2013 is going to be an amazing year for mobile and web developers for a number of reasons, but the top one on my list today is the advance in tooling. This isn't simply a turn of the crank adding a few features/functions to the existing state of the art but instead the realization of a growing paradigm shift in how developers (experience creators, to quote my colleague Mike Gualtieri) create software. Today the majority of web and mobile apps are written by developers manually writing source code in text editors or IDEs, but tomorrow's tooling is becoming much more visual in nature. Here are the three tooling areas that excite me looking forward to 2013.
That’s kind of a bold statement to make when many companies — be they media players or the likes of Facebook — face a mobile monetization gap and when most successful companies generate only dozens of millions of dollars of direct mobile transactions. Despite the hype around “freemium” models, the reality is that few companies can now rely on a standalone mobile business model and that most mobile business models remain unproven.
The Web extended most business models and created only a small number of truly successful new ones. Mobile will follow the same path: Extension, rather than disruption, will be the norm for most businesses, with a few disruptive mobile pure-plays as the exception but not the rule. That doesn’t mean, however, that mobile-first businesses won’t disrupt existing players. Mobile is an enabler of new direct-to-consumer products already, in industries such as car services, food delivery, and home health products. And mobile is disrupting born-on-the-Web companies such as Facebook.
I recently attended Trend Micro’s Insight 2012 event for an update on corporate and product strategy from Trend executives, hear from partners and enterprise customers about their experiences working with Trend Micro, and sit down to 1:1's with business unit leaders. I met with Carol Carpenter, EVP of Consumer, who shared a bit about what Trend is doing for consumers and provided demos of their latest Android mobile apps out on the market and in development. Of the ones available now, they are the usual suspects – mobile security, backup and restore, and a password manager. And then, there’s a battery optimizer app. Random? No, not really.
Consumer security has come a long way from simply antivirus software for PCs. Mobile security is undoubtedly on everyone’s minds at this point (oh no! device loss, malware, my apps are spying on me!), but that’s only one factor (albeit a big one) contributing to the evolution of this consumer security market. We’re looking at protecting devices, data, identities, interactions, privacy, the consumer – in short, the online experience. That’s where the umbrella of consumer security expands, and I see apps like Trend’s battery optimizer fitting in. It’s not a “security” solution in the traditional sense, and more of a productivity tool. Consumers gain visibility into what the device and apps are doing (to the battery), and using that information to then make an informed decision (e.g., stop running that app, turn off Wi-Fi, etc) to preserve battery because it’s running too low for comfort.
Earlier this week I caught up with Discover’s Mike Boush to talk about his keynote at the upcoming eBusiness Forum, where he’ll explore innovations in eBusiness at Discover. Here’s a snippet of our conversation, and a sneak peak of Mike’s session at the event:
Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the last 12 months that you're most excited about?
A: I love what we're doing with partnerships online. It's creating a whole lot of value for customers and, frankly, getting us out of the "must be built at Discover" mentality. It started with an integration with PayPal in order to deliver peer-to-peer payment services. The program leverages PayPal’s huge delivery platform, and customers love it. Then we introduced an integration with Amazon that lets customers pay for their Amazon.com purchases with the cash they earned through our Cashback Bonus rewards program. This really highlights the difference between competitors' "points" programs and our straightforward cash, and the transparency shows just how great our program is. And recently, Google announced our integration of Discover card enrollment into the Google Wallet from our website, which is convenient for customers and helps position us in the mobile payments space. These integrations are just a sample of what we've done, but they become powerful illustration of what we can do when we team up and innovate with other great companies.
Q: What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?
Mobile website or mobile app? It's not only a common question from marketers -- it’s also the wrong question to ask. So let’s get this out of the way first, interactive marketers: You need a mobile-optimized or mobile-specific website. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check your organic web traffic. Odds are, you’ll see anywhere from 10%-25% of your web traffic coming from mobile devices, whether you’re intending to capture that mobile traffic or not. That percentage has been growing steadily and will continue to, so yes, you need to have a mobile web home. I’m glad that’s settled.
Whether or not you need a mobile app for marketing is a little less clear-cut. To decide, once and for all, if you should really build that mobile app, ask yourself these three most important questions:
1. Is my audience using apps?
Yes, about half of US adults have a smartphone, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re using it in sophisticated ways. You can likely find users of all ages among those who have apps, but demographics affect the size of your app audience. For example, about one-third of smartphone app users are Gen Y (ages 23-31), and another third are Gen X (ages 32-45). Make sure you understand the app habits of your own audience before you decide what to build.
If you’ve been chatting with your web development team recently, you might recall them talking about responsive design. But, what is responsive design and why should eBusiness professionals be taking it seriously?
First, responsive design is not a technology, it’s a development philosophy - an approach to web development that forces user experience developers to design and optimize from the outset for multiple touchpoints including (but not limited to) the desktop, tablets and mobiles. Until now, many eBusiness teams have either developed their mobile site by coding a separate set of templates, or outsourcing to a 3rd party vendor or agency whom in many cases scrapes or proxies existing content from the desktop site. As many retailers and other eBusiness teams start to develop optimized tablet sites, there is a distinct concern that supporting 3 different sites for desktop, tablets and mobile is becoming increasingly expensive and is causing a drag on innovation momentum.
With a responsive site, developers use a single set of front-end code to build a site that responds within the constraints of the device to deliver an experience that is contextual to the size and orientation of the screen. Responsive design allows eBusiness leaders to consolidate their teams (UX designers and developers) back into a single ‘web’ team aligned around a single technology (CSS3 & HTML5) and writing a single set of code. Some eBusiness leaders are referring to this consolidation as back to “one-web” and are increasingly intrigued by the potential cost and efficiency benefits that moving to a responsive site has to offer.
Even with the increased use of instant messaging, SMS remains the workhorse of mobile — with a 14% increase in the number of SMS messages sent in 2011 compared with 2010. More than 2 trillion SMS messages were sent in the US in 2011, which equates to more than 6 billion SMS messages sent per day. Text messaging users send or receive an average of 35 messages per day. Although by 2017 SMS will dominate mobile content spend less than it does today, it will still remain significant.
More than 80% of worldwide app downloads in 2011 were for Apple and Android devices; these accounted for more than 16 billion downloads. Gaming apps dominate mobile app spending; this is driven by both an increase in the number of users playing games on their phones and the amount of in-game spend, which accounted for more than 60% of mobile gaming revenues. In the US, about 76 million mobile and tablet owners regularly play games on their devices; with only a third of these regularly downloading games, there’s a great opportunity for growth in both mobile advertising and mobile gaming revenues.
In the not-too-distant past web-centric software development had a standard workflow between designers and developers. This was possible because there was a single delivery channel (the web browser) and well-established development constructs. Design patterns like Model-View-Controller had well known coding counterparts such as Java Server Pages, the JSP Standard Template Library or Struts. But now, the introduction of mobile computing has significantly altered this design-development workflow. The key disruptor is the need to target multiple mobile devices with a common set(s) of source code. Regardless of whether devs use a single HTML5/CSS3/JS implementation or native implementations on iOS and Android, there’s a greater burden on designer than in the web-centric past. What’s worse, the success or failure of mobile apps is more dependent on the complete user experience than ever before. This new reality requires a major shift within development organizations.
It’s no secret that demand for mobile applications is skyrocketing in both the consumer and enterprise space. To meet that demand, application development shops are continually looking for new ways to accelerate development of apps that meet their consumers’ needs. In response, many new ISVs are beginning to offer a set of cloud-based, server-side mobile services to make app development quicker and easier to deploy. ISVs are referring to those services as “mobile backend-as-a-service” (not a particularly good name, but we’ll use it for now). MBaaS offerings sit squarely between the existing platform-as-a-service vendors and the full end-to-end solution space occupied by mobile enterprise/consumer application platforms (see Figure). I’ll go into more detail on the other layers of this mobile service triangle in the future, but for now let’s take a look at the MBaaS space.