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Interview with Barry Cottle of MDM


Mobile Digital Media (MDM) has become one of the largest publishers of consumer software for Palm, Pocket PC and Nokia phones. MDM entertainment, productivity and utility products are available at more than 9,500 retail outlets nationwide in MMC card format, and at top online PDA retail sites. They have also published over 100,000 MMC cards for Nokia cell phones. We talked with Barry Cottle, CEO and Co-Founder of MDM, who served for almost three years as Chief Internet Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Content and Access at Palm, Inc. before co-founding MDM with Alan Masarek.

Interview: First of all, tell us about the company. When was it founded and what’s the vision of the founders?

Barry: MDM began operations as an independent publisher in October of 2002. It was founded by Satjiv Chahil, Alan Masarek and me. Prior to October, MDM operated as a business within Palm for over a year. It was during this time that we saw how mobile phones and PDAs were growing exponentially in both capability (screen resolution, processing power, media capabilities) and consumer adoption. We believed that handheld users would quickly begin to use these devices beyond their basic PIM and communication features for entertainment and information. To that end, we saw the opportunity to create a leading mobile software publisher company. MDM had a 371% revenue jump in 2003; obviously the ideas are working. What made this company so successful?

Barry: We follow a very simple strategy. We deliver high quality content to consumers in a form that consumers can access easily. We bring to market the best brands – Websters, Britannica, Sega, Atari etc. and deliver the content in a simple “plug-n-play” format – an SD/MMC card. This allows the user to simply put a postage size card into their handset much like a Gameboy cartridge and use the software immediately without the need of instructions or complicated installation. And lastly, we offer this to consumers through the broadest array of distribution worldwide – retail, web, and OEM partner channels.



Age of Empires screen

Above: Age of Empires for Pocket PC, one of the many titles MDM publishes. Your cards are sold in many retail stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, Fry’s and Radio Shack, and you have online downloadable versions. What is the percentage of store sales vs. online sales? Are there many differences in license distribution?

Barry: Today, over three quarters of our sales are content cards sold through retail stores. This is driven by the fact that we were able to achieve distribution across just about every major retailer in the US, plus many worldwide. However, our online sales of physical media and downloadable products are a fast growing component. There is a difference in license and distribution between physical media products and downloads due to physical inventory costs and risks. For download, the margins for the publisher are greater and in turn so is the developer royalty. When you go out to sign licensing/publishing agreements, what’s the process? I mean, do you look for certain types of applications or partners?

Barry: We start with the consumer and ask ourselves, “what problem can we solve for the mobile user?” Then, we look to create or license applications that best solve the need – always keeping in mind the mobile environment in which these will be used: device and network capabilities, on-the-go user mentality, etc. To date, we have found a market for entertainment (games and music), reference, and personal productivity. We believe that brand is important, so we always strive to work with the best partner in each category. Let’s talk about working with Nokia. You’ve published over 100K MMC cards for Nokia series 60 handsets. It seems that this is perfect platform for both companies to benefit, doesn’t it? You offer one music album and a couple of games available for the series 60 handsets. Tell us more about other titles in music and games that are in the works.

Barry: We are very excited to be working with Nokia. The relationship works extremely well because Nokia is interested in bringing to market more applications for their Symbian platform and we want to provide our growing portfolio of software to the enormous universe of Nokia handset users. In the near term, we will be offering some more game products as well as introducing some reference titles—stay tuned for those. In addition, these products will be OTA enabled so that users will be able to leverage the carrier networks to enhance their experience. It’s interesting to see that MDM publishes music albums, because that’s a huge market and it seems everyone is out to get a slice of the pie. Does MDM plan to publish more music-oriented titles? What platforms would they support?

Barry: We do plan on offering more music-oriented titles, but at this point I can’t be specific about artists. Our current goal with all of our products is that they be platform-agnostic. This way, the consumer can use it in their current and future mobile phones and PDA’s without worrying about compatibility. Do you plan to take the success you had with Nokia to other handset manufacturers as well as expanding to other Nokia series?

Barry: Partnering with handset manufacturers is a very important strategy that we have been doing successfully with several companies including Nokia, PalmOne, and others. Our interests are aligned with theirs, as they are interested in proliferating the number and quality of applications for their handsets to drive handset sales and we are interested in driving software revenues by partnering closely with them to bring compelling products to market.


Our Reviews of Titles Published by MDM:

Audio Translator for Palm and Pocket PC

Age of Empires for Pocket PC

Atari Retro for all platforms

Sega Classics for Palm





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