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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.