If there is anything static about the evolving technology paradigm today, it is the regularity of disruptions.Nicholas Taleb christened such disruptions as Black swans – We could look at naming it Thunderstorms.Technology disruption trends are driven by ‘thunderstorms’. Everything seemed calm and static, then suddenly the Web comes and changes the rules. The cellphone business appeared static and then the iPhone changed the dynamics.
Some trends are predictable: like the power of processors doubles every 18 months or storage capacity doubles every 12 months. Some are unpredictable: like growth of mobility and Web.For example, we had smartphones long before iPhone. But they were difficult to use devices and not accepted until Steve Jobs made an easy-to-use device in 2007.Today, the mobile handset is in flux. Microsoft has bought Nokia. Earlier, Google bought Motorola. Huawei and lenovo almost bought over Blackberry. The key here is that convergence of solutions, internet and mobile is driving the Applications based internet as the next thunderstorm.
Web is dying. It’s like AM radio of the digital era. Web will be here, but that’s not where major commerce will happen. Smartphones are becoming so powerful that to use them as just file viewers makes no sense. The future architecture will be one where there are very powerful apps, connected to resources in the cloud, and this connection is the future architecture.
The dominant players in the tech industry will have an app Internet ecosystem — a phone, tablet, PC, app architecture and a group of partners. Now, who will dominate it? One is obviously Apple, which has 30 billion app downloads; Android has 27 billion downloads, but 80% money is made on iOS.
It wasn’t a surprise when Google bought Motorola, or when Microsoft bought Nokia, as they needed a phone to complete the ecosystem. Amazon could well be a very important app Internet ecosystem player. There are feelers that within 12 months, maybe six months, Amazon will have a phone. They already have a tablet, an operating system called Silk, and they might have a PC as well. Amazon buying Dell is an interesting possibility. As a trends, every 10 years in the tech industry, one big player, who looks like dying, comes back. In the 1980s, it was Intel. In the 1990s, it was IBM. In the 2000s, it was Apple and now it could be Amazon. Having said that Apple, Android and Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook are possibilities in phone business – making the mobile scene shift extremely.
Two of those five — Apple and Amazon — have a big advantage. They have customer credit card details. Apple has 450 million credit cards, Amazon has 220 million, Microsoft has 50 million via Xbox. Google and Facebook have zero. That’s the thunderstorm — in terms of a loyal user base — one can expect here. Every company in the world, selling insurance, tyres, banking will have to be a software company, via apps.
Google shares jumped past $1000 mark, as its results convinced the markets that it had finally crossed the chasm between Desktop advertising to Mobile advertising. The rise of mobile devices had raised fundamental questions for the company: Would users conduct as many searches as on PCs? Would they click on as many ads? Would advertisers pay as much for a fingernail-sized spot on a phone as they do on a PC? The numbers Google disclosed undercut those fears. The number of “paid clicks”—the times a user clicks on an advertiser’s link during a search—surged 26%, the highest growth rate in a year.
As has been the case recently, the amount paid per click declined, this time by 8%. But the total volume of searches, driven by the rise of mobile devices, far outweighed the falling per-click rates. Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, estimates the total number of paid searches will reach nearly 125 billion in 2013, up 24% from the prior year and nearly triple the figure of five years ago. That is the rough equivalent of 36 clicks on Google ads this year from each of the world’s approximately 3.4 billion PCs, smartphones and tablets. Steadily increasing sales of mobile devices could help Google for a long time. “What all this leads up to is that investors just feel this is a longer-term story.
The spurt made Google the third most-valuable U.S. company by market capitalization, with a value of $338 billion, behind only Apple and Exxon Mobil Corp. What also interesting is that the Google results have also given a spurt to the prices of Twitter, Facebook, Pandora, Yahoo! and other online companies which are contingent on ads.
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.
The growing popularity of tablets is encouraging not just print publishing and television service providers to go mobile, but advertisers as well.Tablets, thanks to their larger screens and more engaging media experience, will account for 53% of mobile advertising dollars in 2014, compared to 47% for mobile handsets. That number is expected to grow to 60% by 2016.
A quarter of tablet owners clicked on ads while using apps, and 29% purchased extra content. Additionally, on average, tablet owners buy 1.7 paid apps per month, while smartphone users buy 1.1.
A recent study by the Yankee group provides the directions towards tablets propelling and growing the future of Mobile advertisements and media.
• Tablets are leading content owners, service providers and advertisers to go mobile. Tablet usage extends beyond games into print publishing and rich media. A fifth of tablet app downloads are for shopping and banking—an indication of the device’s potential for mobile commerce.
• Over two-thirds of tablet owners are frequent video watchers. Pay TV services, producers and advertisers are rising to the challenge with optimized apps and dual-screen functionality. Video viewing is set to increase as mainstream adopters—who are even more video-oriented—buy into tablets.
• Tablet ad revenues will surpass handsets by 2014. Mobile advertising works on tablets. In-app ads are especially effective and generate responses from a quarter of their target audience.
• Over a third of tablet owners purchase multimedia from application stores. Apple’s App Store is a key strategic advantage and remains a killer incentive for developers to prioritize iOS. No surprise, then, that Google turned the spotlight on Google Play in the Nexus 7 tablet launch. The application store forms a decisive battleground for ecosystem rivals.
With traditional revenue sources for the operators like voice and messaging at bottom levels, the subscriber churn, as a result of mobile number portability, it is quite natural that the operators are taking a safer route and betting on VAS as the next big opportunity to sustain and succeed in the market.
According to PwC, the mobile VAS market in India has the potential to generate Rs.55,000 crore by 2015. As per V&D100-the annual survey of the Indian communications industry-the Indian cellular market for FY11 is estimated to be around Rs.102,230 crore, ie, $22.3 mn and this market is growing at the rate of 16.6%. Of this total amount, VAS or non-voice revenue for mobile operators contribute around 13%, which translates to Rs.13,026 crore. It is expected that the Indian VAS market is bound to increase to Rs.32,000 crore in FY15. All this will happen only when operators provide stable 3G and 4G network and quality of experience so that data services improve considerably.
The Indian VAS market is also bound to grow as operators have already invested around ‘100,000 crore in terms of 3G and BWA auction, and they are presently in search of a series of killer applications that will help them recover their auction money. Not only this, they are also looking at killer applications that are less bandwidth consuming and can bring a large chunk of revenue.
The launch of 3G services in India opened up a plethora of opportunities for VAS players. With 3G services, the operators will now be able to offer richer services such as mobile internet and video, as there is greater bandwidth available to deliver an enhanced service experience. While the operators will continue to offer pre-3G existing VAS, such as ringback tones, messaging, and infotainment services; there will be an opportunity to offer services that require more video or image based content, such as telemedicine, wireless teleconferencing, and e-learning.
VAS will also play a critical role in bridging down the digital gap between urban and rural masses, with operators coming up with innovative offerings to suit customer demands in all regions. Of late, VAS has also helped in digitally empowering the masses as it continues to play a major role in m-governance and m-commerce. Offerings like medical facilities, an SMS away, or mandi prices for farmers on phone, have even made the government to take a keen interest in the development of VAS. Innovations such as location based services, mobile TV, m-wallet have given the best breed of personalized services on mobile devices.
Market growth drivers on the supply side include declining ARPU, brand differentiation needs, and growing focus on entertainment-related content; demand-side drivers include the booming Indian economy, increasing user comfort with basic mobility services, personalization of content, devices, and cheaper handsets. From the early days of ‘Person-to-Person Short Message Service’ (P2P SMS), the industry is witnessing the growing portfolio of services including graphics/wallpapers downloads, ringtones and caller ringback tones (CRBT), SMS contests, and games.
The era of mobile computing, catalyzed by Apple and Google, is driving among the largest shifts in consumer behavior over the last forty years. Impressively, its rate of adoption is outpacing both the PC revolution of the 1980s and the Internet Boom of the 1990s. Since 2007, more than 500 million iOS and Android smartphones and tablets have been activated. By the end of 2012, Flurry estimates that the cumulative number of iOS and Android devices activated will surge past 1 billion. According to IDC, over 800 million PCs were sold between 1981 and 2000, making the rate of iOS and Android smart device adoption more than four times faster than that of personal computers. While the Internet began its commercial ramp in 1996, iOS and Android devices have seen double the number of device activations during its first five years compared to the number of Internet users reached during its first five years (Internet 1996 – 2001 vs. Smart devices 2007 – 2012).
On top of this massively growing iOS and Android device installed base, roughly 40 billion applications have already been downloaded from the App Store and Android Market. The average smartphone user, is beginning to spend more time in mobile applications than they do browsing the web.
This chart by Flurry compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 18 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. Ever since June 2011, time spent in mobile applications has grown. Smartphone and tablet users now spend over an hour and half of their day using applications. Meanwhile, average time spent on the web has shrunk, from 74 minutes to 72 minutes. Users seem to be substituting websites for applications, which may be more convenient to access throughout the day. People are now spending less time on the traditional web than they did during an year ago. This drop appears to be driven largely by a decrease in time spent on Facebook from the traditional web. In June 2011, the average Facebook user spent over 33 minutes on average per day on the website. Now, that number is below 24 minutes. Time spent on the web without Facebook has grown at a modest rate of 2% between June 2011 and December 2011.
Even while, the growth in time spent in mobile applications is slowing – from above 23% between December 2010 and June 2011 this year to a little over 15% from June 2011 to December 2011. The growth is predominately being driven by an increase in the number of sessions, as opposed to longer session lengths. Consumers are using their apps more frequently.
Facebook is the most used app on Android among 14 – 44 year olds, surpassing usage of Google’s own native, pre-installed apps. Additionally, Facebook Messenger became the top downloaded app, at least one time during 2011, across more than 100 different App Store countries. In the U.S., the largest App Store market, Facebook Messenger ranked as the top overall app across all other apps across all categories.
Strategy Analytics in its AMJ (Q2) quarter has declared Apple to the king of the smartphone crown. Apple cornered 18% of the 110 million unit smartphone market which itself registered a 76% growth Y-o-Y.In Q1, 2011, Apple had become the world’s largest phone vendor in terms of revenue. Samsung scored a close no.2 even when it was expected by analysts to become the no.1 vendor. Samsung’s growth story has seen impressive success, and its shipments grew a huge 520 percent annually from 3.1 million smartphones in the year ago quarter.
The Apple wonder doesnot just stop there.. the 18% smartphone volume market share translates into 66% profit share of the mobile phones.(Base calculated is 365 million as per IDC numbers) To put it other way around, Apple which contributes 5.5% of mobile phones by volumes, takes a disproportionate 66% of the mobile phone industry profits. This is up against from 57% share of profits same time last year. This Q2,2011 quarter saw a slight sequential decline in overall profit for the mobile phones, but Nokia, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson and LG did not manage a profit from selling phones. Apple’s share is up from 57% in Q1 and 50% in Q3 and Q4. Samsung’s share went to 15%, though that’s not a peak level historically. In Q1 2008 the company was at 21%. RIM was at 11%, a level in a range that has been unchanged for three years. Finally, HTC captured 7.4%, a new high and an increase from 6% since last quarter.
Smartphones have become the primary driver of mobile phone vendor profitability, giving Apple a significant edge over most of the competition with its smartphone-only offerings.
Apple’s ability to out-innovate competition has been a key to its domination of the profit shares. Come October and one expects that iPhone5 and a low cost iPhone would add another dimension to Apple’s ability not only to exact high profit shares but also maintain its lead in the device volume shares.
Data courtesy: Strategy Analytics, IDC, Asymco
With the advent and evolution of Mobile as primary devices to access internet, the nature of search is beginning to change.Search has to evolve to keep pace with the changing nature of internet and be able to be relevant to browsing through mobiles as against through desktops or laptops.
Traditional Web search is “horizontal” : complex algorithms, immense processing power, vast data centers, and even human editorial involvement are used in an attempt to span all sources to respond to queries.
These resources are used to “recall” all possible relevant links. The majority of the results produced are information resources and links to websites, rather than specific content. The user is faced with clicking through page after page of results. Broadband connections and powerful personal computers with large screens help make horizontal search useful, though often imprecise and labor intensive.
“Mobile” augments Search 2.0:Vertical Deep Dive Search
However search on mobile requires a different level of precision. Mobile,“on the go” users conduct their searches with less powerful, small screen devices and must deal with network limitations. They face an entirely different challenge and have different goals: 85% of the time they’re shopping for content they can consume on their phone. Results must be precise or the content simply won’t be discovered and consumed. Long click distances and click fatigue kill content discovery. The experience is frustrating for users and threatens revenue opportunities for mobile operators and content providers alike.
Mobile users are not looking at a million “matches” but possibly 10 deep matches, with huge degree of relevance, contextual applicability, profile understanding, local “sense”, social discover-ability and referencing and more.Users need to connect far faster—in 2-3 clicks—to the content in each of these relevant vertical channels, need linkages to payment gateways, social sites, rewards programs and much more. While there is a debate on how much content will be delivered: in terms of HTML5 web page or Applications, i would vote for Applications to be more versatile in doing the deep dives with user relevance. Add to this a decent dosage of Semantic Web and you have a huge opportunity to take search monetization to a new level with precision targeting and relevant solutions.
So where does SEO stand?
SEO, Adwords, Adsense are industries unto themselves which have allowed and helped users to refine data search and monetize effectively. However most of these techniques work on indexing the horizontal web- the dead links of Google. Search now is actively propelled by billions of bits of content created by the users collaborative, sourced from the crowd: Twitter and Facebook being the prime examples. These are examples of active web… always generating, creating and moving instead of the static web-pages of yore. Thus the delivery medium for these need to be mechanisms which are forever refreshing and renewing with new data.
Thus the challenge today is not SEO (ad placement), but to analyze, understand and cater to mobility experiences and i am betting my money on Applications and Vertical searches.
Wireless Intelligence released a report recently on the Top 20 Mobile Operators in the world based on revenues. The list is led by China Mobile followed by Vodafone and Verizon. Bharti Airtel scores 5th in terms of subscribers having just shy of 200 million subscribers.
However, Airtel is the worst performer in terms of revenue generated per user. Airtel earns USD 14.5 per subscriber in an year, equivalent to about Rs. 650 in an year.China Mobile earns over Rs. 1530 on its 584 Million Subscriber base. NTT DOCOMO which is primarily based in Japan, earns over 9000 rupees per subscriber and ranks 6th largest in terms of revenue on its relatively miniscule 57 million subscriber base. That is about 14 times more than Bharti Airtel !
7 out of top 20 mobile operators earn over Rs. 4500 (USD 100) per subscriber. The average per subscriber earning amongst top 20 mobile providers is Rs. 3813!