January 23, 2014 11:31 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
We are squarely in the midst of the golden age of apps, and if you believe some projections from Gartner, it’s only going to continue to grow over the next several years, and as it does we will be interacting with apps on variety of devices beyond our phones and tablets.
For starters Gartner predicts that by 2017 we will have downloaded apps 268 billion times. That seems like a lot, but consider, according to sources as of June last year, we have already downloaded almost 100 billion apps, split fairly even between the Apple App Store and Google Play. And Google reported after Google i/O in May that 2.5 billion apps had been downloaded alone in the previous month.
What’s more Gartner expects that to result in a whopping $77 billion in revenue.
It seems those numbers could be a bit low if you consider that we are very likely going to start seeing apps moving beyond the smartphone and the tablet. We reported last week about Google, Apple and others fighting for access to your car. We’ve already seen apps on the TV and at CES this year, there was more talk of smart ovens and ranges. We’ve already seen intelligent thermostats like Nest, which Google bought last week for $3.2 billion.
And of course there are wearable devices like Google Glass and NikeFuel.
And most of these apps are free, regardless of the device. In fact, Gartner reported that 92 percent of app downloads last year were free. So what is the value proposition for the app developers?
There are a number of them. First of all, apps provide access to your content in a discrete package where you’re the only game in town. On the web, you are competing for the user’s attention and you could argue it’s easier to move away than an app.
You can also make money from inside the app. If you download any game, for example, they are constantly trying to get you to pay real money and get access to features beyond the base package. It’s something that works for a lot of app makers.
But the greatest value in these apps isn’t the ability to get people to buy more, although that’s not so bad either, but in the data you can collect about the user based on the way they interact with that app.
Gartner says brands are beginning to build sophisticated tools around these apps to collect and analyze elements such as “consumer’s demographic data, location, preferences, habits, and even his or her social circle, in some cases.” And Gartner believes this will become even more prevalent as apps move into the home.
It’s worth noting that not everyone including myself his happy about all this data collection, but that’s a matter for another post.
In case you were wondering why Google would pay so much for Nest, that little device will give Google insight into your habits inside your house and you can imagine the value that Google sees in having that kind of data and why they went ahead and scooped up Nest now.
However these companies choose to make money from apps, it’s clear that as Tim O’Reilly once said, “He who has the most data wins.” Apps give companies an easy way to collect data, and if Gartner is right, we’re going to continue to provide that in increasingly large numbers.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of LG Appliances
January 16, 2014 10:27 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
When it comes to mobility, that ability to move with your computing devices, we tend to think of portability, but if this year’s CES is any indication, the next great mobile device is bit heavy to fit in your pocket or backpack. It’s your car.
The biggest news pouring out of CES, earlier this month at the big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas wasn’t some new gizmo or gadget. It was how to connect that gizmo or gadget to your car –or to build traditional cloud apps in a dashboard in your car.
Whether it was Hyundai announcing integration with Google Glass or the iOS and Android moving to integrate with your ride, there was all kinds of news flying out Vegas earlier this month about getting your car into the mobile act.
This makes sense on a certain level. Many of us spend a good part of our day commuting in our cars and it’s logical to want to integrate all of the information we are getting from our phones into our autos. It’s obviously not safe to be messing with your phone while you’re driving (although I see plenty of people doing just that).
If automakers could find a safer way to get us that information while keeping our hands on the wheel and our eyes and attention on the road, that would obviously make driving a lot safer than it is these days. Let’s face it, there are plenty of distracted drivers.
But even the large screen in the dash is itself a distraction that can pull your attention, so that means that we need to be able to interact with apps in a more natural way. That would probably involve using voice commands. Already Chevy and Hyundai have announced Siri Eyes Free, which is a start at least at letting you interact with your phone through the vehicle’s on-board computing system without taking your eyes off the road.
And Siri gives you access to a variety of OS-level commands such as note taking, calendar listings, sending texts and other typing-intensive activities, but I wonder how well it will work in the car with all the background noise available. I find when I use Siri in the quiet of my office, it sometimes gets details wrong and I have to repeat or go back and type in the details. It’s also worth noting that not all the Siri features will be available with the car integration, at least right away.
Android has a similar voice recognition system that could also translate well to the car.
I could see document reading apps to read emails or pdfs and the ability speak notes in the car, making the journey to work part of your work. Some might not see this as a good thing of course, and beyond productivity, you could also communicate with friends and family safely in the car and access your music or eBooks or audio books from your phone to entertain or inform. Life isn’t just about work after all.
What all of these things have in common is that they are using the cloud to deliver the same content and services we typically use our smartphones, tablets and PCs for. It provides a way to expand the cloud beyond the traditional set of devices.
It’s something we are seeing more and more as we use cloud services on media delivery boxes like Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast. We also see it with gadgets like Nike Fuelband and Google Glass.
But sometimes, it’s not about delivering the content and services in a small package. As we’ve seen increasingly we want them everywhere, even the car. And it seems the car companies, cloud vendors and mobile companies are working hard to make that happen.
Photo Credit: vernieman on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.
January 7, 2014 7:35 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
We all know Google gives Android away, and for most of us, when we see a business giving something away, something they could very well make money on, it seems completely counter-intuitive. But Google very likely had a method to its madness when it decided to go this route.
The other day I was reading a post about why the world needs OpenStreetMap. One of the arguments the author made was that with 500 million Android phones in the world, that gave Google access to vast collection of information including your location, which it could leverage in any number of ways.
I’m not here to write about OpenStreetMap, even though I think it’s a great idea for all the reasons in that post, but the author pointed out something that made me realize why Google has given away Android all these years. And that’s because it’s much more valuable for them to have phones in the hands of the maximum number of people possible than it is to make a few bucks every time the phone gets sold.
When Google partners released the first Android phones in 2009, Google couldn’t have know how successful it would be. It only knew that it was a couple of years behind Apple and it needed to catch up quickly. One way to do this was to offer the OS for free.
One thing they knew was that they couldn’t cede the mobile market to Apple and they were desperate to find a way to catch up. The free approach was the way to do it and manufacturers went at with gusto with more than a dozen models in the first year alone. And many more followed.
Companies who use a freemium model have recognized for years the power to scale quickly. I saw Box CEO Aaron Levie speak about this subject in 2010 at the Web 2.0 Expo. As I wrote at the time on Internet Evolution, “They realized they could make money quickly by charging everyone, but they couldn’t grow or scale as quickly as they wanted to using that approach.” They chose free and they took off. It’s worth noting they also have a pay model, but it was the free side that gave them the fast growth they wanted.
Google used a similar model. They gave away the OS in the interest of growing and scaling and it worked giving them a fast foothold in mobile, probably faster and more successful than they ever imagined. Within a couple of years, they blew away Apple in terms of marketshare and pretty much made it impossible for any new-comers to even have a chance.
Once they had the network of phones in place, they could do what Google does best and that’s use all that data from that vast network of phones to their advantage. And as Tim O’Reilly aptly put it in an interview with Forbes in April, 2012, “The guy with the most data wins.”
As I wrote in the Ness Blog about that interview, “These folks who control the big important databases are going to have tremendous leverage when it comes to business, to the extent that O’Reilly sees a future where data could be the source of monopoly power.” In this context knowledge is truly power, and it’s one of the reasons the writer advocating for OpenStreetMap was so adamant about it.
Google now has access to a tremendous cache of data and it can use that data in any number of ways to make money as part of its advertising model or separate from it.
The free OS opened up this tremendous opportunity for Google, one they might not have even realized at the time, thinking only they needed to get into mobile any way they can.
And today, with all that data, they have a tremendous market advantage if they can figure out how to monetize it. All because they gave away their phone OS for nothing.
Photo Credit: trophygeek on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.
December 23, 2013 10:01 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Apple announced a juicy new deal with China Mobile this week, which according to the New York Times, gives them access to a huge new market starting next month.
Apple sold 23 million iPhones in China last year. Android remains the clear favorite, although exact numbers are hard to pin down. It’s fair to say, that low-end Android phones have done extremely well in the Chinese market.
But this deal gives Apple access to a network with 763 million new customers. Of course, the vast majority of these people will continue to buy those attractively priced lower end Android phones, a market where Apple doesn’t care to compete, but even if a small percentage of people were to buy iPhones, that would add up to a huge sales boost for iPhones worldwide.
It’s a popular notion to count out Apple and suggest the company has peaked and is on its way down. Some people have gone so far to suggest that Windows phone could catch Apple at some point, but the tricky part of predicting marketshare numbers is that it’s a moving target as this deal shows.
While Apple has clearly dropped in overall marketshare numbers worldwide according to IDC, it continues to sell phones in impressive numbers, numbers that are even more impressive when you consider Apple could do this as a single company selling just three models, as opposed to hundreds of Android models from a variety of manufacturers from Samsung to HTC to LG and many others
What many people fail to realize when we have a marketshare discussion, it that there isn’t a fixed market pie for smartphones, at least not yet, and there very likely won’t be for years (if ever). This deal gives Apple a foothold in a huge network and that could boost iPhone sales well above 50 million for this quarter, which no matter what you think of Apple, is a rather impressive number.
I think you could easily predict that the new deal with China Mobile could double the number of iPhones sold in China in 2014, and that’s a conservative estimate when you consider that capturing just 10 percent of the China Mobile market could translate into more than 76 million Apple phones being sold.
Apple can never hope to compete with Android in Asia where there are variety of phones at every price point, but what it can do is continue to play its game at the high end of the market. It will never sell in the numbers that Android sells simply because of the sheer number of low-cost options that are available.
But Apple doesn’t need to try and catch Android. It just needs to find ways to continue to sell what it sells at the price it sells and if it can capture even a small piece of that China Mobile Market, it will sell more than enough phones to make impressive profits, even if it doesn’t control the percentage that Android does.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Apple
December 20, 2013 10:18 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
BlackBerry’s current situation seems to lend itself easily to literary metaphors.
- Alas poor BlackBerry, I knew it well.
- BlackBerry is about to go quietly into that good night.
- BlackBerry died today or perhaps it was yesterday.
However you say it, BlackBerry’s disintegration continues unabated –and unfortunately its demise has not been greatly exaggerated.
Today’s front page sad news was a whopping $4.4 billion loss. Oh and to add insult to injury, there was the small matter of a 56 percent drop in revenue. These were the first results under the latest chairman, John Chen, and unfortunately for Mr. Chen, it was a case of second verse, same as the first, and meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Last year at this time, I wrote several predictions for the coming year. The easiest one by far was predicting the end of RIM. RIM is gone in name at least with BlackBerry not too far behind because, a rose by any other name still produced the same results.
BlackBerry or whatever you want to call it, by any other name, is in big, big trouble. It’s hanging on, but barely and it’s only a matter of time before it goes to the big sleep.
As the losses pile up, it’s very like the end of the world as we know it for the handset business, and something tells me that Chen and company don’t feel fine. The various pieces of this company still have value, but its days as a single entity draw ever closer, I’m guessing more than a few employees probably wants to get out of that place if it’s the last thing they ever do. But you have to believe that every breath they take and ever move they make, those employees and long time BlackBerry loyalist will be watching.
Even Superman can’t save this company now, but that didn’t stop CEO Chen from spilling a little ink with hyperbole: “We have accomplished a lot in the past 45 days, but still have significant work ahead of us as we target improved financial performance next year,” Chen was quoted in a statement. All I can say to that is dream on, Mr. Chen. Dream until your dreams come true.
I don’t think many people take any joy in watching this once great company deteriorate in this manner. We all know that BlackBerry coulda been somebody. It coulda been a contender, and for a time it really was the king of the hill until it had a mighty fall from grace.
But time waits for no company, not even BlackBerry and as the end draws nigh, we can only sit back and wonder what might have been.
In the end, the record shows, they took the blows and did it their way –for better or worse.
Do not go gentle, BlackBerry. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. But ultimately for BlackBerry, it may be time to put out the big light because you know, we just can’t stand to see it this way.
Photo Credit: CarbonNYC on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.
December 19, 2013 10:23 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I haven’t taken Microsoft very seriously as a mobile vendor. In fact, last year in my predictions for the coming year –always a tricky and dangerous exercise –I predicted Microsoft Mobile would barely make a dent and Nokia would barely hang on.
I was at least partly wrong on both counts. Microsoft bought Nokia and the two are stronger together than they were apart, and they are gaining market share, albeit slowly. You could even say the future looks brighter than it did last year at this time, although I’m not quite as bullish about Microsoft’s mobile position as Paul Thurrott, who has been writing about all forms of Windows at the Microsoft Supersite for years. He thinks Windows Phone has turned a corner –and could even catch Apple at some point.
That may be a tad optimistic, but as Thurrott pointed out Microsoft is definitely in better shape as we head in 2014, then it was at this time last year. That much is clear, but according to data from IDC and Gartner, Microsoft still has a long way to go in terms of worldwide marketshare before it would ever threaten Apple for second place.
For the third quarter report, Gartner reported that Microsoft had 3.6 percent of worldwide smartphone sales at well ahead of Blackberry’s 1.8, but well behind Android’s 81.9 percent and the next closest milestone, Apple at 12.1 percent. It would take some tremendous good fortune on Microsoft’s part to close that gap between second and third place any time soon.
While IDC publishes shipment details, rather than sales, it had a similar set of numbers for the end of the third quarter with Android at 81 percent, Apple at 12.9 percent, Microsoft at 3.6 percent and BlackBerry at 1.8 percent.
Microsoft lead all marketshare gains with whopping 156 percent year over year increase. Android had 51.3 percent increase and Apple was up 25.6 percent.
The US market though tells an entirely different story. comScore, which measures the total number of subscribers by platform reported for October that Android lead US marketshare with 52.2 percent, followed by Apple with 40.6 percent, BlackBerry with 3.8 percent and Microsoft at 3.2 percent.
All of these numbers suggest that while Microsoft is indeed improving its overall market position, it still mired under 5 percent across the board in the US and worldwide, according to three different companies numbers, measuring three different ways: shipments, sales and subscribers.
Of all those numbers, it’s the US that should worry Microsoft the most because while it may be selling Windows phones in England and Europe and other world markets, it seems to be have little if any traction at home in the US and that represents a substantial market. Just ask Apple, which remains highly popular in the US.
All of this said, Microsoft is showing improvement. People appear to hunger for a third option and with BlackBerry fading, it’s a clear opportunity for Microsoft to at the very least grab all of that marketshare (which it appears to have done worldwide, but to a lesser extent in the US) and then grab some disgruntled iOS and Android users too and push over 5 percent. But before we declare that Microsoft has turned a corner, we really need to see some better numbers than this over a more prolonged time period.
When you have very little marketshare, gaining any at all looks like a big gain in terms of year over year gain, but as you gain marketshare, it’s unrealistic to expect that kind of growth to continue.
That said, is it a step forward? Absolutely, but there is much work to be done and Microsoft needs to find a way to keep this going in 2014 to become a significant player in the smartphone market.
Time will tell if they can take advantage or not.
Photo Credit: Janitors on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.
December 12, 2013 12:29 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
It’s been over 18 years since the launch of Windows 95. Maybe it’s time to move on.
This week a few rumors surfaced about Microsoft. On one hand, they were supposedly bringing back the traditional Start button in the next version of Windows for the desktop whenever that comes along. On the other was an idea was being floated that Microsoft could open source its Windows phone OS in order to compete with Android. If these rumors are true, and it’s hard to know, it suggests that Microsofts lacks a coherent OS strategy –and moving forward it absolutely needs one to stay competitive.
It seems to me that Microsoft was on the right track when it announced what was called Metro. It was going to have one tiled interface to rule them all regardless of device. Whatever you think of Windows 8, and apparently a lot of people don’t like it, Microsoft came up with a semi-coherent strategy for dealing with life on multiple devices.
Of course it didn’t align perfectly. Windows Phone wasn’t quite the same as Windows desktop and there was the whole Windows RT thing on their tablet, which caused confusion in the marketplace, but the idea was to offer an OS with the same look and feel regardless of device.
Are you with me so far?
But what has happened over time is people have complained. First they didn’t like tiles on the desktop without the familiar Start button that has been there since 1995. And Microsoft put one back, but without a Start menu, which kind of defeated the purpose and probably pissed a few people off. Regardless, Microsoft has begun chipping away at this original strategy.
But should they be listening to the unwashed masess…er I mean their long time customers or should they be bold and drag their loyal customers kicking and screaming with them into the future?
I think it has to be the latter. I understand that Microsoft is walking a fine line here, but at some point they have to just trust that the vision they have set forth is the proper one and having a single view (and I mean a single view) across three screens is the way to go
Don’t start giving into the whining now, just rip off the band-aid and eventually the customers will move forward.
Some people have suggested that PC sales are dropping because of Windows 8. Nothing could be further from the truth of course. People haven’t stopped buying PCs in the same numbers as in the past because they don’t like Windows 8. They simply like smartphones and tablets better because these devices are sufficient or better at some tasks than what we used to use a PC for because there wasn’t a better alternative.
It doesn’t help matters that Microsoft lacks leadership at the top as they go through the transition from Steve Ballmer to whomever comes next. They need to fill that void and I hope they get someone with a bold vision and a strong sense of purpose.
What Microsoft can’t afford to do is float around and further confuse the marketplace. We know that there are going to multiple screens for the foreseeable future. Microsoft is clearly on the right track here, whatever you think of the current implementation. They may need to adapt the vision to work better for users, but they can’t go back to Windows 95 because some users can’t evolve.
Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.
November 27, 2013 9:12 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
In spite of BYOD, you still people carrying two phones.
Last week I was at conference when I spied a young woman sitting with two phones in front of her. One was an older BlackBerry and the other was an iPhone. This was a 20-something professional and it seemed an incongruent picture –but the fact is that the two phone strategy still persists, even in the age of BYOD.
I had to ask why she carried two phones and she said it was really about a work/life separation for her. The BlackBerry went into her purse on Friday afternoon and it didn’t come out until the Monday morning commute. This was a young person without children who was drawing a clear bright line between work and her non-work life.
She’s not the only person I’ve heard about who still uses two phones. A friend who worked for a large bank told me he used two phones because he didn’t want the bank to have access to his private information, and the desire for privacy outweighed the inconvenience of carrying two phones.
A third person I met on a plane on a trip to Germany earlier this year. He told me he carried a BlackBerry and an iPhone because his employer, a German financial company wouldn’t allow BYOD and they still used older BlackBerry phones. He carried the iPhone for personal use because he preferred it over the BlackBerry.
As surprised as I was about the two phone approach, what was perhaps even more surprising was the fact that the work phone was still a BlackBerry. As you are no doubt aware, BlackBerry has seen its marketshare plunge over the last 4 years and it has culminated this year in the CEO stepping down, senior executives being let go and the company being put up for sale.
It obviously hasn’t been a happy time for the company, but I still see these stubborn pockets of BlackBerry use in the United States and Europe. So how do we account for this seeming incongruity? On one hand, we see BlackBerry phones, yet they are in dire financial straits.
Partly I think it’s because companies stopped buying BlackBerry phones in large numbers. Most users appear to have older models and without a steady market to lift it up, BlackBerry continues to fall back in the face of stiff, insurmountable competition from iOS and Android devices.
So the BlackBerries we see might be an illusion of marketshare, which measures current sales not how many are still in operation from previous ones. In its latest US marketshare numbers, comScore had BlackBerry at just 3.8 percent.
Yet there are folks like that young woman who continue to use one in spite of the trends to carry a single device that’s not a BlackBerry. You have to wonder as these older BlackBerry phones inevitably break down (as all older electronics do), what people who still use them will get as a replacement, and if that two-phone system will still persist –because for now at least, for many people out there, it still does.
November 25, 2013 6:37 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Wouldn’t it be great if you only needed one device?
Since the day I purchased my first smartphone, I’ve thought of it as the internet in my pocket, but when you think about it, it’s really a computer in your pocket. But what if your phone were actually your computer and you could use it as a phone or a desktop computer.
We’ve heard a lot about the death of the PC lately, which has resulted in some passionate responses from people who think if you don’t have a traditional PC or laptop you simply can’t do real work. I’ve maintained that I’ve created content on smartphones and tablets so I know it can be done, but I acknowledge there are scenarios that require a keyboard and mouse.
I don’t think we necessarily have to live with a Windows/Office dominated world view forever, but I recognize that there are workers who will need PCs long into the future, no matter how much PC sales go down. There will still be usage scenarios that require one, just as there are still organizations out there using mainframe computers. A technology can diminish without going away completely.
The question is will we still need a beige box on our desks with a monitor, keyboard and mouse all hard wired to it?
I’m beginning to think not.
Last week, I was chatting with Scott Megill, who is president and CEO at Coriell Life Sciences. And he pulled out his iPhone 5s and speculated that Apple was missing an opportunity here. He said when you look at the guts of this phone, it has a 64-bit A7 chip under the hood. It’s certainly powerful enough to run many PC-style applications.
Megill wondered why Apple hadn’t figured out a way to harness all that power. He speculated if he had a docking station with a keyboard and decent monitor, the potential was there with the power of that processor to use it as his primary computer –in his pocket on the move and in the docking station when he was in the office.
One simple device to do all his computing. There are probably limitations with iOS, but there are iOS office productivity apps today, even though Microsoft still hasn’t put Office on iOS yet. But if this kind of scenario were to come to pass –and I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t –it would seem if Microsoft wants a piece of this action, it would need to get Office on iOS as quickly as possible.
It’s worth noting that Benjamin Robbins, co-founder at Palador, a mobile consulting firm decided to try this and used a mobile device exclusively for an entire year, but this was more an experiment or proof of concept. And he didn’t use a docking station either. He just used the mobile device.
In Megill’s scenario, he would use the phone most of the time, but it would be connected to a monitor and keyboard/mouse when he had to do work that required input. He reported that at home he uses an iPad and that takes care of most of his computing needs in the house and he doesn’t really need a keyboard. There are only limited times now in his computing life when he needs that PC experience.
Wouldn’t it be great if his phone could give it to him?
(c) Can Stock Photo