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Ericsson snaps up Drutt

Content mangling offers new revenue opportunities

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Ericsson has bought 100 per cent of content management company Drutt for an undisclosed sum.

The Swedish based firm, with an estimated annual turnover of between £7m and £8m, provides software to manage the delivery of content to mobile phones - handling the billing and making sure the right version of content gets delivered to each handset.

With its purchase Ericsson has gained 60 customers in 35 countries.

Ericsson already provides custom Service Delivery Platforms (SDPs), but Drutt has a standard platform it can drop in to a network operator to manage and optimise web content for delivery to mobile clients.

The purchase also reflects the importance network operators now attach to the management, and potential revenue, of off-portal browsing.

While few broadband providers would admit to monitoring what their customers are doing, mobile surfers seem to accept such monitoring as normal.

To quote from one of Drutt's product specifications: "Operators have access to detailed information on customer segmentation, subscriber age, sex, location, purchase power, and can easily gather other demographic information. With Drutt MSDP Open Surf all this information along with surf and purchase behaviour is available to be monetised."

All in the cause of improving the quality of experience, of course.

Drutt MSDP Open Surf also optimises content to suit the browsing device - though obviously not that well as Vodafone is listed as a Drutt customer and it still uses Novarra for its surprise deployment of site repurposing in the UK.

That deployment is still causing problems (refusing to download files of more than 230KB, and mangling images and video) which is an indication of just how far the network operators are prepared to go to control everything you see on the mobile internet.

Competition, and customer disgust, is driving down data rates, and customers are increasingly going off the operator portal to buy their content, so network operators are looking for other ways to make money from data. Inserting adverts (sorry, toolbars) into other people's content is one way, and accurately targeting those adverts by monitoring everything customers do, is another. Network operators will increasingly be trying both.

Whether customers will accept being monitored in this way remains to be seen. When the model was tried with desktop browsing customers rejected it, though the popularity of Google Toolbar could indicate a change of mood. But network operators are sure to invest heavily in the capability just in case, so the purchase of Drutt makes a great deal of sense for Ericsson.

Ericsson shares were up slightly at close of trading yesterday. ®

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