Nov 16 2009jamie wells in carnival, Uncategorized
Happy 200th, COTM!
Mobilestance.com is honored to host the 200th Carnival of the Mobilists, the weekly roundup of the very best in mobile writings from across the blogosphere. I really can’t remember the bicentennial of the US (I was five years old at the time… something about tall ships and commerative quarters), so for me this is the real deal! Strike up the band… it’s the Bicentennial Edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists!
We’ve got a trio of entries on Google’s acquisition of AdMob (announced last week). Check out Antoine RJ Wright’s The Relevance of Google Purchasing AdMob & Gizmo5, mjelly’s Why Google got a bargain with the admob acquisition (really, $750MM was a bargin?!?), or Peggy’s Google Buying AdMob: Why They Did It & The Real Impact on Mobile Advertising, Mobile Search. Of the three, Peggy really nails it with a thorough analysis and first rate news gathering – which is why her post is my pick of the week.
On the mCommerce isle, check out Mobile Banking ROI tips from Bank of America from a newcomer to our ranks, David Eads of Mobile Manifesto – a mobile banking and commerce blog. Very thoughtful post to say the least… lots of good info here. Of note, “it took [B of A] 13 months for the first 1 million customers to adopt mobile banking. The second million took 9 months and the third million took 6 months. This represents an acceleration rate of roughly 30%.” Tons more where that lil’ jem came from…
What’s next? Well, prepare yourself for everything you ever wanted to know about of The Digital Divide in Numbers: TVs, PCs, Internet users, Mobile around the world. Can mobile fill the breech? Check it out and decide for yourself. Or, if you haven’t yet had your fill of emerging economy-friendly subject material, browse over to The scarcity of learning sources is contrived, the best stuff is free. Not exactly emerging economy, but hey – I’ve got a theme going, here.
Finally, you might want to read up on why “mobile marketing is stupid, but only for people who make it stupid!” in Don’t Put The Email Shoe on the Mobile Foot. Love that quote, and that title. I also love shoes, pithy puns and mixes metaphors… but those are all topics for another time.
Whelp… that’s all she wrote. A shorty, but a… well, you know. Be sure to catch next week’s carnival over at the Burning the Bacon with Barrett… and as always, to get in on all the hot blog-on-blog action submit your mobile-related stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.
The Carnival is in Town!
The Carnival of the Mobilists, the weekly roundup of the very best in mobile writings from across the blogosphere, is back on Mobilestance.com. As is typical with most summertime carnivals, the heat usually brings out the passion -and this carnival will not disappoint. So enough with the intros… let’s hit it!
There you have it! Be sure to catch next week’s carnival over at the Golden Swamp… and as always, to get in on all the hot blog-on-blog action submit your mobile-related stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.
Jul 26 2009jamie wells in advertising, omd, open source
Since leaving my former position as Director of Mobile at OMD to take on a new role inside Microsoft’s Mobile Advertising group a little over a week ago, many of my agency colleagues have asked for my advice on how mobile can become a center of both excellence and profitability for their respecitve firms. While I’m always happy to dish out ad hoc learnings to anyone with a friendly ear and a pint of Guinness, I thought it would also be valuable for me to share my formal approach to this specific challenge at OMD.
Bringing OMD into a leadership position in the mobile media landscape would be the most formidable challenge of my career, but before I get to it a little backstory is needed. Immediately prior to taking on the OMD gig I had a few weeks of downtime by way of a two week honeymoon cruise in the Baltics. In between the cocktails, Copenhagen and the unmentionables I was also squeezing in a little dork time in the form of some suggested essay readings, mainly focused around the open source software movement. I was immediately struck with the similarities between a large scale software development process and of my own upcoming mission at OMD… and soon there after the approach and resulting action plan below began to take shape.
“Plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Like any good plan, mine was a living document. But while some tactical details may have become casualties of my shifting priorities, the plan’s core principles, objectives, strategies and overall approach remained remarkably true throughout the process. It was these primary processes that made up the heart of my approach to the challenge at hand, and it is this that I mainly wish to share.
The document below contains most of the components of my plan, in the form of a “Statement of Purpose” to senior agency management. While some called it my “Jerry Maguire” moment, and others had fun needling me with “Cathedral”, “Bazaar” and “Sisyphus” references for the following year, I think most will agree that it led to a highly productive period for both the agency and its clients with respect to mobile media. In the following months I also learned that the approach is also not altogether unique, as at least one other media agency (Razorfish) utilizes a similar distributed approach to emerging media, including mobile. That said, I firmly believe in the approach outlined below, and encourage others to experiment with the strategy if faced with similar challenges.
Enjoy… and of course I welcome your feedback!
The Mobile Advertising Bazaar
A Media Agency Blueprint for Monetizing Mobility
While there is widespread agreement that rapid prominence of the mobile device around the globe represents a tremendous long term revenue growth opportunity for digital advertising agencies, to date the vast potential of the channel has gone relatively untapped. While excuses and marketplace misperceptions abound, simply put the inability of our industry to aptly monetize the mobile channel can be best traced to a fundamental failure of organizational philosophy.
This is not to say that agency monetization of mobile channel is not fraught with significant barriers to success -far from it. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the channel can point to any number of seemingly insurmountable challenges in the mobile advertising and marketing sectors: Marketplace fragmentation, lack of standardization, poor infrastructure and limited reach are among the most prominent. Yet it is preciously these challenges that necessitate a vastly different approach to mobile than the flawed models employed by our competitors.
The following pages provide just such an approach, a recommendation set that isolates and circumvents the trappings of previous systems by drawing upon the successes and learnings of industries faced with similar challenges, the sum of which form an agency model for the successful monetization of the mobile channel that scales on a national, regional and global level.
While the barriers for the media agency wishing to successfully monetize the mobile channel are too numerous to quantify in the limited confines of this work, chief among them are the following key challenges – all of which must be overcome if the agency is to activate the channel on behalf of its clients.
Certainly many of the aforementioned issues are inherent in any emerging medium, however one could make a compelling argument that (with respect to mobile) the intensity these challenges has escalated to a scale that dwarfs previous “like” emerging media scenarios; Whether driven by the sheer technical complexity of the channel, global ubiquity or simply soaring investor interest, the frenzy surrounding the emergence of mobile as a marketing medium has inflated these barriers by orders of magnitude beyond what has been previously experienced by most other forms of “new” media.
The Cathedral and the Bazaar
In searching for a model that would satisfy these vast hurdles, inspiration has been drawn from a seemingly dissimilar industry that has faced a very similar set of challenges: The software industry.
As with the mobile marketing and advertising system, the software development process has been similarly stymied by a confluence of like phenomena: competing technical standards, dizzying market fragmentation and inadequate toolsets. Like the marketer, the software engineer also struggles with a complex problem-solving process straddling both creativity and analytics, rooted in real time business objectives, aggressive deadlines, and overarching cost constraints – all driven by multiple objectives and taskmasters.
While challenging on any level, these issues become increasingly prominent when attempting to scale the software development process to meet the accelerating complexity of global software needs. This challenge was most notably documented by Fredrick Brooks in his 1975 breakthrough tome “The Mythical Man Month,” where the author famously identifies the core paradox that has become known as “Brooks’s Law.” Put simply, it follows that in software development, like most “tasks with complex interrelationships… adding more men [to a project]… lengthens, not shortens, the schedule.”
This apparent contradiction is due to escalating internal communication needs and the inability to fully partition the labor demands, as related to the many complex and interrelated tasks that form the process of developing software. Brooks becomes a fierce advocate for what he calls “conceptual identity,” a necessary precondition for successful software development that can only come about by the work of a single mind or a small team of likeminded individuals. Railing against systems designed and developed by large teams or committees, he likens poorly managed software projects resulting “from the separation of design into many tasks done by many men” to “tragically” disjointed European Cathedral designs spawned from construction schedules spanning several generations, where “later builders attempted to ‘improve’ upon the designs of earlier ones.”
Brooks’ approach – that the best way to manage the software development process is to severely restrict the number of persons involved in its design – became the industry’s standard, and was more or less left unchallenged in the software community until the emergence of the open source model in the early 1990’s. In a 1997 landmark essay exploring the open source movement, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” Eric Raymond challenged the notion that complex software systems “needed to be built like Cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation,” and instead promotes a model “resemble[ing] a great bazaar of differing agendas and approaches.”
However, it should be noted that Raymond’s concept of the “great bazaar” should not to be confused with the contemporary notion of “crowd sourcing” or other simplistic “free-for-all” distributed labor models. In his analysis Raymond identifies several specific preconditions necessary for successful implementation of the open source model:
Additionally, Raymond identifies several specific “truths” or “lessons” that further inform the success of the open source model:
As demonstrated in the following pages, Raymond’s “necessary preconditions” and “truths” to the successful open source model can be similarly leveraged to great affect by the agency attempting to activate the mobile channel on behalf of its clients.
Pros and Cons of the Agency “Cathedral Building”
Before delving into the proposed “Agency Mobile Bazaar” model for the monetization of the channel, one must first examine the current system utilized by media agencies to activate the channel in order to identify why the model is failing to meet industry-wide expectations.
As defined by the previous section, it is apparent that “Cathedral Building” remains the near universal agency model for the monetization of the mobile channel. The process basically works as follows: A “mobile expert” (or in very rare cases, a small group of two or three members) is responsible for keeping up to date with the latest movements of the mobile landscape; distributing a highly condensed version of such information (usually in the form of periodic emails and/or a series of “mobile 101” presentations); and consulting with brand teams for the purposes of creating, selling in, and executing mobile advertising/marketing campaigns.
The model has gained widespread acceptance due to the fact that (at least on the surface) it appears to be an efficient use of agency resources. Information related to mobility and mobile advertising/marketing is highly specialized, lending credibility to the application of an “information silo” in the form of the “mobile expert.” Additionally, to date agency revenues related to mobile advertising planning and buying have been nominal at best, significantly restricting the resources available to the agency to put against mobility. Primarily, it is these key concerns that have given rise to the current system: The emergence of the agency “mobile expert” and the resultant “cathedral building” model.
Unfortunately this model clearly fails to meet the core objective of leveraging an expertise in the mobile channel for the benefit agency clients. To begin with, the sheer volume of knowledge needed to consistently and competently “stay abreast” of the mobile space, inclusive of the latest research, leading players, usage cases and toolsets is beyond the capabilities of a single individual to follow, much less communicate to a larger group.
To this add the Sisyphean process of providing “spot” mobile consulting services to a large group of brand teams – all representing a wide range of clients from dissimilar business categories. The term “spot consulting” is used as (unlike the formal consulting process) the consultant must settle for an intermittent, irregular and at best tangential connection to the core goals, brand objectives and strategies as crafted by the client and agency brand team, with little prospects for a more meaningful bond.
The Spot Consulting process typically begins with a brief period whereby the brand team briefs the mobile expert on the particular goals of the campaign or plan, followed by a condensed working period where the Mobile Expert crafts a set of mobile recommendations. It should come as no surprise then that the “spot consultancy” model ultimately yields a consistently low quality of work, as the consultant is operating with severely limited knowledge of the account while operating under appreciable time constraints.
Beyond this, the process is an overwhelmingly inefficient use of agency resources: Brand teams are forced into woefully incomplete yet wastefully redundant internal briefing cycles with the Mobile Expert, while the Mobile Expert spends an inordinate time attempting to “flash learn” account histories, permanently distracted from his or her of core goal of information-gathering and sharing. This affect is of course compounded when attempting to scale the model, which ultimately results in even lower quality work, lost revenue opportunities, staff burnout and turnover.
The Mobile Bazaar Model for Media Agencies
Clearly then a need arises for a scalable agency model for organizational expertise in mobility. The following “Agency Mobile Bazaar” Model draws upon the lessons learned from the open source software development movement by tapping into the primary resource common to all digital media agencies: A large pool of ambitious, digitally-savvy, young marketing professionals.
At its core, the Agency Mobile Bazaar model uses open source software techniques to “de-silo” mobile expertise and executional competency to arrive at the following desired state:
To summarize from previous sections, the successful agency model for the monetization of mobility must effectively meet the following core product-specific challenges: marketplace fragmentation, lack of standardization, poor infrastructure and limited channel reach / low perceived value, and labor-specific challenges: maintaining a level of high quality work/output; preserving a market-leading expertise within the mobile channel; limited resource availability; and scalability across multiple geographic regions, brand teams and client business categories.
Recommendations for the implementation of the Mobile Bazaar Model are summarized in the following table:
Planting Stage. The first stage of implementation may appear to the casual observer as “Cathedral Building” in that the mobile expert is occupied many of the same tasks, such as meeting with account teams to educate them on mobile advertising, and making ad hoc recommendations to their account teams as requested. The key difference is that while certainly all of these activities are important, the primary objective of the planting stage is to build interest in / recruit participants for the “Agency Mobile Bazaar.”
Recruitment can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but in general will leverage the following benefits to the target, who will likely be a junior to mid level member of the digital account team:
The recruitment process will begin in person (with the individual digital client teams) at the “Mobile 101 / State of Mobile” presentation, where the mobile advertising space will be positioned in the most hopeful and exciting of lenses. This is not to say that client teams will be fed “marketplace hype” -quite to the contrary. Client teams will be presented with a realistic outlook of the channel, the potential which will nearly speak for itself (a knowledgeable and charismatic presenter is also a requirement).
Near the end of the “Mobile 101 / State of Mobile” presentation the Mobile Expert will solicit members for this new group of “Agency Mobilists” (working title), the sole “membership” requirement of which will be a genuine interest in mobile marketing –and nothing more. Group Directors may be consulted in advance of the meeting for recommendations on possible “best fits” within their team, as well as for any additional help in recruitment process. The primary goal for the Planting Stage is to recruit one Agency Mobilist per digital account team.
During this phase the Mobile Bazaar community will begin to take shape by a variety of tactics, all of which will rely on decidedly low tech and/or Web 1.0 tactics: Bi-weekly emails of “cool” mobile marketing news, interesting case studies (nothing boring!); and access to key resources such as mobile network reach, targeting and contact information and presentations (shared via access to a shared network partition). Community feedback for this early phase will be passively solicited in the form of manual techniques, such as email. From its earliest possible point, any “official” community correspondence and/or language will be inclusive, supportive and decidedly casual.
Additionally, “spot mobile consultancy sessions” will be still be utilized during this phase to support the client teams, but executed quite differently than previous models, and with two added goals: The passing of mobile expertise, and the forming of community bonds. Whereas in the past the mobile expert would, in perfect “Cathedral Building” style, work up a set of recommendations more or less in isolation from the client team, in the Bazaar model the mobile expert would work directly with the client team’s resident Mobilist, providing insight, support, resources and recommendations, but will refrain from actually building the proposal proper.
By encouraging, reviewing, supervising and supporting (but not actually authoring) the mobile recommendation set, the mobile expert will in affect transfer ownership of the work to the Mobilist, instilling all the pride and satisfaction that comes with possession. If no Mobilist is yet present in the client team in question the consultancy session itself becomes another recruitment opportunity. Ultimately this process – that of planning, selling-in and executing of mobile strategies and campaigns – will be shared with the group via the aforementioned communication channels. Community feedback will be encouraged but never expected, observing Raymond’s rule of self-selected participation.
Cultivation Stage. The intermediate phase of the implementation plan is most prominently marked by a marked upgrade in collaboration tools. Shared network drives and other manual communications channels such as PowerPoint and Excel will be de-emphasized in favor of more effective tools. While the email list will continue to be important, more often than not it will be utilized to point traffic to a relevant internal blog posting or internal wiki article. Information from the legacy formats (such as an Excel database housing data on mobile ad networks, for example) will be transferred to the new, more accessible (and malleable) mediums.
The internal blog, published primarily by the Mobile Expert, will assume the ideological center of the Mobilist community, providing an essential axis for the group and the expression of its personality. Postings will reference / drive traffic to relevant internal wiki articles; highlight any prominent forum chains, internal case studies or ongoing projects; praise good works and humbly revel in the satisfaction and exclusivity of expertise.
That said, the blog is by definition a “one (or few)-to-many” medium, and (even with the ability for users to post comments on existing posts) as such is not a true “community channel,” hence the need for the more robust communication channels such as the wiki, list serve and forum. While early participation in these channels will likely be limited to the Mobile Expert and a small group of like-minded emerging media specialists inside the agency, it is eventually through these channels that greater Mobilist community will begin to share information about working projects, learnings, vendors and other points of interest – soliciting others for help on a particular challenge or simply bragging about the results from a recent campaign.
The legacy Spot Consulting process will gradually give more ground to the “Spot Collaboration” method, where the Mobile Expert’s advice is supplemented by that of the community. As with the previous stage, the Mobilist – not the Community and certainly not the Mobile Expert – will assume an ownership position of any and all mobile campaigns, as the client teams become the driver of mobile activity within the agency. It is expected that the Mobile Expert will be consulting on key clients, but the actual need for his or her services will vary considerably from account to account.
The Mobile Expert can now begin to focus more effort on identifying corporate partnerships and alliances advantageous to the agency, and researching new mobile planning and execution tools as they emerge in the marketplace. To this the leader’s role is to keep the base engaged by continuing to introduce exciting and entertaining innovations from both the corporate level and from the field, promoting any local “mixers” or industry events of interest, and maintaining an inclusive environment where ideas and new thinking are valued. Recruitment efforts will continue but will not be given the same emphasis as in the Planting Stage, as it is expected that organic growth will offset any natural turnover in the system.
Harvest Stage. It is the final stage of the implementation plan where the agency will be able to fully reap the benefits of the Bazaar. At this point the Mobile Expert’s relative contribution to the community will appreciably diminish, as the cooperative spirit of the group increasingly asserts its dominance. The leader will continue to participate in community-building efforts via blogging and other means, but will by no means overshadow the conversation. Mobilist Bazaar itself, via shared knowledge and experience, the will eventually become “the mobile expert” in and of itself, collectively superseding the limited resources that the Mobile Expert can bring to bear on any single project or campaign.
As Mobilists begin to plan and execute mobile advertising campaigns independent of the Mobile Expert, the latter can focus more fully on high-level corporate initiatives. Spot Collaboration activities by the Mobile Expert will no doubt continue on key accounts, but in a greatly reduced volume and at a much higher level – significantly increasing the quality and effectiveness of such recommendations.With this process, Mobile expertise is continually distributed to the client teams, as the model reaches its desired state.
If effectively applied, the open source model can provide a solution to the vexing “chicken and egg” scenario agencies face when attempting monetization of the mobile channel.
In the software industry the model has already produced brilliant and wildly successful software applications such as Apache Web Server, mySQL, Firefox and WordPress – applications built by a community of volunteers that have come to dominate, outperform and/or out-innovate competing products produced by many teams of full time programmers from the likes of Oracle, Sun, and a host of other industry giants.
Likewise, industries such as Medicine, Law and Finance which face a similar set of challenges (high-complexity of tasks, communication failure, poor distribution of labor, and severe time and cost constraints) are also translating the open source model as a scalable solution to meet their seemingly unique needs.As with most successes, the key to ours will ultimately lie in its execution. Beyond the few rudimentary software needs detailed above (the best of which are, ironically, all open-source / free products), the most crucial component that ultimately drives the success of any open source project is the Leader’s ability to fully embody and express the ideals of successful open source community: An egoless enthusiasm for the space, a full-throated transparency of thought and of action, and willingness to value and reward the thinking of others.
It is through the positive expression of these ideals that the community takes shape, grows, and in the end, achieves far more than any individual or formally organized group in terms of the quality and quantity of thought, insight, knowledge and productive work.
May 03 2009jamie wells in AdMob, advertising, android, applications, carnival, iPhone, qr codes, sms, wap
Mobilestance is proud to host the 172nd edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists
For the uninitiated, the Carnival of the Mobilists is a weekly roundup of the very best in mobile writings from across the blogosphere. It’s been over a year since we last hosted the Carnival, and we’re happy to say that it’s still going strong… with over a dozen of posts to choose from we’ve got our work cut out for us, so let’s get started!
iPhone iPhone iPhone. If all the frenzy around last week’s Verizon iPhone rumor mill got you wondering what that might look like check out Why an iPhone Deal with Verizon Wireless Would Be Cool. What’s that? Had enough iPhone hype for one week? Then give a read to The Others: Where Android, Symbian and Limo Are to satisfy your fix of “All Things (not) iPhone.” Proof that there’s life beyond that shinny little game changer from Cupertino. Both are courtesy of Volker on Mobile Entertainment.
App Haps. If monetization of mobile apps turns you on, then head over to About Mobility and check out On Mobile Applications, Platforms and Monetization -“Show me the Money.” A very well thought out piece that really puts the space(s) through the paces. So good in fact, it’s our POST OF THE WEEK. Nice job, CEO – really top shelf!
Allaboutiphone.net does a great job breaking down why barcode scanning is easier on Android than it is on iPhone in Barcode Scanning and Shopping with the iPhone, including some alternative approaches developers have taken to work around limitations in the current iPhone SDK. Hopefully things will change with the release of the “new batch of iPhone goodies” heavily rumored to come out this June/July?
Finally, Wild Illusions lays down some quality coverage of the medical App and services landscape in Mobile Pearls vol. IV: Mobile Healthcare Edition. This sector is about to explode with the release of iPhone 3.0 this summer and its support of external hardware, so a very timely post to be sure.
Mobile Marketing & Advertising. Over at London Calling: the Mobile Advertising Blog you’ll find a mobile marketing cautionary tale worth reading, or – why marketers need to REALLY pay attention to privacy in mobile, and not just give it the lip service that usually passes for “privacy concerns” in other digital channels. Consequently, it’s experiences like what’s described in this post that have informed my decision to never do business with SMS list brokers, regardless of what they tell me of of double, triple or even quadruple opt-in. Sorry list-brokers, not only do I just don’t believe you, but all that opt-in language largely misses the point that consumers aren’t ready for most mobile push tactics, period.
A pair of posts on those aggregators of mobile ad inventory many seem to love to hate (myself not included!). Mjelly has a nice post on The Rise of Mobile Network Aggregators, while Mobile Broadband Blog makes some good points in iPhone – a Boon to AdMob.
Mobile Web. Open Gardens publishes a piece on Harnessing Digital Footprints – the Dark Side of Web 2.o, while Dennis at over at WapReview posted a terrific review of dot mobi’s WordPress plug-in for mobilizing WP blogs. The Dot Mobi WP plug-in looks fab and I can’t wait to try it out (mobilestance is also a WordPress site)… although if it means updating my WP I might have to pass.
Handsets and Hardware. Only one post this week on the hardware side of the house, but it’s a real gem in “From MotoLozr to MotoRcvr via MotoTxtr: How to Prevent the Slo-Mo Suicide of Moto the Grand” from Communities Dominate Brands. In this age of commonplace bankrupcies of iconic American brands like Chrysler and Citibank, this is a very well thought out, well written and poignant piece on the OEM so close to our hearts. Our RUNNER UP FOR POST OF THE WEEK, and just by a hair!
Data & Resources. Anyone in need of a place to start in mobile SEO should check out The Place to Be: Mobile Search Engines and Portals Where You Should Register Your Site, while Little Springs Design gives a great update in Inspiring Articles in Mobile Design.
Chetan Sharma drops a new version of the thoroughly comprehensive Global Wireless Data Update. Everything you always wanted to know about ARPU, but were afraid to ask! Speaking of comprehensive… Ubiquitous Thoughts, in “It’s Been a Busy Time for Mobile Learning, but a Good Time,” pulls together a ton of great resources for those in the Mobile Learning space.
So there you have it. Carnival #172 in all it’s glory. A shout out to next week’s carnival host, RadVision VoIP Survivor… and as always, to get in on all the hot blog-on-blog action submit your mobile-related stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.
Apr 18 2009jamie wells in android, apple, applications, blackberry, iPhone, microsoft
What are the odds that Blackberry App World will emerge as strong player in the App Space?
It is us, or did the big news out of last month’s CTIA (i.e. RIM’s announcement of Blackberry App World) didn’t really get much attention? Instead, what we heard most was a great collective gnashing of teeth over the absence of new Android handsets, and of course everyone and their mother getting all lathered up over something iPhone-related.
Could this be the moment when Blackberry became irrelevant? The moment when we’ll all look back and say, “Yep kids… before we had the iThisOrThat, we all had these funny little Blackberry dodads… they had these pesky scroll wheels and track balls and we pecked email out with our thumbs.” Perhaps so. Here at mobilestance, however, we think the ‘Berry’s not going anywhere, anytime soon… and that their “App World” is an important development that deserves its proper due.
That said, with competition in the Smartphone space getting so fierce, so fast, we thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and attempt to forecast whether App World has real legs or not. Our system uses a “thumb scale” of one to five thumbs (OK, the thumb metaphor breaks down a bit when we get to five thumbs, but who cares? We can have five thumbs, can’t we?).
The Experience (weak thumbs-up: 3/5). App World’s failings, when compared to the Apple App Store, have been well covered elsewhere, but the long and the short of it is that while App World isn’t half as slick, robust or easy to use as Apple’s App Store, it does the job well enough to satisfy your average user. Entertainment-starved BBery users are voting with their thumbs, downloading apps such as the ClearChannel iheartradio app over 257,756 times in two short weeks time – a positive sign to be sure.
Developers, developers, developers (strong thumbs-down: 1/5). Developing for Blackberry has always been a less than ideal experience. In addition to universally-panned, couldn’t be more cumbersome developer tools, RIM has a certification process akin to the old BREW system or Carrier model. Sure… once your in, you’re in – and access to those sweet device API’s must be fantastic (seamless add-to-cal, push notification, etc), but having to jump thru hoops just to be an “approved developer” is a little much… in light of *ahem* – much more open platforms… and especially since nowadays Android and Apple can match most of what RIM is offering in terms of API integration (except that pesky calendar integration – Cupertino, are you listening!?!).
Pricing (weak thumbs-down: 2/5). I’m sorry, but anyone who’s taken Economics 101 can tell you that artificial price floors like what RIM is doing with the $2.99 floor for paid downloads only serve to deflate consumption, clumsily pushing the market off the organic price/demand curve. Yes, yes… we are aware of the argument that $0.99 iPhone app downloads have eroded the value of mobile applications to the point where the paid model is no longer viable. To that we would say, “Come on! How much is iFart really worth (to users)? Let the developers charge what they want, already. Consumers will pay more for the good stuff.”
User Base (thumbs-up: 4/5). In terms of scale, Blackberry’s clearly got the edge over Apple and Android here (I’m ignoring the Nokia app store for now, because… well, mobilestance is published in the US, and let’s face it… ignoring Nokia is what Americans do). Even though BBery users need to be running version 4.2 or higher to use App World, that’s still a lot of Bolds, Storms (both come preloaded with the new OS), as well as those with relatively newer models that can handle the firmware upgrade.
On-device Competition (Strong Thumbs-up: 5/5). The dark horse in all of this, and the primary reason why I believe App World will be relatively successful right out of the gate, is the simple fact that the Blackberry default browser is just terrible… and that our assumption is that Blackberry users will jump at the chance to have ANY positive on-device experience with the brands they love – and this means downloading applications from App World. Comparatively speaking, Blackberry apps are simply MUCH better than the comparable browsing experience, far more so than on any other smartphone platform (and I’m including Microsoft here). Quite simply, for many Blackberry users browsing is so poor an experience that (relatively) few bother with it at all.
Final score: (Weak thumbs-up / 3 out of 5 “thumbs”) . So there you have it. When you average it all together our quick and dirty handicap on whether App World will be successful is a somewhat lukewarm “yes.” Not exactly a contender, but a long term player that deserves our attention, and respect.
Now… anyone want to take a stab at the over/under for total downloads in the first six months? Medialets? Pinch? comScore? I’m looking at you, Eric.
Mar 02 2009jamie wells in android, apple, google, htc, iPhone, palm
Does the mere presence of Google’s HTML5 Apps Cast Doubt on Their Commitment to a Robust Android App Environment? Short answer – it depends… or so it would seem, as Google expresses a desire to move to the cloud, but is held back by poor web app performance versus locally hosted software. But for how long?
Google’s recent demo of their slick HTML5 version of Gmail, which was shown running on a Palm Pre at Mobile World Congress a little over a week ago, wowed onlookers with its native app-like functionality, particularly with respect to its ability to allow users to draft and organize emails while offline. Google accomplished these feats by taking advantage of the local databasing, geolocation and “AppCashe” functionality of the new, HTML5-based Webkit browsers, like those found on the upcoming, Palm Pre. Both the Apple iPhone and Android-based HTC G1 and G2 “Magic” handsets also incorporate Webkit browsers.
This demo of the HTML5 version of Gmail seems so good, so solid, robust and scalable, that one has to wonder if the conspiracy theory half-heartily put forth in our last post (i.e. Google encouraging Android OS fragmentation among device OEMs to favor web-based apps over locally hosted solutions) has any real merit. While undoubtedly interesting in its salaciousness (after all, who among us doesn’t enjoy a good Google conspiracy theory from time to time?), the theory seemed a bit flimsy… until Google’s recent HTML5 web app demo.
Ultimately, the question is if Google is truly committed to fostering a stable, robust Android development environment or is the Android SDK merely a stopgap measure for the search giant, until such time as most major application functionality can be migrated into the browser? At a recent Android Developer meetup I had the chance to ask Google Product VP Bradley Horowitz this very question.
Throughout the event Horowitz habitually brushed aside specific questions about the future of Android by steadfastedly emphasizing his lack of his direct oversight or visibility into the OS’s development roadmap. His perspective, however, did seem to change somewhat when asked about Google’s plans to eventually abandon a focus on native Android apps as soon as Browser-based solutions were up to the task.
For the record, Horowitz startlingly confirmed that “the end goal” for Google would be that “Webkit would swallow up” all the rich functionality which now can only be accomplished by native apps. Horowitz went on to express “frustration [that] even in desktop apps” there’s a performance hit when migrating app functionality to the browser, although one might argue that with respect to the mobile devices, with their limited processing power and available memory, that the performance difference between the two might not be so great… and the “uber” web app might just be the silver bullet we’ve all been waiting for. Ultimately, Horowitz hedged a bit in his closing remarks, stating that both web apps and the local Android SDK might align on parallel paths in pursuit of richer, more functional and higher performing solutions.
Weird stuff. One has to wonder if all the paranoia isn’t starting to make just a too much sense. Stay close to mobilestance.com for more on this and other popular conspiracy theories… Next week we’ll take a deeper dive into Sasquatch sitings at Area 51 (“couldn’t be a man in a gorilla suit, no f*ing way man you know he’s real”).
Jan 31 2009jamie wells in android, apple, at&t, google, htc, iPhone, microsoft, motorola, samsung, security, t-mobile
What’s Behind What Some View as Android’s Growing List of Self-Inflected Problems. Conspiracy? Complacency? Or Raw Genius At Work?
At first glance, it might appear that things are going pretty well for Android. The free-to-license mobile OS has quickly become popular among many cash strapped mobile OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Heavyweights such as Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola, along with handset newcomers Garmin and even Dell (hold for laughter) have all announced plans to develop handsets for the Google-run platform.
Supposedly, T-Mobile even managed to sell roughly one million Android-powered HTC G1’s last quarter… a respectable, yet not exactly iPhone-worthy performance (but to be fair, Apple and AT&T set an impossibly high standard with iPhone 3G, accomplishing in three days what Android did in three months – who knew AT&T would deliver on their promise of “Raising the Bar” so literally!).
Yet a quick peek below the surface reveals a conflicting scenario emerging for everyone’s favorite “Little (open-source) engine that could.” Depending on your point of view, the OS is either plagued with systemic flaws, or designed with a profound sense of Machiavellian perfection. The exceedingly real threat of viruses, worms and other forms of malware, combined with a system seemingly “design to fragment” (read: seriously frustrate application developers) leaves one wondering if (as the conventional wisdom would have you believe) that Android’s model scales so well, and its backers so powerful and smart, that it can’t fail to become a serious contender over the long term… or what we’re really looking at is nothing more than “Yet Another (seriously flawed) Google Beta Product.”
The issue of Android’s well-publicized “open door” security policy reared its pathogenic head again last week in the form of an all-out malware scare, and although the jury’s still out on whether or not the now infamous “MemoryUp” application did (as was accused) take over a user’s mobile, spam out its contacts and wipe its memory, or is just (as was suspected by cooler heads), merely a poorly designed, near universally-panned app… the frightening fact remains that the only thing standing between us and just such a dark reality is the relatively low profile group known as the Android Security Team.
Unfortunately for Android users, this team (of which whose public presence appears to consist entirely of one message board post dated August 18, 2008) seems to operate in a decidedly passive capacity: rather than vigilantly seeking and tracking down security flaws wherever they might appear in the system, the model works more like a ticket-based complaint counter, addressing user-submitted security threats when (and only when) the Goog Squad is alerted to their presence by the public. It would be as if the local police force was replaced by an automated 911 system (and we all know how efficient that system can be). While it wouldn’t be 100% accurate to say that “no one’s minding the Android App store” (er, market) – there’s far more truth in that statement than many are willing to admit.
Moving on, the other significant issue facing the Android system – that of the looming threat of OS fragmentation – has (unsurprisingly) garnered scant attention in the trade press. I say “unsurprisingly” as so far the threat of OS fragmentation is fairly complex and has yet to be an issue as, with only one Android handset on the marketplace (so far) – the HTC G1 – there just isn’t that much of a marketplace to fragment. That said, this issue seems to have some real legs, not to mention real intrigue, and is, in our opinion, very likely to seriously impede Android application development over the long term.
Before we get into all the wide-eyed intrigue and half-baked conspiracy theories, a little background information on the subject of OS fragmentation is in order. At its core, the issue revolves around the fact that Android, as an open source software platform, freely publishes its source code to the world under the general assumption that under “the eyes of the world’s” constant viewing, tinkering, and deploying – the software will ultimately become more robust, stable and efficient than any system created and maintained by a finite number of (paid) employees. As is the case with a great many subjects, the devil is in the details. It seems that when Google formally launched the Android project back in late 2007, it chose the to advocate a licensing model (Apache) whereby third parties could maintain private ownership over any modifications made to Android’s publicly-available source code, and would not be compelled (as in other open source licensing models) to turn over said software modifications or enhancements back “to the public domain” – so that (among other reasons) these modifications could (potentially) be incorporated into future versions of the software… thereby making the whole system more unified, and less “fragmented.”
So here’s where things can really get messy. As said, mobile handset manufactures designing smartphones are turning to Android in large numbers, driven mainly by its price point (free), as well as its many innovative design features. That said, not all of these “Android” devices will be running the same version of Android, as handset manufactures will be under extreme pressure to modify Android in order to maximize the performance of the particular hardware components making up each of their individual handset models. This means that Android developers will soon have to create multiple versions of each Android application they develop in order to insure that their apps will run correctly on each “version” of Android in the marketplace (i.e. all the different handsets running “Android”). This time-consuming and labor-intensive process, known to overworked software developers the world over as “porting,” significantly drives up the cost of software development. Ultimately, Android developers will need to limit the number of Android handsets they can support as simply a matter of cost/benefit. This well-known problem has been identified as one of the primary barriers that has held up mobile software development to date, as the current crop of Java, Symbian and BREW feature phones are simply fragmented beyond belief.
We’ve already seen the beginnings of fragmentation in the Android system, as differences in handset specifications play out over the various geographic regions – and with the sheer number of players about to enter the space in the coming year this issue is bound to accelerate dramatically. That said, it is inevitable that that this scenario will negatively impact the development of innovative, new applications for Android over the short term. The only real question is to what extent will Android innovation be stymied?
What makes this issue to interesting to many is that, due to advocating the Apache licensing model for Android, Google seems to be actively encouraging Android fragmentation. Ironically, this apparent paradox was first identified by Sanjay Jha, Chief Operating Officer of Qualcomm’s chipset division (ironic in that Qualcomm is one of the founding members of the Open Handset Alliance and the Android initiative!) who, in a Register story that emerged out of last Spring’s CTIA conference, was quoted as saying that “Google wants fragmentation in the [mobile] industry.”
Here’s where the conspiracy theories start kicking into overdrive. Keeping all of this in mind, some have speculated that – in a thinly veiled strategy against its old desktop rivals (Microsoft), Google would potentially benefit from Android fragmentation in that it would be prohibitively expensive for any one developer to dominate any fragmented system with a mainstay-like platform such as Microsoft Outlook or Office, both “heavy clients” that rely on sophisticated software applications running on the device’s (local) hardware (e.g. the desktop PC, or the mobile handset). A fragmented system would ultimately favor companies like Google that favor thin client / “cloud computing” models (e.g. Gmail and Google Docs), where all the application’s heavy lifting is done on the server side (via the network), rather than on the client side (i.e. the mobile handset) – in this case the actual applications on the client/handset side usually reside in nothing more than a decent web browser. All of this poses a very intriguing question: Could Google be subtly sabotaging device-side Android application development in favor of its browser-based / thin-client model?
Bringing this post full-circle, it is possible that both these two issues (fragmentation and security) may cancel each other out, sort of… again, ultimately resolving in Google’s favor. The theory goes a little like this: The folks that write software viruses, worms and other such programs do so primarily for the notoriety that comes with affecting many systems/users all at once – either with benign or malicious intent. Platforms that don’t scale simply are unappealing to most virus writers. Similar to the natural virus protection afforded by using a niche desktop system such as a Macintosh (sorry guys, I love ya but you’re still using what I would consider a niche product), few developers will waste their time writing a virus that only affects a (relatively) small number of people, when they can get better “bang for the buck” elsewhere. The same forces that make it prohibitively expensive for (most) application developers to support a wide range of devices in a fragmented system will also similarly affect virus writers. In affect, by encouraging fragmentation, Google could be enhancing Android security while simultaneously crippling many of its former rivals in the desktop space (or is this giving Google just a little too much credit?).
Thoughts? If you have an opinion, share it… as there’s nothing like a good conspiracy to spice up the industry some!
Jan 30 2009jamie wells in carnival
Check out the best and brightest in mobile posts from across the blogosphere, read up on Google Latitude, an overview on cloud computing, a preview of MWC ’09 and so much more!
Go check out Carnival #160 Today!
As always… to get in on all the hot blog-on-blog action, submit your mobile-related stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.
Jan 04 2009jamie wells in advertising, android, apple, at&t, comcast, google, intel, iPhone, JumpTap, millennial media, mms, mobile search, mobile video, sprint, verizon, wimax, yahoo
Peer into Mobilestance’s Proprietary Crystal Ball!
Well it’s that time of year again… when pundits and publishers large and small exploit the slow end-of-year news cycle to recap the old and forecast the new. Here at mobilestance it’s a extra-special time of year… as it was nearly one year ago when we formally “came out” of beta with our 2007 Recap piece and spammed it out to our publisher’s 3,000 + email address book. Ahh… memories!
This year, rather than spend the next thousand words rehashing what was undoubtedly the most exciting year in mobile since the advent of the crazy frog ringtone, we decided instead to take the easy way out and peer ahead to future… casting our lot into a sea of like-minded posts from across the blogosphere.
So what will occur in 2009 at the intersection of Mobile and Marketing? Will location become (as Dan @ Organic so eloquently put it in a recent Facebook status) “just another input”? Will MMS finally become interoperable between carriers and ShortCodes, and finally emerge as a realistic marketing vehicle? Will a wave of consolidation sweep the industry, as smaller independent mobile agencies, technology vendors and ad networks become casualties of the “great recession”? Will newly legislated digital privacy-controls arrive just in time to kill the mobile web? And of course the big question on everyone’s minds: Will mobile finally jump from the backwater of marketing budgets known as “emerging,” grow some legs, ditch the tail, and finally walk upon solid (budgetary) ground?
So read on then, fearless time shifters… and arm yourself for the ensuing complexities that will envelope our fledgling industry in the coming year!
Mobilestance’s Top 10 Mobile Marketing Predictions for 2009
Well folks… there you have it – our top 10 predictions for 2009. Feel free to leave a comment if you feel we’ve missed something… or if you just want to throw some gasoline on the fire… and check back with us throughout the year as we continue to chronicle this thing we call Mobile.