry has dramatically shifted from being technologically driven to taking a direct customer-centric approach. Service providers now present their subscribers with an array of appealing channels rather just an occasional offering of the latest technical options. An example of this would be the Vodafone Live Campaign that provides users with a similar collection of options across networks, and a Korean operator that gives subscribers pre-configured phones stacked with services targeted for the particular user’s age group. (If you don’t tell your real age, you might be able to avoid this.)

WireJack, a provider of mobile lifestyle entertainment, and its Mystic Garden is another example of the clever marketing of a customer-centric technique. This application, which was developed for Qualcomm’s Brew platform, functions as a user’s private and very personal mobile psychic! The "mystic guru" inspires with insight into the future via horoscopes, tarot, fortune cookies (cannot be eaten over the phone, but they are working on that), aura forecasts and even answers from the oracle, wallpaper and ring-tones, which connect you to the psychic cosmos.

Currently, this service is available in English and Spanish and is offered by specialty handsets produced by Samsung (LGE-VX 6000), Motorola (T720/730) and Toshiba (CDM 9500). God only knows what’s next (and that might not even be unless HE or SHE has a phone equipped with infotainment services!)

The Acotel Group, a leading provider of mobile infotainment services and its Flycell program boasts of offering unique and customized "infotainment on the fly." Flycell and its one-of-a-kind portal site (, offers an untraditional approach to selling content, which transform the mobile phone into a "lifestyle." Users now have the power to create and customize their own desired content and can opt, by the mere push of a finger, to receive a wide variety of services, including up-to-the-minute news, community newsletters, custom ring-tones, greeting cards and more. By being able to target and tailor to specific communities and lifestyles, media companies can now strengthen customer relationships.

One area expected to explode with infotainment services is sports and leisure information. According to Juniper Research, the global market for this content will rise to more than 9 billion dollars by the year 2011. The largest market for these particular services will be in Europe, and it is estimated that this will account for 40% of revenues accrued over the next five years. Asia Pacific is expected to generate 33% of the revenues and produce the most infotainment traffic by 2011. Europe however, having prices a bit lower, is forecast to be the largest revenue generator.

The next year, 2008, being an Olympic year, will witness sports services getting repeated boosts by high profile global and regional sporting events. There’s no telling where the mobile phone industry will go in this century but one can only wonder and ask:

Is interplanetary communication next? If so, ET will be able to not only "phone home," but everywhere else as well!

Happy infotainment to you!

Did you know . . .

Copyright 2007