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

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

Roundup of the Week (w/e 30/01/2011)

I have decided to try to do a weekly round-up of key themes across mobile, desktop apps, software, design, project management and anything else that affects my working life.

Key themes from last week that caught my eye:

CONTACTLESS MOBILE PAYMENTS – people will soon be able to pay for things direct from their mobile, eventually including things like tube fairs – Orange and T-Mobile to release tariffs to support this in summer. The next generation of iPhones and iPads will natively support mobile payments. This could be a small yet profound change to the lives of anyone who, like me, finds it easier to keep hold of their mobile than their wallet when out and about.
 
DESKTOP APP STORES– looks like we will soon have the mobile apps model on desktops – first to go looks like it will be Linux, can’t imagine we won’t have a Windows one soon though. Lets face it – the whole mobile app experience is so much better than going through a whole series of installation stages on a laptop or desktop – what will be interesting to see is whether the low-cost high-volume pricing model will spread into personal computing. Will the convergence in devices be matched by a convergence in methods of purchasing?
 
ENTERPRISE CMS – this year’s big themes in enterprise CMS likely to be social media and cloud-computing – EU will be laying down guidelines for provision of cloud computing.  Some larger corporates are moving their testing and approval platforms into the cloud – but questions still remain about privacy and security. At the same time, being able to keep up with the latest software and hardware as soon as it is available without fear of compatibility issues and expensive rollouts is surely attractive. A key issue here might be the way that legal developments in the US and other places may require Cloud Hosting providers to disclose sensitive personal or corporate information for legal or political reasons.
 
IPAD – use of iPads by corporates is growing rapidly. Appointment of new security chief at Apple seems aimed at RIM (Blackberry), much of whose success is based on secure communications. The snapping of Apple at RIM’s heels in the corporate market seems set to become more and more insistent. In a symbolic, and commercially significant development, last week saw Apple announce the release of the iPad in India even while political developments are making it look pretty certain that RIM will have to abandon the Indian market.
  
BLACKBERRY BIGGEST IN UK 2010 – The Blackberry range was the biggest selling smart phone platform in the UK in 2010! Everybody is focussing on the iOS and Android as key platforms for consumer development, but the Blackberry remains hugely popular amongst corporates. Who knows what impact the RIM Playbook will have on the tablet market when it is in the next couple of months. On the other hand, Apple have decided to release the iPad2 at roughly the same time (no coincidence of course).
  
MOBILE LOCATION SERVICES  – location based services that permit use of services / advertising / offers based on  user’s location will take off massively this year, although issues of personal privacy will be a major issue. Most of us are probably used to enjoying the benefits of map related location services on iOS or Android. However, the key concern here is that we may start to be tracked in space and time generally and not just through our buying habits or points of contact with corporates on the net. It seems almost inevitably that information, once collected, ends up being used for purposes other than those first proposed…caution will need to be the watchword here, along with clear opt-ins.
 
ANDROID HONEYCOMB – new tablet-OS emulator released (to Ben’s delight) last week – pundits have also found traces of mobile phone specific functionality – so maybe for phones as well as tablets – functionality warmly received despite emulator being very slow. Our Android guru is almost beside himself with excitement over Honeycomb – especially now that it seems it has been designed for phones as well as tablets. Whilst they seem to be hitting all the right notes with Android itself, even Google have admitted disappointment with the growth of the market for Android apps – they need to spend a significant fraction of this development time on tidying up the wild-west feel of their marketplace. 
 
SEARCH / SEO – Google will be cracking down on content farms (providers of content for SEO purposes), and auto-complete results for P2P. Google exists in an ongoing cat and mouse game with SEO specialists. Content farming in general seeks to use relatively reputable content for the specific aim of promoting SEO – Google will have its work cut out differentiating between content farming and legitimate corporate on-line marketing – and they seem set to involve some kind of content rating or qualitative feedback from users in order to improve the quality of its search results.
  
SOCIAL MEDIA – Malware controllers are using social network apps to coordinate malware attacks. US courts granting lots of orders for opening up private Facebook areas – reminder of how software as a service (SAAS) generally may be affected by local legislation. It comes as no surprise really that social media is the focus of malware creators, as much as it has become the focus of legitimate corporate interest. We can see a simultaneous encroachment on the ‘public space’ of social media from hackers, organised crime, marketeers and legislators alike. I guess that simply means that these virtual spaces are becoming as contested as real public spaces. Just like in real public spaces, our actions, our disclosure of information and our relationships are beginning to have potentially unintended consequences. The problem is that for many users, this reality is not clear…but it needs to be.
  
  More next week…
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