Services come to the small screen

Companies will have to learn how to create content and services for mobile phone screens that are half the size of a credit card

Media companies eager to catch the WAP wave early on are scratching their heads. What content can be made to work on the tiny screen of a Nokia 7110 or Ericsson equivalent -- an area of screen estate that's typically half the size of a credit card?

This is the challenge facing many of the companies attending and making presentations at the W@P Content Forum in London this week. The most popular answer appears to be personalised alert services -- for example, stock quotes for companies that have been pre-selected, or alerts when a stock reaches a price you either want to sell or buy at. Logica's Brendan McGee told the Forum that banks will need to offer mobile banking services, or risk losing their customers. McGee believes that the service operators are in a powerful position, having gained valuable experience in pre-payment systems, expertise that they could use to offer a system for making a wide range of purchases, as opposed to merely using it to pay for phone time.

The personalisation message was taken up by AT&T's Jon Lin, who used the example of online auctions to describe an alert service users would find useful and compelling. The idea behind the example is that an alert would be triggered when a bid had been topped so that you could consider making a higher one.

A stong message that WAP content needs to be highly personlised and built from the ground up came across in a number of presentations -- a message that will sound familiar to media companies that have learned similar lessons about creating content for the Web.

The bad news to come out of the W@P Content Forum is that another new buzzword appears to have passed into wide usage in the new media business -- get used to hearing the term "m-commerce" to describe e-commerce taking place on mobile devices.

More reports from the W@P Forum to follow.

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