First rule of first principle thinking, do not use first principle thinking when a mental model is available

Category: Mobile

Mobile App Stores – The next wave – is it ?

Since the last few months I have seen an  increased chatter about how mobile app stores are the next big thing. Last year and before it was the topic of mobile advertising ( claimed a  couple of billion dollar industry globally and with CAGR over 30% ) that had caught the fancy.  With the deep recession since last year ( officially) and ad budgets getting cut across the board and hence the curtail on experimental ad budgets for mobile the sheen has weared out for it and that I think has given place to the app stores as new fancy.

Case in point is that last week I happened to see a report from wirelessexpertise at the momo london list on mobile app stores. Later Anuj of wirelessexpertise reached out to share the same with me for Indian audience and I had to respond with the following as feedback in email  ( I must admit however that he took it very candidly)

First of all the report has very little relevance for Indian market even if it made sense for global context :(. Some thoughts in detail in particular order.

  • Marketing, payment and delivery is still bundled in Indian operators and no one knows when 3rd party billing will arrive (couple of years maybe) . I have to admit however few operators are setting infrastructure to be ready.
  • The internet/paypal is so small that online players are not able to yet make a case of them running an online only business and they have hence resorted to runing an offline business too. So there is almost 0 case of paypal purchase of mobile apps at all.
  • iPhone is irrelevant too for consumption in India ( atleast till now).
  • Apps are used in 100s but filled in SD cards ( from places like gaffar market), piracy is rampant. For ~50 bucks you get 100 apps & movies, songs to choose from at these local shop
  • The revenue numbers are to me completely out of tune, my best estimates put it at not more than 500 million – 1 billion $ so far and not 4 $ billion. ( I would glad to be more educated here and be proven wrong)
  • Handango is left out which is more relevant than samsung app store.
  • Getjar is not an appstore, I dont rememeber buying from it and I did not see any setup so far in to enable purchase, it is best for promotion (marketing channel and purchase point).
  • What would have made a convincing case is to highlight success stories ( even in just apple iphone case) , even then an alert reader would point winner/survivor bias and argue against generalizing the case.
  • This is verizon’s 3rd attempt , if I am not wrong  once before iPhone and two time after iphone to get an app store strategy working and it has not worked so far.

Moving away from the report, if we were to look at the overall picture, except Apple I am yet to impressed by others.

Nokia has been in this for way long, their latest attempt is OVI and I must say I am not impressed, extremely few sucess stories emerged so far. Infact Medianama has called it a mess and I tend to agree.  I can also say this from a developer point of view too.  We have wwigo in OVI and for very little (or I would even claim none) fault of ours we have been butchered by OVI users. Simple things here are the most dificult.  The changes we ask ( even a small text change) gets implemented after a month and have no support/means available to reach the end users to help address the feedback that user gives us.  I could just write 5 blog posts expressing my anguish about my entire experience 🙂

Samsung has just not got the right DNA for building platforms. Some of the recent activities that Samsung did completely foxed me, they killed the 3rd party enabled/provided store after initial trials which successfully signed up many developers, created a totally different store of their own, changed all contracts overnight and left many developers high and dry.

Microsoft has just started I am more hopeful because they grok on how to build developer communities.

Have to give it to iPhone ( for a differnt way/reason) , they have made  a lot of money for themeselves and also have created a few successful developers.  I know of even Indian companies have been tremendously benefitted( with apps for a global audience however)

Summary here is that lets tone our volumes a little bit about making large claims about the next big thing and not jump from one item of fancy to another. It is critical we do that for the entire industry to grow in the right way.  Personally I think It is always better to make smaller claims and overdeliver than to make large claims and then underdeliver.

The above however may not work for research reports ( not just this one but any research report for that matter – nobody reads a report that says that there is no certain new market but reads to know that there is some  huge market) but it is important for startups,entreprenuers, small companies to keep in mind especially because we tend to believe in everthing that we read and can’t help it.  They have very scarce resources and cannot afford to make too many mistakes in decision making and hence need to be well – informed.

CMobi – See My Mobile

       Past so many days/months has kept me busy working on many products. We released another mobile application called CMobi ( See My Mobile  for short).  CMobi allows to share the screen of a mobile inside a PC/Laptop.  Folks (such as marketing professionals , mobile support executives, corporate executives, teachers) who would like to present or screencast their mobile screen would find this very useful.

A demo of CMobi is here.

If you are on skype or msn then you could also share the screen of the mobile remotely with your IM contacts.

A user gave us feedback  that this was helpful to stay at the home and do their work without  travelling as travelling is very expensive and risky (due to the swine flu everywhere) these days. Let me know how you find the application useful. 

Calling All Innovator |Forum Nokia

Forum Nokia has a launched an enticing program called “Calling All Innovator” and I am planning on giving a serious look  to it this time. Thought I will share this with all as I  mobile enthusiasts might find it very interesting. Here is about the event from the website.

“Forum Nokia, Nokia’s global developer programme challenges mobile and web application developers worldwide to submit best-in-class applications for use on Nokia devices – with a total prize pool of more than $250,000 USD.

Register here

iSing – Online & Mobile Social network for Indian Music

Our latest work that has been keeping me busy for some time now, www.iSing.in, a music based social networking platform for Indian audience available both online & mobile. Request a help from readers, please go through the site and help me improve it.  It is in early stage alpha , so expect many kinks but do send in your candid feedback/sugestions to me. ( rajan_AT_motvik _DOT_com)

Best time in Mobile Industry

2008 has been the year of open source causing serious impact in the mobile industry but I could not imagine Symbian getting open sourced and that is exactly what Nokia has announced to do after acquiring Symbian. This has very long term implications for the mobile industry.  One can expect to see business model innovation happening in this industry that has been bereft of innovation for more than a decade. Now this is is why I think now is the best time to be in this Industry. (Business model innovations are the most scarce form of innovation and is one of the toughest to make happen).

As always the best commentary about this development in the mobile industry is available at VisionMobile.

We are not a VAS company

This was one of the most resonating message delivered by Viren Popli,(head of Star TV, mobile entertainment) as a representative voice of content & media companies in the Mobile VAS 2008 event put together by IAMAI. Now this might sound like a bold, foolish or even cocky message depending on which stable you belong to but it speaks volumes about the tremendous pressure that the current mobile value chain structures are in right now. I think the usage of term VAS itself is more than a matter of nomenclature, it reaffirms the telco as the centre of network view of the world which is not how inter-networks function. As rightly pointed out by Viren we should stop using that term. If you are a company in the mobile space I think you should also seriously think about usage of that term. From what I know I am sure IAMAI is thinking about it hard too.

More about the whole Mobile VAS 2008 event held two days ago.

What went right

  • A packed house with a very diverse crowd consisting of 10-20 % technology companies, 10% operators and the rest as content and media companies.
  • The first , third and the last panel discussion were great discussions with extremely interesting insights.
  • For a change this was not an event for me where the same faces were seen again.
  • Most of the speakers were very eminent and knew what they were talking about. So it was a great download of substance for me.

Things that could have been improved

  • 5 panel discussion back to back with very tightly packed seating arrangements with delegates literally elbowing each other made the whole day mentally as well as physically exhousting.
  • 2 ( 2nd and the 4th) of the panel could have been done away with to provide more interacting/networking time. (Especially the one on Enterprise Mobility discussion as it was a barrage of marketing pitches from most of the panelists)

My key takeaways from the event.

  • The low hanging fruit in the so called VAS market has been taken away.
  • There is a large amount of uncertainty in the future of this market(next version), the industry players are divided and are debating amongst themselves whether the market is supply constrained or demand constrained.
  • There is a tipping point in the making and some relatively unknown player will shake up the market and wake rest from their slumbers. (I subscribe to the belief that it is supply constrained 🙂 )
  • Contrary to what many would have you believe 99% of what is posited in the next generation market of mobile VAS is hype and that includes solutions from old players, telcos and heavily funded startups.
  • Newer value chains will be much much different from the old ones (trumpets are being sounded already, see the title of the post)
  • Clearly older players in the market will definitely have an edge even in this times of turbulence and they will exert their influence based on their past learnings.
  • Mobile Advertising is one of the most hyped up topic and half the people in the room are already doing mobile advertisement or planning to do it in the near future but very few realize of what it is.
  • Technology companies are not putting as much as effort understanding the media business as media companies are putting to understand the technology business. I was aghast at how much media companies knew about mobile and how much less of the reverse was true.

To sum up the question is the following

Next generation of the value creation ( & subsequent establishment of value chains) are non initiated because of a coordination failure, who should be a catalyst for it. VC & private equity capital through investment in game changing startups, fat media companies or Telco who have traditionally played that role.

    Android Dreams

    Verizon becomes open, I think now I will now take Android seriously and look at its SDK. I suspect also half of the skeptic world that did not take it seriously earlier will do now. Inspite of all arguments about how this was different from other reference platforms or earlier efforts it still looked to me as just another reference platform contender. But now Android has actually changed/caused a major economic rift in the value chain the kind an open reference platform always promised to do ( commoditize the core). Pretty cool.

    Announcing MoDeMO

    We are announcing a day long event called MoDeMo in december to showcase cool things/products/services in mobile in India. We hope to see demo and usage of interesting mobile service/products, hobby and/or commercial projects in the event. This is meant for anyone who have anything related to mobiles to showcase or demonstrate. Register here if you have any cool things to show

     

    Note: PPT’s are banned in the event as they kill braincells.Due to various constraints participation is limited to 100 participants showcasing demos.

    Critical Next Gen Mobile Service Enabler

    ZXing – a mobile barcode reader, a google project is publicly out now. I have been tracking barcodes in mobile for quite some time and am going to download ZXing and give it a try. I have always thought that a barcode reader should be open source with sustained support for it, with google getting behind it I think that would be gauranteed. Seems like ZXing supports 1D barcodes as well , will be interesting to see how that works. Also would be interesting to see how it compares with 3GVision reader , it is one of the best readers I have seen.

    Mobile Web Requests India ???

    First it was Admob and now it is Russ with Mowser (long ago it was Scott Rafer) who is saying that India generates a large number of mobile web requests.

    This is quite very puzzling to me as it is to many. I have never witnessed use of GPRS/WAP or have not used it myself much (which by no means is any indicator as I also don’t use CRBT, wallpapers etc). Personally what I do with GPRS connection is check mails and occasionally read blogs and that happenes only when I am travelling.

    I am trying hard to find out who are these people generating so many requests and what are they looking for. Just yesterday I happended to read a slightly old post from Amit @ Labnol about about how to use Mowser and other proxy based mobile content adatation engines to view regular websites through dialup connections. More than one third of the 9.2 million (pdf) internet users that TRAI estimates (pdf) India has are dialup users.

    Many of these requests that Russ is seeing could be regular web users on dialup using mowser to enhance their browsing experience. (if it is really the case then I think it is really cool – IMHO it’s an Indian Jugaad). Russ did you check the hits that you are getting are really from mobile browsers ?

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