Ronnie05's Blog

What makes an Application disproportionately (Wildly) successful than most others?

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on October 13, 2013

700K Apps and there-abouts on Android and Apple and yet the Pareto principle is more disproportionately applicable to the commercial smartphone apps than most of the other instances of Pareto. So, why do apps and services like Instagram, Twitter, Gilt, Tinder and Airbnb rise above the rest? What keeps users coming back to them?

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Any casual reflection on the nature of most popular applications will through up the most obvious results-

There had to be a key Proposition buttressed by Design and Usability/ User Experience. Airbnb for instance is one of the best propositions for travel freaks. A clean, clutter free design and a smooth and free flowing intuitive user experience makes the application easy to use. The way i see it Applications on the cloud or Hybrid Applications which have limited footprint/ light weight device will be key to the user experience. Currently Cross Platform presence is a given, but what would truely be a wow would be cross platform integration – i.e the App on iPhone learns what you last did on your Android Tablet last. Currently this may not be a very easily comprehended scenario – but Apps would need to share intelligence across platforms to create a relevance in user experience. The main intent is to drive Scale.

All app developers aspire to higher degrees of social transmission a.k.a Word of mouth. Breaking this code – The willingness of people to spread your message and to reach and influence customers has an inherent DNA and a marketing strategy/structure which app makers need to take cognizance. Jonah Berger, associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania provides a construct to understand profusion and/or lack of it which can be applied to understand the exceptional flight of some apps amongst others which dont get downloaded. According to Berger, there are 6 key drivers to virality – which applies to Apps as well.

1. The ability of an App to make the user smarter and look better in his social circles is key to the App being recommended around social spheres of influence and affiliation.
Social currency is the idea that people are more likely to talk about something the better and smarter it makes them look, and the more special it makes them feel.

2. WhatsApp is to Messaging what Skype/Viber are to Video Conferencing – These are very powerful associations that drive the penetration of Applications in users.Very strong cases of positioning and occupation of the mind space.
Triggers —linking products and ideas to cues in the environment increases word of mouth.

3. Engagement and Involvement are key to building a relationship with the App. If there are any doubts, one has to reference the rise of Arab Spring – the critical role of Facebook and Twitter as beacons of people’s movements.
The more you can get people fired up, excited, or even feeling negative about something, the more likely they’ll be to pass it on: That’s emotion.

4. One has to only look at the multitude of ordinary no-ones who have now a voice on twitter or a channel on YouTube with followers. Applications with high “showcase” quotient of showcase have a high stickiness and re-use quotient with users.
Public refers to the idea that by making behavior more observable, so that it can be imitated, you make it more likely that your idea will catch on.

5. The oldest lesson in marketing is Proposition and a strong proposition is clearly the key value driver for the application. Without a strong proposition, the App doesnot stand any chance even if its great on design or interface.
When something has practical value—when it is useful—people share it with others to help them.

6. While this hasn’t exactly flown yet, a critical decider to success of apps is the real world integrations. I can think of Layar enabled apps that integrate the mobile with real world. The ability to wrap service layers around the app is intrinsic to creating great stories around the applications
And finally, stories enable you to wrap your product or idea in a narrative that carries your brand along for the ride.

These then are the 6 key factors driving application penetration and social transmission, thus the critical points distinguishing apps from blockbusters to one in the long tail.

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The paradigm of Multi screen experiences

Multi screen apps

Rapid adoption of mobile devices such as the Tablets, Smart TVs, Connected Cars and Augmented Reality units are creating a huge impact on the way consumers interact with content, potentially putting billions of consumer dollars up for grabs: cable licensing agreements, advertising budgets, on-demand subscription fees, not to mention the future of the connected home. But despite all of the excitement — or perhaps because of it — there is still a lot of confusion about what the different types of multi screen apps are and how the technology is evolving to support this use case.

Simultaneous-Usage

Multi screen scenarios imply the instances when the user is engaged across multiple screens – the most notable is that of a TV and a mobile device. Google recently shared that a stunning 77% of users are using a second device when they are watching TV. On the surface of it, a content owner could be upset about this dual activity being a distraction and yet – Dual screen apps present an opportunity to engage the user on more than one consumption platform. For example- watching the Superbowl on TV and tweeting about the event online. Thus, this allows creation of an interactive experience that enhances it with additional information, related advertising, or calls to action. These are the types of experiences that are poised to radically transform the way consumers engage with content.

Top Activties across multi screens

Social Aggregators of multi screen content i.e Companies like GetGlue, Shazam, Zeebox, and Sidecastr have all created apps that detect what program a user is watching and present social or companion content on their device. Their hope is that they can assemble a large enough audience to become interesting to advertisers that want to target these users

Amongst the bigger players, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are each building enabling technology for dual screen apps into their platforms, as they view content-centric apps as a key battleground in their overall platform war. Also participating are consumer electronics giants like Samsung, Sony, and LG.

Prima Facie, the key here is when fundamental technology architectures are in play, platforms generally win in the long run. If one can successfully deliver the capabilities that enable armies of developers to build vertical or use case-specific applications, the network effects will generally overwhelm any individual competitor that is trying to do everything on its own.

Infographic on the Multi screen play
The new multi screen world

Apple- The Times!They are changing.

Posted in Device Platforms, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on January 2, 2013

Post the maps fiasco, Apple has been under some heat – and Google’s alacrity was very natural and expected. Symbolically, Google is now churning better Apps that work with the Apple eco-system thereby challenging the status quo of the Apple Mobile eco-system as the piece de resistance of the Mobile world. Google is thus taking Apple out from its biggest strength eating into it – as like a worm- going inside-out.

Google versus Apple

From the Google perspective, Google is putting its resources at apps that work on the iOS platform as well and there is statistical evidence that Google strategy is working. Sample the AppData which now records YouTube and Google maps as the No.1 and 2 iPhone apps.

Now then- it puts Apple on the backfoot then? In a pre-2008 Internet world dominated by Google, Apple’s app experience based strategy was a major departure in terms of branded apps, app publications and “there’s an app for that approach”. Suddenly Internet was not a passive media – it was rich content media with immersive experiences designed by publishers for the users. Advertisers and Publishers saw Apple as the challenger in chief to an Internet world to which Google search was the prominent portal. Android coming from behind to take over Apple’s App domain is something that the Late Steve Jobs or the current Tim Cook wouldn’t have wanted. Unfortunately that is how its seems to be panning out now.

However, from a longer perspective – it aint much of anything really – The battle is not so much between Google and Apple as much as Open Source and Propreitary. And Apple has a lesson or two to take home in terms of the amount of control of its walled garden that it must forego, choosing its strenths in terms of device based service/experience integration.

As quoted in an earlier post – Does Apple need to change course its philosophy of exclusivity?
To maintain its position, the company will have to focus more on giving its devices superb access to content it doesn’t control and hasn’t approved. Apples’ dogged and quixotic quest for control on the eco-system, my lead it to block more realistic and better solutions that emerge on the open Internet. There is leaf out of the book of Amazon that Apple could take a learning from (managing the eco-system). Apple must learn and execute to collaborate – rather than whole control.

There is no win-all. You win some,you loose some. The timess- they are changing!

Summarily weighing on HTML5 and Native Apps – The pros and cons!

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 22, 2012

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.

A mobile web app can produce a good user experience that is consistent across a broader range of platforms. As browser and JavaScript engines get faster with every release, the user experience gets better and better and the apps run faster and faster. Once created, this kind of app can be run on any platform, device, phone, or tablet with a browser. Thus, the HTML5 scores on the following parameters
• 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.

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HTML5 – Future complete! (Part III) Native Apps versus HTML5

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 20, 2012

This is third of a series of blog posts on HTML5. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

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)
The one big drawback of Web apps is that they can’t take advantage of a device’s hardware specifications- Web based HTML5 will essentially lose some benefits of the customized device firmware to gain a wider traction across all devices. The Native Apps in the mean time will enjoy breadth of device capability, and full access to the underlying mobile platform within its eco-system device but will be short in width of devices being covered. Functionality is the key – Apps that donot use a lot of the hardware features and are more on the broadcast mode are more likely to benefit from HTML5 – as against App which serves the experience and inter-activeness up. A tighter integration of the Native apps with the device and its features is more handy in delivering better web based experience. A case in point would be the integration of voice assistant feature such as Siri in the Apple eco-system. With Javascript engines getting faster, mobile web apps perform better but still lag behind the native app performance.

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.

The Figure below captures the difference between HTML5 and Applications based approaches on other auxilliary factors-
Apps vs HTML5

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.

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HTML5 – Future complete! (Part II) Native Apps versus HTML5

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 18, 2012

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.

native-vs-html5

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)

Building native apps requires strong skill sets in Objective C, Java and C#. Finding developers with necessary experience is not an easy task. On the other hand web applications are being built for a better part of 2 decades and it requires HTML, Javascript and CSS which are relatively abundantly available skills. Thus Democratization of HTML5 doesnot just find the auspices of economics but also of developer capabilities and competencies.

Comparison between Native Apps and HTML5 to be continued in Part III of this series of posts

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HTML5 – Future complete! The next generation web starts. (Part I)

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 17, 2012

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

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.

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Productizing Tablets for Enterprises – The trade of between Productivity and Mobility

Posted in Enterprise Computing, Mobile Computing by Manas Ganguly on July 27, 2012

With 25 million tablets selling of in Q2, 2012 globally, tablets could very well have arrived as the third device in the mobile stack –  PC and smartphone being the first two devices. But do we find productivity yet on the tablets? Or would they always remain as consumption devices?

Tablets aren’t really new. They’re big PDAs. We do calendaring, note taking, alarms, and notifications on tablets — but so could a PDA, all the way back to the Newton. We’ve been using this kind of touch-based organizer for over a decade at the executive level (remember the clumsy tablets from Microsoft?). They’re coming into their own stride, but we still struggle with leveraging them for productivity.

Many IT professionals are wondering how tablets are going to affect the enterprise. We’re all trying to work out if, when, and how these devices are going to impact our work. However, I’m not sure we’re asking the right questions about these devices. Given that customized, purpose-driven appliances and tablets are the best answer to the ever increasing productization requirements, the case is still largely inconclusive.  We (Marketers in general) are all over the place trying to figuring out how to leverage mobile platforms. We’re looking desperately for a use model. This lack of a definite conclusion reflects the entire industry.

The classic innovation and monetization syndrome is that if we don’t innovate and implement this exciting new technology, our competitors will — but don’t worry, they’re as uncertain about how to proceed as we are.

Coming back to the use cases of Tablets for the enterprises, I see two major tablet applications:

  • Better mobile connectivity than PDAs. In particular, tablets are able to give a more feature-rich browsing experience and reasonable email communication. They also tend to work better with web apps like OWA than previous mobile devices.
  • Ability to design and deploy custom native apps.

The trouble seems to be one of convergence and transition. We’re transitioning from a desktop OS, application-based, business productivity environment — Office, Outlook, PowerPoint, and local applications running on a traditional PC. We use server-based back office, HR, and business processes platforms. Those are behind on developing meaningful mobile options, and they don’t yet rival traditional desktop PC methods in features and convenience. The value add of having a mobile device is offset by the limitations, where it’s an option.

Another driver is the convergence of cloud technologies and mobile devices. Public clouds make enterprises nervous, private clouds lose a lot of the supposed benefits of public clouds, and IT seems reluctant about adopting any cloud. But mobile devices are cloud pods. They’re lightweight devices designed to buzz around the cloud — gathering, creating, sharing, or moving information. Storing my private music and movies on the cloud is one thing, and storing my critical corporate IP there is another. The personal digital assistant part of the PDA is becoming a reality with Now and Siri, but we’re asked to place a lot of trust in allowing a cloud to collect meaningful information about us. Without that, we can’t reap the benefits of these solutions.

The enterprise challenge is that these mobile consumer devices take away the granular control of a PC. Ultimately, things are still sorting themselves out for tablets in the enterprise. It’s still very difficult to see where these technologies might take us.

Maybe Microsoft may have a few answers!

Applications steal the march over Browsers in Mobile media

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on May 8, 2012

An year back, i was blogging how Apps are the next generation of Internet Consumer Experience. Those were the heady days with App stores being launched left, right and centre. The pace has abetted as the app store bubble has gone poof… but the apps story remains as relevant and as dominant as ever.

A ComScore study MobileMetrix 2.0 which measures engagement and behaviour on smartphones puts Applications one up over mobile browsers. The analysis of the share of time spent across apps and browsers revealed that even though these access methods had similar audience sizes, apps drove the lion’s share of engagement, representing 4 in every 5 mobile media minutes. On similar lines, analysis of the top properties also revealed widely varying degrees of time spent between app and browser access methods. In both these metrics, Apps outscored Browsers by a margin and more. The chart below demonsstrates Mobile App usage over Mobile browsers for the most used portals on internet:

 

As Internet access goes Mobile, the apps are beginning to power more and more access and engagement. Apps outscore mmobile browsers in more than a handful ways– Whether it being a push medium for relevant and timely delivery, or in being API guided content awareness and monetization, all screen presence or alternative solutions or powering the Web 3.0 (Internet of all things). Brands particularly are more keen to take the app route to consumer engagement because of the versatility of the app experience which is so relevant to the brand. Integrated service delivery is the key for applications over mobile browsers. Integrated services are those that work on any delivery medium that the consumer may be using: cable, DSL, wireless, wireline or satellite rather than being tied by transaction to one delivery medium.

WIth the iOS, Androids and WP8s driving usage of apps on smartphones, Apps also have a critical mass backing their growth aagainst mobile browsers.

 

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Developer Interest in Android wanes as Hybrid Apps take over

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on March 20, 2012

HTML5 is taking over as the key enabler of Internet on mobile phones. The Internet of all things and cloud based convergence will be a key theme in this decade and it will be powered by a tight integration powered by APIs. The future will be about Platforms on which devices and services will be enabled will be powered by applications both native and web based. This post examines the platform, applications and developer intent.

A recent survey by Appcelerator finds that Apple iOS leads the developer interest charts with 89% intent. iPad comes a close second at 88%. On the Applications side, the loser is a very unlikely candidate: Android (79% on the Android phones,64% on the Tablets and 51% on the ICS platform). Appcelerator in its quarterly survey figures out that Android is gradually slipping down mobile programmers’ priority list, with HTML5 powered Web apps stepping in to as an answer to development difficulties. HTML5 ended up showing 67% positive intent from developers.

The wanning interest in Android platform is being attributed to the Fragmentation of the Android platform. The survey concludes that a lot of developers are unhappy with the fragmentation of the platform as well as the fragmentation of the monetization platform. Fragmentation impedes monetization on the Android platform. Customization for screen size, feature sizes, even skins that device manufacturers have put on top of that eats into resources allocation on the platform.

79% of developers think that HTML5 was going to be a component of people’s apps in 2012. Only 6% developers plan to make all-out Web app that runs in a browser; a much larger 72% plan a hybrid approach that wraps native interface elements around an app that relies on a browser engine behind the scenes. A hybrid has some native code on device, but content will be delivered via HTML.

For developers on open platforms it’s a tough line to walk. They want to have an open OS, but openness means they’re going to have fragmentation.

Web applications–those built with technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that run using a browser engine–answer at least some of Google’s fragmentation challenges.Web apps rose slightly to 67 percent, passing Android tablets in the last quarter. Thus HTML poses the answer to fragmentation.

The good news for Android is that even while it has suffered recent declines it fares much better than Blackberry (16% Developer interest) and Windows (37% developer interest).

The good news for Google is that developer interest is on a rise for Web-App hybrid environment like the one running on its Chrome OS and Chromebooks.

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