Showing 56 posts tagged mobile

Microsoft Surface: Too Little To Late?

Microsoft is gambling a lot for a chance to fight with Apple, Amazon, and Google for the proximal (‘mobile’) device market. They are pissing off their historic partners, like Dell and HP, by making their first computers ever. The alternative might be to simply become an enterprise software company, milking Office, Sharepoint, and Yammer for the next decade.

I admit I like the keyboard cover idea, but I expect Apple will respond to that quickly.

But it may be too late, since the clients they want to attract with Surface and later products have already moved ahead with deployments of Apple and Android tablets:

With New Tablet, Microsoft Faces a Balancing Act - Nick Wingfield via NYTimes.com

Rich Adduci, chief information officer of Boston Scientific, a medical device company, has more than 20,000 PCs at his company using older Windows. But he has also deployed more than 5,500 iPads to sales representatives and other employees.

A day late and a dollar short?

Proximal, Not Mobile; Postnormal, Not Post Desktop

I am constantly baffled by the microeconomic, inward-focused analysis of what should be viewed as large-scale technoeconomic trends. It’s so off that — from my view point — these authors completely miss what’s going on. The narrative can be so far from touching the causative that a reader of my blog might wonder if we are looking at the same world.

Here’s a fisked example:

In Mobile World, Tech Giants Scramble to Get Up to Speed - Claire Cain Miller and Somini Sengupta via NYTimes.com

The industry giants remain highly profitable drivers of the economy. Yet the world’s shift to computing on mobile devices is taking a toll, including disappointing earnings reports last week from Google, Microsoft and Intel, in large measure related to revenue from mobile devices.

[It was recently shown that as much as 70% of the use of ‘mobiles’ is in the home. So they aren’t ‘mobiles’, per se: they are proximal devices: the com(munication)/com(puting) device always with us. Therefore, much of the narrative about mobile comcom is wrong.]

Investors are in suspense over Facebook’s earnings to be disclosed Tuesday, for much the same reason. Yahoo’s new chief, Marissa Mayer, said on Monday that Yahoo had failed to capitalize on mobile and must become a predominantly mobile company.

[It may seem natural to watch the so-called giants struggle with proximal, but much more of our attention should be directed to what people are actually doing with proximal devices. For example, checking prices online while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores — ‘showrooming’ — is now commonplace. A recent survey showed that 97% of showroomers bought the product searched for online later for less. This is forcing brick-and-mortar to match Internet prices, or die. But by matching low-overhead outfits like Amazon, they will go out of business, just a little bit slower. Google could optimize for that experience, but people are more likely to jump to Amazon. Facebook may be the scene where people chat about products while in the store, but they jump to Amazon to price check.]

Demand for Intel chips inside computers — which are much more profitable than those inside smartphones — is plummeting. At Microsoft, sales of software for PCs are sharply declining. At Google, the price that advertisers pay when people click on ads has fallen for a year. This is partly because, while mobile ads are exploding, they cost less than Internet ads; advertisers are still figuring out how to make them most effective.

[I don’t think this a paragraph: the first half is about declining chip sales because of the rapid shift into a new era of computing, the post desktop era. Interesting, but not as compelling as the economic transition into the postnormal, which is what we are seeing in the drop in advertising revenue on  increasingly social proximal devices. I think this is a permanent decrease in value, not a temporary one, not ‘just until things work themselves out’. Where people have better access to more information to inform judgments literally in their hands, the propaganda machinery will simply work less well. Despite the socialwashing going on in business, ads just will never work as well as they once did. Welcome to the postnormal.]

Since its initial public offering, Facebook has lost half its value on Wall Street under pressure to make more money from mobile devices, now that six of 10 Facebook users log in on their phones.

[Betting on a postmodern concept of social networking after we have skittered into the postnormal is not a good bet. Which some of us predicted.]

Making money will now depend on how deftly tech companies can track their users from their desktop computers to the phones in their palms and ultimately to the stores, cinemas and pizzerias where they spend their money. It will also depend on how consumers — and government regulators — will react to having every move monitored.

Facebook is already experimenting with ways to use what it knows about its users to show ads when they are using other mobile apps. Google can link what a logged-in user does on the computer and phone, to show someone a cellphone ad based on what they have searched for on a computer at home, for instance. But just last week, European regulators warned Google to amend its privacy policy that allows it to gather information about people across diverse Google products, from Gmail to YouTube.

In addition, Nielsen found that only one in five smartphone users described ads on phones as “acceptable.”

Today almost half of Americans own a smartphone, according to comScore — an astoundingly fast adoption since Apple introduced the iPhone just five years ago. The amount of time people spend on their phones surfing the Web, using apps, playing games and listening to music has more than doubled in the last two years, to 82 minutes a day, according to eMarketer; the time spent online on computers will grow just 3.6 percent this year.

[The shifting grounds of privacy and publicy are still largely not well-understood. At the bottom is a change in identity, which technojournalists don’t want to dig into, except in Sunday supplement pieces advocating spending more time offline and the dangers of ersatz online relationships. However, at core, people’s perceptions of how and to what they are connected are primarily coloring our sense of self and well being: in general, we don’t view it as a privacy/publicy battleground. Facebook and other bad actors think of our interactions and movements as a resource to be stripmined for monetary gain, but the postnormal generation of social startups will more likely find a way to support us in our search for meaning and fulfillment, even if those companies make less money than Facebook would like to. And that search is more likely to play out for most on a proximal device, not the company’s 7lb laptop.]

“What has caught people off guard has been acceleration of the multitude of things that you can do with a smartphone,” said David B. Yoffie, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the technology sector.

“The Web started in 1993, ’94,” he added. “It didn’t disrupt everything for a decade and a half. The smartphone revolution started a half decade ago. Because of the existence of the Web, it allowed the phone to have a disruptive impact in a shorter time frame.”

[Yoffie suffers from thinking about time as a steady state phenomenon. But this is the postmodern, and time is going much faster than it was in the ’90s. The rate of change and innovation (and, negatively, destruction of the old Earth) is happening at a much faster rate. I think this is related to the urban density coefficient that West and Bettencourt discovered: where cities’ productivity is superlinear, growing faster than the doubling rate of population. I think our perception of the passage of time is increasing superlinearly, as a function of the combined social density online and IRL.]

Just another piece about the disruptive impact of mobile devices, and unless you untie the narrative and recast using postnormal eyes, you might think we were still living in 2004, waiting for the social web to happen.

Marshal McLuhan wrote in 1969:

Because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world. 

The present is always invisible because it’s environmental and saturates the whole field of attention so overwhelmingly; thus everyone is alive in an earlier day.

Mobile Isn’t About Mobility, Per Se: They Are Proximal Phones, Not Mobile Phones

Simon Bond mentioned a BBDO study on mobile yesterday at Pivot, and after I tweeted one datum from it my intrepid pal Paul Higgins tracked it down:

Joint Study From AOL And BBDO Turns Traditional View of Mobile Space on its Head - WSJ.com

  1. Mobile isn’t always on the go. In fact, well over half of all mobile interactions measured in the research occur in the home, challenging conventional wisdom.
  2. These mobile interactions can be segmented into seven distinct “mobile motivations” that encompass most mobile use. These include:
    1. Accomplish - managing activities and lifestyle to gain a sense of accomplishment
    2. Socialize - active interaction with other people
    3. Prepare - active planning in order to be prepared for upcoming activities
    4. Me Time - seeking relaxation and entertainment in order to indulge oneself or pass the time
    5. Discover - seeking news and information
    6. Shop - focusing on finding a product or service
    7. Express Myself -participating in passions and interests
  3. Me Time is by far the biggest “Mobile Motivation.” Me Time accounts for almost half (46%) of all smartphone app and website motivation, averaging 864 minutes per month per user, per Arbitron Mobile. Seventy percent of these moments are lean-back experiences.
  4. Mobile advertising performs poorly in Me Time on key ad effectiveness metrics. This is because the vast majority of messages are not relevant to the use at that time, are easy to ignore, or get in the way.

The overarching learning here is that ‘mobile’ phones aren’t primarily about mobility, at least in the meaning of wandering the face of the earth. They proximal phones: the ones closest to us. And I mean closest in all its senses. They are out personal, constant, and close-to-hand companions.

And, by extension, a great deal of the discourse about mobility phones is simply not as relevant as generally considered. BBDO suggests it’s more important to think about the motivations behind phone uses, and the kind of user time that is involved. Simon Bond, BBDO’s chief marketing officer, was quoted in the study:

In the end, it’s all about helping agencies and creatives create the most compelling content. And based on our findings, that compelling content should be me-based, home-based, entertainment-based, not solely geo-location based.

Magazines Are Falling Like A Rock

David Carr stops short of saying that the American magazine business is headed for a dead cat bounce, but the recent numbers on newsstand sales are grim:

David Carr, Wondering How Far Magazines Must Fall - NYTimes.com

Like newspapers, magazines have been in a steady slide, but now, like newspapers, they seem to have reached the edge of the cliff. Last week, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that newsstand circulation in the first half of the year was down almost 10 percent. When 10 percent of your retail buyers depart over the course of a year, something fundamental is at work.

I talked to an executive at one of the big Manhattan publishers about the recent collapse at the newsstand and he said, “When the airplane suddenly drops 10,000 feet and it doesn’t crash, you still end up with your heart in your stomach. Those are very, very bad numbers.”

Historically, certain categories of magazine will encounter turbulence, but this time all categories were punished in the pileup. People was down 18.6 percent, and The New Yorker had a similar drop, declining by 17.4 percent. Vogue and Cosmopolitan were down in the midteens, and Time fell 31 percent. When Cat Fancy is down 23 percent at the newsstand, it seems that there’s little place to hide. Newsweek, it should be mentioned, was off only 9.7 percent at the newsstand, but that’s cold comfort.


It’s not just consumers who are playing hard to get: advertising is down 8.8 percent year to date over the same miserable period a year ago, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. With readership in such steep decline and advertising refusing to come back, magazines are in a downward spiral that not even their new digital initiatives can halt.

Carr closes with an anecdote about his recent recent doctor’s office visit, where a pile of magazines went unread, because all the patients were staring at their cell phones.

There will be something like magazines in the post-normal economy, once the internet has gobbled all media into its enormous maw and excretes it out as mobile. But the transformation will be so large scale that it’s hard to imagine the brands like Vogue, GQ, Newsweek or Cosmo with retain much value, if any.

The Second Screen As A Hangout

The second screen is being recognized as one of the most innovative and engrossing ideas happening:

The Age of Mobile Creativity: Are We There Yet? - Douglas Quenqua via Co.Create

We asked some creatives who work in mobile to name their favorite executions of the past year or so. The consensus? Don’t look for amazing visuals or stories. When it comes to mobile, the most creative ads are the ones that use the technology to forge connections.

"The connectivity stuff is where I think it’s getting really interesting," says Tom Eslinger, digital creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and head of the mobile jury at Cannes.

"Mobile that connects you to your community when you’re watching your favorite TV show so you can hang out and watch together, " he says, seemingly describing any number of social TV apps. "There’s this really high-utility stuff—TV and entertainment has a lot of it."

Monetizing Mobile Requires More Than Just Waiting For Ad Dollars - Eli Portnoy via TechCrunch


Eli Portnoy, CEO of ThinkNear, thinks the reason that mobile ads haven’t taken off is the lack of usable cookies — or the data that they collect — on mobile devices:

Eli Portnoy via TechCrunch

[…] why isn’t the money flowing to mobile?

Advertisers know that the golden ticket to performance is relevance, and by that I mean the ability to target and reach your potential customer base as accurately as possible. I live in Los Angeles, and you are going to have a tough time trying to sell me snow boots in the summer. The more you can target the ads, the more likely you can generate the desired action and the more successful the campaign. The current mobile eco-system allows almost no targeting criteria and demands that advertisers take a spray and pray approach to their campaigns. This leads to poorly performing campaigns and unhappy advertisers that are unwilling to keep pushing more money down the rabbit hole that is mobile.

Why are mobile campaigns so lacking?

The answer most people give is that cookies, which are the mechanism used in the online ad world, don’t work on mobile. Without getting into the technical reasons as to why this is the case, I challenge the argument because even if cookies did work I still don’t think you would see an advertising windfall. Fundamentally, cookie targeting lets advertisers build a profile about your browsing history and retarget you based on that data. However, in mobile the use case is different and this advertising paradigm starts to break. Using myself as a datapoint of one, when I am on a computer I tend to research specific items and create a browsing history that is rich with information and clearly paints a picture of my intents. However, on mobile my browsing and app history is sporadic and incoherent. I pick up my phone when I have time to kill, when I want to look something specific up, or as part of my everyday. Trying to create a profile from this activity would lead to few actionable insights.

So we use our mobile devices differently than desktops — at least at present — and as a result, mobile ads can’t be targeted as well.

But from my perspective the real problem is that advertisers don’t know that it’s me, on my phone, the same person browsing on my desktop ten minutes ago. What’s missing is a unified picture of the person, which could direct an ad to me based on a richer profile.

Platform enables diners to view the menu and order on their smartphone

QR codes have proved themselves to be a useful tool across a wide range of industries, and the catering sector is no different. In February, we covered the LA-based Paperlinks service, which enables take out restaurants to direct customers to mobile ordering via a code on their menus. Now offering a system for sit-down restaurants and other hospitality services, Your Smart Butler allows diners to view the menu and place their order solely using their smartphones through QR code technology. READ MORE…


Platform enables diners to view the menu and order on their smartphone

QR codes have proved themselves to be a useful tool across a wide range of industries, and the catering sector is no different. In February, we covered the LA-based Paperlinks service, which enables take out restaurants to direct customers to mobile ordering via a code on their menus. Now offering a system for sit-down restaurants and other hospitality services, Your Smart Butler allows diners to view the menu and place their order solely using their smartphones through QR code technology. READ MORE…

The Quiet Revolution - Gensler


More evidence that a feeling of engagement with work has large consequences:

Sense Of Engagement

“Place making is back in the corporate vocabulary,” says Tom Vecchione [a workplace leader at Gensler New York]. Perhaps the most tangible sign of the workplace revolution’s next phase is a renewed belief that work’s settings should be inspiring, above all else.

“When people are engaged by their work, there’s a confidence and camaraderie that let them feel they can do anything,” he says. “Companies that acknowledge this and design for it can accelerate that engagement.”

The upside of that greater commitment is huge. A recent Corporate Leadership Council survey of 50,000 office workers found that when people are engaged by what they do, they make, on average, a 57% gain in discretionary effort (they’re willing to do more on their own initiative), a 20% gain in personal performance (the effort pays off) and an 80% drop in their desire to change jobs (they’re happier).

“Work patterns have changed, but the office is still a critical component,” says Christine Barber [Gensler’s director of research]. “It’s the cultural glue that holds the organization together.”

Getting the workplace right is still key, so that people can create and share culture, and build social connections, even in an increasingly mobile world.

Are Smart Phones Spreading Faster than Any Technology in Human History? - Michael DeGusta via Technology Review


Michael DeGusta via Technology Review

[…] smart phones, after a relatively fast start, have also outpaced nearly any comparable technology in the leap to mainstream use. It took landline telephones about 45 years to get from 5 percent to 50 percent penetration among U.S. households, and mobile phones took around seven years to reach a similar proportion of consumers. Smart phones have gone from 5 percent to 40 percent in about four years, despite a recession. In the comparison shown, the only technology that moved as quickly to the U.S. mainstream was television between 1950 and 1953.

Almost as fast as TV, which was artificially delayed by WWII.

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