Friday, May 28, 2010

Open Mobile Summit Day 2 -May 27th

By Andrew Till
Day 2 of the Open Mobile Summit continued to stimulate much industry debate. At the heart of much of the discussion was “will the web win over apps?”. For this author this was largely a mute question as the key issue is rather how does the industry help developers create, publish, and be discovered. So while the debate raged on with almost religious intensity at times the key takeaway message was give developers great tools and let them worry about what the right approach is based on the experience they want to deliver.

There was also a lot of debate about “how low can Smartphones go”. It’s clear that Smartphone are poised for rapid growth over the next 5 years not only in established Western European markets but on a global stage. There was much excitement about the prospect of true low cost mass market handsets running Android and Symbian reaching consumers hands in the second half of the year. Orange shared some interesting data such as their expectation that by the end of the year 50%, yes 50%, of new handset they buy will be running a Smartphone OS.

Nokia showed that they are far from giving up their leadership of the mobile market. During a keynote presentation they shared some compelling data about the growth of the OVI platform (now hitting 1.75m downloads of applications and content per day), the uptake of their new mobile maps strategy (11M users of Drive and Walk) and a very interesting insight to the emerging markets where they have 1.5M paying users of Nokia Life Tools. As you would expect Nokia also hit on its new handset offerings such as its first Symbian 3 handset the N8 and also announced that MeeGo release 1 is now available for download.
There was much discussion of the role of tablets moving forwards. Clearly the iPad has got off to a flying start and many, including CCS’s Ben Wood, openly stated that it was outperforming their expectations. Indeed Ben went so far as to say it would own 80% of the tablet market. Aside from agreeing that tablets are set for higher levels of success than expected there was also a lot of focus on the usage model. Clearly publishers like this new format for delivering real time content to a device where it is easy to consume print as well as new multimedia formats. However others believe that Tablets will become a “device for updating Facebook while watching TV”. Regardless of the usage model it’s now clear that Tablets will find their own niche in the market and will also force the industry to think anew about how to enable consumers to take content and experiences across the rapidly growing range of format factors.

There we also some great presentations on the role of User Experience design from companies such as Frog Design and TAT- The Astonishing Tribe. Clearly they are enjoying the new world of open platforms and have the shackles removed from their creativity. IF half of the concepts shown come to market that this is going to be one amazing industry to be part of. Interactive applications that have the intelligence to help you find and share content with friends, boundless usages of Augmented Reality, a significantly reduced number of clicks – at this point I have to give great credit to the presentor from TAT who managed to overcome IT issues saying "Click" every time he wanted to change slides while talking about reducing the number of clicks. It turned out to be a great way to deliver the message – instant recognition of people and places with the ability to immediately interact with friends around the media and as you would expect all wrapped up in mouth watering eye candy and delivered on a wide range of new device form factors.

So all in all a very insightful two days covering many of the key issues in our industry and as I look in to my crystal ball I am looking forward to
· Much faster connectivity much sooner than expected
· No limitations on creativity
· More development options with enhanced, HMTL 5 enabled, browsers
· Ever more gorgeous user experiences
· Ever increasing levels of competition – driving innovation
· A better focus on making applications and content stores work for developers

Now I think I need to go and write a new Christmas list!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Open Mobile Summit London 2010 Day 1 - May 26

By Andrew Till

Today the Open Mobile Summit returned to London to serve as a platform for the Great and Good to come together to debate, evangelise and predict what will happen in the coming years in this wonderful industry we live in.

So let’s get down to details and look at the key themes that emerged from day 1

Everyone is obsessed with Apple. Despite no one from Apple being at the event the major of first half of the day was spent talking about Apple and its impact on the market. While some like to paint Apple as a villain of the peace some key data points emerged such as “the best apps live for 2-3 months in the top 25 list and sell 400-500k copies a month”. As this author pointed out in his questioning of the first panel session why not focus on learning how to replicate this as I am sure there are a lot of developers that would love to suffer this type of ill treatment! For sure all is not perfect with iTunes but Apple seems to have a strong, and from a quality perspective, self regulating model that proves you can make money in mobile apps.

There was also a discussion around the business case of the mobile Internet for network operators. With overloaded networks and the cost of deploying new high speed infrastructure has the Internet become a curse for network operators? Thankfully the conclusion was now with new air interfaces such as HSxPA+, LTE and LTE Advanced (side note to industry; please hire some better naming people!) viewed as delivering more cost effective solutions that previous platforms and hence the economics will stack up to support broad market deployments. We also, thankfully, appear to be moving beyond the concept of the “mobile internet” being some-how separate from the "Internet”. Hopefully this time next year we will only talk about the “Internet” as it becomes clear to all that for most consumers this is how they view the world.

Consumer adoption of mobile services continues apace. Orange shared an interesting data point that underlines this with 25% of their user base now regularly accessing the internet from their mobile device – up from 10% only a year ago. T-Mobile spoke about their research findings that users of Facebook on their handset use the service 2X the level of people who only access it from their PC. This is perhaps the most insight comment of the day showing that people not only use the services but it has a broader impact on their overall behaviour and interaction levels.

Interesting Qualcomm also highlight that there is still a lot of life left in voice. Something that I believe is very true indeed. This also stimulated some interesting feedback for the operators in the room from some of their higher spending customer about the quality of service currently being delivered. Another talking point was around the statement that the next 1B mobile subscribers will come from Africa, China and India. This has significant implications for developers as these consumers will bring different experiences to mobile with many have their first taste of the Internet via their mobile device. It also suggests that price points will also need to be different and so will the way that applications are purchased with many of these consumers not having traditional bank accounts. So while it will be a challenge it will also lead to many new innovations for the industry.

Richard Windsor of Nomura delivered perhaps the most challenging presentation of the day showing how the new market dynamics are playing out and cutting through much of the hype to deliver a few key home truths such as:

  • Today the closed systems are the ones making the real money.
  • Developers typically go where the money is and right now they are going to Apple and-Android.
  • Apple is successful because it focuses on selling the hardware and is not too worried about making money directly from iTunes and the Apps store.
  • Simple experiences well executed sell – poor ones executed badly do not.

Finally there was also a great discussion around content with a host of the leading publishers in mobile on a panel session. While the industry frets about fragmentation and multiple platforms it seems that if publishers can make money then, at least for now, they are not too worried about mobile being overly complex.

So key takeaway’s from day one

- Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) applies as much in mobile as it does anywhere else.

- Expect to see 3G+ / 4Grolling out in the near future as operators make the economics work.

- Still too much time spent talking about Apple rather than bring equally compelling experiences to market.

- Developers and publishers can and are making money in mobile – even if it is a little too complex in some areas.

Overall a great day – already looking forward to day 2. !!

Friday, May 21, 2010

GOOGLE I/O 2nd day of good news -May 20th

By Robert Kempf

Android everywhere today (and quite some statements directed towards Apple of who is leading innovation and why being open is better)…

The Keynote announced the new Froyo release with the long expected Flash 10.1 support and an associated Flash/AIR beta release from Adobe as well as quite some very useful improvements of the Android feature set including tethering, Wifi hotspot functionality, 3x-5x application performance improvement through JIT, applications on SD card support and many more including the claim for the now worlds fastest browser.

Very exciting was one feature though which clearly shows a connected world with Android supporting over-the-air application installation. Now it is possible to browse the Android Marketplace on your PC and directly install applications to your phone or to share your music library. Quite compelling, but don’t forget to log-out at home when you leave, because someone could have fun remote controlling your phone from the PC ;-)

Also the new remote music streaming functionality is quite cool and facilitated through the acquisition of Simplify Media by Google earlier. Now you can stream your iTunes library directly to your Android phone. Although this seems quite similar to a normal uPNP music streaming service in an IP network it still is innovative. The issue will be the assumed permanent connectivity and associated demand for bandwidth though. Also need to check whether you need to have your PC permanently online now or whether the content is replicated to a streaming service in the cloud. So let’s have a closer look at usability of this feature in real life.

GoogleTV was the second big topic of the Keynote centered around the message that finally the best from both worlds – the classical TV world and the open global Web – is integrated into a new user experience. This announcement was expected given the number of articles over the last few months speculating about an Intel, Logitech and Google working together on such a concept. In fact the concept of GoogleTV is very compelling and something I long awaited. Many of you will know sitting in your living room with the laptop in your hands and the TV on – this won’t be the case in the future… Watching TV, searching related information, one click recording of streams and much more will be facilitated by GoogleTV including the support for Android and Chrome marketplace applications.

It was remarkable to see that Eric Schmidt was emphasizing the importance of partnerships to realize this and that the CEOs of Intel, Sony, Logitech, DishNetwork, BestBuy, Adobe and Google were promoting the concept. The live demo did not work well due to quite many issues with connectivity and similar and showed clearly that there is still much work to do, but I am sure that within 6 months we will see the first lead devices on market.

So much on the Keynote. My slight disappointment on missing “breaking news” has gone and I am looking forward to be one of the beta testers of Froyo and GoogleTV ;-)

Another surprise was the present every participant got today – a HTC Sprint EVO 4G device… Thank you SPRINT, HTC and Google for that, but unfortunately there is no CDMA nor WiMAX Network in Germany ;-)

I was also positively surprised about the technical sessions which were much more deep dive than on Day I. We also had many laughs at the fireside chat with the Google Android team – always something to enjoy.

If you have the chance to join Google I/O next year, you should definitely do so. This event is always inspiring, a good place to meet people and also to get some more insight into where Google is heading… Cant wait!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1st day of Google I/O -May 19th

By Robert Kempf
How long have I been looking forward to Google I/O 2010, expecting a firework of new exciting announcements as during last years event. Now the time has come and today was the first day of Google I/O with a Keynote speech which was interesting but missing any groundbreaking news.
The focus was on HTML 5 which is now becoming widely adopted by all major browsers (sadly IE was not beyond them for full support) and that support is not any longer a problem but an area of innovation given that VP8 will be fully open sourced under the WebM project. Now we finally have a web video format which is optimized in terms of performance, footprint and low-bandwidth requirements. The rumours that this will happen after the On2 acquisition by Google has been circling around for a while now.
Also an update on the importance and possibilities with regards to Web applications, the launch of the Chrome App Store, news on Google WAVE and GWT/VMWare integration projects were all part of the Keynote.

All in all very interesting, but a lot of topics and nothing game changing as yet.There have been excellent technical sessions like the one on “Writing Real-Time Games for Android Redux” as well as a couple of very poor ones (won’t state which). A real highlight was seeing such a large community of enthusiastic developers and innovative presentations in the Developer Sandbox area which was MUCH larger than last year.

I really enjoyed Day 1 and met quite a few buddies though I expected a bit more in the way of “surprises”. We heard that Day 2 will be bringing some of these big surprises – looking forward to it ;-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where mobile meets media….the end of the beginning? -May 12th

By Dan Jelfs

Dimitry Shaprio’s April 29th blog about video being the killer app got me thinking about media and what media companies do in the mobile space. Mainstream media companies appear to be facing many challenges, with declining advertising revenues, and challenges in matching available revenues with the cost of media production. In addition the mobile space represents a whole new world of opportunity for media companies, yet mobile media remains mainly unproven even ten years after media companies first started addressing the mobile opportunity with simple text message/SMS based applications.

That mobile media remains unproven means unclear revenue models and therefore risk to media companies. Does a media company wait until the mobile business models become clearer, and in so doing miss the market opportunity? or will they take a more aggressive approach and risk destroying legacy business models?

Personally I think we are FINALLY at an inflexion point for mobile media (…the end of the beginning), that will see media companies take a more aggressive approach with respect to their mobile strategies.

Why? The mobile platform has matured in the last 12 months to a point where brand owners of high quality premium content can create user experiences which make sense, are easy-to-use, are consistent across mobile platforms and maintain or even enhance the values of the media brand at an editorial and production level.

The relevant enabling technologies have come together to create this matured platform include graphically rich touch user interfaces, (which drive 5 to 10 times more consumption of content than non-touch), increased processor speeds, graphics acceleration, increasing air interface bandwidth, and open-source software positively impacting cost and competition in the smartphone segment, to a point where the price of a smartphone suggests that they will soon be a mass market proposition.

So what’s needed to spark the revolution ? Firstly, proof of working business models must be presented and successful case stories shared combined with a strong leverage of the existing mobile ecosystem support mechanisms to help rapidly propagate developments and to review the challenge of delivering to multiple device platforms and types.