RealTime IT News

MySpace Catches iPhone Fever

MySpace has jumped on the iPhone bandwagon, today unveiling an application that will deliver a mobile version of the social network to Apple's hugely popular smartphone.

The application will be available as a free download from Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iTunes store and the forthcoming iPhone App Store. According to John Faith, general manager and vice president for MySpace's mobile division, it will be a major improvement over the site's existing mobile offerings.

"I really and truly can say that this has raised the bar of the MySpace mobile experience," Faith told reporters during a conference call this morning. "It provides the most robust feature set that any MySpace mobile product has provided to date."

The announcement from News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS) social networking player comes amid growing interest across the tech industry in bringing computing applications to mobile devices. That excitement has been fueled most recently by Apple's iPhone, seen by many as a breakthrough device that could pave the way for other sophisticated handsets that will finally deliver on the promise of the mobile Web.

MySpace's iPhone application also arrives on the eve of the arrival of the phone's 3G version in stores, an event expected to draw rabid crowds and considerable fanfare.

Research firm ChangeWave is expecting the new device to have a "tsunami-like impact" on the smartphone market.

In addition to revamping the iPhone, Apple also has been working to drum up support from developers for the platform. It opened the iPhone to third-party developers in March, a move that has since spawned several hundred applications, an Apple spokeswoman said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

The new MySpace app will enable iPhone users to search the network and add friends, compose and delete mail, and send bulletin blasts to all their friends. It will also offer the ability to upload and share pictures. MySpace Mobile does support music, and, unlike rival Facebook's mobile site, users cannot upload and play videos.

Citing personal security reasons, Faith said that MySpace is not including any GPS or location-based features into the application. He did not rule them out in future iterations, however.

Upon launch, the application will not be open to third-party developers, but Faith suggested that that too could change down the road.

New push to mobilize apps

The new application also marks MySpace's latest effort to build up a mobile user base. In October, the company launched its mobile Web site -- based on WAP -- and now counts 1.7 million daily unique U.S. visitors, and another 1.4 million from Europe, according to the company.

Of course, free content on mobile devices -- just as with the traditional Web -- is typically supported by ads. MySpace Mobile runs ads on its WAP site, and Faith said that the iPhone version would be ad-free for an "undisclosed amount of time."

[cob:Special_Report]Such moves come in spite of the fact that the mobile Web this far has fallen short of expectation, partially due to the usability problems inherent in such small devices, and the challenges of striking deals with carriers to gain access to their networks.

Nevertheless, many companies are still placing big bets behind the allure of carrying around the Internet in your pocket, and MySpace is no exception.

"Mobile and cellular communication is an essential element of MySpace's global strategy," Faith said.

In a few years time, MySpace expects as much as 50 percent of its worldwide traffic to come from mobile devices. Helping that along are deals it's signed with 27 carriers to deliver its product to mobile users in 20 countries.

"We plan to have a relationship with every major carrier by the end of the year," Faith said. The iPhone application also launches with support for 12 languages, and Faith added that MySpace plans to quickly roll out additional languages.