Facebook bought the no-revenue, 12-employee, 15-month-old Instagram for $1B yesterday. While on the surface this may appear to be a low-IQ, or perhaps no-IQ acquisition, there is a compelling reason for Facebook to own the photosocial site.
The App Internet is approaching -- an architecture of powerful applications resident on phones, tablets, PCs, and other devices which seamlessly link to resources in the cloud. iOS and Android applications are primitive forerunners of this world. Over time this approach will become dominant. The Web will become the AM radio of digital.
There are three ecosystems competing for domination of the emerging App Internet market -- Apple (with iOS), Google (with Android), and Amazon (with Fire). Microsoft is a potential fourth player, depending on the quality of Windows 8.
App Internet poses mortal danger for any player that remains too Web-centric. It will enable companies to directly link with their customers -- check out this Forrester report: Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement. Despite its good iOS and Android apps, Facebook remains highly Web-focused and has three risks:
1) That a newcomer will build a richer, faster, easier-to-use, more engaging post social network using App Internet.
2) Facebook won't have the skills to play in App Internet.
3) The Apple, Google, Amazon, (and potentially Microsoft) ecosystems become too powerful, blocking Facebook's growth and presence.
This was my eleventh trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. My posts from the last few years can be found here: 2011, 2010. This year felt more subdued and fearful than the last few -- a pall cast by the continually roiling European debt crisis. While caution emanated from the economy, hope and positive vibes pulsed out of technology. Most of the under 30 and under 40 types at Davos have recently launched tech companies -- their energy and natural lean to the future kept the aging plutocrats on their toes. It's obvious that the digital economy approaches -- an economy in which no company, regardless of whether it sells tires, insurance, or machine tools will be able to expand market share and profit without continually thinking, "Digital first."
Aside from that lesson, here are 14 other things I learned...
1) Mick Jagger is short and appears to be entering his 12th decade. But he's still a great dancer.
2) 50% of the people in Middle East are under the age of 25. Demographics continues to drive political destiny. The Arab Spring will not be restricted to one season. A decade of turmoil lies ahead, caused by too many young people and not enough jobs.
Respondents to my one question survey report that 56% of the time they spend on social is wasted.
While hardly scientific, this result gives credence to the views I expressed at Le Web that we are heading into a Post Social (POSO) period. In POSO, a new wave of social tools will emerge that are: easier to use, more filtered, more efficient, more private, faster, and offer a better value/time proposition.
My speech at Le Web (Three Social Thunderstorms) continues to stimulate debate. While many do not agree with my analysis, the discussion has challenged conventional wisdom and helped people see alternative futures -- a longtime Forrester value . . .
A few clarifications that may heighten the dialogue:
1) The Web is dying, not the Internet. The Web is software that we've used since circa 1994 to communicate information over the network called the Internet. Web replaced other software that used to dominate the Internet -- Usenet, Gopher, user groups, etc.. The Internet is alive and well -- it's the software on top that will change.
This conference in Paris is pretty cool. About 50% French attendees and the rest are Americans and Europeans. Venture capital, startups, big vendorites, not much enterprise. Loic and Geraldine put on a great show -- I would estimate that there are 2,000 attendees.
My talk was titled Three Social Thunderstorms. It covered: 1) Death of the Web, the approach of App Internet, 2) Social is saturated, 3) Enterprise Social is the next big opportunity.
My presentation in PDF form can found here. You can also find it on YouTube.
Big deal -- a few words changed. But did it make a difference?
Yes -- in four simple ways.
1) The job search. In the CBTO job search, we got better candidates than expected. Why? They loved the new title and the focus on business, not just tech. We got high level applicants because CBTO was aspirational.
2) Business focus. We viewed CBTO candidates through a new lens, pushing us to hire high. We were looking for people who had worked to increase revenue, profit, and market share of companies. We wanted someone who understood that a CBTO doesn't serve the business -- they are the business.
3) Regime change. Once the CBTO was hired, he was able to launch a new regime -- IT is dead, now it's time for BT. This enabled him to set new goals for the technology team, redefine the relationship between technology and business, and re-invigorate the people who work in technology at Forrester.
4) A new yardstick. It introduced new standards for technology. Old IT was about uptime. BT is about: agility, speed, being bullet-proof, customer-centricity, and business-centricity.
Our research has shown that CEOs do not trust their CIOs to innovate or build business process. My direct experience is that changing one letter from "I" to "B" is a good start toward building that trust. Words do matter. Try it.
I was in Dalian, China last month at the World Economic Forum's summer event where I moderated a panel on Digital Asia. The punch line: Asia will be a center of digital innovation . . . counter-balancing the US.
My panel included Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the biggest cell phone operator in the world (China Mobile), Takeshi Natsuno, the founder of iMode at DoCoMo, Michelle Guthrie, Director of Goggle Asia Pacific, and other distinguished panel members. You can watch our conversation on YouTube. Here are the panel’s five predictions about Asia and digital:
1. Asia will lead the world into the use of e-money.
Consumers in Hong Kong -- with their Octopus card -- and Singapore and Japan -- with the FeliCa system -- already use this technology and are thriving on its efficiency and convenience. This is an opportunity for Asia to demonstrate digital leadership.
2. The digital divide in Asia will shrink.
Data from Forrester suggests that this transformation is already taking place. Internet adoption is up across Asia this year – increasing 9% in India and 13% in China. Mobile internet adoption is growing too – up 12% in China and 10% in India.
In January of 2011, Forrester's research showed that tablet owners used the Web far more than apps on their device. Over the last few weeks, visitors to my blog indicated that apps had passed the Web (check out the results at left).
Now this survey was not scientifically significant, but it's another signal that users are shifting away from browsers to apps. Why? Better experience, speed, ease of use. The App Internet approaches.
At a conference of CIOs that I attended this morning in Lisbon, all of our group were reflective and emotionally affected by the news of Jobs’ death – many heartfelt words were spoken from the stage, as they have been on stages, social networks, phone calls, and conversations all over the world today. And as we all mourned, many of us were literally holding Steve in our hands as we communicated via iPads, iPhones, Keynote, and Macs.
Steve leaves a vast and extraordinary legacy and I will let the more eloquent pay tribute. But I will make a prediction and I will express a hope.
I believe that we will look back at the 2002-2011 period as a golden age of technology – driven by Jobs at his most visionary. All of the promise of digital was finally being delivered in a way that was truly powerful, simple, and matched to human beings. I predict that we won’t see such an outpouring again for decades.
But I hope that I am wrong. My hope is that Steve inspires all of us in the technology business to stop creating confusing, poorly-designed, slow, complex, ugly, maddening products that weigh down rather than lift up the work and souls of people. My hope is that Apple’s next ten years are more insanely great than its last and that its competitors are inspired to keep or exceed the pace. My hope is that Steve’s lessons will bring about a better world.
To the Apple and Jobs families, Forrester sends its best thoughts.