Nike Allegedly Lays Off FuelBand Hardware Engineers: Are Pedometers A Commodity?

Nike reportedly laid off their hardware engineers from the FuelBand team. (See CNET) Financial analysts are speculating that it is to focus on software. Besides, hardware is difficult and the margins tend to be low. We've seen it with product recalls and free replacements from competitors Jawbone and Fitbit. It is difficult to ship excellent hardware products consistently. 

My point of view:

1) I have about 5 wearable devices and 4 mobile apps on my phone to track my steps, active calorie burn, route, etc. I wear bulky devices with built in heart rate monitors. I wear a Nike FuelBand and other single purpose devices. I compare the data I collect from the different devices. Last week on a day I burned more than 1,200 active calories and 1,200 inactive calories, two devices were within 2 calories of each other. One was simple - no display. One was bulkier with a full range of sensors. Nike has been more focused on active calorie burn than total burn - which as a runner - is what I want. Mobile apps can do this, too. 

2) Mobile apps scale faster with almost no barriers to acquisition. The same CNET article reported that Nike has added 10 million users to its Nike+ platform since August 2013 growing from 18 million to 28 million users. 

3) Nike's resources will be better spent figuring out how to ingest more data sources and improving their (software =  mobile app) engagement with consumers. The engagement mechanics within the mobile app are the key to shifting consumer behavior. (See Forrester mHealth report)

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How Mobile Shifted Are Your Customers?

We talk about the notion of the Mobile Mind Shift in our upcoming book

We define the mobile mind shift as: the expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need. We'll be releasing a tool to measure how shifted your customers are. We focus a lot of our attention on mobile apps - those services that have been designed to meet consumer needs on the go. According to Flurry, about 13% of consumers reach for apps on their phones more than 60 times per day. And it's growing fast!

Flurry just released some numbers to show how often consumers reach for their phones:

Facebook Announces Nearby Friends Feature

Facebook today announced a new optional feature– the ability to see which friends, or friends within a created group, are nearby. The social network is smartly looking to better serve its members who have made the mobile mind shift, expecting to get what they want in their immediate context and moment of need. In this case – knowing when a friend is nearby.

Prviacy will be a concern with this feature, but users are protected by opt-in’s and by only mentioning how close someone is, not their specific location. Connecting directly in person requires a number of steps including messaging and permission. A few thoughts:

1) This isn’t original, but Facebook has a better shot at success than the original services. 

About 10 years ago, Sam Altman started a company called Loopt that he sold about two years ago to Green Dot for $43.4M. It started out as friends connecting, but eventually needed to make money. Mobile advertising wasn’t a big market 10 years ago – in fact, it is still somewhat small today. But Facebook has two key advantages now: first, they have more than one billion users so they don’t have to recruit (and many of my friends will already have the app on their phone). Second, they don’t have pressure to make money near term. Facebook will win if even 5% or 10% of their members adopt. 

2) It’s a smart mobile app development strategy.

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A Smartphone From Amazon: Ingredients For Success

Amazon plans to launch a smartphone this fall, according to The Wall Street Journal (reported based on undisclosed sources in the SF and Seattle area who have seen the device).

A few common questions:

1) Will they succeed?

Well, it depends on Amazon’s definition of success.

Is it about media? Amazon is still somewhat new to developing, building, distributing, and supporting hardware. If this device adds to its portfolio of PC, Kindle, and Fire TV to be yet another screen for Prime subscribers, that may be enough. The notion of subsidized hardware to support an extended media play is interesting. My colleague James McQuivey leads our research there.

Is it about commerce? mCommerce is a big deal in mobile, but not a big deal within the broader context of consumer spending. Offline commerce dwarfs eCommerce and eCommerce dwarfs mCommerce. The big opportunity in mobile is the influence of sales locally. But Amazon also plays in this space.

Is it about payments? I’d say unlikely in the near term, but I like the idea of using my Amazon account (linked to my credit card) for quick and easy online payments. However, it’s hard to imagine the same level of convenience translated into the physical world – with the greatest possibility in  mCommerce. My colleague Denee Carrington is our expert here.

2) Should you build on their platform?

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Augmented Reality Graduates From Gimmicks To Utility

Augmented reality has represented the potential for the magical enhancement of our physical world through digital content. (See report) Too many of the use cases today - especially in marketing - have been gimmicks leaving a user to scratch his head and think, "I don't get it." Some have offered entertainment. Some have delivered games and rewards (e.g., Zappar). A few have offered true utility in a consumer's mobile moment - Amazon, Yelp, or the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (see case study) by simplifying the discovery and consumption of simple, 2D information. 

Finally, we are beginning to see more examples of how augmented reality can offer true utility to consumers in those mobile moments when they are struggling to complete a task. In this example, Mitek uses AR to help correct or guide a consumer's use of the camera to send or input information to a bank or service. This offers one example of why companies need to continue to revisit emerging technologies. They can very quickly move from gimmicky to reality. Mobile shifts consumer expectations very quickly. 

 

New Mobile Business Models: Uber Finally Opens Its Kimono - A Little, With Uber Rush

It was just a matter of time. They started with taking people from point A to point B. They gave us some glimpses of what might come by dropping off ice cream and litters of kittens. Uber became (and continues to become) incredibly efficient by matching supply and demand, all from the mobile device. How successful? A valuation of $3.4B back in August 2013. 

Some may argue (and I got this question yesterday from a journalist) "they could have done this without mobile services." I disagree. Mobile has added a level of convenience and improved the customer experience dramatically. Convenience. Convenience. Convenience. Uber has embraced what we call the mobile mind shift and is expertly serving customers in their mobile moments - a concept explored in depth in our upcoming book.

Uber (and similar services) have grown the overall business for private car transportation. What are they cannibalizing? I haven't done this analysis, but for me - I drive less and spend a lot less on parking. Do I spend more on Uber than I would have on parking? Probably, but they are so enjoyable to do business with. (See our customer experience framework).

- Mobile phones (subsidized) are relatively cheap - or at least affordable as a cost of doing business for your typical driver. Dedicated hardware isn't. 

- A mobile app for the drivers (and now cyclists) pinpoints exact pick-up locations PLUS shows the hotspots for demand based on time of day, location, weather, holidays, local events, and probably a hundred other factors. There is no other way to communicate easily to drivers where they should wait to pick up rides. 

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Amazon Dash: Monetizing Mobile Moments At Home

Amazon is testing a new device to facilitate making a grocery list and ordering groceries through their AmazonFresh service in markets such as San Francisco and Seattle. (See TechCrunch article.) Consumers can add items to the list through voice or by barcode scan. Two things (for me) make this an interesting experiment to watch.

1) Amazon looks to profit from what we call "a mobile moment," a concept introduced in our forthcoming book, The Mobile Mind Shift. Or more specifically in this case, an impulse sales moment. As a consumer, I add an item to my grocery list before I forget. I may or may not order that day - it may be tomorrow, but I will buy it. The Dash adds convenenience - it removes friction from my shopping process. The Dash takes advantage of the immediacy of mobile. (See our report on how to create mobile moments).

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Nokia's New Lumia Windows 8.1 Phones: WIM For eBusiness Professionals

I had the opportunity to attend Nokia's event in San Francisco yesterday. Stephen Elop (EVP Devices & Services), Jo Harlow, Vesa Jutila and Valerie Buckingham among other executives answered questions. See the press event here. High level take away: they released a series of colorful, large & bright screened devices with INSANE camera capabilities at a wide range of price points.

Their Achilles heal is still apps - or lack thereof. They've made progress. They have 245,000 apps today (compared to Apple's 1M plus) and they are adding 500/day. They are doing well with the 100 most popular apps (think eBay, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). 

Here are a few things that matter to you:

1) More and more consumers will buy these phones. Nokia phones - despite the lack of apps - will become increasingly difficult for consumers to ignore. They have large screens. They are finger-friendly with large icons. They are "glance friendly" - with live content on the homescreen page. They have INSANE photo/video capabilities that can make any of us look like professionals. They are price competitive. I had total phone envy yesterday as I sat there with my small-screened phone. 

2) Your larger competitors will start to build native apps for the Windows family of phones. Many of your focus on iOS and Android today.  (See research) Watch your traffic and device adoption among your customer base. It may not be time yet, but you shouldn't ignore them flat out. 

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Mind-Blowing Mobile Exit Events CONTINUE!

My colleague Thomas Husson and I put together our 2014 mobile predictions. (See Report) One of the key predictions is:

 

Mobile will sit at the epicenter of mind-blowing exit events. The kernels of activity we saw in 2013 around mobile transactions will explode in 2014.
Those media companies that can't build audiences fast enough to capture spend of the Global 1000 will also look to acquisitions (think $3 billion for Snapchat).
What is mind-blowing is that neither Snapchat nor Instagram had a revenue stream when the bid or acquisition was announced.
In 2014, mobile companies with real revenue streams will go public. King.com (Candy Crush Saga) filed for an IPO with an estimated valuation of $1 billion based
on generating a couple of million dollars a day in revenue. What does King.com do? It monetizes mobile moments by taking advantage of the consumer's addiction to competition.

Mobile is moving so fast that that number is already dated. King started trading publicly on the NYSE Wednesday and part of the release was $1.9B in reported revenue in 2013 - way more than reported 8 months ago.

What happened this week?

1) Intel completed its acquisition of Basis Science - a wearable device - for a reported $100M to $150M. (See TechCrunch, VentureBeat)

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A Confession: I Have A Crush On Candy Crush

King had $1.9B in 2013 gross revenue with the majority coming from Candy Crush.

Wow.

I first heard of Candy Crush about a year ago. I was on vacation in Germany with my husband.  One of my friends – for context, she was a college roommate now a CTO at a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley – started chatting with me on Facebook. It dawned on me it was 2 am in California.  

Turns out she had worked late and was up playing Candy Crush.  I couldn’t get my head around what it was about this game that was keeping her from sleeping, but she explained, “It’s fun. It’s hard. The game keeps changing. It’s always challenging.”

I advised her to go back to sleep, but couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation. The analyst in me had to dig a bit further.

There are a number of publishers with big hits like Candy Crush. The business model for some lies in in-app revenue, which is why “free” downloads want your gender, age, mother’s maiden name and social security number. Others profit from a minority of users who make in-app purchases to do things like purchase more lives, buy weapons (other games), and send gifts to their friends and fellow players. What’s interesting?

1. It’s software on a connected device.

Users are able to continually update and expand the game. They can even personalize it to feed their particular addiction—keeping them coming back for more.

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