Today’s announced partnership between the West Coast innovators Square and Starbucks represents a significant milestone in the advancement of mobile payment and digital wallets. Here’s why:
New entrant scale. The Pay With Square digital wallet has suddenly catapulted from a respectable new entrant in mobile payments, driving adoption within the long-tail of retail, to soon being present in every Starbucks, and in NYC, that’s just about every other block. Starbucks, the leader of in-store mobile payments, says that 1 million people per week use its mobile payment app to pay in-store. Its existing mobile payment customers will now be Square’s customers, giving Square an immediate boost in the number of locations and consumers it reaches within the market.
Accelerated adoption. As with the Starbucks app, consumers have only to download the Pay With Square wallet and load their funding source in order to use it. But unlike the existing Starbucks app, the Square digital wallet works with other merchants. According to Square, merchant acceptance is very quick and no-to-low cost, and Square promotes its participating merchants to users of the wallet. I think this set of factors will motivate other merchants — both large and small — to use this as an opportunity to trial mobile payments in their stores. Today’s announcement is unclear about whether the initial implementation will have Starbucks embedded in the Pay With Square wallet, but at a minimum, this deal gives Square broader visibility and awareness and the opportunity to earn the confidence of new customers with its digital wallet, which will drive broader adoption overall.
The poorly kept secret that is the Google Nexus 7 tablet was just announced amid much developer applause and excitement. The device is everything it was rumored to be and the specs — something that only developers care about, of course — were impressive, including the 12 core GPU that will make the Nexus 7 a gaming haven. True, it's just another in a long line of tablets, albeit a $199 one that competes directly with Amazon's Kindle Fire and undercuts the secondary market for the iPad.
But as a competitor to the iPad, Nexus 7 isn't worth the digital ink I'm consuming right now.
But Google isn't just selling a device. Instead, the company wants to create a content platform strategy that ties together all of its ragtag content and app experiences into a single customer relationship. Because the power of the platform is the only power that will matter (see my recent post for more information on platform power). It's unfortunate that consumers barely know what Google Play is because it was originally called Android Market, but the shift to the Google Play name a few months back and the debut of a device that is, according to its designers, "made for Google Play," show that Google understands what will matter in the future. Not connections, not devices. But experiences. The newly announced Nexus 7, as a device, is from its inception subservient to the experiences — some of them truly awesome — that Google's Play platform can provide through it.
Last week, we released our newest report about the future of TV and argued in it and the accompanying blog post that the battle for the TV is not really about TV. It’s about the future of the platform giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft that want to add the TV to their platform ambitions. Surprising to some was our claim that Microsoft was in the lead in the US TV platform battle with its base of millions of Xbox 360 owners generating more online video views on the TV screen than viewers of any other device. Many have challenged this assertion, putting the data about current use aside and asking a good question:
Won’t Apple easily walk away with the TV business once it releases its next big thing, presumably a TV?
You’re in for a big surprise. Microsoft is winning one of the most important battles in the digital world: The battle for the TV. The TV battle is important for reasons you already know: TV consumes more time than anything else and it generates annual revenues from $140 to $160 billion each year in the US alone.
But the stakes of the battle have risen sharply. The fight over the TV is really a fight over the next massive consumer platform that is coming up for grabs. Of platforms there are few: Google owns search, Amazon owns digital retail, Facebook owns social, and Apple owns consumer devices. Microsoft owns, well, nothing at the moment, despite its handsome revenue stream from Windows and Office.
That could change soon. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is already the most-watched net-connected TV device in the US and soon, the world. With more than 70 million consoles in households worldwide – as many as half of them connected to the Internet, depending on the country – Microsoft can rapidly drive new video services into tens of millions of households.
After months of rumors and a good marketing orchestration, Samsung has just unveiled its new flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Samsung will first launch the HSPA+ device in Europe at the end of May to benefit from the current weaknesses of its competitors — in particular, Nokia. It will release in the US in an LTE version later this summer. The aim is clear: to take the lead from Apple’s iPhone in the high-end smartphone segment and do even better than the Galaxy S2, which sold more than 20 million units.
Samsung is positioning a wide range of products in all segments and in multiple consumer electronic categories, leveraging its scale and scope and its vertically integrated approach (screens, processors, storage components, etc.). Despite the growing dependence on the Android OS, Samsung does not have all its eggs in the same OS basket. However, it clearly needs to catch up in the software and services space. That’s the reason I continue to believe that, in the premium segment, Apple is still in the best position to offer a seamlessly integrated experience across devices. Samsung’s cloud component is still missing, and it will need to continue its efforts to close the gap with Apple.
On the contrary, Apple — still one of Samsung’s largest clients (chipsets and screens) — has few models and higher margins and is in a position to leverage a different ecosystem around its OS, apps, and iCloud models. Thanks to the phenomenal success of the iPad, the Apple brand is reinventing itself and expanding into hardware categories that represent new growth drivers from which Samsung is not yet able to benefit.
Beyond the Samsung/Apple high-end leadership war, the great news is that these new smartphones will increasingly enable consumer-facing brands to launch innovative new product experiences. Some of the new services introduced by the Galaxy S III highlight this phenomenon:
Tablets aren’t the most powerful computing gadgets. But they are the most convenient.
They’re bigger than the tiny screen of a smartphone, even the big ones sporting nearly 5-inch screens.
They have longer battery life and always-on capabilities better than any PC — and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop.
And tablets are very good for information consumption, an activity that many of us do a lot of. Content creation apps are appearing on tablets. They’ll get a lot better as developers get used to building for touch-first interfaces, taking advantage of voice input, and adding motion gestures.
They’re even better for sharing and working in groups. There’s no barrier of a vertical screen, no distracting keyboard clatter, and it just feels natural to pass over a tablet, like a piece of paper, compared to spinning around a laptop.
Apple launched its next-gen tablet, the new iPad, yesterday at a San Francisco event. Among the standout features includes a Retina display with 2048×1536 resolution, meaning that the new iPad has 1 million more pixels than a 1080p HDTV. Further, the device packs a dual-core CPU, a quad-core A5X graphics processor, LTE support, worldwide 3G support, and 10-hour battery life (nine hours on 4G). I expect that these upgrades will undoubtedly be enough to attract consumers and enterprises alike and further consolidate Apple’s resounding tablet market leadership globally.
So what will be the impact of the new iPad on the rapidly evolving telecom industry? I believe it will disrupt the market due to the following:
The As will rule the tablet market. The tablet market is moving towards a likely duopoly between Apple and Amazon due to their aggressive pricing strategies. Through Kindle Fire, Amazon has wiped out the competition in the sub-$199 price range while with the new iPad, Apple will knock out competitors starting from $499 upwards. Moreover, as iPad 2 will coexist alongside the latest incarnation and Apple will slash iPad 2 prices to $399, it reduces the market play of other OEMs such as Samsung even further.
Apple has already announced that it’s got 100 million signups for its personal cloud service, iCloud, and repeated that today. Now Apple supports movies — in addition to TV shows and music — in iCloud. Apple added PhotoStream to iCloud support in Apple TV, including the previous black Apple TV, with the new Apple TV software update. With the new iOS iPhoto app, I believe Apple will use iCloud to sync albums and the new journal information that displays weather information from the date a photo was taken — although full support will probably require an update or new version of iPhoto on the Mac.
Apple’s vision of personal cloud deeply integrates across Apple products and a wide range of personal and purchased content, including books and iTunes U-class materials. It’ll be interesting to see if the company opens up any API access. My hunch is that Apple will create tools and an app store for iCloud to interact with the personal content in the service rather than do large-scale API access.
As my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps so aptly observes: the third generation of iPad is a gut renovation masquerading as incremental innovation. The new iPad looks basically the same but now carries a snappy 4G radio and a much more powerful graphics processor than its predecessor. The big hardware advance lies in the components, particularly in the graphics processor to handle the high-fidelity Retina display and rapid-response touchscreen control. How will an iPad with much better graphics and a faster network connection affect the enterprise?
Some Forrester data from our workforce surveys and forecasts to set the stage: