We’re delighted to announce the specific panel topics for MobileBeat 2009, the conference VentureBeat is holding on July 16.

We’ve been working on this since February, contacting industry experts about what they think are the industry’s key drivers. Our initial findings, which we announced a few days ago: The excitement around mobile applications — be it an iFart app, the Skype app or March Madness for the iPhone — is having a major impact on all mobile ecosystem players.

Today, we’re releasing the deeper sub-themes (below), which will guide our panels. It’s our first draft, and we’ll publish more details later, including information about our mobile start-up competition and our mobile marketing/advertising track. We’re lining up great speakers, which we’ll announce soon. We’ll be adding fireside chats and are still open to more panel ideas. If you’re interested in speaking, contact us here, or if you’re interested in sponsoring, please contact Andie Rhyins.

Look forward to seeing you there. Move quickly though, if you want the discount of $175. Only a couple of weeks left.

Here are the themes:

Investors panel: Where’s the ROI?

The latest mobile applications have the potential to change lives. These applications increasingly exploit things like connectivity, GPS, web-browsing, and presence to revolutionize the way we think about our phones, and the way they can help us. Is your heart pressure up to dangerously high levels? Health apps on your phone may soon be able to tell you that, instantly. The possibilities are many, including new growth in the underdeveloped area of mobile enterprise applications. There may not be a single killer-app. However, there’s much more coming: The iPhone 3.0’s new in-app payment system is expected to open the next chapter of mobile commerce. Meanwhile, challenges for investors remain: VoIP company Skype shot up to No. 1 among iPhone apps. Will developers be able to reinvent voice applications? If so, is there any money in it? Represented on this panel will be the main investors in mobile: The VCs, operators, and other industry giants.s

Battle for the mobile ecosystem

Who are the winners and losers of the latest mobile developments? Two years ago, the U.S. was a laughing stock when it came to mobile innovation, and its networks are still outdated. But since then, the locus of mobile innovation has shifted to the U.S. and, specifically, Silicon Valley — with Apple, Google and Palm, and thousands of developers leading the way. One underlying theme of MobileBeat 2009 is the continued “ecosystem battle” for developers, with leading device makers and carriers eager to court them. Having the best developers on your platform ensures popularity among subscribers and positively affects the businesses of the players in that part of the ecosystem. But what is the cost of this battle for some of the incumbents? Who will be the big players in the fragmented market ? This panel will look at these issues from the perspective of different players in the ecosystem: operators, new device makers, mobile internet companies and infrastructure players.

Additional questions posed: Whose business models are affected by this change and how? Will Android be a big winner in Asia?  What about new entrants wanting to own the so-called “personal cloud” around new devices ? How fast will feature phones die?

Carriers: What do they do now? How do they handle data load, but make money too?

New applications, embodied by Skype, are endangering carriers’ voice revenue. At the same time, millions of new smartphone users are browsing the Web and sucking massive amounts of bandwidth. The plethora of new data-intensive apps are only going to make things worse for carrier costs. Growth in data being transferred from AT&T, Verizon and other network giants is exploding — it grew 1000 percent last year alone, and is expected to roughly double annually through 2012, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index. So how will carriers afford this, considering soaring costs threaten to exceed revenue? How will carriers adjust their business models? Operators are starting to push for ways to charge more to users of high amounts of broadband — but consumer advocates, as well as large Internet companies (Google, etc) cry foal when carriers try to do this. Meanwhile, carriers and handset makers will try to get a piece of the app craze by building app stores of their own. Either way, carrier 2.0 needs to be smart.

Additional questions posed:
Will carriers move to tiered pricing models? Or is Freemium, free to play + microtransactions the way to go? How will data plans evolve and how large is the market for smartphone data plans? What does better pricing, targeting or IP packet inspection mean for carriers? Will carriers further open their network APIs to developers? Why, and what cost? To what extent will wireless carriers will be able to benefit from backhauling (offloading their core traffic to other network players)? How much are investments into new network upgrades like LTE able to positively affect the cost structure for data revenue? It will take money upfront, but will the more efficient networks save them money in the long run? (There’s disagreement about this). And how will it all affect consumers and developers? What about video? Mobile video apps are the biggest hog: They’re expected to reach almost 64% of mobile data traffic by 2013? Google is already losing hundreds of millions on YouTube. Will carriers get stuck with more of this cost?

New Devices: How will the rise of netbooks and other new devices affect business?

First there were feature phones. Now there are smartphones. The next wave is netbooks, and other devices (the Kindle, etc). VentureBeat was early to report about how Android will help fuel this trend toward new devices. Carriers hope these devices, along with cutting edge applications, create enough value that users pony up for more expensive data plans. And then there’s the question about how these device manufacturers will differentiate themselves. Asian netbook makers have driven costs down, to the point where Dell and other U.S. giants are feeling the pain. Aside from cost, other added services could make products stand out. The Kindle has a unique proposition, for example. There’s also the emergence of something called the “personal home-cloud,” where consumers will store their info from MIDS/XBox’s, Kindles, settop boxes, netbooks, etc, in a single place in the cloud. Who will own this cloud? Device makers, carriers, or software or server companies? Will the new device makers seek to bundle other kinds of software at purchase, in their scramble to differentiate? Also, some say Google’s Android will drive the mass adoption of cloud computing, building upon the extended computing architecture Google has already created for its Web based offerings. Will the Android trend be particularly big in Asia, as the price of “good enough” smartphones and other devices fall towards zero, putting them into the reach of average consumers around the world?

New technology: Chips and new platform infrastructure create new opportunity!

New technology is the lifeblood of economic opportunity. Moore’s Law governing semiconductors, for example, has spawned huge advances in computing, the Web, and now in mobile. The latest generation of specialized chips are being exploited by manufacturers to create a host of new features that could catch on big. Already, Apple offeres cool features in the iPhone such as the shake control system by adding a simple $2 accelerometer chip. In the future, new chips could add the ability to receive calls and data on a worldwide basis. They will lead to more sophisticated, interactive displays, multi-function radios. Finally, shrinking the existing chips into smaller devices will cut costs and generate still new form factors. The competition is fierce because the traditional cell phone chip makers are now clashing with the PC computer chips, as both they meet each other in the middle. Leaders from all these constituents talk about these future developments — what it means for the chip industry, but also what it means for cellphone users.

Other panels

MobileBeat will feature a series of other panels: 1) One will focus on the proliferation of app stores for developers, and what the various players (Palm, RIM, Apple, Android, Microsoft, Symbian/Nokia, etc.) have to offer. It will also address the extent to which premium content providers (CBS, ESPN, etc) are served by these stores, relative to the long-tail of two-person garage app developers. 2) A second panel will focus on the core area of innovation in mobile right now: The operating system, and the other application and Web infrastructure technologies that are helping define how consumers interact with apps (Do HTML5 and Gears — pushed by Google — get accepted as industry standard? How significant is the “Web versus App” debate, and what does it mean for the balance of power for Apple and Google — and for that matter, for carriers, device makers and marketers?) 3) A third panel will focus on monetization, and the ecosystem of marketers, brands and networks that are jostling to make sense of the changing landscape. They’re devising new initiatives and alliances just to keep up. 4) Finally, in a fourth panel, we’ll look at “mobile discovery,” or the set of players that are allowing social networking and new forms of interaction on mobile. This panel will address things like mobile address books, how they’re integrated with devices, but also with applications in the cloud, and how these can all be synced with other services — and integrated with carriers and social networking companies such as Myspace and Facebook.

[Image credit: Phandroid]