Monthly Archives: February 2011

Apple uprising

Apple just released changes to their pricing structures, and are receiving a heavy backlash from larger publishers and from some smaller app creators who are crying “not fair”.

In essence this change restricts publishers from selling access to any portions of their app outside of the app store, and ensures that 30% of the sale price goes to Apple.

In the US there are rumblings of an anti-trust investigation, which I think I’m right in saying would be the first time that Apple have received this sort of attention.

I’m sure Apple are going to take this in their stride, and that publishers of all sizes will eventually just quieten down/roll over and accept the might of Apple, but there’s another long-term scenario that I imagine could be starting to play out here…

If you squeeze your eyes tightly closed, you could picture an Apple without Steve Jobs at all, and someone else at the helm who is not quite so controlling, and possibly still believes in Apple as the challenger brand, the benefactor, the champion of User Experience and friend of the niche markets. This new boss could start to be swayed by the weight of press and popular opinion and start to cave on some of these less popular issues. Maybe losing Jobs will have less impact on the inspiring products, but more impact on the business models that Apple chooses to put in place, resulting in a less powerful, more altruistic Apple over time.

Just maybe.

More on the Nokia and Microsoft tie up

The Nokia and Microsoft tie up is starting to permeate through the industry, and with it is more general confusion about how this will play out. Particularly this is being seen as just another change of direction for Nokia, and more fragmentation of their interests and software platforms.

How will Symbian continue to rollout, and what really is the future of Meego are the 2 main questions.

My guesses are that :

  • Even the die-hard Symbian developer community will now stop working on the platform, slowing their interest in Qt down to see if it stays the course. Talk of WinMo having support for Qt is a furfy in my opinion.
  • Symbian will continue its downward move through the device portfolio, effectively frozen – in much the same way that Series 40 was initially frozen (only to be somewhat revived recently as its life has been extended over and over again). At the same rate, Symbian could still be appearing on phones out into 2016.
  • Meego will never make it beyond the single device slated for 2011, which is most likely a minimum commitment that Nokia made to Intel. This device is most likely in the very late stages of production and so there is no point in stopping it now. Meego may reemerge on some future Intel or Nokia device, but not for several years if at all.
  • Windows Mobile 7 will go through an update to fix some of the outstanding areas of poor experience (e.g. web browsing is painfully slow), and to ready it properly for the Nokia platforms.
  • Nokia will rollout an already beefed up platform to suit Windows Mobile (7.5 ?)
  • Nokia will engage a new Industrial design team to update their increasingly outdated look, and engage very different internal UI and app designers to put a Finnish-spin on OVI for Windows Marketplace and other key services.

Nokia <3 Microsoft

The news that Microsoft and Nokia are to form a strategic partnership has been met with a fair bit of derision over the last few days, even though everyone knew that Nokia couldn’t continue to be so far out of the race, and could’t continue to confuse the developer community by dithering on platforms and technologies.

In my view this could be an excellent outcome both for Nokia, and for Microsoft, bringing a fresh and stable OS in the shape of Windows Mobile 7 (the experience on an HTC Trophy is excellent) to what is after all the best connected and organised handset makers on the planet. All Nokia has to do now is to hire some better industrial designers and scrap the legacy design ethic (see the N8, E7 for how bad they can make things) and they’ll be off and running.

Of course, handset manufacturing does not happen overnight, but if I was Elop and Ballmer I’d be planning a launch of a new device before Christmas – maybe reworking the ID of a chassis which is already in the works, layering WinMo 7 over the top.

The experiment with OVI is dead I assume – hopefully Elop will have no qualms about giving it the bullet as well.

Rise and Fall of apps Part 2 – Distribution channels

Once you’ve decided that an app is really required to do whatever it is you need (post to come on how to decide) distributing your app to your users is a bit of a minefield in itself.

App stores are appearing everywhere it seems, off the top of my head this is the list I’m aware of :

  • Apple’s App store (really a sub category within the iTunes distribution and charging framework – appears as as an app on the iOS platform, and as an app for Mac & PC)
  • Android Marketplace – newly revamped, as of January, appears as an app on Android handsets, and a website on the desktop.
  • Amazon are working on their own app store focussing on Android apps, and using their incredible customisation engine
  • Blackberry App World – appears as an app on Blackberry handsets
  • Nokia OVI – appears as an OVI app on newer handsets, as “Downloads” on older handsets, and has a web presence
  • Microsoft Marketplace – appears as an app on Windows Mobile 7 handsets
  • Getjar and other app aggregators – serving the Java handset market and moving into the Android space

In addition, its possible to distribute apps for most devices (iOS excluded) by simply putting them on a web server. This can be an attractive option if you are not worried about gaining exposure to the wide audience that visit the various app stores, don’t need to charge for your app through Google/Amazon/Getjar, or if you want to distribute your app only to a specific audience (for example if its exclusively for a companies internal use).

Apple is currently unique in that any apps submitted to them have to go through an internal Apple review. This is a famously opaque process – your app can be disallowed seemingly on a whim – however there are rules which Apple set down in their developer agreement which you MUST abide by, for your sanity as much as anything else, dont even bother trying to work this system.

Having consumers find your app within these stores is becoming quite difficult, and its worth following a couple of simple of rules :

  • choose your categories carefully. the games category takes up the majority of all of the stores, so simply chucking in another one is likely not to be seen. enter the app into more than one category if you can
  • make sure that the description, name and other data make your app easy to find, sound compelling and make sure you update the description regularly with information on how to contact you, new update information and anything relevant that will keep it sounding fresh
  • advertise in as many ways as possible. buy some keywords, distribute links to the app through social networks and generally just get it out there.

Part 1 – Cross platform development

Friendly advice – internet trends

A friend recently asked for some themes or trends that he could use at a work brainstorming – I knocked this list of thoughts & opinions out quickly and thought it was worth reproducing here …
1) Mobile internet is quickly overtaking the fixed internet.
The % of people who access the internet from their mobile phone/tablet (ipad et al) is accelerating massively as people buy more smartphones (mostly with big, touch screens, powerful web browsers and the ability to download apps). iPhone currently dominates, but phones running Google’s Android system, and Blackberry are not far behind. Nokia is rapidly losing its overall dominance and does not have a good hold on the high end market. They are using these phones to download apps at a massive rate (these apps often access the internet to do stuff), and they are increasingly visiting regular web sites – though the trend is to design apps and web sites specifically for smartphones. e.g. have a look at m.smh.com.au on an iPhone and see how it compares to www.smh.com.au on the same phone. People with smartphones (which are quickly becoming much much cheaper) have an expectation that they can do anything with their phones that they can do on their PC.

2) Apps are on a meteoric rise
Keyed in with (1), apps are the new way to represent your brand, and to engage with customers, but do not enter into this lightly as you will quickly alienate customers and they will tell you about it. Current stats are that each iPhone/Android customer downloads 8-9 apps per month.

3) Social Media is reaching saturation point. There is not a single demographic that is not deeply engaged with social media in one way or another. Facebook, Twitter and even “Like” on 3rd party sites are important channels. Some are even predicting that in the next couple of years they will supplant search engines and keywords – though I personally believe this is a way off yet. Social Media is overtaking Email as the base-case communication tool.
Twitter is an important one to get right, but check how your target demographics are using it – as there are differing levels of interest.
Stats : Facebook has 550million members (1 in 13 of the earths population). Foursquare went from almost 0 checkins in 2009 to 382million in 2010. 4300% growth – not to be ignored or thought of as fringe.
To get a social media strategy right you’ll need to consider how transparent you want to be with followers and friends, and what impacts this will have on your organisation. You also need to get the language and tone of voice right on your blogs, tweets, status updates etc.

4) Location and group based selling
Mobile : Foursquare is a location-based game turning into “show me local specials” – worth looking at.
Groupon is part of a massively growing group-buying site. Google just offered $4billion to buy it – the founder turned the offer down !
There are many of them popping up – there are a couple of Aussie ones.
Group opinion has taken a while to pick up, but think of sites like tripadvisor.com and the impact that user comments have on the hotels etc.

5) User generated video continues to grow exponentially.
Sites like YouTube and Vimeo are still growing crazily. Think of how many times you’ve seen a YouTube video embedded in a facebook posting. This heavily distributed approach has meant that YouTube is the defacto video site – even though people don’t visit the site itself. Having said that, I’ve heard that branded channels on YouTube are very successful. Have a look for Coke and Nike on YouTube and you’ll get to their channel.

hope that’s some use 🙂

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