Mobile App Internet: Making Sense Of The 2011 Mobile Hysteria

Starting with CES in early January and through the Mobile World Congress last week in Barcelona, the mobile industry has been in a feeding frenzy of announcement activity. At CES, it was centered on Android-powered tablets. During the Mobile World Congress, it was about the big Microsoft/Nokia deal and vendors scrambling to differentiate their Android handsets.

But behind all these announcements, there is a broader shift going on to what Forrester calls the mobile app Internet and the accompanying broader wave of app development and management. We have just published a report that explores the different vectors of innovation and sizes the mobile app Internet from an app sales and services opportunity.

The report looks at the three factors beyond hardware that will drive the market:

  1. Even at $2.43/app, the app market will emerge as a $38B market by 2015 as more tablets and smart phones are sold and the number of paid for apps per device increases due to improvements in the app store experience.
  2. A perfect storm of innovation is unleashed by the merger of mobile, cloud, and smart computing. I see innovation coming from the combination of apps and smart devices like appliances and cars, improved user experience around the apps by better leveraging the context from the sensors in the devices, and enabling the apps to take advantage of new capabilities like near field communications (NFC) for things such as mobile payments.
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Motorola Xoom: Cool Product, Fatally Flawed Pricing Strategy

The Motorola Xoom went on sale today, the first tablet to ship with the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system. I've been testing the Xoom for the past few days, and here's my take:

  • The Xoom is a solid, sexy product. If the Xoom were a guy, he'd be the quarterback who occasionally flashed a GQ-style fitted suit and pocket square. The device is plenty powerful and has some nice design flair. When you use the camera, for example, it anticipates that you'll be holding it in landscape mode with your right thumb on the screen, and it simulates the radial control dial of a real camera under your thumb. There are no awkward moments, as there were with earlier Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Dell Streak--it's slick and fast and feels like a tablet rather than an oversized smartphone. It has all the features you'd expect from an iPad challenger (cameras, ports, Flash support, etc.).
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Apple’s 30% And Google’s 10% Fees Are Too High

 

The most important outcome of this week’s emerging tussle between Apple and Google is that we are about to have an intense and financially difficult conversation about what a fair price is for delivering customers to developers, publishers, and producers. Economically, this is one of the most critical issues that has to be resolved for the future of electronic content. Very soon, a majority of consumer experiences (that which we used to refer to as the media) will be digital. But not until the people who will develop those experiences have unambiguous, market-clearing rules for how they can expect to profit from those experiences.

The question comes down to this: Is 30% a fair price for Apple to charge? I must be clear about my intentions here. I do not employ the word “fair” the way my children often do. I am not whining about Apple’s right to charge whatever it wants. Apple may do whatever is best for shareholders in the short- and long-run. I argued yesterday that Apple’s recent decision does not serve its shareholders in the long run. Google announced One Pass yesterday – hastily, I might add – in order to signal to Apple and its shareholders that monopoly power rarely lasts forever. But none of that questions the ultimate morality of Apple’s decision or its rights.

I use the word “fair” to refer to a state of economic efficiency. A fair price is one that maximizes not just individual revenue, but total revenue across all players. Such revenue maximization cannot be achieved without simultaneously satisfying the largest possible number of consumers with the greatest possible amount of innovation.

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Google Gets Deeper Into The Product Comparison Business

Google recently released a savings account comparison tool to go along with a similar tool launched last year for mortgages

In a June 2010 report, eBusiness Leaders: It's Time To Take Financial Service Comparison Web Sites Seriously, we showed that 26% of comparison site users were drawn to comparison tools because of advertisements and 22% came via an Internet search. The launch of Google’s savings account comparison tool will only increase the exposure of comparison tools and sites in the US and other markets (the tool became available in the UK in 2010), mostly because of its strong tie to the buying process and prowess as a search engine. 

Google’s comparison tool covers other retail banking products as well as mortgages, credit cards and checking accounts. The focus on personal finances instead of solely investment products — which for some US companies is a missed opportunity — increases the pressure on smaller firms like Bankrate.com or CreditCards.com, since it aggregates information for all key retail banking products and will likely benefit from greater exposure by virtue of being associated with Google.

The only major downside of Google’s tool is the lack of major players in the space like big traditional banks. This will be more an issue for less rate driven products like checking, where choice is based on factorsother than just interest rate.

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Apple Clamps Down On Paid Content Delivered To iPhones And iPads

Today The New York Times is reporting that Apple is changing its policy for allowing apps to deliver content that was paid for somewhere other than in the app where Apple would get a cut. This came to light when Sony was forced to explain why its iPhone and iPad apps were not being released as promised. This is important to illustrate clearly because this is not just about Sony. In fact, it is expected that Apple will apply this same policy to existing apps over the coming months. The most obvious target is Amazon.com's Kindle store, but we have no reason to believe it will stop with eBook retailers; instead, this policy should also affect magazines, newspapers, even videos and games. 

This represents a shift for Apple. Going back to the iPod days, Apple only sold music because it helped sell iPods. When Apple added the iPhone app store, it allowed Amazon to add a Kindle app because it would only make iPhones more valuable to potential buyers. The same held true for the iPad. But now that the company has built such a powerful ecosystem of devices, content, and consumers, it appears Apple is eager to ensure it can collect any and all tolls along its proprietary highways. I note this with some irony because it was just three weeks ago that I praised Apple's surprising openness in a report explaining the iPad's rapid growth:

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