Ronnie05's Blog

Facebook needs to now change its game

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on May 7, 2012

Zuckerberg and the FB gang have been great aat connecting 900 million dots. Its time they take the game to a different level- monetizing the dots.

A $95bn IPO may not be top of the mind for Mark Zuckerberg who is intent and focused on getting the social strategy for Facebook right. However, to many analysts and investors, the valuation is stretched and raises a spec of concern and doubt on the ability of the FB network to make money that is commensurate with the expectations.

Interestingly enough, a positive indicator that can provide FB the fillip is that Premium “Social” ads such as sponsored stories, “likes”, comments and other endorsement of brands’ activity have increased 26% y-o-y. Typically Premium ads make up for 25% of FBs ads. The concern area is a drop in CPC (Cost per Click) for the standard ads by an equivalent 26%. Overall CPC rates have gone up 23% across both categories. Another cause of concern is that Click thru rates have also gone down by 6%.

1. The dichotomy between standard and premium ad pricing trends reflects FB’s attempt to move away from keyword targeted “direct response” advertising – the so called plain vanilla marketplace ads towards getting big brands to buy “social” campaigns. The company’s re-orientation around large brands and away from the smaller ones may the driver of the difference and a definitive forward move to justify the stretched valuations in terms of revenues.

2. Facebook also needs to prep up its mobile presence. With 55% of Facebook users accessing the site from their mobile phones, the Facebook mobile become a key access point which FB cannot miss. The FB app on mobile today is just about a decent experience for sociaal networking. How Zuck can add the “brands” angle to this is the key challenge for FB. FB has been acquiring small time smart-ups expectedly to build on the mobile presence. But acquiring is one thing, executing is quite another. We havent seen much from FB in terms of exploring mobile for brands.  

3. The other interesting rumour doing rounds is Facebook search. Fundamentally different from Google in terms of generation of leads through social network anchors – likes, location, friends. That indeed is aa very interesting angle to search given that word of mouth and social networks are big influencers.

Facebook’s success ride has beeen phenomenal. Thats got it this far… a $95 bn IPO vaaluation. However, FB will have to change a few things around fundamentally if it were to justify a $100bn valuation and how it wants to poistion itself in the future. The ingredients are all there… how they mix them around and create the dish out of it.. is worth watching out for.

India’s own “desi” Apps store: Airtel App Central

Posted in Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on February 24, 2010

The first “desi” Application store, Airtel’s App Central is live. Consistent with Apps Stores world over, App Central is an open platform for developers to create apps for any and all handsets and operating systems. While there is the Apple iTunes, Nokia’s Ovi Store and Blackberry’s App world, Airtel’s Apps Central is unique in its being platform independent irrespective of handset or OS. The App Central is a cross platform offering that will even work on ultra budget handsets that run on the JAVA OS.

There are still quite a few websites third party websites that allow content download for all mobile operating systems but the App Central is far more convenient. The system is designed to recognize the operating system and showcase apps that are appropriate for the same. For a start, the App Central features 1250 applications across 25 categories available for download on more than 550 compatible devices.Applications are available for as low as Rs. 5 and go upwards of Rs. 25. Airtel expects vernacular content to contribute 20-25% of the downloads and vernacular content would be one of its biggest differentiators against the iTune, Ovi and others.

App Central also stores all the applications a user has downloaded in a section called “My Purchases”. This makes it very convenient to change handsets. The user would simply go to the My Purchase section at the bottom of the page and download and install apps. This reduces the time of having to look for them all over again. If apps have been previously paid, there’s no additional charge for downloading it again. Airtel is also working on a downloadable version of App Central to do away with the need to access it through a web browser.

Mobile application creators have been invited by the Airtel to submit their applications at this developer platform and CellMania will be powering the entire back end – right from the applications submitted by the developers to the AppCentral storefront.Developers registering with CellMania’s platform can expect to receive 28 percent of revenue share of the total sales of the application.

Bottomline: Even though Airtel App Central may not be at par with some of the OEM’s stores just yet, it will be, given time. It will also be interesting to see how vernacular mobile content performs. An interesting move by Airtel and we shall be watching the progress of the App central through the days and months to come.

Apple’s Domination of the Mobile Apps Space

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on January 20, 2010

The numbers are out. In an earlier post , I had discussed Apps stores and the race to Mobile Apps, I had mentioned that the Apple Apps store constitutes 71% of the total Mobile Apps available globally. Such was the dominance of the Apple Apps store, that Apple is 2.5 times the number of Applications in all other Apps stores combined together. A latest report from market research firm Gartner suggests that mobile apps are big business, and that business should only grow in the next few years. According to Gartner’s numbers, Apple completely owns this market, grabbing almost every one of the 4.2 billion dollars spent on mobile apps in 2009. Apple owns 99.4% of all mobile apps sold through 2009. Based on Gartner’s estimates and our own analysis, Apple could hold on to at least two-thirds of the market if current sales trends hold for 2010.

Apple first opened the App Store in July 2008, along with the launch of the iPhone 3G and the release of iPhone OS 2.0. Sales were brisk, with 300 million apps sold by December. After the holidays, that number had jumped to 500 million. Earlier this month, Apple announced that sales had topped 3 billion; that means iPhone users downloaded 2.5 billion apps in 2009 alone. Gartner’s figures show another 16 million apps that could come from other platform’s recently opened app stores, giving Apple at least 99.4 percent of all mobile apps sold for the year.

Going forward, Gartner expects Games to remain the number one application, and mobile shopping, social networking, utilities and productivity tools continue to grow and attract increasing amounts of money.

Gartner’s predictions for 2010 are 4.5 billion apps sold, for a total of $6.8 billion in revenue. If Apple can merely maintain its current rate of about a quarter billion app sales per month, it stands to be responsible for 3 billion apps sales—67 percent—good for $4.5 billion in revenue. Apple’s cut would be $1.35 billion, with developers taking the remainder. However, as Apple gains more users from sales of new iPhone models and possibly from an expected tablet, Apple could get an even larger share of the mobile app market. This then is a key profitability driver for Apple, the fulfillment of a prophecy made with regard to profitabilities and Apps stores.

Predictions for 2013, just a few years away, are even bigger—21.6 billion apps sold for a total of $29.5 billion revenue. The firm predicts that by then, 25 percent of the revenue generated by mobile apps will be from free versions supported with advertising. Growth in smartphone sales will not necessarily mean that consumers will spend more money, but it will widen the addressable market for an offering that will be advertising-funded. That makes Apple’s acquisition of a mobile advertising firm seem like an even smarter move, just for the extra revenue alone.

The App Store model has become de rigueur on all the smartphone platforms, with RIM, Microsoft, Palm, and Google each building a similar way for developers to make apps available, and for users to find them and pay for them. Gartner warns that developers will have to carefully consider which platform’s app store is best to promote their app. Even with the hundreds of thousands of options that vie for users in the iPhone App Store, the numbers suggest that Apple remains most developers’ best bet.


Ovi’s second coming

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on December 15, 2009

Nokia is feeling the heat all over. It now has closed down in North American stores in Chicago and New York and one of its two London stores across the pond. It is also shifting its Sao Paolo store in Brazil. Not only in its brick and mortar form, but also with its online Ovi store, Nokia seems to have hit a breaker. Nokia’s case is quite paradoxical to Apple which has tasted success in both forms of the stores: Online as well as Brick and Mortar. A beleagured Nokia faces competition from RIM, Apple, Palm, Moto and Samsung in the Smartphone space; is threatened by OEM imports in emergingmarkets and its software services platform never really took off. Once a stock market darling, Nokia’s shares have fallen 20% since September even as the broader market has rallied.

Nokia launched the Ovi Store in May/June 2009 clearly challenge the Apple Dominance on Apps. However 5 months after an otherwise lukewarm launch, Ovi has stats on its side, but these pale infront of the Apple Juggernaut.

• Ovi Mail has more than 3 million subscribers, and carriers like the push email because it boosts data usage. Nokia has signed over 20 partners for a carrier version of Ovi Mail.
• Downloads of apps on the Ovi Store are growing 70 percent per month, and every registered Ovi user has downloaded eight apps on average.
• In terms of downloads, Ovi is the No. 2 app store
• The number of users downloading apps is going up 50 percent every month.
• The Ovi suite – which also includes music and mapping services – now has 80m active users, up from 54m in August.

George Linardos, head of products at Nokia’s media group, said on 8th December 2009 that Ovi Store had been outpaced by Apple after complaints on stability and reliability. He also admitted that the chorus of complaints from end-users were driving the next version, noting that his company has “screens up in [their] offices running Twitter feeds [of gripes] all day long.” In fact, he likened the act to “sitting there and getting punched in the face.” So while the first coming of Ovi was beaten comprehensively unable to compete with the Apple Apps store, a second coming of Ovi has been planned in Spring 2010. New features will include in-application payments, a redesigned user interface that makes apps easier to discover, and faster operation. Longer-term, Ovi Store will include recommendations based on friends’ app purchases and more localised content.

In its second coming, the company wants to localize the Ovi Store for 20 countries by the end of the first quarter of 2010. Localization can mean instant success. In India, for example, Nokia’s music download service is becoming popular mostly because many people don’t have PCs and are using their phones to download music. Similar trends are being observed in Brazil and Mexico. Nokia believes the success of its Ovi Store and services is going to come from its traditional strongholds: Europe, Latin America and Asia. Ovi’s big opportunity is overseas — outside of the U.S. However, while US is not on the focus geographies list, it is also important for Nokia to maintain a mind share in US so that they are abreast of the best apps and platforms and are exposed to the most advanced development eco-system globally.

On Ovi, Nokia need’s to get all their ducks lined up, including hardware, software and services. At the moment, none of those are working properly. One hopes that Ovi gets it right this time because second chances are rare, and there are no third chances.

Profiling Apple Apps Store (Part II): Its crowded out there

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on December 10, 2009

Two years ago, the iPhone blew away expectations for what mobile devices are capable of. Apple has the opportunity to do in mobile smartphones what Microsoft did on the desktop: Own the standard platform upon which every popular application is based. The irony of this cannot be lost on Microsoft, which has flubbed its own opportunity to do the same.And mobile devices and applications are the future of the computing industry

As the App Store has matured, so has the need to come up with more sophisticated ways to profit from it. Simply having a great application is not enough. The App Store’s success — as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors — has given rise to a new digital ecosystem. Today, hundreds of software aspirants, from individuals tinkering in their bedrooms late at night to established companies looking for lucrative new revenue streams, are jumping into the App Store fray.And smart-phone manufacturers across the board are trying to make their platforms more attractive and lucrative to bring in the kind of creativity and enthusiasm that Apple has.

It’s easy to see why: Analysts estimate that Apps store generates as much as a billion dollars a year in revenue for Apple and its developers.

However the question increasingly being asked by analysts world-over is “Is it about 20,000 apps or 200,000 apps or is it about changing those 20,000 apps and their deep integration and how they interrelate to one another?” With Apple adding the numbers up briskly, the view about Apps is now beginning to shift. Palm and Research in Motion, say they don’t need an avalanche of applications to compete.

It is much more interesting to change the applications and changing the user experience and really unlocking the promise and the money and revenue opportunity for the ecosystem. Thus the story is changing from too many apps to a limited number of meaningful apps: Apps which integrate into the user’s activities and lives and are used as a necessity.
Most phones will end up being smart-phones. There will be more services and new ways to monetize and more consumption. Growth is a given; it’s just a question of who is going to innovate in the right way to drive that value proposition to capture that growth.

Microsoft, which analysts have criticized for its sluggish approach to the smartphone market, also says it is emphasizing quality for the application store it introduced in October, Windows Marketplace for Mobile.“Our strategy is to look holistically at how we can provide the best all-around user experience,” says Victoria Grady, director of mobile strategy at Microsoft. The Marketplace now has more than 800 apps.

Many developers and analysts think Google’s mobile operating system, most recently placed in the Motorola Droid, may evolve into the fiercest competitor to the iPhone.

Android unique applications are no longer limited to a single device. The growing number of Android-powered phones available on multiple wireless carriers increases the financial opportunity for developers. An year back, Android just had 1 handset which has now increase to close to dozen. Android volumes are going up at a tremendous pace, and the developer ecosystem is seeing that.

Unlike Apple, Google has eschewed a review process, allowing any developer to publish an application to the Android Marketplace, its version of the App Store, instantly. About 14,000 applications are available for Android-powered smartphones.

Apple has another strong advantage: the iPhone offers developers a uniform, standard platform. When, a developer creates an application for the iPhone, he knows how it’s going to run exactly as you tested it on every single model. The same isn’t true for the rest of the smartphones, which have varying screen sizes, processor speeds and form factors.

HOWEVER the competitive landscape shapes up, the App Store phenomenon shows no signs of slowing. IDC, a technology research firm, predicts that the number of iPhone apps will triple next year, fueled by the growing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices. Along the way, analysts say, the App Store will continue to upend the architecture of the smartphone business and threaten competitors that don’t have vibrant and extensive offerings.

This changes the way the smartphone industry operates. Each handset company would come up with its latest iterations and maybe have the hottest device of the season or not. With apps in the equation, all that changes. It goes from being a product cycle game to a platform game.

Google Gears must die… (for the larger cause)!!

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on December 2, 2009

Linus Upson, the man in charge of both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS engineering teams has announced the death of Google Gears. Gears was launched by Google, Mozilla and Opera 3 years back to access web applications offline in browsers. PC Magazine quoted Upson, “We are not driving forward in any meaningful way [on Gears],”. The support wouldnot be drawn out so that applications continue working. Google has been pushing the HTML 5 for some time now. Interestingly as the plot unfolds, Google Gears was the precursor of HTML 5, literally and figuratively.

Quoting Upson “When we started the Gears project, three years ago… we did it because we couldn’t get the browser vendors interested in building offline applications.” He then details the mind trick: Google ships Gears, and suddenly browser vendors are “very interested in adding capabilities to build offline applications,” paving the way for the capabilities in the next version of HTML. Clever, Google. In the same interview, Upson stated the company’s plans to move all its apps to standards-based HTML 5 APIs”. Neat trick Google!!!

Much of the technology in Gears, including offline support and geolocation APIs, are being incorporated into the HTML5 spec as an open standard supported across browsers, and that is the logical next step for developers looking to include these features in their websites.Google is now pushing developers to use HTML5 for these features moving forward as it’s a standards-based approach that will be available across all browsers. The company wants to push HTML5 so that people use it to write web apps that match the quality of the native apps for its two emergent platforms: Android and Chrome OS.

Why HTML5 for Google?

Reason 1:
Google’s biggest problem with both of these mobile-oriented operating systems is that it has to work with hardware partners, which makes it difficult for the company to maintain a tight control on the ecosystem. Motorola, HTC, Sony Ericsson and Samsung have all come out with their own interfaces for the Android, which is already causing some developer dissatisfaction. Against such a backdrop, it makes perfect sense for Google to promote web-based apps, because it means there be will a unified experience for end users, regardless of the device (and the platform.)

Reason 2:
Blame Apple: As admitted by CEO Eric Schmidt, Google needs the open internet to take the fight to Apple in the apps space. While Apple builds up its path to the next big platform: The Superphone, it has effectively kept the Apps Store out of Google’s reach. Thus Apple is making the Mobile Apps device stationary.Google on the other hand is trying to put the apps on the internet with easy access such that it can access user activity in order to serve more targeted advertising. HTML 5 is Google’s weapon and key access to internet led apps activity. With web apps, Google can not only continue to have access to user data (public not private), it can also continue to serve advertising to those users. For developers, it would mean embedding Google ads in their web apps.

Thus the full story: Google Gears kindles interest in Offline Applications. It builds scale for HTML 5 to take over. HTML 5 serves Google’s dual need to make platform uniform and serve up ads to application heavy consumers.

Kudos to the thought and Google’s plan, except for one small thing: Web apps will need better wireless networks with much lower latency and higher bandwidth capabilities in order to meet (and beat) the native apps.

Mobile cloud computing: The next big mobile innovation

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on August 1, 2009

Apple’s iPhone has sparked a new consumer interest in mobile applications. The number of mobile app stores and application offerings are growing rapidly.However, limited processing power, battery life, and data storage will limit mobile application growth in the mass market, even among smartphones. This is one of the key findings of a study by ABIresearch. These would thus be limiting factors to user experience on a mobile phone.

Device fragmentation and memory currently limit the level of sophistication developers can deliver through mobile apps. By contrast, running mobile applications in the cloud will free up mobile processors while also enabling developers to create just one version of their application.That is where applications that connect to cloud resources are much more likely to be successful than those that run only on the mobile device.

Mobile application developers today face the challenge of multiple mobile operating systems.Either they must write for just one OS, or create many versions of the same application. More sophisticated apps require significant processing power and memory in the handset. Using Web development, applications can run on servers instead of locally, so handset requirements can be greatly reduced and developers can create just one version of an application. This trend is in its infancy today, but ABI Research believes that eventually it will become the prevailing model for mobile applications.

Cloud computing will bring unprecedented sophistication to mobile applications.To mention just a few examples, business users will benefit from collaboration and data sharing apps. Personal users will gain from remote access apps allowing them to monitor home security systems, PCs or DVRs, and from social networking mashups that let them share photos and video or incorporate their phone address books and calendars.

Thus, Mobile cloud sync is emerging as a major new category of wireless services. Apple, Google, Nokia, Microsoft, Palm, and others recently introduced mobile cloud sync services and all mobile operators and ISPs are racing to keep up. While current solutions are fairly basic, open source is enabling more flexibility and innovation among these folks because it is so easy to adapt.

ABI Research has predicted that the ‘cloud computing’ model will soon catch up and by the end of 2014 it will be delivering annual revenues to the tune of $20 billion.

However, intermittent network availability could pose a big challenge for the adoption of the ‘cloud computing’ model. A cloud-based application stops working if you lose your connection. New programming languages such as HTML 5 could come to the rescue as they can enable data caching on the handset, allowing work to continue until cellular signal is restored.

How the cloud will transform mobile apps and why Big Apple may not be too happy about the developing scenario?

Posted in The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on July 11, 2009

The Apple Apps store was the start of something big. While Apple has already registered 1 billion downloads, Palm notched up an impressive million in the first few weeks of launch. Google, RIM, Nokia are following suit. All this is happening in midst of reports that contrary to earlier beliefs, the Apps store is not really creating the kind of stickiness which the Internet marketers were counting upon.

Today the Apps store may not be generating a lot of cash/revenue. Infact, Apps Stores are thriving more on classic freetardonomics and base commoditization than ever. However, it is a space being infiltrated by handset-makers, software companies, and operations/ business support systems vendors, thousands of new and experienced developers, third parties and even carriers. It also is a space that will be and already is being transformed by the cloud, according to ABI Research.

In a report released this week, ABI said that new software running in the cloud will drastically change the way mobile apps are developed, acquired and used, breaking the market free from the constraints of limited computing power. According to the report, this new paradigm could deliver revenues of nearly $20 billion annually by the end of 2014.Web development can enable apps to run on servers instead of locally, so handset requirements for processing power and memory can be greatly reduced and developers will only need to create one version of their app. Certain apps and services, including Google Apps and, already use the cloud, but for the most part, while the industry is trending toward this, these are still the early days.

Many and most of these players, force developers to choose between picking their favorite OS or creating multiple versions of their app. Companies such as Qualcomm have launched open platforms for apps distribution to address this issue, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of taxing processing power and memory constraints. Though there are issues such as access, security, data back up, the main problem with a continuous connection with the cloud is that clouds based apps stop when the connection is lost. New programming languages such as HTML 5 can overcome this through data caching. So while cloud computing becomes more common, apps will become much more sophisticated. Business users will benefit from collaboration and data sharing apps; while personal users will gain from remote access apps, allowing them to monitor home security systems, PCs or DVRs, and from social networking mashups that let them share photos and video or incorporate their phone address books and calendars.

Interestingly, while Apple pioneered the Apps Store trend, it is also most likely to resist the cloud based model and be reluctant to move into a more democratic apps development market. It would be counterproductive for Apple to let the base for all the Apps driven advantage (iPod/iPhone based) to get diluted and hence, would not like to give up the control that Cloud Computing may ask to forsake on their Apps stores/developers. For the rest of the market, however especially wireless operators, for which the cloud can up transport revenues cloud computing should, and likely will, be embraced.

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