Tag: mobile web (Page 2 of 10)

Carnival of the Mobilists # 260

As per usual, another week, another carnival (if things were only like this in real life, too…). This week’s edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists is being hosted by the formidable Antoine RJ Wright, and it is full of goodies. He is featuring:

  • Not one but two posts on BlackBerry (and I have no involvement in either; cf. my About Me page for disclaimers), one looking at its (apparently) impending death and offering advice on how to fix it and one looking at its (apparently) robust health despite recent dips.
  • A very interesting post on how handset UX affects testing.
  • A book review on HTML5 and the mobile web.
  • A report on mobile in the MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) region.
  • My own little piece on the mobile component of Facebook’s IPO (hint: there is none).
  • An interview with one of GigaOm’s mavens.
  • Plus about 10 or so more incredibly worthwhile reads including by singularity rockstar Ray Kurzweil, mobile influencer #1 Tomi Ahonen (not my but Forbes’ words) and, and, and…

Go, get a coffee (or green tea, or whatever you feel inclined towards) and allow yourself half an hour of good reading on all things mobile over here. And, if you would like to participate in the carnival yourself, you can: to submit a post, just e-mail mobilists@gmail.com. If you want to host, check out the Mobilists website for processes etc.

Facebook’s IPO with no mobile revenues

So here’s the mother of all IPOs then, and it was coming a long way. The web was buzzing, today analysts of any couleur are commenting and reading through the fine print of Facebook’s registration statement (known as the S-1) in order to find valuable nuggets of information that they had not had before and myriads of bloggers and journalists drool over the new wave of young wealthy people in the Valley.

No mobile revenue

Whilst I’d love to join into this frenzy, I want to focus on one point in the S-1 that caught my eye, and which might pose some interesting challenges for the social networking giant going forward, namely the large abyss between mobile use of the site and revenues derived from it. You will likely have read about the huge amount of Facebook users regularly using the site from mobile devices. According to the company itself, 425m active users (out of a user base of 845m) accessed the site using mobile devices; that’s more than 50%. And yet, Facebook does not derive “any meaningful revenue” (quote from their S-1) from it.

Why (these) ads don’t work as well

This is, of course, because it – thus far – did not find a good way to display ads in their various guises to mobile users. The screen real estate is scarce and it would be easy to destroy the user experience by doing so. However, with that growth in usage, they may have to review this approach. The challenge is then to successfully marry user experience on a small(er) screen with revenue-generating activities. And, alas, the latter are so far mainly display ads of various sorts. How successful will those be? My guess is not very much. It is likely one reason why Facebook so far has shied away from using them: it might just destroy the user experience to an extent that its users would be seriously upset.

And yet, it is only the latest case of highlighting one of the common fallacies of migration from web to mobile (and I am not even saying they are wrong to move that way; their user growth and occuption of that space will likely counter-balance that; I think it was Accel’s Rich Wong who said that it is easier to find revenue streams once you have 100’s of millions of users than to find 100’s of millions of users with a (pre-)defined revenue stream). Nevertheless, none of us would watch a TV commercial showing you a static picture and someone reading something out from the off (this is exactly how TV advertising kicked off). We were not overly thrilled by early attempts of online advertising; they were merely an attempt to convert billboards and printed circulars to the digital realm. It was not until Google’s AdWords that online advertising really hit it off. So why would we now be content with a mere port from another form of media?

The Japanese way?

Japan has shown that there are other ways. Japan’s GREE reportedly records similar revenues from about 5% the user base than Facebook does. It does so mainly with virtual currencies and goods (and, yes,  it has moved to a slightly different target market); users can customize their experiences within that social network by buying “stuff” to embellish their avatars, play, use, customize content, etc. Japan has always been something of the Galapagos Islands when it comes to mobile usage: what worked there didn’t often work elsewhere (anyone remember i-mode?). However, we are seeing a similar effect on smartphone applications: 65% of the top-grossing apps these days use some sort of “freemium” feature. This approach might be too late for Facebook now though. Its users would be up in arms would they start charging for features that users have come to see as free.

I am fairly confident that the good folks of Facebook are here to stay but I am still thrilled to see if, when and how they will begin to adapt. With all the very smart people in the company, we may just see the next wave of mobile monetization, and I wonder what it might be…

MoMo Manchester @ the BBC

If you are in the North-West of England and have nothing to do or, rather, nothing really, really important to do, you may want to drop in for our latest Mobile Monday Manchester edition, which takes place tonight starting at 6pm at the BBC in the brand-spanking new MediaCityUK.

The topic of the night will be “Second Screen” and we will have people from all corners of that: speakers from the Beep itself, companies providing infrastructure and service as well as creative agencies that deliver on these screens.

More info here. To join us, please sign up here (there is only standing room left though…).

Conference season: Where I will be…

Yes, conference season is firmly upon us and, before I descend into the mayhem that tends to come with it, let me tell you where you can find me over the next couple of weeks.

This week sees London at the centre of a lot of things gaming: the Mobile Games Forum opens its doors on Wednesday in the Hilton Tower Bridge in SW1, which combines with the Social Games Forum. I will be speaking on a panel on “How to engage cross-promotion for social game discovery”.

There is also ICE in town but not the freezing variety but the big gaming (as in proper gaming for money and such) expo over at Earl’s Court, which rolls a variety of gaming-related tracks into this. I will be speaking on a panel on their mobile gaming track with the concise title “Incorporate Social and Mobile to create the Ultimate Modern Gaming Experience”.

Only a little later, on 7/8 February, we will be in Amsterdam for BlackBerry DevCon Europe. It is well worth coming to this to get a glimpse of the “new” BlackBerry and our plans there [disclosure: I work for BlackBerry]. Sign up here and hit me if you are a developer; I have a few discount codes left. I will lead a breakout session on Social Gaming with Scoreloop there.

Onwards to my old stomping grounds in Hamburg from there for the annual European edition of Casual Connect where I will deliver a talk on how BlackBerry will deliver on gaming (yes, you read that right!).

After that, there is a two week (conference) break before heading to Barcelona for the monster that is Mobile World Congress. I’ll be there all week!

Barely a weekend’s rest and the Game Developers Conference (or GDC) opens its doors at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Again, it’ll be a full week for me there.

I hope I will meet you at one of those. Sorry that Asia isn’t featuring in this tour de force this time but, hey, it’s still early in the year, huh? 😉

Image credit: http://gapingvoid.com

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Carnival of the Mobilists # 257 (#COTM)

This week’s Carnival of the Mobilists comes to you from Kansas, more specifically from Steven Hoober, and here’s what he has in stock for you:

  • Will larger screens lead to poorer mobile web sites?
  • Do apps beat browsing?
  • What will be the best mobile advertising networks 2012?
  • Do QR codes work? Someone had a look at TfL’s (better known as the operator of the London Tube) numbers.
  • What can advertisers expect from the Kindle Fire?
  • Would you close your business for two days per week? A look at retailers and the benefits of mobile-optimized websites.
  • Will Windows Phone 7 be cutting it?
  • Android and Apple have not won the smartphone war.
  • Have you ever heard of a “wearable computing equation”? Check it out!
  • What is the spectrum/bandwith crunch in Boise, Idaho?
  • My little piece on the revolutionary (well, perhaps, “only” disruptive) French operator Free.
  • Image processing in Generation M

The carnival is live here. Go read! :)

In reply to @scottjenson: Web or Apps?

There seems to be a new round of buzz around the good old HTML5 vs native debate or, in other words of web vs apps. We had a Mobile Monday session in Manchester (@momomcr) on this, debate on ForumOxford is flaring up again, and more… So I thought let’s do this again and see – if anything – changed since I posted about this (for the record: here’s the first post from 2009 and the second one from 2010). Where has the battlefield moved to in the interim?

Mobile apps must die

There has been (as you may have sharply derived from this post’s title) a post from Scott Jenson, the Creative Director of Frog Design (they of much Apple fame – you know, they designed the Apple IIc and such), which he entitled – somewhat combattively – “mobile apps must die”. His argument is, in short, that the mobile desktop cannot cope with the plethora of native apps (or app icons?) and that it would be much better to use dynamic “use it and lose it” approaches for which the web is perfectly suited. He starts of on the value vs pain paradigm: if the balance is less than 0 (i.e. value exceeds pain), the solution wins. And he posits, that native apps don’t do that.

I  am not doing the intellectual argument Scott poses any justice here (and I will pick up on some more points further below), so please make sure to read his post!

One size does not fit all

The challenge is to find a universal solution, I suppose. Jenson focuses merely on apps that – arguably – make a user’s life better if and when he/she is out and about and is looking for utilities to help  mundane tasks/etc. There are tons of fairly one-dimensional apps for that: a retailer app for their catalogue, London tube map, some couponing app, a mobile banking app, apps using NFC, Bluetooth, camera (QR readers) and more. There will also be more complex ones: fancy AR-powered things, things like Foursquare (anyone near?), etc, etc. So, is this painful? Yes, it is. Would it be better if there was a seamless universal (cloud-based) solution that would make it “just so”? Oh, by all means.

BUT… it would not solve all use cases for smartphones (or mobile computing in general). There are tons of applications and use cases that are not the out and about equivalent of a Google search (and, yes, I am fully aware that 40% of Google mobile searches relate to locations), and I would posit that one has to judge each one on its own merits.


The starting point should always be the user experience. Jenson points out correctly that this is not only about the perceived value of the product or service in isolation but it is more of a function: if the perceived value exceeds the pain to use it, it works. If pain exceeds the perceived value, it doesn’t.

But it is this very statement where things with Jenson go horribly astray. There is a reason why Apple has not yet moved Keynote to a cloud-based SaaS solution but keeps selling it as a stand-alone app: because it works better. The perceived value of using the product far exceeds the pain of having to download and install the application.

Tackling the shortfalls

When looking at the UX chain (from product to discovery, maintenance, management and use), there is more than one answer to shortfalls of some of these elements. Rather than moaning about distribution and app management, one can also improve those processes. The OS-based app store model all but replaced the carrier stores for smartphones now, and why? Because the end-to-end solution is less painful (not only for users of the apps but also for its producers!).

It is possible to draw a map of this (and I would if I possessed more artistic skill) where you could derive on what is right for you: if you need access to hardware APIs (camera, 3D acceleration, Open GL ES, etc), native might be your way (one of the reasons why you are not seeing higher-end HTML5 games in large numbers yet). If you capture light-weight information-heavy content that relies on dynamic updates, a web “app” might be good for you, in other cases, a native app with some functionality coupled with a container for web functionality might be the right way.

So there we have it: it still is the old “it depends” answer. Having said that, with webkit and HTML5 adding functionality all the time, ever (?) improving bandwidth and better compliance on the browser side, the usecases for native apps will likely get less over time. Will it happen in full swing in the next 18 months or so? I doubt that very much.

MoMo Manchester: Apps vs Web

Tonight (11 July), Mobile Monday Manchester opens its doors at Dukes 92, 18-20 Castle Street, Manchester, M3 4LZ (map). Our topic of the night will be Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web. We’ll put two teams against each other with short presentations making the case for apps and the web respectively, followed by a panel discussion.

As of last night, we had already had more than 120 registrations, so hurry if you want to come along. Registration is still open here.

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