My impressionistic summary of the speakers' (and especially Russell's) message:
There are a gazillion mobile phone users worldwide and soon will be a gazillion more. But, to reach them, you have to work with a bazillion different devices, software platforms, and carriers. Plus, the carriers hold all the cards and demand princely sums to reach "their" customers. But it's still worth fighting for whatever morsels they drop your way because -- did I mention yet? -- there are a gazillion gazillion users.
Not specifically metnioned, but obvious to me, was that the fun, world-changing, big-win play would be to build -- or build apps for -- some open, TCP/IP-over-air alternative that makes the carriers irrelevant. When it was suggested that Wifi could be a better platform than traditional carrier cellular, several people pooh-poohed the idea that Wifi could work, anytime soon, with the roaming ubiquity people expect of mobile phone services. I suspect however that the Wifi-uber-alles model had many silent sympathizers in the room. Give it 5-10 years, less if there's a large enough investment boom.
Two mobile software startup winners mentioned are both in the mobile games category: MForce and Jamdat.
"Jamdat" rang some bells... not exactly those six letters, but others with the same properties. A flood of memories...
In 1999, after an acquisition-gone-awry decimated the instant-messaging startup where I was CTO, I left that company and was considering potential next steps. Mobile gaming was one area of interest. Seeing how awkward it was to enter internet hostnames on keypads, I noticed the value of short meaningful names typable with only the first character of each 3/4 character set: ADGJMPTW. Such names could be entered in a minimal number of memorable, non-repeated keypresses.
After a search for domain names up to six characters long that were pronounceable, at least vaguely meaningful for mobile gaming, and still available in the .com TLD, I came up with two I liked: madpaw.com and madtap.com. I registered them both at some point in 1999.
I never seriously pursued any mobile gaming ideas, though, and let both names expire within a year or two.
Now, they've both found their best use: madpaw.com leads to a product line of mobile phone games marketed to Asian markets, and madtap.com leads to a "consumer brand portal enabling direct downloads of mobile gaming content."