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

Category: mobilemondaybangalore

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.

Mobile Media MoMo India

I was’nt super excited in feb MoMo but was very happy about MoMo in  Marchespecially the demo part ( from Mango Technologies) it went great. I am sure Sunil and his team from Mango had a lot to take back from MoMo.

I am very excited about this MoMo, both the topic and demo.  The speaker this time is Aditya Dev Sood, CEO of CKS  who is also a PhD in Anthropology from University of Chicago and has written recently a very fascinating report called Mobile Development report on how mobiles are used in India (esp Rural India)

This time demo in MoMo is going to be given by Sujai CEO of Sloka Telecom, an earlier speaker at MoMo and regular MoMo’er. Sloka Telecom  is working on building WiMax related equipments and base stations.  I quite admire those who have the courage to create harware based startup from India as hardware IMO is much more risky proposition.

Time permits I will blog my thoughts from MoMo.

Indian Handango – Save2Phone

Few months ago I sounded out the need for a handango in India and I was glad to find (via Ramki) that Roshan of MyZus has released a platform called save2phone which is simillar to that. I don’t need to mention the power of a platform because everyone in the technology world understands it well,  a platform business always trumps a product business. Once the initial chicken & egg problem is solved through proper seeding then it is a roaring self sustaining business. There are a couple of things though that needs to be done differently from handango  like payments platform/pricing needs to be adapted for the Indian needs but I am sure that they are being properly looked at. I met Roshan very briefly at MoMo mumbai a few months ago and I found him extremely soft spoken but very intelligent and sharp. This is certainly something that I would definitely watching out.

MoMo Demo Experience

Experience with doing the MoMo Demo on monday could described best as a little lack luster. It is little hard to say that for an event that you try to coordinate but that is how I would best describe it. But I think the best part of doing an open/informal conference is that you have room to experiment new things and make it better every time 🙂 and this was the first time we were introducing demos with regular talks.

The little bit of my disappointment stems from the lack of response from the audience during my demo after all that was my take away from doing a demo. The tough time that I had with the audience was that I was not able to engage most of them in the discussion as they had already moved out for snack time.

Any consumer technology product  can have  possibly two response only-  either users love it  or they hate it.  Any other intermediate response means that you are dead meat already.  Kathy sierra has very articulately this very clearly in her post long ago.

Now having obtained rave reviews from those who are alpha testing ‘wwigo’ an indifference from the audience came as a serious bummer to me.  What was a little comforting though was when I chatting with someone after the demo and he told me that I should not worry about it too much it because I was competing for attention with food ( most of the group had already proceeded to munching their snacks at the snack table  at the back of the room) which even the best of the speakers in the world  can’t compete well 🙂
It was little trying and hard for me to wear both the hat of  a presenter and as well a s a coordinator of the event. Couple of things that I wanted to articulate to the audience as a coordinator of the event would have been mistaken as an answer from the presenter.

For example  the demo was not meant for analyzing whether the product demo’ed is worthy of any investment. It was more for sharing a cool idea/concept, what it could be used for etc and feedback on what could be done to make it better. Rather than dicussing the coolness or usefulness of  the Inactiv service or how it could be made better the audience went in tirade against on how much money Inactiv is bleeding 😦
Lessons that I learned as presenter

  • Never announce what the demo is about even if people pester you to do so, the surprise/intrigue element goes away. I had at the request from a member mentioned what the demo was going to be about.
  • Never schedule your demo just before/after lunch or snacks time.

Lessons as an organizer

  • Repeat this to yourself – unstructuredness is good but unorganized may not be.
  • ALWAYS Check beforehand the presentation room for accoustics and lighting.

After recieving good and improvement feedback from the members to have a little bit of more direction & focus we will be trying to make the next time’s MoMo a little bit more structured during the discussion.

Wifi & Demos in MoMo

  This months MoMo scheduled on coming Monday (26th Feb)  is going to be very exciting.  First of all there is going to be an interesting talk on state/market of Wifi in India which I had been following very closely in the last few months plus we will be demoing WWIGO which is currently in alpha. Hoping to get a lot of feedback on the product from the community.

More details about MoMo here.

Mobile VAS – A telecom operator’s perspective

     A post that I was writing for the bangalore momo blog by mistake got published here as well, sorry if that caused junk in your feed reader.   Nonetheless after quite much delay the september momo event has been announced and this time again we have a discussion on VAS but now from an operator’s perspective(Reliance Infocomm). More details here on the bangalore momo blog. I am eagerly looking forward to this one as  I heard great reviews from the mumbai momo guys where Krishna Durbha from Reliance had spoke earlier.

Mobile Monday August Event today

Mobile Monday August event is announced to be held today, It’s being hosted at CKS Consulting an innovative research & design services firm headed by Aditya Sood.

The topic for today’s discussion is Mobile VAS Scenario in India. Rishit Jhunjhunwala CTO of Verity Technologies is presenting a talk on the topic. Verity has developed a large number of data applications for Reliance Infocomm. For details & registration check out the MoMo Bangalore blog.

Network Intelligent or Stupid

Rajiv mentions in his recent post about an interesting discussion that surfaced in the mobile monday meet about design of network architecture. Where should the intelligence lie in a network? It is a quite an important discussion and I will add my two bits to the meme here. 

As Rajiv pointed out that those who come from the telco world revere that intelligence should lie in the network. I think that is the case because the people who from that side of the camp have not been exposed to any alternate network design structure so as to evaluate against anything else. Secondly we humans are in general resistant to change of any kind and also why would someone want to jeopardize the huge pot of gold one owns. But then those who come from the PC (software) world would think who would be such a bozo to put intelligence(in other words optimize the core) into the network. 

From technical PoV Is it better to design a network where the core of the network is intelligent and the edge of it very dumb ?

 End to End Principle in system design is a seminal technical paper written way back in the 80’s  by Reed, Schultz & Clark which argues why it is better to design a system in with intelligence kept to a minimum at the core. The argument in the paper is that 

“ that functions placed at low levels of a system may be redundant or of little value when compared with the cost of providing them at that low level”

To understand this in an intuitive manner reflect on this, today’s optimization for someone is another person’s headache tomorrow.(Software engineers can relate to this very well as they face this situation a lot in their daily work). By putting an intelligence (in other words optimizing for something) we reduce our option value for a later application tomorrow. For example the PSTN network that was built was optimized for voice totally and it can’t be used for any other purpose. To support a different application a new network has to be installed (which involves massive cost).This is also explained in a very clear way in another seminal piece of work by David Isenberg. He wrote about it as an article in 97 titled as “The rise of stupid network”.

  Thus technically speaking it is better to design a network which is stupid network at the core & the intelligence should be left to the edge. If you look at networks that are gaining prominence & acceptance by users then they are the stupid networks ( internet, Japan’s i-mode). If it were not for a stupid network then during the recent ban on blogspot sites we would have found ourselves very helpless. Even when ISP’s blocked blocked the site we could very easily circumvent that.  A stupid network puts maximum power into the hands of a user that is why millions love it are adopting it with great fervor. It makes living on the edge possible & so much fun 🙂

 The best network thus is a stupid network as far s user is concerned but will this network will help a telco milk money out of users is totally different question.

Momo Bangalore July event update

Mobile Monday Bangalore July event had a great turnout, the Mobile Monday blog has been updated with the presentation from the speakers.

In the meet we decided that going forth the 4th Monday of every month would be marked for holding Momo Bangalore event.  Check out the photos here.  From the next meet onwards we would try to record the proceedings and get mp3s and videos from the event.

  Let me know if you any suggestion on how we can make momo better.

Mobile Monday Bangalore July Meet

This months’ Mobile Monday is going to be held on 24th July. Due to request from many who would be attending MoMo the date has been shifted from 17th to 24th july.  We would be sticking to 4th monday of a month mostly from now on. Thanks to effort from Veer we have launched the Momo bangalore blog at bangalore.mobilemonday.in

Check out the blog for regular updates about mobile monday.
Here are the details.

Date: 24th July, Monday, 2006.
Time: 6:30 to 8 pm.
Venue: AztecSoft, #23, 3rd A Cross, 18th Main, 6th Block, Koramangala. (check below for directions).

Topics:

  • Next gen mobile networks – concepts, trends and utilization. – Sujai Karampuri, CEO, Sloka Telecom.
  • Mobile VAS and Indian markets
  • Is CDMA a dying technology?

RSVP:
Pls. register yourself here.

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