Apple – the formidable under Steve Jobs has fallen fast from the cutting edge technology leadership under pincer attack from the likes of Google (Car, Glass?) and Samsung (Eye Scroll, Mind Control?). The features listed here are top of mind recalls – and a careful think could provide any and many others. For the sake of the most exciting company of our times, I hope that Tim Cook has what it takes to turn it around.
So while Apple has been missing in action on the “Glass” kind of immersive augmented reality application – there’s some buzz and heat on the Apple iWatch. Now then, Apple already has a device which is iPod Nano watch thereby bringing Music, e-mail, iTunes, podcasts, pedometer on the wrists. So Apple’s foray into this space has a predecessor which was cool thingie on the wrist.
However, dismissing the iWatch as a watch with features is a mistake. Apple would be inclined to see this as its first foray into wearable technologies – combining the device and apps with physical activity sensors, pulse monitor, blood pressure and possibly glucose monitor. Unlike other wearable technologies like, say, headphones, these devices allow you to monitor and analyze sleep, health, and fitness levels. In short, physical states and well being.
The ancient Greeks often made a distinction between two notions of time, Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is chronological time which flows ineluctably along by seconds, hours and years, unaffected by human interests. Kairos, etymological root of “care,” is time laden with human meaning and activity. “Lunchtime,” “a good night’s sleep,” and a “long and rejuvenating walk,” all convey this sense of Kairos. A Timex is mainly chronological. What Apple could be doing is making a “kairologocial” tool that tracks and monitors the data around the experiences you care about. How much you actually slept, when and how far you walked. Basic questions rooted from everyday experience might now be by settled by data on a “watch” — a “kairometer” — rather than guesswork. Transforming the user’s experience by making impersonal things more personal and intimate has long been at the core of Apple product’s value proposition. For example, Steve Jobs positioned the iPad as a way for customers to “connect with their…content in a more intimate…way than ever before.” The Apple watch would likely build on this logic, aiming to make users’ experience of time more intimate by tying it to who they are and what they care about. That way the Apple iWatch would want too scale its effectiveness over something like the Nike Fuel Band by adding states of well being and not just fitness. Afterall, Lifestyle (iWatch posssibly!) is much bigger than just fitness (Nike Fuel Band).
Now behold the outcome of this technology
1. With iPod, Apple redefined the way people engaged with Media. With iPhone, Apple redefined the way people engaged with Internet. The iWatch experience would be key to the way people engage with their personal hygiene and habits space. Extrapolating it further – Apple disrupted Media, it disrupted Internet and now it could disrupt Lifestyle. Lifestyle is one helluva cake, pie or what ever you want to name it that Apple is after
2. And then there is the space where you connect the dots. Apps for health/lifestyle; an Interface that really goes past platforms – Phone, TV, Media and more; and a presence which is passive over long long periods of time. You wear a wrist watch for atleast 8-14 hrs of your day! And that’s a lot of data collected.
3. Apple experience has mastered the external environment – the iWatch will take it internal ( how a user reacts to a TV program, a stimulus, a news …. (that lists is endless)). Joining the dots internal and external and what a experience continuum you have created.
4. And yes, the cascading effects of a network that goes crazy about you…. Over and over again
Its really the next frontier of technology that Apple is blending with its horizons now.
As Microsoft twiddled and twaddle Windows’ future of computing – Android has chugged ahead and going by the drop in PC shipments (the post PC era) and increase in the number of Android tablets and smartphones coupled with Windows8’s less than lukewarm acceptance – Microsoft has a problem. A big one. To complicate things, besides Windows 8.1, Cannonical (Ubuntu), Mozila (Firefox), Google (Android/Chrome) are also making bets in the shrinking PC/laptop space. Microsoft hasn’t really fired it in the tablet space – and is yet to find a toehold in 150 million/ $64 billion Tablet industry with the Surface!
When Windows8 was being conceived it was seen as “more like a living organism, made partly from familiar bits that have evolved over the last two decades, with several new strands of DNA tossed in”. A better and a continuous experience on multiple devices was key to the rise and spread of Windows8. It was due to be updated for more often, and was a part of a much larger hardware-apps-services ecosystem that is also changing quickly.” However, if one were to refer to the numbers – Windows8 usage has been Windows Vista when compared month to month. At similar points in their roll-outs, Vista had a desktop market share of 4.52% compared to Windows 8′s share of 2.67%. Underlining just how poorly Windows 8′s adoption has gone, Vista didn’t even have the advantage of holiday season sales to boost its numbers.
• Thus, on a retrospective count, Windows8 Metro (refreshingly new as it were) failed to cut the ice – possibly because it was too abrupt a jump from the Windows7 Desktop UI to a “want to be a touch interface”.
• The interface was great for a tablet – but then again, Microsoft is way behind Android in terms of economies of scale – and the higher pricing served as significant entry barriers.
• Volumes not coming through, key OEMs such as Samsung dropped the RT platform.
• The $500-$1200 price tags on Windows8 made it uncompetitive in an economy that’s still not moving forward quickly.
• Microsoft also did not marry its traditional UI with the Metro UI successfully enough and the unfamiliarity was daunting.
All things put together, Microsoft doesnot seem to have moved any further with its Windows8. Microsoft is betting all its chips on the silly notion that Metro will be the one true interface for its entire PC and device line. But the numbers indicate that 8.0 hasnt really taken off. Alternatively it would have soured its relations with key OEMs who would see Microsoft’s ambitions in the device space as a threat to their own positions. Alternate OSs vieing for Microsoft’s 3rd spot in the OSs for the future is also seeing a lot of action and churn.Going back the Windows7 route is out of question – one only hopes that Microsoft is able to crack the business and user case with Windows 8.1.(Else it’s the doldrums.
Long time back, i had been musing if Smartphones could become the primary mobile/handheld devices in the future. If IDC numbers are to be believed 2013, would the year smartphones would tip over feature phones accounting for 50.1% of the total mobile phone shipments. Further more over a 5 yr period, Smartphones will clock a 10.3% CAGR making up for a CAGR loss of 3% in feature phones by 2017, thereby growing the mobile phones category by 4%.
The three key reasons of rapid massification of smartphones are
1. Data centric network roll outs (3G/4G)
2. Drop in Entry cost from $600 (2009) – $50
3. Open source eco-system that are pushing the economies of scale.
As Smartphone breaks price barriers, the distribution and reach is reaching hitherto untouched segments and economies such as India, Brazil, South Africa, China, Indonesia. China has already topped USA as the top smartphone seller globally. the tablet below summarized IDC’s growth matrix for Smartphones on a global basis.
Now then to my favourite old question – A 70% Android share- Is that a tenable proposition even as the competition keeps increasing? Or do we see a new world order in Smartphone OS 5 yrs down the line? Or will Android become to Smartphone what Windows became to PCs?
Platform extension may be the pointer and the answer to this.
Another compelling thought – Will Smartphones give way to a more real time immersible experience such as Augmented Reality on Glasses or Contacts?
Gary Kovacs, CEO Mozilla wants a piece of the action in enabling the next 2 billion people graduate to the internet. Thus the Firefox OS. Over the last couple of weeks there have been increasing number of claims to divergence in the Mobile OS space- Blackberry 10, Tizen, Ubuntu and now Mozilla. Additionally Samsung is shutting off Bada and HP is selling off WebOS (to LG).
1. Android being the 70% market leader is working on economies of scale and scope – spreading the open platform across multiple domains – TV, Project Glass, Set Top Boxes, Refridgerators, Cars and more. Thus Android is emerging as the truly “connected OS” in the age of convergence
2. Apple still rules as the king of experience and if the experiments in India are replicated across emerging nations – and if the low cost iPhone is in works – Apple will multiply its market share in the mid range ($200) segment in the emerging nations.
3. Historically, OSs have largely oligopolistic/monopolistic in nature. Windows has ruled the PC wave and Android/iOS share the spoils in Mobile devices (Smartphones and Tablets). Even in the feature phone category – Symbian ruled the roost before the advent of Smartphones.
4.While the promise of a diversified OS experience and OS fatigue is a promised land – most of the experiments in this field have returned without encouraging results. (The Palm and HP experience with WebOS and the Samsung experience with home grown Bada being key examples)
5. Even a Goliath like Microsoft is unable to turn the RT platform with a reasonably decent Windows8 experience. Currently all it has is just a toe-hold in the industry even with a Office monopoly out there.
6. Operators – the key market facing entities in the telecom eco-system support the concept of multi OS but the consumer ask is converging to 2 or maximum of 3 OSs. Apple, Android and Blackberry/Windows take those spaces.
7. OEMs and Developers on the other hand would like to be working on 2/3 OSs – OEMs get their economies of scale and Developers have lesser customization requirements for their apps (Agree that HTML5 may change a bit of this)
There’s yet another promise of a light OS with cloud support supported by HTML5 – but even that experience is far from mainstream currently. Many of the fledgeling OSs plan to ride the HTMl5 wave. However, HTML5 and its features are also key to Android and Apple’s iOS – all the more relevant with over 600K apps each.
All these factors put together- my feeling is that there isn’t much room for multi-OS play. I had love to be proven wrong such as the way Windows explorer ceded the browser space to Chrome, Safari and Mozilla.
So to answer Mr.Kovacs narrative – “Apple and Google have led the way in the smartphone market but can’t cover the whole thing- it (is) impossible to understand how 3, 4, 5, or 6 billion people are going to get their diverse needs satisfied by one or two or five companies, no matter how delicious those companies are… Is the farmer in the Indian countryside going to have the same needs and requirements as a lawyer sitting in New York?“
Yes, Mr.Kovacs- there is very limited need divergence in the age of convergence- and then there is scale!
Android controls 70% of the Smartphone volumes in 2012. Over the last 4 years, ever since Google launched Android, this has been one huge success story. In this post, i am looking at the 3 factors that have fueled the Android’s success story. The success generated by Android is across three key levels – Present day revenues for Google,Access to mobility for Google and generating intelligence and information about the user – creating profile and semantic patterns which is the future of advertising as we know it.
While Google’s intent behind Android was such that it was not completely shut out of the mobile Internet by a dominant OS provider. The initial fears were around the dominance of Microsoft which in the post 2007-iPhone era came to be Apple. However, it just did better – it went on to become the dominant OS in Mobiles and handhelds itself.
We all know that Google makes almost all of its money on ad revenue – 94% of Google Q4 revenues were based on advertising. Of this $8bn was generated by mobile devices of which, analysts now expect $5bn of 2013 Google Ad revenue to be from tablets alone! That makes it seem like a pretty solid investment for Google to pay whatever it does to be the default search engine in iOS ($1 billion/annual), since the iPad still holds close to half of tablet sales.
Android is Google’s footprint on mobile- An Android device, properly signed into a Google account and running all the Google Apps, generates an endless stream of little bits of ‘signalling’ information, way beyond what Google gets from a desktop search user even if they’re using Chrome. It knows where the user lives and works, how he commutes – and which phone numbers on web ads he dials. All interactions with Search, Maps and anything else can be linked together. Android, allows Google to tie searches and advertising to individual people and places. In the long term, the data that Google gets from Android users is probably just as important as Pagerank in understanding intent and relevance in search. The real structural benefit to Google from Android now comes from the understanding it gives of actual users, and the threat comes from devices that do not provide this data.
It is quite possible that even Google didnot see the scale of success of Android – Not only did it mark Google’s entry on mobiles, it also is generating revenue and most valuable user information.
A native mobile app can produce the best user experience — fast and fluid, can give user the best access to device features, and can be discovered in the app stores. Thus, Native apps are powerful tools providing publishers with a secure way to sell their content, enhanced with rich media and very cool features, online or off. On the other hand, building a native app on every major platform requires more socialized skills, a longer time to market, and a bigger budget to build and maintain. For this reason many apps get built as web app. Secondly, the money the developers save in discoverability, marketing and selling their apps (through the convenience of app stores) is now being spent on developing different apps for every different platform and paying through the nose for the privilege of selling their content in ecosystems like iTunes. Third and the worst part of it is the loss of their customer data in these walled ecommerce-enabled gardens.
• Delivers a consistent look and feel across all devices and browsers
• Offers much lower development costs than native apps
• Erases the lengthy process of submitting an app and waiting for approval by a 3rd party
• Updates web apps immediately across all platforms without the need for users to download and install the latest updates for each platform
• Has no walled ecosystem which overtaxes publishers and restricts their access to customer data
On the other hand, browsers on different platforms do not uniformly support all the latest HTML features and API, which can make developing and testing challenging.
A hybrid app offers many of the advantages of both approaches: discoverability in the app stores, access to the most common device APIs, and broad device coverage while not requiring the specialized skills, bigger budgets and longer time to market that are more typical of fully native apps. The hybrid approach seeks to blend the flexibility found in HTML5-based apps with more complex, native mobile apps into one platform.
In part II of this series, we have seen how network effects (distribution),economics and Developer skills load the discussion in favour of HTML5 over Native Apps. However a few critical features of Native Apps need to be taken in consideration
Experience and Customized Apps (Advantage Native Apps)
Many business applications do not necessarily require the levels of performance that Native Apps can provide. In these cases, Web and Hybrid apps are more cost effective, efficient and dynamic due to API adaptability.
However, HTML5 would democratize web experiences, device makers will seek tricks to make an application more engaging and attractive on their platforms. They would like Applications which would do justice to the high end configurations of their devices. Native Apps does just that effectively.
Competition leveling (Advantage HTML5)
A move toward HTML5 would be good news for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, webOS licensor Hewlett-Packard, Intel (Tizen) and Microsoft, which are all lagging well behind Apple and Google in the number of applications available in their app stores.
Monetization (Advantage Native Apps)
Native apps come with one-click purchase options built into mobile platforms. HTML5 apps will tend to be monetized more through advertising, because payments will be less user-friendly.
So then, HTML5 would be like the state highway for all and sundry – delivering a base level internet experience on all knids of devices. However there would be many and more who would like to be pampered with better and higher degree of device experience. There’s a lot to watch out for – especially Apple. Google meanwhile seems to be able to find the balance between the HTML5 web and the App-web. Contrary to popular beliefs, the discussion between HTML5 and Native App doesn’t need to essentially produce a winner or a looser – it may yet produce a third result altogether – Hybrid apps. And many are betting on it.
Continued from earlier post
The key to HTML5 is that it delivers in-the-browser experiences that previously required standalone apps.
Now, apps can run in the browser window and will be independent of iTunes or Android app stores. That’s a sea change that could reshape the app landscape. HTML5 supports video, offline reading, touch and gestural interaction — all functions that, until recently, were only available for mobile devices on native apps. Thus there are many who debate that the age of native Apps is over and HTML5 will triumph Native Apps in a big manner. In the next few posts, I would be looking at different aspects of the HTML5 web as against the Native App as a comparison.
Distribution (Advantage HTML5)
So, why is HTML5 such a big thing? For starters, Simplicity is one key reason. Developing native apps for lots of different environments is a huge amount of work. There is an ongoing overhead for maintaining all the apps (on different platforms), which means everything needs to be done five or six times. HTML5 seemed to be the solution. For content owners, publishers, brands or simply developers – BlackBerry, Apple, Android, Windows, and webOS device owners would all use one single app that only needed to be developed once. Thus HTML5 will allow developers to gain a lot more scale and reach without making the same investment in each platform. Native apps are distributed through app stores and markets controlled by the owners of the platforms. HTML5 is distributed through the rules of the open web: the link economy. It doesn’t need to be published to any store, because it is simply accessed by its URL in the browser or an app icon/bookmark on the home screens.
Even though the notion of “build once, run everywhere” sounds very nice, differences in mobile browsers and support for the latest HTML5 features will require extensive testing and possibly coming up with workabouts.
Fragmented support for and limited APIs within HTML5 make the “write once, run everywhere” strategy extremely difficult.
Platform Power and Network Effects (Advantage HTML5)
Also the economics of the App business is undermining. Apple and Google currently take upto 30% cut of the revenue from app sales. Financial Times for instance has to share 30% of its revenue ($4.99 per week for app access to its content). Similarly Amazon is keen on the HTML5 development simply because it reduces deployment strangleholds that Apple has on the kindle app on its devices in terms of revenue sharing.The HTML5 development would be a way to escape those strings and opting for a app-free approach to mobile content.
Development Skills (Advantage HTML5)
Comparison between Native Apps and HTML5 to be continued in Part III of this series of posts
Worldwide Web consortium (W3C) has issued a communication citing that HTML5, which will power the next generation of websites and smart-phone apps, is now Feature complete.Even while there’s still some testing to be done, and HTML5 hasn’t yet become an official Web standard — that will come in 2014 – there’s a huge buzz around HTML5 as the future of web technology. What W3C’s dictate also means is that, there won’t be any new features added to HTML5, which means Web designers and app makers now have a “stable target” for implementing it. New Additions if any will now happen on the HTML5.1 version.
HTML5 language lets developers deliver in-the-browser experiences that previously required standalone apps or additional software like Java, Adobe’s Flash or Microsoft’s Silverlight. Essentially what that means is being platform agnostic. It will support video and geo-location services, offline tools and touch, among other bells and whistles. Coupled with the iPV6 standards, HTML5 can now be programmed and used to reach smart phones, cars, televisions, e-books, digital signs, and devices not yet known. The latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari are already compatible with most HTML5 elements.
HTML5 has been in development for a better part of the decade now and is now quickly on its way to becoming the de-facto web standard. And since Internet now has more than many mediums of delivery, this means that there is a face-off against the Application heavy internet access that we have seen in the last 3-4 years. The advantage delivered is that developers will not have to make changes to multiple versions of its code on multiple smart-phone platforms and can instead bank upon one mobile website to deliver experiences. Google, Netflix, Mozilla are already building on the HTML5 platform. Interestingly enough, HTML5 has been acknowledged as the best solution even by companies such as Adobe and Apple. Adobe lost its cash cow Mobile Flash software and the Apple “walled garden” apps empire is in direct collision course with HTML5. After all HTML5 aims to democratize the web experiences, whereas Apple has always sought a premium basis the experience factor which is tightly knit into the device firmware and experience enablers.
W3C is now working on cementing HTML5 as a new Web standard, making it interoperable and fully supported by any modern browser.
In the next couple of posts, we would split the game between HTML5 and Applications based internet and consider the pros, cons and benefits of each of them on different parameters. Read Part II and Part III of this post.
Platform fragmentation has been a pain point for Android and there is much less balancing the Android experience elements in terms of uniformity across its devices. The latest numbers from Android developers outline this pain area, as Android still struggles with 75% of its base in the Android 2.2 and Android 2.3 platform levels.
The other pain area that Android would like to put in order is the split of the screen sizes it works upon. 85% Android devices presently work on the 2″-4″ screen size – essentially the smart phones. Android is by and large less dese on the larger screen sizes.
Source: Android developers data collected during a 7-day period ending on August 1, 2012
So you have it there – a fragmented platform and the inability to create a dent in the tablet space – even the 7″ space. That would be a bother for Android. (There is a base effect for the smartphone numbers, but Android’s ianbility to balance its smartphone and tablet numbers is the crux of this problem)