Mobile diary: Windows is still in the game

According to some recent data, Windows still has promise as a mobile developer platform, and is seeing growing developer interest. Microsoft and Nokia are pursuing developers aggressively with a strategy that combines both carrots and sticks. In an interview in Bloomberg Businessweek. Nokia Global VP Bryan Biniak makes it clear that Nokia is happy to spend money to encourage app development, but also wants to make it clear that “Those who decline to build apps for Windows could lose valuable business from Microsoft and Nokia.” In other words, if your hotel app isn’t in the Windows store, over 100,000 Microsoft employees will make their reservations somewhere else, thank you.

What this means in concrete terms is that there’s finally a Vine app for Windows Phone, so I now have a new way to spend (i.e. waste) time with my Windows Phone.


Mobile diary: the view from over there

Thanks to QuirksBlog for this reminder that the mobile tech landscape isn’t the same all over the world. This survey of the Indonesian local browser market shows the importance of browsers that I expect most American mobile phone users (and mobile experts) have not heard of, or at least don’t take seriously.

Number one in Indonesia with about 56% of measured traffic: Opera (more specifically, the Opera Mini proxy browser).

You can find more fun data like these over at StatsCounter.

Mobile class consciousness

More evidence of the class, or at least income, divide in the smartphone world in this article about the big difference in mobile ad revenue between Android and iOS devices. The data, based on numbers from Facebook ads purchased by Nanigans, show that “(f)or the first three quarters of 2013, RPC [revenue per click] on iOS averaged 6.1 times higher than Android and ROI [return on investment] on iOS averaged 17.9 times higher than Android.”

Even though Android accounts for over half of US smartphone market, those numbers do not appear to be an advantage for advertisers, if one can generalize from this study. One uncomfortable conclusion from these data, noted in the article, is that “iPhone owners simply tend to both make more money and spend more money than Android owners.”

Should this be a cause for concern?


Do the rich tweet differently?

I’m not sure what to make of this article in Atlantic Cities about the apparent correlation of iPhone use and income. In short, rich people tend to use iPhones, while poorer ones use Android devices. (Blackberry and Windows are in there somewhere, but way below the two dominant players.)

The article is based on a mapping of tweets from mobile devices, which by itself is an interesting testament to the somewhat egalitarian nature of Twitter. In any populated area there seem to be lots of tweets from all areas.The iPhone/Android split isn’t dramatic, but there does seem to be a noticeable difference in the geographic distribution of the iPhone and Android tweeters, that roughly correlates to income distribution.

For example, here is the Android (green) and iPhone (red) map of metro Detroit, which seems to show a suburban bias for the iPhone tweeters.

DetroitThe Atlantic article suggests that this correlation has to do with the high cost of iPhones, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. Most people in the US, at any income level, buy subsidized phones. Those subsidies remove most of the price differences between iPhone and comparable Android devices. Of course, there are many more options for free (on contract) Android devices that can explain part of this seeming income divide.

I suspect, though, that there’s more going on here than richer people buying more expensive phones. I think the iPhone vs. Android split resembles the Starbucks / Dunkin Donuts divide, which gets into issues of education, class, and perceived levels of sophistication and “cool.” As I wrote earlier, we heard a hint of this at a recent Mobile Monday panel, where the head of mobile at the Smithsonian discussed how “culture consumers” who visit museums and museum web sites, are predominantly iPhone (and iPad) users.

I find this possible cultural platform divide a bit disturbing, but I’m not sure if there’s anything to be done about it. Nothing in tech lasts forever, so it’s possible that this trend won’t be relevant in a few years. I’d love to read your comments on this article and this issue, and the possible implications for app developers, enterprises, and society.

Mobile Diary: PalmOS: right, but not convincing

The theme of the recent Fierce Wireless interview with former Palm head Jon Rubinstein ( via Engadget) can be summed up in the Hebrew phrase “you’re right, but not convincing.” According to Rubinstein, Palm made a mistake in selling the company to HP, but the PalmOS team turned out to be right about their vision of how the smartphone market would evolve:

“[A] lot the stuff we were trying to do with Palm and a lot of things we told carriers they were wasting effort on has turned out to be true. … Forcing us to take our address book and expose it to them. The industry went away from them. I think we were also very prophetic about the growth of the smartphone market. I think that’s clearly been validated. If you go back at look at our original premise for a lot of the stuff we did at Palm when I got there, I think it’s all really played out as expected.

I don’t know why PalmOS didn’t succeed while other platforms did, but it’s clear (and perhaps obvious) that it takes more than just good technology and an accurate vision of the market to succeed in the smartphone business. I suspect this is a common fate of consumer businesses with an engineering mindset (Nokia falls into this category as well); they underestimate the importance of emotion and other “irrational” customer behavior in determining the success of a product line.


Mobile Diary: Symbian RIP

From the Financial Times (via Gizmodo), a report on the imminent death of Symbian, Nokia’s venerable smartphone operating system, that dominated the pre-iPhone smartphone world with devices like the N95.

Looking back, the Symbian era resembles the automobile industry before the Model T: a young, exciting, industry with many manufacturers experimenting with many different technologies and configurations. Eventually the industry settled down to a “standard” model (gasoline/diesel engine, steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, etc.) and development proceed with those common assumptions in mind.

I worked at Nokia through the rise (and fall) of Symbian devices, starting with the first Nokia Symbian device, the 7650, in 2002. I spent many years promoting the OS and Nokia’s S60 platform to operators and developers, and so was well aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and the enormous impact of the iOS and touchscreen revolution on the platform and the company. I have fond memories of Symbian, but don’t really lament its passing.

Here’s a peek into the Symbian era:

Today’s reading: VisionMobile on the “profit share trap”

Always worthwhile to read what the VisionMobile team is writing, and their latest blog post is no exception. This time they analyze the focus in the tech media on the “profit share” held by various players in the smartphone space, notably the huge percentage of total profit held by Apple, thanks to ongoing sales on iDevices.

Sameer Singh makes what should be an obvious point, that profit, and hence “profit share” depends as much on internal corporate issues as external consumer behavior. It indicates how well a particular company may be doing now, but not necessarily how successful they will be in the future.

For example, Apple dominates the smartphone profit rankings, due to the huge margins they earn on (mostly subsidized) iPhones and (mostly un-subsidized) iPads. Singh suggests that as smartphones become more mainstream, and hence less “cool”, those high prices and margins will be hard to sustain. The feature sets of different devices will converge, and price pressures will increasingly dominate consumer decisions.

On the other hand, I suspect that Apple has more flexibility in pricing because its products, iPads in particular, are more like “Veblen goods“, or luxury products that get more attractive at higher prices. Users of Apple mobile devices also consume more data and use more apps and web services than, for example, Android users, leading to further distortion of the app ecosystem, where enterprises favor iOS development even though Android has a higher market share.

We heard one example of this in a recent Mobile Monday DC panel on HTML5 vs Native Apps. Nancy Proctor, who heads mobile activities at the Smithsonian, reported that their development priorities are web first, then iOS, because they found that the people who use museum apps and web sites tend to be “culture consumers” who favor iOS devices.

I find this a bit worrisome, as it hints at a vicious cycle of app usage by “elite” (i.e. rich, educated) consumers, that then drives more development targeted at those elite users, and excluding the wider audience on other platforms who both use less data and have fewer options.