Look out for the Zapps

Users around the world are using their mobile phones for more and more applications as devices become more sophisticated, so it seemed just a matter of time before a quantum leap was made in the type of content being sent.  Now, for better or worse, the age of mobile self-expression and social networking is about to dawn in the mobile world.

Software publishing company Trivantis Corp. has just taken its GotZapp portal around the world to explain the concept to wireless carriers, including leading wireless service providers in China, Korea and Singapore. Essentially, GotZapp is a way to add rich multimedia content to mobile messaging.

Using special software, mobile customers can use tools at gotzapp.com to create their own mini-Web-like sites that can then be sent in a single data transmission - zapped, in other words - to Web-enabled mobile phones anywhere in the world. The 'Zapps' can include multiple pages of text, photos, music and animations. The Zapps themselves need to be created with a computer, but they can be stored and sent using mobile phones.

'There is nothing special needed from the network carrier,' explains Tim Loudermilk, founder and chief software architect of Trivantis. 'Basically you just need a Java-enabled phone and a [mobile] data connection for Web browsing.'

Interestingly, although the company is US-based, its latest application is likely to be used much more widely in Asia. According to Loudermilk, that's because only about 6% of mobile users in the US pay extra for a data subscription plan. 'In Europe and Asia, almost everyone has a data-service connection,' he notes.

Of course, if GotZapp catches on the way social networking sites such as MySpace did, that US equation could change dramatically, adding a useful revenue stream for service providers. In the US market, AT&T Wireless (formerly Cingular) and T-Mobile have jumped on board since the service was introduced this past December.

Convincing carriers

Loudermilk says beta-testing is also occurring in Singapore, and customers (who typically learn of GotZapp through word-of-mouth since the service is so new little promotion has yet be done) are sprouting up all over the world. GotZapp is carrier-neutral, but company officials have met with Asian, European and US mobile carriers to try to get them on board to promote the service to their customers.

Individual users can also download pre-made Zapps featuring celebrities (for example, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba and the Red Hot Chili Peppers), as well as popular music, movie and television icons. When these are sent to mobile phones, a short advertisement is included, generating revenue that is shared by GotZapp and the mobile carrier involved.

The Zapps aren't limited to individual users, of course. Companies can also use them to publicize movies, music, sports events, television programs and other commercial enterprises. 'This could evolve into another form of programming,' says Loudermilk. 'For example, during the upcoming Beijing Olympics, a TV network showing events could provide visual updates on the phones, as well as commentary or event results.'