Mobile Content World: Deer In The iPhone Headlights

This morning I attended the first day of Mobile Content World in Sydney.

It’s an interesting time to have the mobile industry talking about content in Australia, given the pending arrival of the Apple iPhone, especially since it will be supported by no less than three carriers.

The first panel session, after the usual keynotes, was a cacaphony of carrier reps. I couldn’t help feeling, that as much as they tried to stay off the path, they were deer in the iPhone’s headlights. The full browser experience is going to shake their businesses to their foundations.

As Google‘s Nick Heller pointed out to me in the break, they are experiencing 10x the amount of search queries via the iPhone compared to any other mobile browser. That is a significant difference and one that will radically shape the user experience and concomitant ARPU for all of the players moving forward. Walled gardens, however much players like Telstra try to argue that they are open gardens, remain… well, …walled gardens and consumers will leave them in droves for the open web.

The mobile browser situation, however, is far from settled. A case in point is the $13M in Series B funding SkyFire has picked up in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners to develop a downloadable browser to work across all mobile-device platforms.

This Mountain View company aims to replicate the PC experience on mobile handsets with an everything works mantra – Flash content, Web 2.0, Ajax etc.

Kleiner Perkins-iFund backed Pelago has also raised a $15M Series B to continue developing Whrrl, its mobile social network. MocoNews describes Whrrl as:

a mix between Facebook, City Search and Loopt. The social networking element is that you can share this information with friends, the directory part is that there’s a list of restaurants and events that your friends can rate and say whether they are going to or not, and the Loopt part is you can see what your friends are up to.

Clearly there is much afoot in this space. I’ll watch closely to see how the Australian carriers and mobile players shape up over the coming months as the iPhone permeates their ecosystem. Stay tuned…

[Picture courtesy of heritagefuture]

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