Category: Apps (Page 1 of 2)

Beat(s) It: What’s Up, Apple?

Hello again.

I am writing to you whilst listening to Metronomy on Spotify streaming from my iPad Mini using a Bose headset. Musical zen, so to speak. Earlier, I had the whole thing running via my Denon RCD-N7 with the Airplay patch (but using Mordaunt-Short speakers). Life is good.

Earlier today, I got my new iPhone 6. Spotify works on it. My Bose headphones fit into the headphone jack (but, why, of course).

What is my gripe about then, you ask? Well, you see, I hold about 5 Apple shares (that’s about it, honest). And said company has recently (well, not so recently anymore) spent some $3 billion on acquiring Beats, “that” company fronted by the much (and rightly) revered Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, which sells mediocre (sorry, I meant to say, totally friggin’ awesome, headphones to sports superstars (and their fans). Oh, and they also have some sort of streaming service, apparently.

Mind you, my shiny new iPhone 6 nor my equally shiny new iOS 8 show any sign of a music streaming service. Or Beats. Or both. Or either. And today, the formidable (erm) TechCrunch ponders whether Apple may shut down the Beats streaming service (because of said absence of it on the new iPhone and iOS). And the mind boggles.

Let’s have a look at the lay of the land then:

There are a number of streaming services in the world. Spotify tops the charts, undoubtedly (unless your worldmap starts and ends in the US, then it’s probably Pandora). Their valuation is pegged somewhere at North of $10 billion. I do not know a single person that uses Beats streaming service (but then, I know, I am a middle-aged white European). However, my American friends, have you heard of Deezer? No, thought not. Alas, it has 20x the subscribers of Beats though (5m vs 250,000). Could you have bought them for $60 billion? I would guess so. But they don’t have the hardware or brand value, you say. And right you are. But, come on, a difference of nearly $57 billion for this? Really?

I would posit that the Beats acquisition was – a British technical term – complete bollocks. Let’s look further:

Here’s what Apple said (BTW, that Endgadget piece is enlightening on so many levels):

It was a no-brainer for us,” said Cue, outlining the three reasons in more detail. First, Cue says the Beats team is sensational, and will be a perfect fit for Apple; additionally, Dr. Dre is an incredible artist with an incredible ear.

$3.2b for a sensational team with an incredible ear. Yeah, right… Eddy Cue, you rule (or not).

Beats hardware is middle of the road at best (I know Dre would disagree, but he’d have to, no? He’s HipHop’s first billionaire because of it, doh…). For how much could you have had, say, Sennheiser (surely a good fit on hardware), a conservative, German, family-owned company? Would a bid of $3.1b have sealed it? Of off-shore money (which would’ve, what, halved that cost? Mmmh, I wonder (that’s a yes). See, the main (and a super-impressive feat at that) of Beats was its marketing and branding prowess. But Apple really doesn’t have anything it needs in that department, does it? It is the world’s most powerful brand (more than 2x its nearest competitor).

So what is our conclusion, half-way? Apple bought a brand (it didn’t need) that produces mediocre hardware (the one part where Apple always excelled and led everyone else) with the add-on of a also-ran streaming service. $3.2b worth? Erm,  no! And now we are hearing that they’re going to shut down that streaming service (which desperate Apple lovers had quickly termed the main rationale of the genius Apple pulling off another one), You see, Apple has never been great in M&A. T (I’m available). <sigh/>

Israel Mobile Summit

How long have I been waiting? It must be a good 5 years since I have last touched down at Ben Gurion Airport. Alas, no more. Tomorrow evening, it will be time again, and how timely it is, too. The Israel Mobile Week is on, and there is tons of super-interesting stuff happening. MoMo Tel Aviv – one of the most active and well-run Mobile Monday chapters – is in full swing, the Israel Mobile Summit, Droidcon Tel Aviv, the Microsoft Ventures Demo Day of its 4th Israeli cohort plus a few parties here and there of course…

I will have the immense honour of delivering one of the opening keynotes at the Israel Mobile Summit. Specifically, I will be speaking on “Capturing Users” – isn’t it all important how you find them (and keep them!)? Without users, you (or rather your business) is nothing. I have had the pleasure (and challenge) to try and have a crack at this challenge a few times in my professional life, and I am hoping to be able to share some of my hard-learned experiences with the audience on Tuesday (10 June 2014). The event will be on at the YesPlanet Rishon, a snazzy new cinema complex.

There will be talks from the leaders in mobile today, including:

  • Facebook
  • Wooga
  • Intel
  • AVG
  • Waze
  • Paypal
  • Amobee
  • Amazon
  • Deemedya (yes, my very good friend Doron Kagan will talk about his 100m+ game downloads; I can only imagine how that must feel)
  • AppAnnie
  • SingTel
  • HasOffers
  • Grow VC
  • Twilio
  • DragonPlay
  • Hunter & Bard (you should not miss Shira’s talk; she is one of the wisest women in marketing today!)

and many, many more!!!

Join us if you can! It will be worthwhile. And if you don’t think so, I’ll buy you a drink! Promise!

MWC: Barcelona, here we come (again)

Barely a week to go and the masses shall descend unto the beautiful city of Barcelona for the annual gathering of mobile folks, which will, this year, be held for the second time at the slightly less cool "new" exhibition grounds. Alas, the organizers have realized that there is a lot to be had at the original grounds, i.e. the "true" fira and there are some uber-exciting events taking place there – and, yes, I have the great pleasure to be involved. So…

The GSMA is launching a new entrepreneurship conference this year, called "4 Years from Now" (with the very snazzy website http://4yfn.com – I’m jealous!). I will be giving a talk on "Finding Money" (OK, the official title they gave it is a little more technical but, as a hint, it is what I’ll show).

The eternal fan favourite WIPJam moved along, too. They are cooperating with the GSMA to bring a vastly expanded program stretching a full 3 days. And I will be facing the awesome challenge to moderate an Unpanel on "Games & Gamification".

Now, add to all this the overall buzz, etc.: why wouldn’t you come and join us? 😉

Apps for Good: Future Learning (or learning the future?)

Here’s an initiative to whom a shout-out is long overdue: the good people from Apps for Good have been working with children in schools on making apps. They provide a framework through which children learn everything from concept and market research to design and execution. And some of them then go ahead and publish the results in the wide world of Google Play (check for instance the formidable team from Mount Grace School in Hertfordshire whose “Social Bank” app that helps you to achieve saving what you crave most. Go have a look and download it (here on Google Play); I assure you it is very far cry from Jurassic scenes rebuilt in shoe boxes…

I had the great pleasure to work with some of the teams as a voluntary “expert” and – assuming if you read this blog you, too, are active somewhere in mobile – should have a look at doing the same thing. Here’s why:

  1. It’s tremendous fun. I consider Apps for Good sessions as an energizer to my day: to work with enthusiastic children and seeing them come into their own in a learning environment that allows them (and demands of them) to get out of their usual routines and create something from nowhere – and to then go and execute on it is nothing short of inspiring.
  2. It’s the simplest and, let’s face it, cheapest way to invest in the future of not only those children but all of us: this is an area where children learn 21st century skills that are not (yet) embedded in national curricula around the world (there are some initiatives to change this of course, such as Ian Livingstone’s plans for the Livingstone School in London Hammersmith) but there is still a lot more to be done. And with one hour of your time here and there, you can help. If this is for you, apply here to become an expert.

The work they are doing is being recognised all over the place, expressed for instance by winning Google’s Global Impact Challenge.

Apps for Good delivers its programme in over 200 schools across the UK so far. If you are a school and want to participate, go here.

Apple, Bubble Designs? Dude, We Can Do That!

Today is a day where I have to sing our own praise a little. Today, as some of you will know, Apple released iOS 7 into the wild. I will spare you a wider critique (I reckon there will be plenty of them out there). But one thing caught my eye. Given my historical interest in social gaming platforms (after all, Scoreloop did a lot of the things – and better – that Apple tried to mimic with Game Center), I went to have a look how they re-designed it (Jony Ive’s hues and all). Now, not only is the dreaded felt gone (phew!) but also did they adopt a playful bubble design. Fits the image and all, right?

Now, it did look somewhat familiar though. And then it struck me: it is very similar to the design approach our very own Blue Beck took when we (well, our teams as I didn’t do much) designed the app for Three, the UK network operator. Compare for yourself (left our Three app, right Apple Game Center):

I actually think, we did the colour scheme a lot nicer! I am still not a fan of Jony’s hues, I’m afraid (though I like the more “contemporary” feel of the new iOS generally…). You can, incidentally, download it here:

And so, tonight I would like to sing the praise of our wonderful team at Blue Beck and our esteemed client Three (on whose style guide we based the design) and will sit with a smug face and think that Apple “borrowed” (which they probably didn’t, but hey) from our own design prowess. Carleton, Dose, Rick, Pete, you rock (and, of course we always knew that), and tonight is the night to call it out! (and, to the rest of the Blue Beck team: so do you – just don’t get the hang of them hues, OK?).

Hail the kings of Blue Beck castle! 😉 (and if you haven’t realised: full disclaimer: I am a shareholder and director of Blue Beck).

Mobile Gaming today: about whales, self-publishing and the like…

Didn’t the world change and quickly? Only a few years ago, mobile games worked like a supermarket: if you have shelf-space, you rule. The early kings of mobile gaming 1.0 (which many users today won’t even know about) were the ones that “owned” the relationships with mobile operators (or carriers if you prefer that word), OEM and the like. Those relationships guaranteed that you would be in front of consumers. Those of your competitors who didn’t? Well, tough luck. Today, the picture is very different. There were a few waves since those early days: the Wild West days of iOS and Android (which didn’t happen simultaneously but with similar patterns), the rise and fall of the Zynga empire (and folks who thought that that approach would cure all [business] evils of gaming and, in its latest pattern, the rise of Supercell, Kabam and King and the scratching of heads (and lay-offs of people) in a lot of other gaming outfits.

So what’s this all about then? Now, I won’t be able to offer you the full Monty in just one small blog post (it’s bloody late already) but there are a few pointers that show both the opportunities but also the pitfalls of the whole thing.

Fun Matters

Ilkka Paananen is the CEO of Supercell who are, arguably, the undisputed money-spinners these days. $2.4m/day is their benchmark, and that was a while back. In Q1/2013, they made $179m in revenues and $109m in operating profits (or so says the FT). Their two (!) games ride comfortably in the top-5 of the top-grossing charts of Apple all around the world, sometimes #1 and #2, sometimes #2 and #4 but never far off… When asked, Ilkka (who is as nice a person as you’ll ever meet) will always tell you that fun is what matters first and foremost (and I reckon this is what young master Pinkus wishes he had known earlier…). Ilkka managed to combine a dream of the free-wheeling nature of the likes of Valve, Inc. with the experience he gained in running as tight a ship as Digital Chocolate who, from the olden days of mobile gaming, were amongst the ones who had perfected the tightly-strung mastery of processes and engines. The result were – now famously – a number of canned projects plus two of the most profitable games (on an ROI basis) produced ever.

Alas, Ilkka will tell you that fun matters. If your game is rubbish and no fun, no one will like it, at least not longer term. Some earlier appstore succresses might have wanted to take note… It is an important bit to remember though: games are part of the entertainment side of things. And entertainment is about fun. No fun = no (long-term) success. There is only so much conning you can do…

Marketing is Part of Design

In the olden days, you had developers and suits. The former had grand ideas and the latter were a pain in the rearside. The success of a game always was due to the former and the success was always claimed by the latter. Now though, even the geekiest of developers has realized that you need to market efficiently if you want to be successful (which also means that your company has a chance of survival). Here’s a post you should read in this respect (it is a bit patronizing but there is a lot of good – if harsh – insight there nonetheless).

Building Brands is Cool (and Hard)

So, let’s go and build a brand, right? Because then we can replicate things, right? I mean, Rovio did this with Angry Birds, right? Yes, they did. How many others do you know who did? Not very many, right? Because, you know, it is not easy. Many tried (and are trying). Many see some traction. None I know of have had counterfeited bobble hats sold in San Francisco so far (yes, there are hand-knitted Angry Birds beanies on sale every weekend at the farmers market at the Ferry Terminal in SF! No, I haven’t seen beanies of the Cut-the-Rope frog yet…).

If you can get it right (and there is some magic (and hard work required), building an entertainment brand is insanely rewarding (just ask Walt Disney, George Lucas, Stan Lee, etc.). However, it is also very hard to do. And it is not for the faint of heart. So think twice… Oh, and hire the right people (two of Rovio’s rockstars just started his own thing in this realm. Go, Andrew!).

Those Bloody Whales

There was a time when only one-legged near-pirates hunted whales. Nowadays every game developer and their dogs (or cats or rats or pet hedgehogs do). According to Forbes, here’s (well, below) is why. Those are the folks who bring in the money. By my reckoning, the numbers Forbes calls out are not actually the industry benchmark but – perhaps – an averaged out number. This means that, if you’re good at what you do, you should be pulling in a lot more than what their article has you believe you should. And that is something that can be a little daunting. So, kids, there goes your easy career in game development…

Before I link to this Forbes thing then: it is not easy, mind the fun, get some kudos to them suits and be in for the ride… 😉

Here’s the Forbes article (from which I copied the infographic below and where you can get the fully scalable version).

Privacy Policy in Apps [ with Infographic]

Developers want to do pretty and cool apps. Tedious privacy policies are often considered “suit-imposed” and not nice. Well, heck, they’re just text, aren’t they? However, not only do 70% of consumers actually want to know what you are doing with their data (this is according to MEF Global Privacy Report 2013). But there also legal obligations, you know. And, since July, there is a revised version of COPPA out (short for the Children Online Privacy Protection Act), which places even more onerous requirements on anyone publishing content aimed at minors.

It is however not only important that you do it at all but also how you do it. Transparency of terms is essential in a world of data (and, yes, I think since a certain Mr Snowden we are all a lot more aware just how significant that can be). If you only link out to a web page with 8,000+ words, you are not doing anyone favours: it doesn’t actually look very good (haven’t we all laughed on the 48 pages Apple wants us to read every time before we accept something? no one in their right mind will believe that even one consumer will do this; shady, isn’t it?). So best practice looks different and I would urgent everyone to follow best practice also for these “little” things.

MEF (full disclosure: I am director of their EMEA Board) has published a neat little infographic highlighting a few dos and don’ts. Have a look and go here for the full thing (and a version into which you can actually zoom into, too).

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