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
of all, tell us about the company. When was it founded and
the vision of the founders?
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.
had a 371% revenue jump in 2003; obviously the ideas are working.
What made this company so successful?
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.
Above: Age of Empires for Pocket
PC, one of the many titles MDM publishes.
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?
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.
MobileTechReview.com: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.
MobileTechReview.com: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.
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?
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?
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.