Google Launches July 4 Fireworks Early, Buys ITA Software

In a move that had been speculated about since April, on July 1 Google announced  it had entered into an agreement to buy Cambridge, MA-based ITA Software for $700 million — thus launching its own round of business fireworks ahead of the US July 4 holiday.

As an analyst, I believe this deal makes sense because:

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To MROC Or Not To MROC -- That's The Question

I was offline for two days this week, and during that time a lively debate had started on the term MROC (market research online community) and the definition of what an MROC is.

Jeffrey Henning from Vovici wrote a blog post in which he presented a segmentation that positions different types of communities in a matrix graphic, based on open versus closed and long term versus short term.

In our opinion, this is actually a useful segmentation of different types of online qualitative research techniques that could be categorized as different ways of doing social MR. However, each of these examples is on different parts of the spectrum of what a community is. From a research standpoint, community bonds strengthen as engagement from the research participants and commitment from the researcher increase. As a result, I’d put online focus groups and bulletin boards at the low end of the spectrum and MROCs at the very high end (when done right).

That’s as far as I’ll go in a blog entry on defining what a community is. Even "official" definitions of community offer a lot of latitude and reveal that that there are larger debates on this term that go beyond MR.

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PFM Pioneer Wesabe Abandons Account Tools, Sticks With Social

Online personal finance pioneer today announced it would be exiting the account aggregation and online personal financial management (PFM) space. While the unexpected home page announcement caught users by surprise, the site had for some time been struggling to build a larger user base in the face of better funded competitors and bank-hosted offerings from Yodlee, Intuit, and others.  Wesabe had launched its own white-labeled PFM solution for banks last year, but Springboard, as it was known, failed to attract much interest.

Wesabe is not shutting it doors entirely. It will continue to run the community, or Groups, part of its web site, where it had attracted a loyal and very active group of participants. Wesabe had also begun licensing its Groups content to other institutions in 2009. This “community –in-a-can” concept allowed institutions to quickly add a social component to their sites without having to build it from the ground up.  Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union last summer began offering the Groups functionality on its site. 

Company CEO Marc Hedlund noted on Wesabe’s home page today that “competitors have either dismissed the value of community, or have not been able to create a community as rich as Wesabe Groups, so I'm very happy we are able to keep that part of the service going.” Wesabe is getting assistance on that front from one of its current Groups customers.

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Why Don't More People Drive Hybrids?

See many hybrid vehicles while driving to work or in the parking garage? No? These cars have been sold for more than 10 years, yet adoption is still low. Our consumer data tells us that people are concerned with the environment and that their concern is growing. So why aren't more folks going green and buying up hybrids?

We have tackled that question by applying our Convenience Quotient (CQ) analysis to the concept of green commuting in a metro area -- Boston, in particular. In the recently published report, we looked at various modes of commuting: walking, bicycling, public transportation, car-sharing services, and various self-owned automobiles, including a regular Honda Civic, a Toyota Prius, a Ford Escape hybrid SUV, and the forthcoming Nissan LEAF. We identified three different scenarios for commuters: urban dwellers (within 2 miles of the city center), inner suburban dwellers (within 8 miles of the city center) and outer suburban dwellers (within 16 miles of the city center). We then applied our CQ methodology, defining the benefits of each option as well as the barriers to adoption, and scored each mode of transportation accordingly.

Our findings: The green automobiles delivered a slightly more convenient commuting experience than the Honda Civic, but multiple significant barriers stand in the way of green automobiles being considered convenient green commuting solutions, particularly those associated with cost. Green-specific benefits are also limited, which do not counter-balance the barriers for hybrid and electric cars. We also found that urban consumers have many green alternatives available to them, thus diminishing the attractiveness of using a hybrid car to get to work.

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Mobile Internet - How It Has Grown

AdMob just released its May 2010 Metrics report.

One of the significant shifts in consumer mobile behavior identifed by Forrester in the past two years has been the increase in use of the Internet on mobile phones. The growth has been staggering -- consumers don't typically shift their behavior this quickly. One of the reasons has been growth in the number of smartphones we own and use. Great user experiences delivered by great user interfaces on phones and fast networks have been part of that smartphone upgrade as well. The AdMob data shows that smartphones generate 46% of its ad requests.

Download the report for a deep dive. Look for the growth in the number of countries where individuals are using their cell phones to access the Internet. We've also seen a new category emerge - "Mobile Internet Devices." See its breakdown of iPad ad requests. The US generates 58%, with Japan second at 5%.


Here are a few highlights:

The reports also includes a refresh of much of the network data that we have shared in our feature sections over the last several months. Other highlights from the report include:

  • 92 countries generated more than 10 million monthly requests, up from 27 in May 2008.

  • Traffic from North America, Asia, Western Europe, Latin America and Oceania all increased by a factor of at least 6x from May 2008 to May 2010.

  • Smartphones accounted for 46 percent of traffic, feature phones for 42 percent of traffic and Mobile Internet Devices for 12 percent of traffic in May 2010.

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