Mobile strategy from Altimeter Group analyst Chris Silva, making mobile work for brands and business.
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Amidst skydivers and stunt bikes, last year’s Google I/O keynote, a full hour shorter than this year’s 3-hour masterpiece, felt to many to deliver more in the way of products. If last year was aimed at showing the attractiveness of the Google ecosystem, especially on mobile, this year it was about assuring those who’d defected (users and developers alike) that the water in the pool was still warm and there was more to come.
Android, now the statistically most popular mobile OS worldwide, is still missing a few key features and I’d have liked to see them announced in yesterday’s keynote:
- Unified messaging. Yes Hangouts was announced becoming the de-facto standard for chat, G+ messages and basically rendering Google Talk moot as a standalone product, but where is SMS? With over 70% of Americans using text as far back as 2011 skipping integration of the de facto messaging standard on mobile was shortsighted. Sure over the top tools like What’sApp and others have begun to thrive, but having messaging that ties into the core function of a mobile device is key. Worse it’s actively being discussed that there’s “no time line” for addition of the feature. Have 900M activations obscured mobile users’ true needs? Catch is, many of those “7 Billion people in the world” that Sundar Pichai notes they’re targeting are very attached to SMS.
- A Concrete Android Roadmap. Less of a disappointment than the omission of SMS from the unveil of a major messaging product, no mention of the next version of Android was curious and sure to unsettle some developers. To others, it was likely welcome, a sign that as Android matures, the product cycles on which they base their products are slowing. This is likely due to a couple of elements at play, one, Pichai has recently taken the reins of the Android team from Android founder Andy Rubin and may not yet be ready to commit his expanded team to such a major deadline. Additionally, to Google’s credit, we’ve seen significant uptake of the Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean OS’es, arguing against delivering a new version and thus more fragmentation.
- No Dedicated Nexus Device. I’m listing these in order of importance because I actually like the fact that this year – for the first time – Google has taken the Nexus program to the market via one of the hottest smartphones, the Galaxy S4 (which I blogged about here) versus trying to bring the market to its devices. Many were surprised at the turn and bemoaned the lack of a “true” Nexus device this year let alone the cost at $649 but it’s easier to move the mountain to Mohammed vs. the reverse, as the adage goes.
Google Hasn’t Slowed Its Roll In Mobile, It’s Focused On Building A Market
All of the I/O news means this: Google has not abandoned or forgotten its focus on mobile, it’s looking to shore up its mobile house. It wants to provide better tools for a stronger set of apps on the platform to combat the app gap between iOS and Android. Expect to see less of a disparity in the quality of apps between Android and other platforms as developers embrace these tools. Expect also to see the myriad different sizes of tablets in the Android world addressed with great, consisten app experiences using the new Android Studio.
While creating great apps and providing better tools to monetize them is key to driving up the quality of the Android experience, leaving out key features (SMS in Hangouts) and glossing over critical milestones (squandering your one, big, live appearance in front of developers to update a critical roadmap) makes me think that Google still has some housekeeping to do among product teams and specifically within mobile. In order to present a clear and consistent vision of mobile to the world this should happen quickly and I hope in response to event feedback. One product manager I spoke with, when asked about their thoughts on the market around a given property said, “I’ve been too busy releasing X products to do that,” which sounds like an innovation trap to me – foregoing market intelligence in the service of more products. All that said, adoption of Google’s tools in the mobile space clearly continues apace.
Mobile Will Remain Fractured – And That’s OK
It’s also important to note – and this deserves more than the footnote it gets here – that mobile is, to borrow words from Larry Page’s speech, “not a zero sum game.” Across this week’s sessions at I/O and last week’s at Adobe’s MAX event I attended (both focused on developers) tool providers and the developers they serve were focused on taking a serious look at what can be delivered via the web. This focus stems from the fact that currently web is the only device and OS agnostic way to deliver apps and experiences to mobile customers. The big companies that serve developers know that’s going to be a battle for a while yet and their front-and-center showcase of web-centric mobile tools and the apps they can create is testament to that.
Page made another comment about “technology getting out of the way,” and, in mobile that means moving past the OS, the device and the app store from whence products come. Migrating mobile competition from a battle of OS native design and hardware specs to a true test of the services and experiences delivered will be what defines success of mobile tools vendors. The device and how it looks and works simply won’t matter as we continue to live in a market with a growing – not shrinking – number of mobile platforms. Don’t believe me? Look at the long tail of mobile OSes coming on to the market in the past year, there simply can’t be one “ring to rule all” 7B eventual mobile users but there already is one web on which to find them.
By Chris Silva and Jeremiah Owyang, Industry Analysts at Altimeter Group
We’re live from the Google IO conference in SF with 6,000 developers, press, and media in San Francisco’s Moscone event center. We noticed a lot of Glass Explorer units (which surprisingly was barely mentioned in the keynote) we’ve purchased two to test, and will write up a detailed post on them after we’ve done a thorough test.
Today’s Google’s announcements were a wreck; a series of products flipping in front of you, rather than a well laid out showroom. To make sense of this patchwork set of announcements from a fragmented company, we’ve identified some top level trends:
Key Trends at Google I/O for the Executive:
Products enhanced and interconnected –no major new products announced.
- Google can coordinate across all of your screens, making multi-screen easier showing its ability to tie together all of your experiences across the Google-system.
- Ironically, Google did not mention Google Glass. We believe this is because it was overhyped last year, failed to meet production deadlines this year.
- Google+ had several enhancements including a new 3 column layout akin to Flipboard, deeper content with flippable content cards, Hangout now extended to multiple browsers, Google+ profiles have improved sign on capability–but no adoption numbers were touted in this flailing social network.
Google is virtually replicating planet earth, but “improving” the quality.
- Google maps is becoming a *Virtual World*. 3D experience with our uploaded photos. With virtual goggles like Occulus Rift you can walk through this virtual world, experiencing our world in just a few mouse clicks.
- The company announced the ability to use more granular location to allow better targeting of mobile users with apps and offers, finally bringing the inherently local capabilities to mobile that we’ve been awaiting.
- Retailers and hospitality should take note, Google maps now integrates photos of your stores from the inside. Internal decor matters to the search process.
Google knows what and who you love as we trade convenience for our data.
- Google announced that they could identify highlights of top photos in your albums, they were able to identify important photos based on facial recognition of your family, grouping these as important. Google knows who your family is –and what’s important to your heart.
- Google is becoming more like a media company, music streaming (Google All Access,) photo editing, magazine-ing of the G+ stream. “Google makes the world better with data.” Google+ becomes like a magazine,
- Speech recognition across the desktop and mobile and bringing personal context to all of their services, doing things like making everyone’s view into maps personal, with their important landmarks highlighted.
Unsaid contract: Google better organizes our world –and sells us back the experience
The big takeaway is Google is trying to let consumers experience as much of your brand before they buy it, for examples a search user can experience the inside of your store, the reviews, the photos and find the fastest way there –before ever leaving their chair. As such, Google or their advertisers, may influence the purchase decision.
In mobile, It’s about the services, not the devices: While leading with mobile products last year to get people into their sandbox. In social the story focused on rich media differentiating the Google+ network and it became clear that social-first products like Hangouts and Google+ sign=in will make a broader play across more Google and non-Google products. , across data and search – whether maps or analytics – Google wants to up the ante in the tools it offers developers and, in turn, the companies and brands they empower.
The Pithy Bottom Lines:
- For consumers, if you’ve bought into the Google ecosystem, expect the tools and products to get better but know you’re the product.
- For brands: If you want to play in Google’s sandbox, you’ll ultimately need to pay.
- For Google Competitors: As Google has entered media, any industry is up for grabs; they may be your competitor and just not have announced it yet.
It’s been barely two months to the day since the first Pebble SmartWatches started shipping and we seem to have a market for devices that didn’t exist six months ago. First Apple, then Samsung, Google, and now LG being rumored to be readying a smart watch. Really? Is there that much demand for the product? I find this enthusiasm surprising, though I’ve been known in my day to make at leas one prediction that was a bit off when thinking about the future of new form factors.
I’m not holding my breath to buy any of these devices this quarter, the devices are likely a long way off, if we even see products from all of the players suspected to be working on this idea. There is some immediate impact on the mobile industry. We’re facing the second 50% of mobile phone owners in the US migrating to smartphones, this market segment will come online much more slowly than the first 50% due to disparity in disposable income between the two groups, differences in the groups’ use of mobile devices and basic need for more complex devices. The players in the market realize that and are looking toward the trend of multiple devices ownership among that first, relatively price insensitive 50%. Accessories will be key to the bottom line for big names in mobile as smartphone demand slows.
Among those of us with smartphones, we’re also changing the way the we use our devices day-to-day. As we spend more and more time running our lives and jobs from smartphones and those tablet devices I decried as useless back in 2010, we’re spending less time shackled to our “traditional” computing interfaces. Good news, the mobile devices themselves are getting much more capable. Moore’s Law ever at work, our smartphones now stand in as scanners, high-end cameras, CRM systems, field service manuals, mobile office productivity suites and more. There is a downside to the march of technological progress, though. As their complexity increases and we have more information filtering to us through our mobile devices users seek filters. Enter the smartwatch. Not content to rely on flashing LEDs or vibraton patterns to discern the wheat-from-chaff in the torrent of incoming information, we’re seeking simpler displays that give us a dashboard to our daily lives.
How does this ultimately play out? It means we’ll be carrying both more (in number) and less (in complexity) mobile gear with us as the technology matures. Bear with me here, this leads to the likely obliteration of the smartphone. With more of our information in always accessible storage clouds, we’re able to interact with it on more and more types of devices. AS the arms race to pack more horsepower into smartphones rages on, our ability to process information remains relatively static. Why wouldn’t we, then, gravitate to use-specific devices, accessing just the information we need, and in the context we need it versus carrying ever more complex mobiles? Thus the emergence of cheap, simple task-centric tools is likely to take shape.
It’s not surprising to see this begin to unfold. Most technology takes this course from complex-yet-basic to commodity-and-feature-rich but the pendulum most always swings back to a honed set of skills that are more narrow that what’s possible but excel in their simplicity. There’s been a trend – its debated existence being limited to younger users - to have a backup phone or a device that’s just used for texting and calls when out and about. The positive reviews at CES around the launch of a device like Nokia’s 105 - designed for the developing world but lauded by the first world - may indicate that purpose-built devices that skimp rather than splurge on features could be our mobile future.
Technology is all about pendulum swings, we wanted lap;tops that could do it all and replicate the performance of our desktops, then settled for netbooks, ultrabooks and ultimately tablets that did only what we needed on the go. Mobile devices – specifically smartphones – will see this pendulum swing too and it will be good for users’ concentration and a win for device manufacturers but before we get there, we’ll see a flood of accessories that get feeds of information from our smartphones, not replace their core functions.
Are you excited for SmartWatches and other accessories, or will you wait out the fad? Any plans for a simpler device on your horizon?
This post originally appeared on Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategist Blog
By Chris Silva and Jeremiah Owyang, Industry Analysts at Altimeter Group
Technologies are Emerging at an Increased Rate –Making Tracking Harder than Ever
SXSW is no longer about disruptive technologies being launched, instead, it’s a mainstream, it’s a mainsteam festival, actually) and digital leaders at today’s large corporations are already present, and you should be too. In fact, the amount of data created about the topic had nearly double year over year. Altimeter Group was well represented with 9 analysts or researchers at SxSWi this year, with a large team in Austin tracking what’s disruptive. Long known for launches of big names such as Twitter and Foursquare, as well as those with more hype that long-term staying power like Highlight – would be past its prime and recycling yesterday’s news. If you weren’t able to attend, Altimeter has captured the salient highlights to showcase here:
Major Festival Themes
- Hardware was king. Hardware was king at an event long vaunted as a software and service launching ground, as evidenced by long lines for keynotes by Makerbot founder Bre Pettis, and Tesla, SpaceX founder Elon Musk who spent a lot of time devoted to how hardware-based endeavours like the recent Dragon rocket launch can disrupt an industry as complex as space and airline transportation.
- Android curiosity is getting the better of early adopters. We had many conversations with current iPhone users who were openly discussing their desire to “try the other side” and get an Android device. Interestingly, this curiosity was based more on their gripes with iPhone than with specific Android features they sought. Further, most of the users we spoke with were not working for organizations that had adopted Google Apps for Enterprise and were hoping for tighter integration, they simply felt that, as one person put it, “it has to work better than this thing,” while shaking a shiny new iPhone 5 in the air. Granted, as screen sizes on Android devices continue to trend up, Samsung’s battery-wielding bike messengers may be a needed accessory to make it through a day of SXSW with our new Android handsets.
- Software innovation continued, but mobile enterprise was a star. Software was not forgotten altogether, and from the festival that’s brought us many a fun app and game, this year the interest was in work. It seems the developers and mobile-centric brands are finally on-board the billion-dollar-bandwagon that is enterprise mobile development. Crowds lined up around the block to hear about mobile apps for major brands and to help people do their jobs. The era of Angry Birds millionaires while not quite over, is waning and the future is better tools for work that act like the toys we all enjoy on our mobiles. I’ve never been to a conference in a yoga studio – Austin’s Wanderlust Yoga played host to a packed Mobile Saturday event – no less one that’s populated by contorted bodies and over 100 degrees all due to the high demand.
- Brands were at SXSW in force –followed by the vendors who seek to cater to them. A number of brands were present, with sponsored pavilions or lounges including Samsung, Pepsi, Oreos, esurance, GE, American Airlines and Chevy. While many early adopters criticized the infusion of large brands, this event has gone mainstream as every company is a digital company. To cater to these brands, there were a number of enterprise software vendors present who had sessions, parties, lounges and concerts, including Oracle, Salesforce, IBM, PR agencies, and social software startups including Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Spredfast, Expion, UrbanAirship, MutualMobile, Dachis, Bazaarvoice, Gigya, ExactTarget, and on.
The Technologies That Matter from SXSW 2013
|Technology Showcased||Example||Disruption||What it Means|
|Our rating system includes: Watch, Experiment, Invest, Ignore.||Who’s doing it today?||Who will be impacted by this new technology if it comes to fruition.||Insights and forecasts from our perspective.|
|Gesture Based Interfaces. (Leap motion, Microsoft Kinnect)Our Call: Experiment||Leap Motion, a small, $79 USB device launching in May allows users to control their computers using hand gestures in mid air. It’s able to sense individual finger movements for fine manipulation of objects and apps on screen||Leap controllers have the potential to change the way we interact with our computers and will launch for Mac OS and Windows, immediately making the tech available to a wider audiences than Microsoft’s Kinect. Being able to physically interact with the digital will disrupt many software markets.||They key to this disruption taking hold is developer support. High levels of developer support, though, or a major buy in from a CE vendor like Samsung for TV use will make or break Leap. Expect to see heavy interest from software vendors in the creative space like Adobe; Corel was running live demos at the event.|
|3D Printing and Replicators (Makerbot, Factory.org)Our Call: Ignore||A number of 3D printers were on display both in the demo hall, and including one brave entrepreneur who wore one on his neck at parties while it was successfully printing. Among the vendors include MakerBot, Factory.org and others.||Every brand involved in electronics, consumer package goods, transportation, packaging, supply chain and beyond will be impacted as consumers start to act like producers.||Although Altimeter is investing in a demo unit to trial, this market is still very young. We’ve identified business model opportunities for brand marketers, IP creators and owners of CAD diagrams, and supply chain of the composite and plastic materials needed to print. We believe a significant ecosystem is required before this is a ready market.|
|Proximity Based Communications, Near Field Communications (NFC, Samsung)Our Call: Invest||Austin was awash in proximity based interaction points this week such as the Samsung tectiles; one can imagine that these same pieces of real estate were occupied by QR codes in years past, though the QR was also readily present this as well and not dead. NFC-enabled badges, stickers and posters were everywhere.||NFC, due to the potential for quick, almost passive interaction with a mobile device means potential for higher uptake, the problem? Not many devices yet support it and fewer users know what it does. This is still education time.||Companies with NFC-enabled products hawked them hard – see Samsung entry below – but users’ have yet to process the idea that, beyond payments, using NFC as an event control point or trigger can usher in instrumented environments. This is a key Android differentiator that we’d like to see more manufacturers support.|
|Collaborative Economy (Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, Sidecar)Our Call: Experiment||Sidecar, Uber, and Lyft were in full force in Austin this year showing how shared resources can make getting around. A great deal of attendees we spoke to used AirBNB to find local rooms and houses to rent, as many Austinites skipped down to avoid the fray.||Austin, traditionally short on taxis and public transit – not to mention woefully unprepared for 20k+ visitors, is a perfect market to breed affinity for these tools. These services are disruptors to the taxi service, and hotel and hospitality space.||We’ll see many, many more of these services before the market shakes out. If transport, a leading industry in terms of getting to market early, is an indicator, users will have more and more need for distinct value props as many more “me too” services come online. At SXSW Tesla made motions to offer their car as part of the Uber fleet.|
|Android’s Rise (Samsung, Google)Our Call: Invest||The Samsung marketing machine was working overtime at SXSW attempting to show that a superior experience is possible to the still-ubiquitous iPhones many were carrying. This is good for Samsung and arguably drives Android awareness and interest. Samsung demo’d their TV and Phones were interconnected.||The awareness and interest in Android is great news for Google except that it comes from Samsung and, therefore, muddies the Android brand. That said, when users are shown extremely high levels of service – to wit, bike messengers delivering fresh batteries to Samsung device users – it’s hard to argue with this approach.||The Samsung brand is beginning to define Android. This will be difficult for other brands playing in the Android ecosystem like HTC and even Google itself. We can see why there’s some concern from Mountain View around Samsung’s reign in Android. Not investing in Android as an app player or a hardware concern is no longer an option.|
|Space Exploration (SpaceX)Our Call: Ignore||One of the highlights of the show was Elon Musk’s keynote where he demonstrated the privatization of space flight. His famed quote resonated throughout the event: “I want to die on Mars, just not on impact”||The obvious disruption is the impact to commercial airlines as well as government space programs. That said, the technology is out of reach for all but a very few, though the promise is inspiring.||The featured Grasshopper had VTOL capabilities meaning these space capable vehicles could land and depart from regular airports. While exciting, there’s little brands can do to interact with this trend, unless you’re a direct partner.|
|Augmented and Virtual Reality (Google Glass and Occulus Rift)Our Call: Watch||We had many discussions about Google Glass and its implications with many individuals at SXSW. Main concern? How will it work and what will the etiquette be?||Everyone from mobile device manufacturers to the purveyors of content on those devices will have to figure out how to play in the AR realm, we have not talked to anyone yet, either mobile developer, hardware player or content magnate that has a plan in mind. Too soon, they all say.||We’re bullish on Google Glass and, while we’ve not yet received our Explorer units to demo, we think the market will be very receptive to technology that augments daily tasks and does it in a lightweight way. We see a market emerging for AR-centric content and interactions and brands should be ready to play.|
|MicroMedia Video (Vine, Memoto)Our Call: Experiment||One emerging technology, that could grow is the Vine app that enables iPhone users to create 6 second video clips and share online. To experience this yourself, see this real time gallery. We also saw a lot of discussion on the Memoto camera.||Now that journalism has extended to all consumers and citizens, the simple addition of video can extend a rich media format to micro communications.||Expect marketers to enable Vine related campaigns and marketing to condense from the 30 second spot, to the 6 second spot. Then again people may simply adopt it as a way to “lazy tweet” as videos are so short. Twitter’s backing will certainly help|
|Quantified Self (Google Shoe, Nike)Our Call: Watch||Last year Nike debuted FuelBand at SxSW, this year the technology was everywhere, including a show that quantified activity tracking and encouragement, including a hotly discussed show by Google Shoe that gave recommendations on your fitness activity.||The traditional athletic manufacture industry is now inundated with tech companies getting involved.
To a lesser degree, health and fitness services and facilities now find that consumers are self-managing their health by using Google.
|We think this market is real and growing, but, much like we see in the enterprise space, a lot of data is getting created and the use cases for that data are lagging behind; further, this is a series of walled gardens that don’t talk with one another yet, and require user-lock in. Right now the data is dirty and not being aggregated into a way that can be digested.|
|Memes (Grumpy Cat, Harlem Shake, Meme Generator)Our Call: Ignore||Grumpy Cat live appearance, a number of meme generators, popular from the website Reddit. In particular, Edelman exec David Armano was prolific.||Traditional marketing communication may not resonate in the high churn of digital conversations.Harlem Shake, pretty much over with this hip cool kid crowd. Our take? Good riddance.||Real time marketing, while a buzzword, requires modern communicators to morph, bend, and make topics of the moment their own through curation or creation.|
Technologies on Life support
So what’s going away? We found that QR code will quickly be disrupted by NFC. While we saw a few QR codes present for marketing giveaways, we don’t believe this will persist year over year. This year, wifi and cellular networks were able to stand the high demand of network, as a result the stunt to make homeless wifi spots, will not re-occur. Location based apps, such as Highlight, Sonar, and Banjo were not the talk of the town, unlike the year before.
Altimeter identified a number of new technologies and tried to centralize in one comprehensive document. We will continue to follow these technologies and reference them in our upcoming research of disruptive technologies, for additional coverage, we found the coverage from Verge, of the highest quality, see their 2013 greatest hits. Companies who want to leverage and take advantage of these new technologies should do the following:
- Assemble teams to review the preceding list
- Weight, re-rank and rate the technologies as they may apply to your company
- Integrate into your existing roadmap for marketing, customer experience, and product roadmap
- Don’t try to do it all; many of these technologies will have a long “watch” period, some may never matter to your vertical. However, if you’re spending budget making office Harlem Shake videos, perhaps it’s time to re-allocate some budget to R&D on these new disruptors. Only, of course, if you’re interested in being ahead of what’s new.
We’d love to hear your point of view, what technologies and trends did you see that could matter, let’s start a dialog.
My colleague Brian’s blog is abuzz with comments about mobile strategy, so key to success he urges readers to “[f]orget about social media,” at least for a moment. Brian’s comparison of social to mobile is apt, both began as fragmented, bootstrapped efforts, then social got the attention of the CMO. Now, it’s mobile’s turn; it’s unfortunately common to come across companies with solid customer mobile initiatives and little happening to serve internal constituents or vice versa. It’s still the exception to see an organization winning in mobile inside and out, and big software vendors see this as their golden opportunity. Enter IBM…
Back in December, after getting an advanced look at IBM’s new mobile suite, I wrote a post entitled “Can Watson Save Siri?” that contemplated the idea that IBM and other large, enterprise software vendors could lend some serious muscle to enterprise mobile application efforts. These vendors, with their expansive mix of “big iron” servers, services to reach customers on the web and systems to run the innards of business take a “cradle to grave” approach to mobile. In press coverage of the announcement, executives at Big Blue were quick to point out the need for more integrated mobile solutions to drive true productivity and business benefit. Their tone implies that efforts to-date have either been tactical, one-off solutions to enable a single business goal – like collaboration – or disconnected from enterprise systems that contain business processes and data. This is true in some cases, but I think enterprises are getting a lot more savvy about how to either adapt processes to harness mobile tools or add mobile-first tools like mobile BI vendor Roambi into the mix to unlock enterprise intelligence.
IBM, Oracle, SAP and their competition have been building mobile into their corporate offerings for some time making acquisitions in mobile application development, mobile device management and overall data and business intelligence tools. IBM’s MobileFirst announcement, is less a product launch and more re-branding the many existing pieces IBM has had in place for some time. It’s also designed to highlight the integration the vendor offers across the whole compliment of mobile services, creating an holistic offering from application design to mobile data analytics integration. Here’s the thing; now that IBM formally launched their mobile competency what sort of companies will bite?
“The question that customers ask themselves is, Can I bet the farm on this platform?”
- Peter Graf, EVP Product Marketing, SAP 2006
There seem to be two types of mobile strategies afoot inside of organizations. These are the common organic approach with multiple vendors creating an enterprise-wide mobile strategy approaches and a monolithic, single-vendor approach. IBM’s play is the latter and, while promising, I’ve not seen anyone embrace this route fully to-date. There’s no question that a monolithic mobile approach all coming from one vendor will work extremely well for getting more out of mobile applications and allowing mobile apps to feed the rest of the business with big data. However, for many, choosing this path requires a rip-and-replace of existing mobile tools that work well and – in many cases – are not all “owned” by the same entity within the organization.
Making a bet on a single vendor to create all aspects of a mobile program in these instances can have significant drawbacks and my clients are right to be circumspect about the potential cost and complexity of taking the big leap to a single vendor. The most common concerns I hear are whether middleware to make the motley crew of tools sing a common tune and compatible servers and standalone applications are required to make data stores accessible.
Many of the organizations I hear from regularly have chosen what can best be described as a polyvendor approach when it comes to mobile. A top design firm for customer-facing apps, the best-in-breed mobile device management solution, and still another to handle collaboration and data sharing that’s nimble enough to serve all comers, mobile or not. Now, as large software vendors, security vendors and enterprise systems concerns eye the fragmented mobile space with their checkbooks out, mobile leaders have two choices, 1.) start fresh with an end-to-end, single vendor solution that you know will work but comes with a potentially painful and costly changeover or wait out your polyvendor mix to see where leaders emerge – or 2.) decide under which enterprise software hegemon you’ll ultimately live. The latter seems a cynical view on the world, but past technology trends, from web servers, to security and client management tools to wireless carriers has borne out the hegemony hypothesis over and over again.
Which path will your business choose, and why?
As a soon-to-be dad, I’m reading some books I never thought I would; I tend to leave the baby-manual type reads off my list and focus on those that are based on personal experience. As such, I’m currently reading about how an American author, journalist and mother Pamela Druckerman has learned through the process of raising her child abroad, in France. It’s fascinating if, for no other reason, you get a sense of how different the norms of child-rearing can be across two, Western nations.
A lot of the French approach – and I’m sure many other responsible parents’ approaches – is based on self-restraint. This is both for the child and the parent, the latter informing the former. She talks about “le pause,”
“French parents don’t immediately rush in when the babies cry at night. They watch and wait to see if the baby can connect the sleep cycles on her own.”
Talked about in the context of helping the child to attain the ability to sleep through the night, much of this “system” of pausing and waiting to see if a child can self-soothe helps the child to become a better sleeper and carries through as a basis for better patience and behavior later in life. is second nature to French parents. The French parents she meets, the author notes, are largely less reflexive in responding to their child’s every whim than their American counterparts. Reflecting on this, I began thinking about how the technology industry often jumps to strategy shifts it believes will define winners and losers in an fast-evolving product category. I think, in mobile, we could all benefit from making use of “le pause” in our analysis, recognizing that we’re still in the fitful states of mobile “slumber” from which truly differentiated products and services will arise.
This week’s news of early disapproval inside of Microsoft for its failed Kin products in a perfect example. Early testers found the devices nearly unusable, a fact that – paired with the high cost of data on the devices – contributed to their ultimate and swift demise.
In maintaining the rapid innovations in mobile, we seek to “skate where the puck’s going,” in the words of Wayne Gretzky but what results is a lot of skating with little scoring and many, many attempts on goal. Of course, waiting and playing a conservative game has had measurably negative effects on the industry as well, which is why I like the example of “le pause.” The idea isn’t to ignore a signal completely nor allow it to rise to red alert status, merely to stop, assess and determine if acting now with what’s available is right. One wonders if Nokia’s lovely Lumia devices would be running what was unveiled this week as Jolla’s “Sailfish” had Helsinki execs mastered “le pause.”
All of us in the mobile space like to conjecture about who ultimately wins the day in mobile, who gets to be number one, who follows and who is left battling for the third place spot. Most all of this conjecture is based around hardware specs and software features, but in reality, the winner will be the player that masters context. Nokia has just announced its entry to this game.
I sat in a crowded room this week and listened to Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop announce Here, the new “location cloud” from Nokia. Unfortunate cloud-branding aside (mapping is, after all, something that almost by definition requires a server-based back-end) Here is a strong, strategic step for the Finnish company. Known mostly for its hardware and, of late, for its struggles to gain market share in the smartphone space against iOS and Android in partnership with Microsoft, Here brings a level of context to location-based services that has been under-served to-date.
Here is the issue I see, however. Nokia is and has for a long time been a hardware company; they’ve done great things with software (though they’ve mostly gained popularity in other parts of the world) but its future is still tied to selling more Lumia handsets. Here has the potential to make this happen, if the marketing of the service and its unique features – unified place discovery through City Lens with high-quality mapping – are sold in such a way so as to drive consumers to the platform over other choices from Apple and Google, especially when the latter has made some pretty big waves with Google Now.
Context matters so much because it allows our devices to approach the nirvana state of being truly “smart” phones. At present, most of our devices’ smarts are orchestrated by the user from disparate apps and tasks. The mere fact that Google Now made big news by taking information that exists on the phone (where I am and where my next calendar meeting is) and automated the presentation of “leave now for your next meeting,” shows just how far we have to go to make our devices truly smart. In the future, acting as virtual wallets, compasses and lenses through which we view the world and the people in it, our smartphones will differentiate themselves by how quickly they can assemble data on the fly, even collect data autonomously, to automate our lives. This is true context, and the participants in this dialogue will be us, people in our social graph and the brands whose marketing we encounter daily. Whichever firm can master this process – and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a mobile handset maker, but it like is – will be the winner of our mobile hearts and minds, at least for a time.
Winning with context means creating great, purpose-built tools for your hardware platform or operating system, but it also means courting developers with open standards to use your device, lastly, it relies on a strong network of developers creating tools that users want. At present, not one, single entity owns all three, most just have one of the aforementioned traits. So, it’s anyone’s guess who will be leading the pack even two years from today in mobile. Who’s your pick to win?
The news is abuzz with research firm Strategy Analytics’ call that the Samsung Galaxy SIII has unseated the iPhone as the world’s most popular smartphone. While this is a great headline and one that I’m sure myself and my peers will be fielding calls about, what’s most interesting to me is the proof point that it represents. The fact that Apple could be unseated from its throne atop all things mobile was hard for many to imagine but, if we look at the numbers, it was bound to happen. The story isn’t just about the most popular device, though, these things are cyclical and are likely to change again in Q4. The story is that we’re starting to change in our preferences on what we expect from our mobile computers, and it’s a sign we’re maturing as users. Read more of this post
Back in January, I penned a post called “The End Of The Mobile Pro Shop,” In it, I conjectured that stand-alone mobile development firms were not likely to continue existing in large numbers. Already at the beginning of this year, we’d seen some acquisitions by large brands and retailers and continued to see mobile assimilated across enterprise software vendors, security firms and still more brands.
I’m not here to tout the accuracy of my predictions. Rather, if early 2012 signaled the death of “app” consultants on every corner – and there are still some very strong players out there – the end of 2012 – beginning of 2013 shows us the emergence of the mobile toolkit. We’re democratizing what it means to be able to “create a mobile experience.” Read more of this post
In the wake of the Samsung/Apple trial verdict the news is crawling with hyperbole about how disruptive the verdict will be to the mobile OS ecosystem, specifically Android’s momentum. Nothing new in the world of tech reporting, of course. In reality, life is long and the sea changes predicted rarely amount to more than surface ripples. Will Android and its ecosystem be affected by the recent pro-Apple verdict in its battle against Samsung? Sure, but I don’t think the results will be nearly as dire as predicted.
Here’s why this isn’t bad news, per se: Read more of this post