Roundup of the Week (w/e 20/02/2011)

Last week’s tech headlines were filled with the endless stream of model releases and general hullabalo of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. To mobile vendors and resellers alike it was certainly a key event, but remarkably little news of substance emerged – predictably given the difficulty in getting one’s message heard above the noise.

No doubt about it though, Google’s made a huge impression with their sushi-bar style display with Android handsets passing tantalisingly by the assembled journalists, the mainfold shapes and sizes of Google’s challenge to Apple. Whilst this year will continue to be Apple’s in mobile and tablet terms, something tells me that next year will be Google’s.

Market News

  • Mobile Subscription Wars – Apple Demands 30% Share of in-App Purchase Revenue, Google asks for 10%
    Apple is now demanding a 30% cut of any revenue passing through its market place (gross, not net). If content providers want in on Apple’s platform, they can’t offer their content cheaper anywhere else. The predictable reaction from content providers suggests that many of them will simply look for alternative platforms…In a direct counter to Apple, Google announced it’s One Pass subscription model with a more modest share of 10% going to Google and the user data passing to the content provider – a deal that is clearly going to be much more attractive than Apple’s for publishers and the music industry. Over the long term, I can’t help thinking Apple have got this badly wrong. For the analysis in full see http://takenobabble.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/that-30-revenue-cut-subscriptions-and-the-end-of-apple%E2%80%99s-empire/.
  • This Weeks Punch-Up – Mozilla v. Microsoft over IE9
    Last time round Microsoft received a savaging from Google over the ownership of search results and Bing. This week, Mozilla suggested that IE9 was not a truly modern browser, given its poor support for HTML5 and its second-rate CSS compliance. Anyone in the web design business could tell you a tale of woe about time, effort and money wasted on the non-compliance of IE6/7/8 – let’s all pray that in practice Mozilla are wrong – and certainly this hasn’t put off the 2 million who downloaded the release candidate within a week of being published.
    http://opensource.cbronline.com/news/mozilla-attacks-microsoft-claims-ie9-not-modern-170211

CMS / Knowledge Management

Web

  • IE9 Offers “Pinning” to the Task Bar in Windows 7 as a Key Traffic Builder for Sites
    With the advent of IE9, it is now possible to have your site, rather than just the web browser, pinned to the task bar on Windows 7.  This is already proving a major traffic booster to sites that are using it, even though IE9 is still only in Released Candidate.
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-20031845-75.html
  • Google Nearing Completion of Google Native Client for Browsers
    Anyone who attempted to use Microsoft’s ActiveX client plugins for delivering complex functionality to the web in years gone by may well have some apprehensions about the complications of using a similar platform. Google, however, assure us that the new Google Native Client will have none of the complexity and security concerns of Microsoft’s aged technology. If Google pull it off, it will herald the advent of full-powered low-level code running at high speed as proper apps within browsers – let’s hope they succeed.
    http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/20/googles-native-client-almost-ready-for-takeoff-ready-to-make/

Social Media

  • Twitter banished UberMedia, then readmits them
    Twitter doesn’t often make the news for reasons other than growth or potential mergers and acquisitions. This week, however, Twitter suspended use of its API by UberMedia’s popular Twidroyd Twitter app, citing irregularities in manipulation of user posts for money. This caused somewhat of an outcry, as it immediately led to the blocking of access to Twitter, through the app, of a large number of users. Twitter has relented on the basis of reassurances offered by Ubermedia – though this will require an application update to be released by the publishers.
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/androidcentral/~3/pbRCEttK-W0/ubermedia-responds-twidroyds-suspension

Tablets

Android Market Growth Outstripping Apple Store

  • The App Genome Project by Lookout Security compared in detail the development of the Android Market with that of the Apple Store, highlighting some eye catching trends. Over the period since August last year, the Apple Store has grown by 44% and the Android market by 127%. The proportion of paid apps, and particularly paid apps over 99 cents in the Android Market has also markedly risen. As one might expect, as a more mature market, the Apple Store is nearer to saturation – but if these comparative rates of growth are sustained, the Android Market will surpass the Apple Store at some point mid-2012.
    http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/219780/app_genome_project_finds_android_apps_outpacing_ios.html

Mobile

Desktop

  • Mac App Store off to Good Start – Microsoft an Early Publisher!
    The launch of the Mac App Store is yet another significant move for Apple, bringing the tendency of users to buy fragments of functionality, rather than major app suites, to the desktop.  To a lesser degree this experience already exists in the form of Browser Plug-ins, particularly on Chrome, but the move by Apple is sure to be duplicated on other platforms, thus changing the dynamics, not to mention the economics, of the purchase of desktop software. Ironically, Microsoft were in on the game early, providing a Mac based version of software to connect to Windows 7 mobile.
    http://feeds.arstechnica.com/~r/arstechnica/index/~3/KOHgUntq_N0/ios-developers-making-leap-to-the-mac-thanks-to-mac-app-store.ars

This Week I got Excited About

  • Evernote
    I have tried all manner of personal knowledge management tools – but have only recently tried Evernote – and I’m mightily impressed – specifically because the variety of apps and browser plug ins available means that you can capture virtually anything you are up to on the fly, and have it synced via a web account with all of your devices. For a good overview of what you might want to do with it, see http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/14-practical-ways-to-use-evernote-guy-kawasaki

That 30% Revenue Share, Subscriptions and the End of Apple’s Empire

Why are Apple products such a joy to use? Because their every aspect is part of a clearly defined singular vision, a vision that is kept in place by a zealous control over every aspect of its supply chain, OS and application ecosystem.

Steve Jobs’ instincts have so far managed to prevent this monomania lurching into out-and-out megalomania, but has it now overstepped the mark? Contrary to the Apple Orwellian 1984 campaign of the 90s, it is no longer the subversive facing down the might of the totalitarian Microsoft Machine – now it is the machine.

For anyone who hasn’t been connected to the net for the last week, Apple is now demanding a 30% cut of any revenue passing through its market place (gross, not net). If content providers want in on Apple’s platform, they can’t offer their content cheaper anywhere else. There must be very few business that can afford to give away a 30% cut of potential revenue in the current market place and hope to remain in business for very long. At the same time, Apple will not guarantee passing along user information for the fee – users will have to opt in, meaning that the relationship stays firmly with Apple rather than the provider. Put this egregious demand together with Apple’s constant gerrymandering of rules and regulations, as well as its flip-flopping over the use of 3rd party development tools, and one can see an unhealthy degree of contempt for both content providers and the Apple development community in general.

For the record, I have an iPhone, I like Apple products and I think Apple are to be congratulated for the trailblazing that they have achieved with such amazing consistency. However, I hope that the current anti-trust cases that seem to be gathering pace in the US and Europe will result in them receiving clear signal that it is simply not possible to operate with impunity in the commercial market place in any position of market hegemony. Perhaps Apple should remember how Microsoft ended up in deep trouble in Europe simply for the way it packaged IE with Windows – they weren’t even demanding any financial reward for things associated with IE.

At the moment Apple might feel like an irresistible force – but let us not forget that the greatest extent of empire often occurs at some point after the decline has set in – just as it did with the British Empire. Whilst Apple will no doubt to continue grow for some time, I can’t help thinking that their new subscription model and its aftermath will mark the passing of its zenith.

Apple’s hold-everything-close-and-tight approach to getting things done seems is in stark contrast with Google’s lets-give-everything-away-to-everyone ethos of getting everyone possible to buy into their preferred future – somehow the latter seems more in step with the age of Social Media, Open Source and Crowd Sourcing. Nevertheless, there will, I think, always be space for singular vision – but it remains to be seen whether Apple, in a post-Jobs succession, will have that vision.

For Fortune magazine’s take on this see http://rss.cnn.com/~r/fortunebrainstormtech/~3/HkozhYGYrnI/

Roundup of the week (w/e 13/02/2011)

Last week’s most significant news must surely have been that smart phone sales are now outstripping those of PCs . The explosion in tablets and mobile more generally is already proving to be a profound game-changer for the way we interact with both content and software. On the content side, people gather their intelligence in entirely new ways, and consume it in much smaller packages. On the software side, people expect to make choices about smaller aspects of functionality, installed and fulfilled with almost no effort – it can only be a matter of time before the app market model becomes the main model for consumer software on all platforms.

Market News

  • Smartphone Market now Bigger than PC Market
    Anyone in any doubt of the importance of mobile must surely have had their minds changed by the official announcement that smartphone sales are now outstripping those of PCs. Mobile is exploding, and the way we access information, the web and even software has changed for good. http://www.businessinsider.com/smartphone-bigger-than-pc-market-2011-2
  • Leading Industry Analyst Mary Meeker Predicts Future of Tech
    Anyone with slightest interest in the future shape of the mobile, PC and tablet markets simply must read the presentation delivered by Mary Meeker at a major Google event last week. http://www.businessinsider.com/mary-meeker-matt-murphy-2011-2
  • Microsoft Trades HP for Nokia
    Is it a case of one-in one-out for Microsoft – as Hewlett Packard departs its embrace for the enticements of webOS, Nokia recognised the increasing precariousness of its position post-Symbian and hooked up with Microsoft. Seems funny how yesterdays all-powerful-giants come to be portrayed as underdogs or has beens in relation to Google, despite their massive ongoing market share. Yet, this deal isn’t necessarily bad news for Google – Nokia’s shares have slumped and it may be that existing Microsoft phone partners (Dell, LG, Samsung, HTC) may be questioning their long-term allegiance now that Nokia is set to receive special treatment. On the other hand, the guarantee of a large market going forwards is bound to attract the more active interest of developers in Windows as a mobile platform. http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/02/11/microsoft-nokia-deal-might-be-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-android/
  • Sony may Abandon iTunes
    After accusations of Apple effectively holding it and other content producers to ransom, Sony may be one of the first to entirely abandon iTunes, in favour of alternatives. I sense that this is the first of many major battles ahead for Apple – whose past history is littered with examples of it attempting to keep very tight control over all activities related to its brand and platforms, and which nearly led to its demise in the 90s. http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/mp3s/war-looms-as-sony-hints-that-it-will-abandon-itunes-20110210-1aonn.html

CMS / Knowledge Management

  • SharePoint 2010 Deployment Reaches 44%
    The proportion of SharePoint installations on 2010 is now equal to that on 2007, which marks a turning point in how developers are likely to be focussing on making use of the extra features available in 2010. As with any such version turning point, it is difficult to wholeheartedly pursue development of brand new functionality for as long as backwards compatibility is a key driver. http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-cms/sharepoint-deployment-reaches-44-but-faces-challenges-010143.php
  • Pen.io allows ad-hoc micro-content-management
    Task.fm found Anthony Feint has created Pen.io as a platform for creating ad-hoc content management for individual pages or page sections, without having to set up hosting accounts – only a URL and a password is required. As an agency, we often get situations where a static site is too difficult to update, but a full CMS seems overkill – I think this may well catch fire! http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/10/techcrunch-pen-io

Web

  • IE9 Release Candidate Available
    The first official release candidate for IE9 is now available. This will apparently make Microsoft’s browser much more standards-compliant with almost full support for CSS3, as well as adding a considerable amount of HTML5 support, as well as geolocation, privayc controls, hardware acceleration improvements and a whole bunch of other goodies. From an agency point of view, if IE9 really is as compliant as promised, there will be a lot of happy faces from designers and developers alike. http://www.webmonkey.com/2011/02/new-ie-9-offers-geolocation-privacy-controls-and-more-speed/
  • Bing Growing, more Accurate than Google Search
    After last week’s tussle between Google and Microsoft over the ownership of search results, figures show that Bing is continuing to grow at Google’s expense, whilst apparently offering more accurate results. The increasing amount of spam afflicting Google’s results is opening up a space not just for Bing, but also for others such as Blekko who are focussing heavily on the quality of search. It is not inconceivable that Google may be outflanked soon by someone in the way that it outflanked Yahoo on its own rise to fame and glory. http://www.businessinsider.com/bing-more-accurate-than-google-and-gaining-share-2011-2

Social Media

  • Cultural Dimensions of Social Media – The Facebooks of China
    The so-called Great Firewall of China has ensured that much of the social media so dominant elsewhere, such as Facebook, is simply not available, which has led to the creation of sites that first cloned, and then altered these key social media experiences. Whilst it may be marked in the case of China, there is a more general point to be absorbed about the crucial nature of social. cultural and demographic context in the use of social media. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/152/the-socialist-networks.html

Tablets

  • HP webOS preview
    Clearly HP want to be taken seriously as a software company as well as a hardware provider. What do they expect to bring to the tablet market that isn’t already there, other than a strong association with B2B. This roundup from the Cocoia Blog summarises some of the interface elements we can expect – webOS looks quite promising on this view. According to Silicon Valley Insider, the US launch may be as soon as June, at a price of $699 – $100 cheaper than the Xoom. From a developer’s point of view, webOS sounds like a dream, based as it is on javascript and HTML5 – one enterprising 14 year old has already built a successful company developing for webOS. http://blog.cocoia.com/2011/hp-webos-event-roundup

Mobile

  • BBC iPlayer Released for iPad and Android but not iPhone
    The decision of the BBC to release the iPlayer only for iPad and Android 2.2, and only allowing streaming over wifi, kicked off a predictable storm of protest – which would have been expected for anything much short of universal access. The combination of a commitment to Flash on the part of the BBC, and Apple’s rejection of Flash has certainly left the corporation in a difficult position. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/pda/2011/feb/09/bbc-iplayer-app-ipad-android
  • Haptics Platform Released for Mobiles – Engagement of more than just the Visual
    One of the great boons of mobile devices, I have long thought, is the possibility for different kinds of physical engagement, above and beyond the visual domain that we habitually use – most notably in the haptic (touch) sensory modality. Thus the announcement by Immersion of their MOTIVE platform for Android caught my attention. This platform will allow companies to use an amazing range of haptic effects on nearly any Android phone. My bet is that over time muti-modal sensory interfaces will help us navigate not just games, but also tasks, with greater speed and efficiency – once a suitable shared haptics vocubulary has evolved. http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/10/buzz-editor-immersion-releases-motiv-haptics

This Week I got Excited About:

  • Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 Intranet Portal
    The new version of Kentico comes with an out-the-box Intranet portal template – which we have started using to implement our new company intranet – first impressions are very positive, though the real proof will come when we start using it in anger. http://www.kentico.com
  • Rapid-I Rapid Miner
    Very easy to get this data mining framework up and running in terms of getting it to function – but obviously you need to know exactly what you are doing – working on a hobby project with this to do textual analysis of RSS and Twitter feeds – bit of a learning curve. http://rapid-i.com/content/view/181/190/
  • CrunchBase
    Free database on technology companies, people and investors – a kind of corporate & financial wikipedia. Good for doing research on Social Media and technology start-ups, as well as the Silicon Valley big-boys. http://www.crunchbase.com/

Bespoke App Distribution – a Show Stopper for iOS in the Enterprise?

It may well be that one often overlooked issue may be a decisive factor in determining which tablet platforms become enterprise favourites: are the available distribution channels appropriate for distributing bespoke apps?

In my experience, when corporate customers purchase content or knowledge management tools, a significant consideration is the scope for company specific customisation of functionality. For the kind of custom dashboard and CM tools that my clients routinely want, this involves the release of custom installation packages.

Let me make a broad assumption that for many organisations this kind of customisation will continue to be important – along with specific security considerations. This means a continuing need for bespoke app releases.

For Apple’s iOS distribution means either iTunes or direct distribution from Apple developer accounts, which requires you to build individual user device details into distributions in advance, as well as limiting the number you can send it to. By comparison, sending bespoke apps to any Android user is a breeze – you can just email it to anyone who needs it without extra builds.

The bottom line is that unless Apple introduce a way of distributing bespoke builds to a restricted user group, then it’s hard to see how the iPad or iPhone can be a long term corporate favourite for any company that needs more than either pure web apps or pure vanilla general release apps. Does Apple have the appetite for opening other distribution channels for the corporate Market – only time will tell!

Roundup of the Week (w/e 06/02/2011)

Web

  • Microsoft and Google trade blows over the ownership of search results after Google leave a “honey trap” for Microsoft
    but was this a smokescreen to draw attention from Google’s legal proceedings in Europe over the alleged manipulation of search results? http://www.techmeme.com/110201/p22#a110201p22
  • Hotmail Add Alternative Emails – up to five aliases
    A relief for those who use hotmail addresses for testing, or junkmail, or just for specific sign-up purposes
  • RSS central to easy-access Cloud Data?
    Cloud hosting and data is a hot topic, but does it concern the everyman? Dave Winer – creator of RSS introduces thinks it does. He introduces his vision of a more accessible paradigm for backend storage and functionality on the web, glued together using RSS – enticingly named EC2 for Poets project – http://www.webmonkey.com/2011/02/take-back-the-tubes/
  • IPv4 addresses running out
    For all you geeks out there (and me too) – a significant milestone is the allotment of the last available IPv4 blocks – with IPv6 to receive a publicised promotional day of its own in June.

Android

  • Google displaces Nokia as number 1 seller of smartphones (by OS on phones sold)
    For anyone, particularly in the corporate sector, who has been trying to ignore it – Android is now officially impossible to ignore – as number one OS on new smartphones. This very success, however, is the main challenge to Google – the sheer diversity of suppliers and device formats involved means that Google will have to work very hard to avoid the obvious danger of fragmentation of its market – a problem that Apple clearly does not face.
  • Android 2.1 and above now on 90% of Android devices
    Which means that developers are unlikely to be losing too much sleep over older versions, focussing on the capabilities of the newer OS versions.

iPhone / iPad

  • Apple Enforcing Rules on e-Book Publishers
    Hard to avoid the big Apple story of the week – namely its enforcement of its policy that if you sell items used in an app outside of the app, they must allow them to purchase through app as well. This seemed focussed at eBook providers like Sony, and could well be a key mechanism for ensuring Apple’s dominance over the iOS platform as a commercial money maker. However, I wonder how long it is likely to be before we see a case brought in the European Court on the basis of anti-trust legislation – as Microsoft faced a while ago over its packaging of Internet Explorer with windows.

Tablets

  • Android takes 22% of Tablet Market
    So far, with the exception of the Galaxy Tab, there has yet been a compelling Android based rival to the iPad – despite this, Android already has a 22% share of the tablet market – which is sure to rocket when the next generation of Android pads, like the Motorola Zoom, become widely available – see http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/content/android-takes-22-cent-tablet-market
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab – disputes over reliability and sales
    Over the last week there have been stories claiming that the return rate on the Galaxy Tab has been 13% (according to ITG Investment Research), whilst Samsung have claimed only 2% – comparable to the return rate of the iPad. At the same time, Samsung claimed a massive rise in sales of the Galaxy Tab whilst then later ‘clarifying’ that the sales quoted were to distributors rather than end-users. A case of lies, damned lies and statistics?

Blackberry

  • RIM release BlackBerry AppWorld 2.1
    Which features in-app payments, allowing developers to create ‘lite’  versions with in-App upgrades. Could this provide a significant stimulus to the BlackBerry app market?
  • RIM India Ban Unlikely
    India still wants access to messages through Blackberry platform but now look unlikely to introduce a ban. Interesting to see how the issue of privacy is shaping up not just in developing economies, but around the world more generally.

Mobile Market

  • Mobile Web Traffic doubled in 2010
    According to Mobile Marketing Magazine, although a Cisco’s study suggested a massive 150% increase over the same period. There is no doubt about it, mobile is likely to be the preferred option for accessing the web outside of work, where the choice of platform is likely to be out of the users’ hands. Over the same period, the consumer expenditure on online entertainment was up 23% – which only goes to show that early adopters must be disproportionately high consumers compared to later adopters.  See http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/content/mobile-web-traffic-doubles-2010
  • Nokia and Microsoft Up a Tree?
    Now deposed as top seller of smartphones, and with Symbian effectively being declared dead, though on temporary life support, Nokia is realigning strategy apparently, with an announcement due regarding a tie up with Microsoft next week, possibly involving Windows 7. Could be a good tie-up for Microsoft who have had quite poor initial market share – Q4 2010 only 2%.
  • Marie Curie and Salvation Army with firsts for Charities in mobile
    Whilst Marie Curie were the first to release a virtual collection tin,  allowing their volunteers to encourage donations via SMS to contacts. The Salvation Army enjoyed 190,000 downloads of its Virtual Cup app, highlighting issues of health and social inequality. Interestingly, for the iPhone, the Virtual Cup has been implemented as an advanced web app to get around Apple’s ban on in-app donations – although it is available as a native app on other platforms.

Social Media

Social networks for corporates seems to be flavour of the week, if not the entire year. A lot of action to be seen in this area over the coming year, both as add-ons for Enterprise platforms, and for third-party SAAS providers:

  • Salesforce release Chatter.com
    a free social network that can be used by anyone with a business address
  • Microsoft Dyamics CRM acquires Vibe as Option in Market Place
    Enterprises implementing Dynamics now have social networking option
  • BranchOut Grew 2500% In January
    The LinkedIn style corporate networking Facebook app is experiencing a meteoric rise in traffic,  going From 10K To 250K Monthly Users

Web Standards

  • Microsoft offers H.264 plug-in for Chrome
    interesting Microsoft play which undermines Google’s own choice to not adopt H.264. Could plugins and add-ons provide a useful mechanism for platform providers to wrong-foot each other’s strategic plays on standards adoption?
  • W3C addresses touch screens and semantic web
    The consortium release a rough draft of specs targeting touch screens and tables, and announce the formation of a working group to update the foundations of the semantic web

What I got Excited About this Week

In no particular order:

  • Yahoo Pipes (Feed Aggregation and Filtering on Steroids)
    if you like to use the web as an active research tool, then you’ve got to see this to believe this – an easy online interface for clever aggregating, filtering, translation and coding of feeds and web content, which you can then publish as another feed!http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
  • Yojimbo – Personal Knowledge Manager
    I’m trying out this personal knowledge management app for the Mac – I’ve tried PersonalBrain, but I wanted something quick and easier – which it seems to be http://www.barebones.com/products/yojimbo/
  • Ubuntu – OS OS (Open Source Operating System)
    having been mainly PC and Mac based, I thought it high time that I tried out Ubuntu properly – given one of my colleagues is a bit of an evangelist. Now I have Ubuntu, Windows 7 and Mac Snow Leopard on one box – the world is my oyster! Ubuntu is great – once past the apprehension about geeky command lines, it is actually a breeze to use and fantastically easy to set up new software! www.ubuntu.com
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