Mobile Fix – Feb 24

Facebook to work with developers on mobile

In an announcement about their support for gaming, Facebook announced some love for mobile
“You’ll see a lot of investment from us in teaching developers how to use those channels in mobile,” says Hernandez.
“In March we’re bringing a group of engineers across and doing a tour of Europe around just the mobile platform, and how to build great apps with it. We’ll have 250-300 people per event in three of the most interesting hubs for gaming in Europe: Stockholm, London and Tel Aviv.”

Vertical stacks

Morgan Stanley believe Amazon is be losing out to Apple on digital content at the moment. Whilst they think Amazon will come good in the end, the near term is challenging. It’s clear that everyone wants to offer content and a quick look at the UK market for movies shows the challenges for Amazon and the rest.

Tesco are innovating with their BlinkBox streaming movies and we were interested to see their expansion into home broadband. They have a history of commissioning content (remember TrolleyWood?) to give them something others don’t have, and combining that with broadband and mobile connectivity is the start of their own vertical stack.

Sky is to offer content across connected devices to non subscribers, building on the success of their Sky To Go service. The Guardian think this is a stroke of genius and this is some interesting thinking on the implications. Dixons have announced they are to launch a movies streaming service under their KnowHow positioning and HMV have launched a service too.

Because relying on other peoples devices (and connectivity) puts you at risk of being disintermediated, smart players will try and create their own vertical stack – or try and find a secure place in someone elses.

1 Billion mobile subscribers in China

In the week that China will gain its one billionth mobile subscriber, their mostpowerful online media player has gone Mobile First. Tencent has over 430 million online users but whilst the biggest in terms of reach they only rank 6th in ad revenue. So a focus on smartphones (75 million will be sold in China this year – up 29% on last year) should enable them to capitalise on the emerging middle class and charge higher ad rates.

Smart mobile thinker Chetan Sharma has written a good summary of the current state of play on mobile in China and India. He makes the very good point that, with around a billion mobile subscribers in each market, the way they adopt technology will have a major influence on the rest of the world.

Another week, another mobile payments player

Following Barclays Pingit – allowing customers to send money by text – we now have Boku. Boku sounds pretty good but when you dig into it there is not a lot of substance. The NFC functionality requires you to stick a NFC sticker on your phone – like Bling were doing in the US until they closed last summer. And Boku works through operators – but has yet to reach agreement with one.

We don’t see much room in the value chain for another player unless they create real value for both consumers and retailers. Outside of the banks and credit card companies, SimplyTap would appear to be best placed because of its retail connections

Privacy concerns go public

Following the fuss about Path being a little naughty with users contacts, there is now a new agreement between some of techs biggest firms to adhere to a new policy on privacy. Of the top 30 most downloaded apps, 22 don’t have privacy notices and a number  – including Path and Twitter  – upload some or all of a users contacts to their own servers.
We’re not sure this really solves the issues. Imagine that iTunes decided to upload all my contacts. Adding a paragraph explaining this to their 60+ page Ts&Csdoesn’t really make it transparent.

And whilst Google, Apple and Amazon have all signed up, there are some omissions; Facebook isn’t included and we expect them to be very soon major player on mobile apps.

But is this really a problem for people? The success of these services is the ability to connect with your friends and that can only happen if you allow access to your contacts. Storing the data is a step too far, though.

Google have come under scrutiny for their work around on how Safari deals with cookies, but again is it really a breach of privacy? The main purpose of the workaround is to make ad targeting and measurement work better.

Our holy grail has always been ads so good they are a service and to attain that you need the best possible tracking and measurement, so people see ads that are relevant (and hopefully) useful.

If people want to worry about privacy there are probably better things to get concerned about. Every car in London is monitored for the congestion charge and the plethora of CCTV cameras, combined with facial recognition, means ‘they’ can find out exactly where you’ve been. The ease with which they found pictures of this guy was nothing to do with the fact he worked for the security services.

Mobile advertising needs better plumbing

Flurry have some new data showing the disparity between the proportion of time spent with media compared to the proportion of ad spend they get. No surprise that mobile is way out of whack – getting 23% of peoples time in the US but only 1% of ad spend.

One reason for this is that big agencies tend to be slow to move money from something they understand really well to something they don’t really get, yet.

But as this good opinion piece – by a senior person at mobile video giants YouMe- points out, mobile is still to mature and things like measurement are still a challenge. We need to get to the standard of online quickly but the infrastructure – or plumbing – still needs a lot of work.

A function of the hysteria around privacy mentioned above is that some of the plumbing is being dismantled. As the opinion piece points out Apple are limiting the ability of developers and ad networks to access useful data. Somewhat controversially, YouMe suggest this isn’t that bad for Apple, as they can use data from iTunes to target iAds.

Until mobile can agree on the plumbing and make running mobile advertising just as easy as running online, the huge potential of mobile won’t be realized. Of course the imminent EU regulations on cookies are about to complicate this anyway.

Smart brands, willing to put in the extra effort needed to do mobile properly, can and will get competitive advantage. The response focused brands are doing this and we see that the major vendors are anticipating the impact of Facebook and changing the way they charge for advertising.

The new mobile cliche

Now that the popularity of is this the year of mobile cliché seems to be waining, we see a new old chestnut emerging. Mobile apps or mobile websites? gets asked everywhere and, as with any tech discussion, the right response is; It depends on what you want to do.

The don of usability Jakob Nielsen has published some good thinking on this topic, with his view being that mobile sites will eventually win out. He argues that whilst usabilty is better in apps right now, the developments in mobile web will balance this out. He also repeats his view that In the long run, the Internet will defeat smaller, closed environments because Metcalfes law shows that the value of a network grows by the square of the size of the network.

We’re big fans of mobile sites for those looking to talk to (or acquire) new customers, because you can harness the power of mobile search. If you have a strong customer base then native apps can make more sense, as you don’t need to rely on discovery through the app stores – which are effectively broken.

The development that Nielsen alludes to is HTML5. A great example of its progress is this student built HTML5 version of the hot iPhone to-do list app Clear. The app has done really well because of fantastic UI – it’s a joy to use – and the browser based version is almost as good. To help in his job search Evan You created his own version in just two days.

To get a flavour of what is possible in HTML5 it’s well worth taking 10 minutes to watch this Adobe video where they demonstrate their product suite now built around HTML5.

They demonstrate Edge, a tool for building animations in HTML5, CSS and Javascript and Adobe talk of how Edge content can be quickly and easily made into a native mobile app through PhoneGap (which they bought late last year) They also show there is life left in Flash, with new tools that allow Flash work to be exported as HTML5. One huge benefit is that all those Flash developers can now work on mobile projects – democratising mobile development.

We’re not sure that all these tools are quite ready for primetime, but it won’t be long before the equilibrium in mobile balances between those with the tech skills and those with the ideas. Both are vitally important.

What is everyone waiting for?

Someone has taken a look at the websites of the Top 50 global brands and found that lots aren’t mobile optimised (although they mistakenly say Amazon is not). Some new research shows that more people are now focusing on mobile, but many are not.

Someone else took a look at the websites of agencies that Forrester suggest are good at mobile and found that 5 of the 9 mentioned don’t have a mobile optimised website
. You should read the comment from someone at one the agencies arguing they don’t actually need a mobile site. Unbelievable.

Quick reads

Good summary of the state of Mobile from Comscore

New research shows that the Amazon Android appstore has had a big boost from the Kindle Fire
 – with some apps
performing better on the Amazon store than in the official Android marketplace. We expect the appstore to launch in the UK when the Kindle Fire eventually launches here.

Nike keep on the branded utilty tip with a great tool for Basketball players
 – the HyperDunk

Nokia are doing OK with their Lumia in the UK – getting a 2% market share

More bad news for operators  - as people use more web services to communicate, they text less – leaving a $14bn hole in operator revenues

Really smart thinking on how to get the most from web analytics


Harvard Business Review are putting science into viral advertising


The power of big data – how a store worked out a girl was pregnant before her Father did 


Microsoft put the boot into Google with a very funny film.

Finally

- we were very flattered to be asked to take part in Camerjams excellent Mobile10 project –where he asks mobile royalty (and me) 10 questions. It’s worth reading some of the other interviews on the page – some very smart thinking.

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