This should have come a week earlier but, alas, I was on the road – quite literally – en route to San Diego and Qualcomm’s most excellent Uplinq conference.
Life of course did not stop, and amongst the things you should not miss was (and is!) the last iteration of the formidable Carnival of the Mobilists, hosted by our very own Peggy Anne Salz on her award-winning MSearchGroove blog. Amongst the gems not to be missed were:
- An interview of a company focused on Windows Phone 7 (yes, you read that right!);
- Tomi Ahonen with another go at the app economy (which he claims isn’t much of an economy; read my comments on this here);
- A look on web bookmarks as an alternative to apps (to which I still not agree; cf. here);
- A couple of posts on Android, and specifically Motorola’s Droid X (and the future, if any, of Motoblur);
- And many, many more…
Finally, my post on Vodafone’s pondered changes to its revenue share structures featured, too.
The carnival is here, and well worth a read! And, again, my apologies for the late posting of this. But the old Highway 101 along the Pacific just had me in its grips…
Gartner published the latest smartphone numbers for Q1/2010 (or so I read), and it is testament to the continuing rise of this segment: sales increased by nearly 50% year-on-year (and do remember that there was this recession-thing last year). Total sales were 54.3m units in the first quarter of this year. Not too shabby!
On the OS side, the rising stars are Android (9.6% global market share from 1.6% a year ago), which is now bigger then Windows Mobile (and it took it only a year!) and iPhone (15.4% vs 10.5% in Q1/2009). The silverback gorilla still is Symbian which dropped to 44.3% from 48.8%. Blackberry is also down (albeit only slightly: 19.4% from 20.6%).
Here’s a table:
We said it before: mobile is the biggest mass medium on the planet, and now game developers (and not only the sometime masochists that have been there for years) flog to it. According to a fairly large survey by GDR (which can be yours for too many dollars to count and has been reported about here) among 800 developers, a quarter of them are now making games for mobile phones with most of them (namely 75%) – surprise, surprise – choosing the iPhone as their platform of launch. This is doubling last year’s figures (apparently).
The iPhone and its non-phone sibling, iPod Touch (and you have been reading that a year ago here, here and here) are proving a more attractive launchpad onto portable gaming platforms than dedicated gaming systems like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
The reasons will be the same as they were a year ago: a platform that is relatively easy to work to and a simple distribution model. With the number of downloads Apple continues to pile up, it is no wonder that developers from “traditional” platforms (PC downloadable, online, etc) are attracted to that. They will also be less scared of the marketing challenges since they had had to market their games in the whole wide oceans of the Internet previously (i.e. there were no carrier safe havens with feature slots). Whilst this does not mean that every traditional developer’s games will be successful on the app store, the threshold to enter is lower.
It will be interesting to see if the wave will roll further into other “smarter” platforms, including Android, Windows Mobile (see the latest rumours for WinME 7, including full Xbox Live gaming implementation here), Symbian Maemo and Blackberry. With the device numbers clearly speaking in favour of that, platforms becoming more accessible and, last but not least, with easier paths to the users via OEM app stores, this is to be expected. Good times for mobile gamers!
Nokia recently shook the world by starting to provide its Ovi Maps app including turn-by-turn navigation for free. And only just under 2 weeks later, it announced that users have downloaded the app more than 1.4m times. Good stuff.
The numbers led some people (Nokia’s Vanjoki as well as various industry pundits) to claim the dawn of Ovi downloads had arrived. I beg to differ, and here’s why:
1. A mapping application with turn-by-turn navigation cost, until very recently, anywhere between $30-80 a pop. And all of a sudden it is free. It is a little akin selling a Porsche Cayman for the price of a VW Polo: people will jump through any number of hoops for that. This is not proof that the download boom has finally also arrived with proud owners of Nokia phones; it merely shows that this is too good an offer to decline.
2. 1.4m downloads across the Symbian install base of c. 300m is not actually that impressive a number. To put it into context: a simple ad-funded game, Waterslide Extreme by German high-end development house Fishlabs, which is also a free download, clocked on the iPhone more than 10m downloads. As far as I am aware, the developer still sees around 40,000 downloads per day. And this is a long time after its release and for an app that fills significantly less of a need than satellite navigation. But even if one leaves aside this last bit (which is taking a very favourable view – no ceteris paribus here), Ovi Maps would need to hit roughly 100m downloads before it could say it was, pound for pound, as successful as Waterslide Extreme (NB: this is not exactly true because Nokia only supports some 20m devices to date).
3. It is not actually proof that the Ovi Store works as users can also download the app via the Nokia Website or via the “SW Update” application on the phone. At a time when the store still needs 90 seconds (measured on an N97 running on a Vodafone UK 3G network) and more to even load the opening screen, I struggle to believe that the store will see an uptake across the band.
4. It is likely being a bit of a one-off: Nokia also announced that, from March, every Nokia will come pre-loaded with the app.
Now, to clarify things: it is great news for boosting awareness of mobile phones as location-aware devices, and the pre-install on future phones will help that. It is likely that this will contribute to the fall of the dedicated satnav sector in much the same way Nokia’s landmark deal with Carl Zeiss lenses (and the resulting higher image quality of photos taken with your phone’s camera) was a doomsday scenario for the lower end of the digital camera market.
Also: Ovi Maps looks like a VERY good app: it covers more than 180 countries (car & pedestrian navigation: 74; traffic: 10), it is available in a whopping 46 (!) languages. It includes 3D landmarks for 200 cities around the world and incorporates Lonely Planet and Guide Michelin city guides. It is good, no doubt!
Finally, Nokia started early with the mantra of location-awareness. It was just that it had not executed particularly well to date. I know there is probably much more in the works than is visible to the untrained eye (or any other eye not from within the company) but the company does need to ramp up here since its hard-earned (and well-deserved) fame is/was beginning to fade quickly.
It would be fantastic if the world market leader would see uptake of applications rise sharply. I would very much like to ask them though not to fool themselves into believing that the store is not so bad after all only because of one successful application on it. There is a lot of work to do. The Ovi Maps case simply shows that one does not have to be a crazy Apple fan boy to be craving cool and useful apps. So, dear Nokia, continue to study the app store and try solve the shortfalls of the Ovi Store. It’ll be good for everyone!