These are exciting—and challenging—times for anyone who is responsible for developing, managing, and innovating consumer products. Why? Because digital technology is disrupting everything—the way we communicate with each other; the way we access, store, and share information; the way we purchase and interact with the products and services we use every day; and yes—even the way in which we actually pay for those products and services. Whether you like it or not, digital disruption is happening everywhere, it’s happening fast, and it’s accelerating.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal mentioned that Google could team up with MasterCard and Citigroup to pursue a role in mobile payments; this is yet another indication that disruption is looming in the payment space.
In his keynote at 2011’s Mobile World Congress, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated that “NFC should revolutionize electronic commerce as well as payments.”
What does Google have to do with payments? Well, it has already rolled out (quite unsuccessfully so far) Google Checkout. What’s different about this new proposal is that this is not just about payments: Google would embed Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in Android mobile devices, allowing consumers to make purchases by waving their smartphones in front of a small reader at checkout counters. So what? Well, NFC is more than just a payment technology; it brings mobile payments together with mobile marketing and loyalty programs. As with mobile devices in general, it helps bridge the digital and physical worlds.
Today, Amazon announced the Amazon Cloud Drive. I think it is the first salvo in a series of steps that will lead Amazon to compete directly for the primary computing platform for individuals, as an online platform, as a device operating system, and as a maker of branded tablets.
Much of the attention is going to the Amazon Cloud Player, announced at the same time, which enables customers to stream music stored in Cloud Drive – Forrester’s Mark Mulligan blogged about that for Consumer Product Strategists (Amazon Beats Apple and Google to the Locker Room). But the general purpose design of Cloud Drive, combined with the long-term opportunities for personal cloud services, lead to a really interesting set of possibilities and insights into Amazon’s long-term strategy for Vendor Strategists trying to sort out the technologies and players of next-generation personal computing platforms.
Most of the hype in advance of today’s Apple media event is rightly about a new iPad. Sarah Rotman Epps will post on her blog about the new iPad for consumer product strategists after the announcement. I’m focused on the published reports that Apple’s Mobile Me service will be upgraded. I cited Mobile Me as an example of emerging personal cloud services in a July 2009 report, and I’m working on a follow-on report now. Mobile Me is Apple’s horse in a contest with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others, to shift personal computing from being device-centric to user-centric, so that you and I don’t need to think about which gadget has the apps or data that we want. The vision of personal cloud is that a combination of local apps, cached data, and cloud-based services will put the right information in the right device at the right time, whether on personal or work devices. The strengths of Mobile Me today are:
Synced contacts, calendar, Safari bookmarks, and email account settings, as well as IMAP-based Mobile Me email accounts, for Web, Mac, Windows, and iOS devices.
Synced Mac preferences, including app and system preferences.
Mobile Me Gallery for easy uploading and sharing of photos and videos.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
The General Services Administration made a bold decision to move its email and collaboration systems to the cloud. In the RFP issued last June, it was easy to see their goals in the statement of objectives:
This Statement of Objectives (SOO) describes the goals that GSA expects to achieve with regard to the
1. modernization of its e-mail system;
2. provision of an effective collaborative working environment;
3. reduction of the government’s in-house system maintenance burden by providing related business, technical, and management functions; and
4. application of appropriate security and privacy safeguards.
GSA announced yesterday that they choose Google Apps for email and collaboration and Unisys as the implementation partner.
So what does this mean?
What it means (WIM) #1: GSA employees will be using a next-generation information workplace. And that means mobile, device-agnostic, and location-agile. Gmail on an iPad? No problem. Email from a home computer? Yep. For GSA and for every other agency and most companies, it's important to give employees the tools to be productive and engage from every location on every device. "Work becomes a thing you do and not a place you go." [Thanks to Earl Newsome of Estee Lauder for that quote.]
Recently, Google changed its policies to allow European marketers to bid on other companies' trademarks — but surprisingly, the floodgates haven't opened yet. In fact, we're not seeing very much competitive keyword bidding at all in Europe — nor in the UK, where Google has allowed this type of bidding for several years. This got us thinking: What types of marketers should bid on their competitors' trademarked keywords — and which (if any) shouldn't? Is competitive bidding best used as a branding exercise or to generate leads and sales? When you bid competitively, how should you change your creative strategy and your landing page choices? And, critically, how should you respond if you find your competitors bidding on your keywords?
I'm working with my new colleague Lucilla De Sarlo on a report on these topics right now, and we would love to hear your opinions. Feel free to post thoughts in the comments below or to e-mail Lucilla at: firstname.lastname@example.org.