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BT on the edge of an i-mode nervous breakdown

Things aren't getting much better for BT. Another mobile marketing cock-up is looming, and this could be big enough to make the WAP fiasco look as insignificant as its mobile internet subscriber base.
Written by Ben King, Contributor

Things aren't getting much better for BT. Another mobile marketing cock-up is looming, and this could be big enough to make the WAP fiasco look as insignificant as its mobile internet subscriber base.

Acronyms aren't easy to sell. Try thinking of a snappy slogan to sell GPRS to a sceptical public. And now 'i-mode', the only trustworthy name in mobile data, is about to be sent to the great branding consultancy in the sky. Yup, it's thanks to our friends in BT Cellnet, whose "Surf the Internet on your Phone" campaign did more than anything else to start the whole WAP backlash. While the marketing people were selling us that, the lawyers were in trademark frenzy. They registered UK trademarks on 16 different versions of the word i-mode - using upper case, lower case, with a hyphen, with a dot, with both and with neither. And they still won't tell us if they're even going to launch it. Surely such compulsive lawyers would have registered a European patent, too. But no. This honour was reserved for Sven Laepple, a German internet consultant who had never heard of the Asian mobile marvel. And so we're now looking forward to a nice long legal drama. As if mobile data didn't have enough trouble. Massive debts to install a 3G system that nobody's sure they want. No sign of GPRS, either, and everyone we talk to says it's not much faster than GSM. Yup, this latest bout of i-mode trouble epitomises the kind of year the mobile industry has had. Let's just hope that the players can sort it out like gentlemen, and maybe put a colorful little i-mode phone in our stockings for next Christmas. Meanwhile, we at silicon.com have been inspired by their trademarking ways. We hope soon register "I'm owed" - a counselling service for BT executives worried about the company's mounting debt.
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