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30/11/08

In three years the world will be ready for on-line, mobile gaming.

That’s been said before but it’s been wrong. That before was about five years ago when on-line gaming was the new thing. World of Warcraft was announced but not launched, games like Doom and Quake had laid the foundations. Even The Sims was going on-line.

The thought was that mobile was imminent. This is a thought which shows how badly people learn the lessons of the past. There is a lag between a technology becoming accepted and it going mobile. For email this was about ten years, for the telephone it was one hundred. There is an attitude latency.

On-line gaming is now an embedded part of our culture, and not just youth, I heard that so many game-geeks are middle-aged the games shops think they damage the youth ambience of their stores. The man who invented on-line gaming thinks this is A Good Thing..

Expansys HTC Touch Diamond advert

Gaming on mobile might not be living up to the fanciful analysts predictions of massiveness but it’s a solid industry. Plenty of people spend plenty of time playing games on their mobile. There is a significant overlap with those that play online games on their PCs and consoles.

The problem with that overlap is that people know what to expect. To understand the technology limitations you need to listen to what the men-who-should-know-better talk about when they are cluttering up those games shops. They don’t talk about bandwidth speed, they talk about latency. Ping times. How quickly another player sees what you are doing.

Non-gamers don’t understand this. Bandwidth is what matters, So the drive has been from GPRS to EDGE to WCDMA to HSDPA with the magic number being bandwidth. The diamond in the dirt here however is latency. GPRS had a round trip time of around two seconds. You could play chess and battleships (indeed a very early Symbian tutorial was SMS battleships) but not Pong. HSDPA however has very low latency. It’s the missing bit in making mobile gaming work.

That missing bit is now in place, phones have HSDPA – and HSUPA – it’s all ready to roll, fast interactive games can be rolled out. Flat rate means no-one worries about cost. Except they can’t. There is the attitude latency. It will take a few years before HSDPA handsets are the norm and coverage is ubiquitous and most of all for people to get used to the idea. It will happen but we’ll see the London Olympics first.

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.

Links

Samsung has an ordinary Windows Mobile phone called the i780 so to give it that extra buzz it’s been made the flagship of the new BizBee business brand.

Whatever Microsoft says, it must be disappointed how few manufacturers make Windows Mobile phones. It’s market share is a small part of that small part of the phone market which is smartphones, and even then most of the Windows mobile phones are made by HTC even if they carry a variety of brands.  This is the smoke behind the rumour that Microsoft it to build it’s own phone, X-box style, under the Zune brand.

People who know say that Symbian is a mean, lean operating system with a slow bloated Series 60 UI on top of it. Almost as bad as Windows Mobile. So you might have mixed views that S60 is winning out over other user interfaces.

America has about the same text message traffic per capita as most of the rest of the world but it is split differently demographically. A minority of people use it a lot, as is shown by a report from Scarborough.

Do you remember the Alphaville track “Big in Japan”, no, neither do I but we are not alone. Nokia has decided to give up in Japan.

Is comes with music going to be as big as Nokia hopes. Analyst Ben Wood thinks so.

DivX codecs have been around for Symbian phones for ages, but there is a converted badge of compatibility which Samsung has won.

 

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