Apple Shifts the Mobile Industry

September 23, 2008

I was reviewing my notes from last week’s Mobilize conference & I found myself asking where was Apple? This 1-day conference featured eight panel discussions with talent from the major mobile network providers, the mobile device manufactures, the mobile operating systems, & a variety of companies that specialized in mobile application development & marketing. The panel discussions consisted of topics ranging from the development of mobile applications with Location Based Services (LBS), to the hurdles associated with mobile carriers, to investment strategies in the mobile market space. Regardless of panel topic, I noted a recurring theme throughout. Not one panel discussion could avoid bringing up Apple & what they had done with the iPhone. It felt at times like the entire conference consisted of people asking how do we keep up with Apple, or is Apple’s approach the right approach to take, or what will Apple do next?

I scanned the list of conference attendees that was handed out at the beginning of the conference & there wasn’t a single person in attendance from Apple; nor was anyone from Apple participating in any of the panel discussions or keynote presentations given that day.

So here I sat in a room full of very talented people from some very reputable & large companies who could not help but analyze Apple & what Apple has done to the mobile market.

I find myself asking why Apple would have been there. Apple has set the standard. They’ve raised the bar with mobile devices & mobile application development & distribution. As a result, we find ourselves trying to catch up to Apple. While we sit here discussing how Apple approached the mobile market, they continue to innovate. I’m sure from time to time that they find themselves at conferences looking for answers to questions & to get a feel for a market. Of course they appear to do their own research in many other ways. Apple doesn’t wait for an industry to shift, they shift an industry.

Can other mobile device manufactures & mobile operating systems surpass Apple? Is today’s release of Google’s Android operating system on HTC’s G1 an example of this or will Apple continue to shape the mobile industry?

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

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The Economics of Mobile Application Development

September 22, 2008

At last Thursday’s Mobilize conference the discussion started off with a round table focusing on “The Economics of (Mobile Application) Development.” At the end of this panel discussion which included talent from BlackBerry, the LiMo Foundation, Qualcomm, Adobe, & Windows Mobile the group concluded the following:

“That mobile applications will run primarily over the web versus being installed native to the device, applications will be available in a centralized area (like Apple’s App Store) versus a distributed model of distribution, most applications will be downloaded versus bundled with the device, mobile applications will be developed through businesses rather than through a consortium, & finally that applications will continue to be geared towards the consumer versus businesses.”

These predictions point to a couple of hurdles that in my opinion will continue to plague the mobile industry for many years to come.

The first hurdle is that there are far too many mobile operating systems & too few standards in this space. When a company or an application developer decides to develop a mobile application they are forced in most cases to pick a single operating system to use to develop their application because trying to keep up with the support & life-cycle of that application on 5+ mobile operating systems requires resources that many businesses & application developers simply don’t have to invest. As a result, businesses & application developers loose entire audiences because their application won’t be supported on a large majority of mobile devices running other mobile operating systems. Even with 5+ mobile operating systems; why can’t each mobile operating system adhere to some set of standards that would allow applications to seamlessly work across operating systems?

It is evident that device manufactures realize the control they’ll have when choosing a particular operating systems to run on their device. That is why there is such a race to gain market share now before the mobile market becomes even more saturated with additional mobile operating systems (note that Android from Google is being released this week). If these companies can’t work together on a set of standards for businesses & application developers to adhere to my hope is that we’ll see some device manufactures & mobile operating systems simply go away.

Secondly, mobile carriers still control too much of the equation. The mobile carriers have control of which devices they’ll allow on their network. They determine how the mobile applications will be distributed to the consumer; installed on the device prior to sale or forcing the consumer to download. The mobile carriers also control the costs associated with the network time (voice or data) that the application will require to use. All of these control factors make it very difficult for businesses & application developers to develop an application that is simple & affordable for the consumer to use.

While the mobile market is obviously exploding & “open” for growth, don’t be fooled to believe that there aren’t some significant hurdles for us to overcome in order to deliver a valuable solution to enterprises & consumers.

What is your opinion on these questions pertaining to the mobile market?

Applications will run: Native or Web?
Applications will be distributed: Centralized or Distributed?
Applications will be installed: Downloaded or Bundled?
Applications will be developed by: Businesses or Consortium?
Applications will be geared towards: Consumers or Businesses?

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka


Why Google Chrome?

September 10, 2008

Since Google released its new web browser, Chrome, last week there has been so much chatter on the web about its features, how it stacks up to Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox, & Safari, & maybe the most important question on everyone’s mind is why has Google developed its own web browser.

I immediately downloaded Chrome when I read about its release. I’m not an application download junkie; however, for a long time now I have been looking to replace Internet Explorer (IE) because too often I have a single browser tab that crashes & then I loose the five to ten active browser tabs I had open. Chrome promises to fix this problem by treating each browser tab as a separate application. When one browser tab crashes, the rest of your tabs should not be affected. After a few days of using Chrome, I was able to test this “functionality” for myself & it worked like a charm. I am forever a non-subscriber to IE & now a happy Chrome user. I’m also a big fan of Chrome’s one stop shop (a single text box) to type in known URLs & do my web searching. The auto completion feature when typing URLs & doing Internet searches is also a great bonus to me.

The BIG question though isn’t what feature do you like or don’t like; rather, why did Google release its own browser? My opinion points towards the mobile market space for web browsing. According to research conducted by Nielsen Mobile, in 2007 mobile Internet use generated over $5 billion in revenue for companies & in the first quarter of 2008 mobile Internet use accounted for a total of $1.7 billion in revenue. Nielsen’s research strongly suggests that we will see a rapid growth in consumer adoption & mobile marketing in the years ahead.

Chrome fits this mobile Internet niche well. Chrome is a very light weight application. The total size of the browser is just 7-megabytes, making it a good fit for the relatively small hard drives that exist in today’s mobile devices. Chrome’s small size makes it a quick & easy application to download to most mobile devices. Chrome also has a minimalist user interface & it nicely accommodates the display size of mobile devices with Internet access. Lastly, when Chrome is running it uses very little memory, making Chrome an ideal application for mobile devices that have limited memory size.

The market research firm ABI Research sees the mobile web browser segment of this market accounting for the vast majority of growth over the next five years. They predict that the number of highly functional mobile browsers shipping per year will grow from 76 million in 2007 to nearly 700 million in 2013. From where I sit Google is quickly putting all the pieces together to dominate this mobile market space. They have already released a number of API’s that will further enable the development of mobile applications & mobile mashups, they have now released the mobile browser (Chrome), & soon they will release the mobile operating system called Android.

The way I see it, Chrome was just one of the few remaining pieces that Google needed to position themselves as a leader in this new mobile market.


Success at the Prepaid Press Expo

August 25, 2008

Last week’s Prepaid Press Expo in Las Vegas was a huge success for NetworkIP, our customers, & the prepaid card industry as a whole. The Expo brought seasoned veterans along with a good number of new companies entering the prepaid market.

In an effort to design the best conference possible The Prepaid Press partnered with the Pelorus Group & as a result the show offered a great array of conference tracks to include a look at the Prepaid Long Distance market as a whole (day 1), Prepaid Wireless (day 2), & Prepaid Alternative Payments (day 3).

On day 1 our very own CEO, Pete Pattullo, presented on the topic of “Building a Better Mousetrap” which focused on the technology of prepaid. Pete’s presentation discussed how we at NetworkIP have approached building a solution to stand the test of time received outstanding feedback from the audience. As Pete suggested, it takes a lot more than a VoIP box to develop a truly remarkable platform. It requires a combination of passion to build reliability, requires managing quality connections (our own iQT solution), ensuring competitive pricing, having the right information to make decisions, the evolution of the platform (we’ve been at it for 10 years & recently released our 8th major software revision – ICS8), innovation & the never-ending pursuit of excellence, & having talented experienced people with the right skills. These are the components that have made our solution the best in class!

Following our very own Leadership Summit Wednesday morning I caught a number of good conference sessions on Prepaid Wireless later in the day. Randall Walrond, VP of Product Management at IVR Technologies, discussed how the prepaid market can leverage the new technology of today’s mobile smart phones. He & I agree on a number of points on what these new devices & faster networks open up to the industry.

I also heard a number of compelling arguments suggesting that the average prepaid consumer isn’t ready for the new smart phones, the applications that run on these smart phones, & new technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC). Oscar Munoz, President of Uni-Mas Corporation, provided compelling arguments that the average prepaid consumer can’t afford today’s smart phones & that technologies such as NFC are just to far out to invest in for today’s market. Munuz of course didn’t argue that smart phones & new technologies such as NFC would eventually reach the prepaid consumer. He simply suggested that it’s still a few years down the road & that we need to focus on the reality of today.

On day 3, Joel Stanton of Lightspeed Research presented on the value that exists in today’s alternative prepaid market. He discussed the pros & cons with of both the closed-loop & opened-loop gift card industry. Stanton’s presentation was then followed by a discussion on how to best distribute prepaid card solutions. Thomas Honey of Better ATM Services discussed the numerous problems with the distribution of gift cards & cited specific examples such as banks offering VISA & MasterCard gift cards.

Looking back on this year’s show & the topics that were discussed we noticed a significant shift in attention towards the mobile market. We too believe that the mobile market offers huge potential for prepaid. As network speeds increase & mobile phone operating systems, mobile devices, & the mobile networks continue to open up there is an abundance of opportunity for companies to leverage the services & applications that can be developed for this market.

Our hats off to the folks at the Prepaid Press who were able to put together such an exciting & informative event. It was definitely worth us attending, it was great for our customers, & we look forward to maturing the many new relationships that were made at this year’s event.


Battle for Mobile OS Dominance

June 26, 2008

In a previous post I commented on how the open-source development community responded negatively to comments made by Dr. Ari Jaaksi, VP of Software & Head of Open-Source Operations for Nokia. Dr. Jaaksi suggested that the open-source community needed to learn a thing or two about the mobile space & that the community needed to change their current approach for developing software applications due to the out-of-date business rules that are still enforced by the mobile industry.

Two days ago Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone maker, made a very different statement when they made a move to buy up the remaining ownership in the smartphone software maker Symbian. If the $410 million deal goes through, Nokia will retain 47.9% majority ownership of Symbian. This move by Nokia indicates concern for those lower-cost mobile phone operating systems from Google Android & the LiMo Foundation.

With the mobile market heating up & businesses moving quickly to develop mobile applications it is key for Nokia to be running an OS which is widely accepted by the development community. Today, Symbian is used in two-thirds of smartphones being sold. Symbian’s closest rival is Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS, which has just 13% of the market. Of course, both Apple & Google plan to gain a piece of this market very quickly. Apple has been making a lot of noise with its new software release for the 3G iPhone & although rumored to be behind Google is sure to gain a significant piece of this market when its Android software is released.

The good news for application developers & businesses is that we’ll have options when deciding which devices & operating systems we want to develop applications for. Because of the increased competition in this market both device & OS manufactures will be more likely to bend & do more to ensure we are using their solution & not their competitors.