Let Me Entertain You: With Mobile Phones, Users Can Get Their Kicks Wherever They Go

The Wall Street Journal. Europe

Tuning In to Interactive Games, Movie Clips and Virtual Pets

(an excerpt)

About a century after their heyday, nickelodeons are making a comeback. Only now you don't have to line up at the arcade. You carry your theater with you, invite your friends, start the show any time you like and often take part in the spectacle yourself.

That's mobile entertainment - the world of wireless amusements, where you can watch your home team's winning goal, listen to your favorite band's latest hit, or play Trivial Pursuit with friends at a bar.

There's no surround-sound or big screen in this pocket-sized theater, but mobile entertainment offers a lot that you won't find at the movie house: a personalized array of amusements to enjoy alone or share with others, available whenever and where ever you want to start the show. All it takes is a mobile phone.

Looking East for the Next Big Thing in Mobile Technology
As is true with many aspects of the mobile-phone market, mobile entertainment is quite hot in the East, humming along in Western Europe and starting to roll in North America.

Seeing what consumers are enjoying in Japan can provide an impressively accurate crystal-ball view of what Europeans and Americans can expect soon on their mobile phones.

So what's next? "The biggest craze here in Japan is 'sha-mail ,' which is peer-to-peer picture messaging." says DC Collier, Tokyo-based senior strategy director for applications and services at PacketVideo Corp., a San Diego, California, company that helps put video on mobile devices. "Everyone knows about it."

Sending a sha-mail means sending a message with a postage-stamp-sized photo attached - from a party, a vacation, or perhaps your otherwise blind-date for Saturday night. An application called imaHima (are you free now? in Japanese) cross-pollinates the mini photos with dating services.

Mr. Collier has taken photos of friends and stored them in his phone's address book, so their smiles show up when they call his phone. "Your phone is a networked, digital camera," he says. "Sha-mail is the thing I use the most." The Japanese market already has a fair share of phones with cameras, and Java-based phones and games have likewise been available in Japan for some time.

Mobile-phone trends often take a bit longer to develop in Europe compared to Japan, notes Pekka Isosomppi, a Nokia Corp. spokesman. But camera-phones are already making their way to the Continent. Nokia's 7650, due out in the second quarter will have a built-in phone. "You open it and it turns into a camera. You snap a photo and it prompts you to know if you want to send the photo," Mr. Isosomppi explains. And just this week, Sony Ericsson announced its P800 with a built-in camera, due to hit the market in the third quarter.

Designed by Tokyo-based Dwango Co., the Java-, location- and weather-based game Samurai Romanesque has been a hit in Japan, according to Wireless Games, Playing to Win, a report from London research firm Ovum Ltd. Players assume the parts of warlords from the 15th to 17th centuries, but weather conditions are contemporary. So if it's raining in a city where a player is based, trouble with damp gunpowder can be expected.

- Jeanette Borzo