All of the fighting has resulted in multiple casualties. BlackBerry couldn't keep up the pace and was eventually chopped off at the knees. Microsoft has yet to gain enough developer volume to be a real threat and will eventually reinvent itself as a new company under new leadership. Third-party app stores are distributed and nimble but really amount to nothing more than splinter groups using guerrilla tactics against the major nation states. They just can't compete in the long term.
In the United States, Google Play and Apple iTunes have become the two superpowers in the mobile app war. With exceptional mobile application uptake, these two players have come to dominate the consumer mobile space. Phones don't sell phones. . .applications sell phones, and these two players have won.
In the days when web applications were king, this type of insight was doable with simple web analytics and similar tools. Today, continual experience optimization is much more difficult because of:
Multiple interaction channels. You must collect, correlate, and analyze data in a coherent way across multiple channels of customer interaction. A single customer interaction may cross between channels or even use more than one channel at the same time.
Many back end servers. You must integrate data from multiple back end servers including recommendation engines, commerce, mobile application servers, digital asset management, community, collaboration, messaging, and more.
The need for rapid change. You must quickly change any or all of your digital experiences and back end services based on what you’ve learned.
The need for contextual experiences. You must use each individual customer’s context to dynamically adjust experiences in real-time.
Recently, I received a visit at home from a religious organization, which handed me two of its publications. As I believe that every religion has some wisdom to share, I read both magazines. What really struck me was the cross-media approach of the magazines; many articles referred to a video or website, and QR codes were placed throughout. Reading this magazine, I thought back to my recent trip to the US, where I also saw many QR codes: on advertising in the subway, in stores, in magazines. However, I didn't see anyone reading those codes. Thinking about this a bit longer, I couldn’t think of any occasion when I had observed someone using a QR code.
With that in mind, I had a look at Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® 2012 surveys for both Europe and the US to understand the uptake of QR codes by the general online audience. I found that about 8% of US online adults with a mobile phone have used QR/2D bar codes in the past month — up from only 1% in 2010 and 5% in 2011. Uptake doesn't really show huge differences by age, interestingly enough, but in both the US and Europe, men are more likely to use them than women.
AppGratis is a French app promotion and discovery platform startup that was recently ejected from the App Store on the grounds that it violated Apple’s developer T&Cs. Back in September 2012, Apple tweaked its developer guidelines, adding a clause that states: “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.”
Simon Dawlat, the CEO of AppGratis, shares his vision in great detail here and explains why he thinks the ban is totally unfair. Even France’s digital industry minister, Fleur Pellerin, has spoken up in support of AppGratis, describing Apple’s actions as ”extremely brutal, unilateral, and without explanation,” and calling on Cupertino to “behave ethically.“ Natasha Lomas at TechCrunch fairly and exhaustively summarizes the whole story here.
Without going into the legal details here, one may argue that there is a blurring of the line between app discovery and app promotion. I personally viewed AppGratis as a traffic booster based on curated app discovery experiences. I think it definitely helped gain some initial visibility in app stores, but I think app developers and publishers still needed to measure the customer lifetime value and make sure their audiences would stay engaged.
Anyway, the AppGratis controversy highlights the growing dependency from publishers and developers to Apple and Google in the app economy.