Friday, September 28, 2007

For Disney, The Mobile World Is Not the Happiest Place on Earth

For the second time a year, Disney has announced that it is hanging up a major mobile phone initiative -- this time, its family Disney Mobile service that was announced with great fanfare in June 2006. Previously, Disney ended its much ballyhooed "Mobile ESPN" service which also failed to get traction, despite a major investment by Disney.

Disney's family mobile phone service had been focused on the communications needs of families with children, enabling parents to stay in touch with their kids, control their kids' cellular usage and access to certain features, and also track their kids' whereabouts with GPS. But, Disney Mobile was unable to gain any meaningful momentum in the retail market and was eclipsed by similar services and child-friendly features offered by the major carriers.

Disney's two high profile mobile failures -- as well as the recent bankruptcy and sale of prior mobile darling Amp'd Mobile -- underscore the challenges of so-called MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) who seek to serve a niche mobile market and lease network capacity from one of the major carriers.