The International Herald Tribune has a great long overview of Vodafone Live!. If you have no idea what Live! is, this is a really good place to start as it explains both the service and the concepts behind its success, criticisms of the service (despite this apparent success) and is a good overview of the where the mobile phone market is going in general. There's also some good bits for people who are already familiar with Live!, such as the fact that Voda's on track to generate 20% of its revenues from data by 2004. Good tidbit.
Another part I think is *particularly* interesting, is this analyst's criticism of Live! as not "conversational" enough:
"Vodafone Live puts a great message on top of weak services," she said in a recent research note, while a competitor, i-mode from NTT DoCoMo Inc., had the opposite problem, getting the services right and the marketing wrong. She said that only conversational content services - those that blend communication, which consumers are willing to pay for, with content that they expect to be cheap or free - can deliver.
"Providers must enhance existing content to make it conversational," de Lussanet said. "For instance, they could enrich weather services with the capability to distribute weather maps to friends, with an invitation to a picnic or a warning to drive safely in the fog, attached."
And once again, everyone points to Japan's i-mode as the model:
Brydon said he believed that Vodafone could improve its ARPU by adopting a similar pricing strategy to that of i-mode, which extracts most of its from packet-data charges, predominately from color Internet browsing.
"Vodafone Live pricing for WAP color browsing, instant messaging and e-mail, which are the services that generate most of i-mode revenues, is substantially lower than i-mode," Brydon said. "We believe that Vodafone has substantially underpriced these services, given that they are the primary source of revenue for i-mode."
If that's true, then it's a bad sign as it's hard to raise prices after starting low. Though I can see Vodafone trying to prime the pump now to generate interest and will offer more advanced services later, or simply start charging more as initial offers go away. But hey, if they're on track with their target revenues at current usage and rates, then maybe they're happy with what they're charging now. I can tell you from experience that European mobile phone users are quite advanced and price savvy and the rates that Voda are charging - though cheap by Japan's standards - may be the only way to generate revenue here on the Contintent.
Interesting stuff... Must. Get. Something. Done.