09 May

On Reasons Why The Mobile/Wireless Usage Boom is Underway | Part 2

Back in April 2008, around a year after the introduction of the iPhone and Android, I wrote a piece on my blog on the Reasons Why The Mobile/Wireless Usage Boom was Underway, where I introduced the diagram below that highlights the convergence between the mobile lifestyle, advanced handsets and the state of the networks:

Here I argue that such convergence is the basis for the adoption we see today…

But why is that? For years I have focused on “application richness” as a key reason; software that extends and enhances the hardware by providing services and useful utilities, and the richer user experience and functionality the wider the adoption. And for years the topic of native vs. web mobile apps have had continued and while the promise and vision of rich web applications continues to move forward, albeit slowly, native applications have lead the way.

The answer is that (regardless of technology) it is about “monetization” and business models, and mobile is no exception. And that technology is *the* great facilitator to deliver this. After reading Mike Rowehl piece on Opening Up Mobile Monetization, which he wrote in response to John Arne Sæterås’ blog Mobile Web vs. Native Apps. Revisited, I agree that technology and application richness and user experience all by itself are not sufficient, and again, that technology all by itself is just a facilitator, and that business models play a key role.

I’ve to say though, that we have come a long way since I wrote Open ecosystems, closed ecosystems, and the reality of things back in 2006; a post that also refers to another related blog by Mike Rowehl; as you can see, we have been arguing the issue of ecosystems and openness for many years now.

So my diagram above on converge and adoption needs an tweak/update, to include the missing piece that glues it all together — the business models which is the main driver that powers it all.

As I write on My Vision page:

But what has been happening is that three related areas of mobile have been converging over the last decade: 1) the mobile lifestyle where the mobile handset is such a personal social gadget part of our daily lives, 2) the advanced smartphones that provide applications both web and native as never before and 3) the advanced, faster, more reliable and accessible networks that allows for always-on connectivity — all converging closer with business models at the center that promotes a healthy ecosystem.

In this ecosystem we have consumers and we have businesses, some that focuses on creating handsets, others on networks, while others in software services (platforms) and applications. All benefiting — the consumers via improved experiences and businesses via the ecosystem business models. It is this convergence that have enabled the momentum and ecosystem that we are currently seen.

The business models are driven by the ecosystem. And by ecosystem I mean real ecosystems that allows different entities to participate in ways that simplifies trade, the ability to easily author, publish and sell software/applications, on top on other software and infrastructure, benefiting all — the consumer and the “providers”.

The application store showed that the original carrier-based deck was an issue. Even though a business model existed back then, it was flawed. Not a true ecosystem it shows why it was so easy for application stores to lead and show the way. Today the success of application stores is starting to show their weaknesses; thousands and thousands of applications mean finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But discovery today is leaps and bounds better than before; and I am sure better ways to discover will be created.

Back to my convergence diagram vs. adoption above, let’s look at some support data:

On Handset Data Traffic (and Advanced Networks)

Source the Silicon Ally Insider — The above chart shows the consumption of handset data traffic, which correlates to the mobile lifestyle and its relationship to advanced networks behind.

On Advanced Handsets

Source the Silicon Ally Insider — The above chart shows the growth in the adoption of advanced mobile handsets which correlates to the relationship between mobile lifestyle as driver (and relationship) to advanced handsets (and decline of feature-phones).

On Applications (and Business Models)

Source the Silicon Ally Insider — The above chart is about the business model and it shows the growth in the adoption of native applications; see the increase in just one year. This chart shows how the creation of native (rich) applications have increased, in my opinion, thanks to the true ecosystems as allowed by app stores which have facilitated the creation and publishing of applications and the resulting revenues from such software applications economy (business models). Would we see a similar growth once such economy is available for mobile web applications? Or is “application richness” a factor as well? While business models that benefits all in the ecosystem must exist for all this to work, application richness is a secondary factor that certainly drives excitement and adoption.

So It Is Happening

It is great to finally see “the vision” being realized, in large part thanks to Apple and Google who helped shift control and focus into the ecosystem, open systems, the developers and applications. The result has been a tremendous amount of innovation in a relatively short amount of time


05 Nov

On-bill App Store Purchases – finally, an operator leveraging their own infrastructure in new ways, on the new era of app stores

Operators have so much infrastructure already in place and it has taken them so many years to take advantage of it in news ways — to leverage such infrastructure for their own benefit and the benefit of the ecosystem, by repackaging and offering this infrastructure as “open” Services: their payment system, their marketing/reach methods, their customer support systems and other…

Recently T-Mobile announced (PC World) that they will start support for on-bill Android App Market purchases; up to this point the only way to buy applications on the Google App Market has been via Google Checkout.

“T-Mobile will let its subscribers pay for Android applications on their monthly mobile bills starting Nov. 17, also introducing its own section of the Android Marketplace that day.”

These news though, I’m surprised, haven’t made much noise within the developer community yet. This announcement is VERY interesting and important. A number of us, including William Volk (Extremepreneur blog) have been advocating this as an important approach to help simplify the app store application purchase (and/or purchase decision) and as a way to better ‘compete’ with Apple who already have a robust, established, recognized and independent (from operators) billing/payment framework.

For developers, this on-bill purchase/payment support means (in theory) that because the process of buying apps is becoming simpler for subscribers (no registration required, one-click buy) the resistance to buy applications should be less than before, and thus we should see an increase on the number of apps being purchased on Android and thus the Android platform should be more attractive to target since again, in theory, the ROI for it should also increase as a result of the introduced app purchase simplicity.

“Brodman characterized T-Mobile’s billing system as a simple, “one-click” purchase method that doesn’t require the user to give credit-card information or personal credentials. So far, Android users generally have had to use Google Checkout to pay for applications, but Google has said it wants a variety of payment choices for the market.”

Is the fact that there hasn’t been much (positive or negative) reaction to this announcement an indication that on-bill purchases don’t matter? Perhaps it is an indication that this is just a no-brainer and was just expected. Time will tell.

Related to this see The Google App Market – An Analysis (About Mobility).

T-Mobile has taken the first step into this combined billing approach to app stores. This will set a precedence that will not favor Apple. Little by little and over the years, slowly but surely, operators have been understanding (or forced to understand) and have been learning and adapting. This is the only way operators will regain their position and be recognized within the ecosystem in ways that allows then to compete with companies such as Apple and Google — by themselves becoming part of the ecosystem in positive ways. It will take them years still, but they are learning. We have seen the mobile/wireless industry transforming from 1) being operator-centered, 2) to recently becoming ecosystem-centered where the developer community and users and open systems are at the center and where the operator is not viewed as a positive contributor or partner. But if operators adapt well (and time is of essence for them) we will see 3) an ecosystem where the operator becomes a very important ecosystem partner, which is anyways what they always have wanted, to offer services and be recognized beyond a pure pipe.

Apple has iTunes, Google has Checkout and the Operators have a proven robust billing/payment infrastructure (and other infrastructure) already in place for years that now they can extend to app stores. Let’s see if they will take advantage of this new opportunity and let’s see how this will play out.

In conclusion, T-Mobile’s on-bill support will be a great experiment that will help determine if this converged or combined billing/payment approach will be a positive influence on people’s decision to buy mobile applications. Logic dictates that it should…


10 Feb

On Nokia’s App Store Strategy

As you may know, there are rumors of Nokia getting ready to launch their very own app store.

This is an interesting (but necessary) move by Nokia, a company that traditionally has been very careful about not “crossing the line” into their customers (i.e. MNO) territory, as crossing such line creates a love/hate relationship with the customer.

But that is only part of Nokia’s problem. In addition to more aggresively extending their audience (beyond mainly network operators) and how to approach them, Nokia has many platforms and content portals and related strategies to deal with; should those be slimmed-down? Combined?

Nokia Ecosystem

But it is time for Nokia to enter this new competitive world where the weight of the ecosystem is moving beyond the network operators and devices, where (App) Stores are the New Deck, and where the power is shitfing to the consumer (and is powered by the developer community).

And it is about the consumer experience where better ways to find and buy content drives usage and revenue. And it is about the ecosystem. And it is about great integration with the handset (which goes back to the experience) making the discovery and buying of content as easy as making a phone call.

We soon will learn if Nokia will combine or keep separate their existing portals. But to offer the right experience this probably means having separate stores: an App Store, a Music Store, and so on, as the context and the experience for/when discovering/buying music is different from apps, and so on.

A big difference between the Nokia app store and the rest of the app stores is that Nokia’s app store will benefit multiple players beyond the company themself: 1) Nokia of course, 2) the developers of course, 3) the consumers of course, 4) the Symbian Foundation and the Symbian OS, and 5) maybe it event will give Java ME a push forward.


15 Dec

Goodbye 2008 and welcome 2009 and some predictions on mobility

2008 was a very interesting year for me, with both failures and successes and tons of lessons learned. But life is good. 2009 will be a very interesting year for mobility and handsets and applications. An example of this was yesterday when I was on my way to the Orange Partners Conference. The bus driver taking us to the hotel was bragging about his 3G phone and mobile TV – yes the bus driver! And he had no problem paying for both data and mobile TV. Mobility adoption is happening!

So in the spirit of the 2008 end of the year, below are some of my predictions about mobility and 2009:

  1. 2009 will be a great year for smartphones; perhaps it will be the year of the smartphone. The top smartphone handset and software players for the next 5 years will be defined in 2009.
  2. The role of Open Source Software (OSS) will continue to grow within mobile handsets and software. Symbian will go open source. Android is open source. Browsers are open source. Windows Mobile I’m not sure but I won’t be surprised if they go open source as well. Device manufacturers will deliver more sophisticated handsets cheaper due to OSS.
  3. Related to the above, the mobile browser will become commoditized, thanks to open source. A great example of this is the Steel browser for Android which seems to have been developed by a *single* developer leveraging the Web Kit.
  4. On user interfaces and smartphones, touch-screens and gestures and accelerometers will be the rule, not the exception (thank you Apple).
  5. SMS usage/growth will continue and mobile IM usage will remain pretty much flat.
  6. Twitter will come up with a real revenue model and make some revenue. But it will be plagued by the demons of social networking that killed Trutap: “everyone loves social software, but few would pay for it”.
  7. Symbian won’t take off (in 2009). Even in open source, which was a great move, Symbian will remain synonymous to Nokia. Few will try it, but at the end will move to Android. It will take a couple of years to fully realize the new Symbian vision.
  8. The ideal of mobile web having access to local handset functionality won’t be fulfilled yet (to its fullest).
  9. Android will become stronger and stronger with lots of support from all kinds of network providers and device manufacturers, but these vendors will have a difficult time differentiating themselves.
  10. Google will start losing its coolness factor.
  11. Google will introduce a checkout process for its app store, and developers wanting to make money will notice; the Google app store will explode with a large number of applications.
  12. App stores will continue to have its huge effect on mobile apps and distribution. Due to the revenue and fast distribution models offered by iPhone and soon Android app stores, developers will first target such local applications (vs. mobile web). An even larger number of local/native applications will be created and distributed via app stores for Android and iPhone.
  13. The BlackBerry app store will be somewhat successful.
  14. Someone will introduce an app store for mobile web that goes beyond an application catalog. dotMobi will take leadership by going beyond an application catalog but also providinig an associated business/revenue model.
  15. On the Java ME front, 2009 will be a turning point for the platform: MIDP3 vs. CDC + OSGi, JavaFX.
  16. The top smartphone platforms for 2009 will be: iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry (for both mobile web and local apps) in the US. (update: I think I might not be putting enough emphasis on Nokia here and their new handsets).
  17. Location, location, location everywhere in our apps. And end-users will learn to expect it.
  18. MMS will continue to suck (in the US), due to proprietary implementations and lack of interoperability.
  19. Lots of noise with WiMAX and LTE, with a few deployments.
  20. No NFC in 2009.
  21. Network providers will start delivering services of their own on the web (similar to Google services).
  22. Network providers will show their love to widgets, and spend resources on widget-related approaches to applications and user interfaces.

Disclaimer: the above are my personal opinions and are not professional advise for business or personal decisions. 🙂