Nuance Communications, which provides speech recognition services for enterprises (and increasingly consumers, including the Swype keyboard) released a “mobile assistant” survey in connection with CES. The survey of roughly 1,000 US adults found that 75% of respondents had their mobile devices (presumably smartphones) “always on them” or “at hand.”
Among the 90% of survey respondents that reported they had some sort of assistant capability on their phones (not defined in the survey results), a majority (60%) said they used that assistant daily. The following were the most common use cases:
This survey implies satisfaction is relatively high with these assistants. More than 80% of respondents indicated if they could they’d want the “same mobile personal assistant” with them at all times, across all devices and use cases: phones, tablets, PCs, cars, TVs, apps and so on. Accordingly the survey was partly intended to support Nuances "cross-device persona project" called Wintermute, which the company is showcasing at CES.
Using your unique voice print, the system remembers who you are and "follows you from one device to the next, remembering what you like, what you’ve been doing, and where you’ve been." This is in a way a voice-version of what Google is trying to do in asking people to sign in to the Chrome browser so that it can monitor them across devices. In Google's case it's for the purpose of personalizing search results, serving better ads and collecting data on user behavior. Nuance seems to be focused more directly on improving the user experience.
Interestingly the survey also found that respondents had emotional connections (to varying degrees) to their assistants:
More than half of all respondents cited a personal connection with their mobile personal assistant. Women actually name their mobile personal assistant more than men, with 71% compared to a close 66% of men . . . 73% of men feel comfortable asking their mobile personal assistant for directions but 79% of women ask for help more often.
The materials I received don’t provide detail on whether the assistants in question are Nuance products (i.e., DragonGo) or Apple’s Siri or Google Voice Search/Now. It's not clear how specifically the "personal assistant" idea was defined in the survey instrument.
The concept of the personal virtual assistant has been around for quite a long time, using a range of technologies and approaches. Yet crystallized in the public mind with the advent of Siri. Nuance, which provides speech recognition for Siri, recently introduced Nina -- a white label Siri-like assistant for enterprise customer service applications.
My colleague Dan Miller recently issued an expansive new report on personal virtual assistants and their adoption in the enterprise and on consumer devices.
Update: Nuance has reportedly acquired VirtuOZ, which is a provider of virtual-assistant enterprise customer care solutions with a PC focus. The VirtuOZ online assistant will be enhanced and improved by Nuance's speech recognition capabilities and Nuance's Nina offering will help expand its reach into online customer care.
Mobile handsets already outnumber PCs across the globe. However, in terms of internet access (including apps) PCs could fall into third place after smartphones and tablets. That would represent a radical change from today, where PCs still represent the most common way that consumers in most developed countries access the internet.
Hardware monitor NPD Group is predicting that this year tablet shipments globablly will exceed notebooks (laptops). Here's the projection:
NPD also takes a stab at forecasting penetration of tablets by screen size. However this is somewhat less important than the fact of tablet adoption.
Rather than the cornucopia of screens displayed in the graphic above, we're likely to see standardization around three primary tablet screen sizes:
The general publisher response to the rise of tablets is probably going to be responsive web design, which has limitations. However tablets will further reinforce app usage among consumers, though surveys and behavioral studies show more mobile web usage on tablets vs. smartphones.
Tablet adoption also ends the reign of Microsoft as the most important company in the PC universe. Windows 8 and Surface adoption to date has been quite tepid. And the inevitable availability of Office for tablets removes yet another incentive to buy a PC.
The "big takeaway" here is the simple fact of more tablets than new PCs. PCs will remain prominent in the workplace and among business users. However for consumers they will see less and less "face time." Tablets and smartphones will become primary internet access points in the home, with PCs being used for more limited and specific things.
One of the challenging things for marketers these days is to figure out how to efficiently reach consumers on the growing array of screens they interact with. The growing complexity of consumer behavior and the interplay among devices is dizzying.
Last year Google did some terrific research about the parallel and sequential usage of smartphones, tablets and conventional PCs along the path to purchase. The company found that 90% of US adults surveyed used multiple screens during the day. It's really challenging to track this behavior in real time let alone create coherent, integrated campaigns to address it.
One of the central behaviors identified in the Google research was the multi-screen path to purchase. Consumers often start on one screen but complete transactions on another. The behavior wasn't random, however. Smartphones were found to be the most commonly used screen but people chose different screens depending on the context and nature of the task at hand.
Harris Interactive has released similar research that reflects different user preferences and behaviors depending on the particular screen and use case. Harris found overlapping usage scenarios but also consumer preferences for one screen vs. another in several instances.
The survey sample consisted of 2,383 adults, about 42% of which owned a smartphone. However that's lower than the US mobile average of 50%+. The data were collected in November 2012.
The question fielded was: "Thinking generally about your media and communication behavior on a smartphone versus on a computer, please indicate which of these actions you regularly perform on each." Multiple responses were permitted.
In some cases smartphones tended to be used more and in others PCs dominated. Unfortunately Harris didn't ask about tablets.
General activities (penetration/usage):
Social media usage (penetration/usage):
The presence of children in the home was correlated with increased smartphone activity across almost all categories of activity.
In looking at these data one can see that certain kinds of activities, better suited to smartphones (texting, map usage, checking in), are more often performed on mobile devices. However activities that require larger screens or where the mobile user experience is sub-optimal, favor the PC (e.g., product research, purchasing).
Independent analyst Ben Evans has teased out a range of Facebook mobile usage and user data, partly derived from the company's own public statements and partly from his own calculations. You can read what he says here. Below I use some of his data and one of his charts.
Mobile users as of Q3 2012 (mostly public numbers):
Accordingly, roughly 44% of Facebook's global user base doesn't access the site on mobile according to the company's own data. However that figure is likely to get smaller over the next 12 - 24 months and become a very small minority.
Evans estimates the following smartphone app usage for Facebook (based on Q3 data above):
Below is a chart from Evans showing the relative growth of Facebook access on the various mobile platforms from September 2011 to September 2012:
Assuming these numbers are accurate you can see the reversal of positions of the iPhone and Android since last year, which makes sense. However the larger point is that a majority of Facebook users now access the site via mobile.
Facebook has argued that mobile is ultimately a much larger revenue opportunity than the PC. The following verbatim Facebook remarks come from the Q3 earnings call transcript:
Social and paid-search ad platform Kenshoo came out with data today that argue the percentage of ad revenue coming from mobile is now up to 20.3%.
Facebook is expected to generate roughly $1.5 billion in overall revenue in Q4. Not all of it is ad revenue, however. Roughly $260 or so million would be attributable to mobile if the 20.3% figure holds and the forecast is correct.
Google sees lower CPC prices on mobile paid search ads but better performance on mobile devices vs. the PC. However Facebook is experiencing the opposite phenomenon, according to Kenshoo. It sees higher mobile prices but lower engagement vs. the desktop.
I had an interesting experience this past week with my 13-year old daughter, which illustrates the challenges but also the opportunity for Windows Phones. One of several smartphones I have is a blue/purple HTC 8X (Windows Phone). The phone offers Beats Audio integration. It's a very attractive handset and looks very much like a Nokia Lumia device, only not as heavy. (Nokia is not too happy about the close similarity.)
My daughter is currently a feature phone user and really wanted an iPhone 5, which my wife and I cruelly denied her. But she spied the 8X on my desk and really liked how it looked. She also had seen (on Hulu) the relentless Microsoft Windows Phone ads -- "as unique as you are" -- and was parroting some of the ad copy/dialogue to me almost verbatim. (The campaign must be working.)
She asked for the phone and I agreed that she could have it. I gave it to her to try at home on WiFi to make sure that she was really interested before I went through the trouble of changing carriers and so on. I suspected the OS might throw her; she's had an iPod Touch for several years and we've also had several Android phones. She's familiar with both operating systems but hasn't ever used Windows.
Another factor: she was intrigued by the Microsoft Surface tablet, which she saw at a friend's house. The colorful and different look of the UI appealed to her. The Windows "metro" design -- I can still use that term even if Microsoft cannot -- on both devices got her attention.
Then she started playing with the phone and found out that some of the key apps that she and her friends routinely use weren't there. She wasn't thrown by the metro UI and "live tiles," as I expected. Rather it was the fact that Instagram, Oovoo, Snapchat and other apps she uses were missing. She was particularly annoyed by the pseudo Instagram apps that appeared (e.g., Instagram blog). After discovering that these beloved apps were missing she rejected the phone.
Had those and a few other critical (in her mind) apps been present, she would have kept and used the phone. I told her that Instagram would eventually come to Windows Phones as would other missing apps. That didn't satisfy her.
Windows Phone now has 150,000 apps; however as indicated by the above it's still missing many key apps. For example, as part of its antitrust argument against Google Redmond says it's being unfairly denied access to YouTube metadata. It's makeshift YouTube app is deficient in fundamental respects:
Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft’s YouTube “app” on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube’s mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide.
If Microsoft can manage to get the key/top apps onto Windows Phone it will be able to attract buyers who like the different look of the UI and/or who may be attracted by the aggressive subsidies offered by carriers. The 8X is available for $49 with a two-year contract at Verizon, for example.
However until these apps (enough apps, key apps) are there would-be users, such as my daughter, won't bite. Microsoft can break the "catch-22" of Windows Phone app development through developer payments and incentives, which it's trying to do. The company needs to identify all the "necessary apps" and make sure those are built for Windows Phones.
Beyond this the current messaging isn't really successful in attracting buyers, notwithstanding my daughter's ability to parrot the commercials. Microsoft needs build messaging around three ideas:
Finally, ideally, there should be something about the hardware and software (beyond the UI) that is different. Microsoft argues there are already such things (e.g. Kids Corner). And the colorful phone cases offer an approach taken by Nokia and HTC. A better camera (i.e., Lumia) is another.
Yet these things aren't quite enough. There needs to be a highly visible feature or dimension of Windows Phones that truly isn't present on iPhone or Android handsets. Right now, nothwithstading the nicely designed metro UI, Windows Phones continue to seem like "wannabe" devices that are still playing catch up to other smartphones.
Earlier this month (on December 17) Facebook transformed its “Nearby” mobile-app friend finder into a local search tool. Nearby had previously been a way to locate friends who had enabled location or checked-in somewhere in the immediate area. The new (mobile only) Nearby is a logical and complete overhaul of the service, which holds significant implications for the entire local search landscape – with one major caveat.
Everything depends on Facebook’s commitment to Nearby and how much the company is willing to invest in local.
There has long been an expectation that Facebook would get into search, beyond its existing relationship with Microsoft. A robust search capability on Facebook could provide significant new revenue, in the form of paid-search ads, as well as greater utility to Facebook users overall. The question is: what is the scope of Facebook’s search ambition? Would it be limited to better site search or would it extend to web search more generally? It’s likely that Facebook will take a kind of middle course that relies primarily on site search but holds competitive implications for Google and others. Nearby is something of a model.
All the data in the Nearby “index” are provided by the businesses themselves. Facebook doesn’t show places for which it doesn’t have local Pages. This is by design, partly as an incentive for SMBs to create Pages for their businesses. The company isn’t licensing data or crawling the web for local business information. This makes the database potentially more reliable but also less extensive than competing offerings. There are other significant user-experince limitations as well.
Notwithstanding these current limitations Facebook Nearby could become a major competitor in local search relatively quickly. We won’t have a sense of how real that possibility is until roughly the middle of next year. By then we will know something about consumer adoption, as well as Facebook’s commitment to improving the service.
But despite Facebook’s privileged position in the marketplace the company doesn’t have years to develop Nearby. In order for Nearby to succeed, it must become more visible to consumers. It also must improve considerably during a time-window that is probably not longer than 24 months. Otherwise, Nearby could easily go the way of Facebook Deals and simply be remembered as a provocative experiment that failed.
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As part of a year-end release of data Nielsen indicated that 56% US mobile subscribers owned smartphones as of Q3. By contrast, comScore says smartphone penetration currently stands at 52%. And Pew said earlier this year that it was 53%.
In the smartphone segment, the following are Nielsen's data regarding US mobile operating system share (again, end of Q3):
Here are similar data from comScore's for comparison purposes (November, 2012):
Below are Nielsen's lists of top apps for 2012 for both the iPhone and Android devices. While the lists are different there are several apps that appear on both: Faceobook, YouTube, Pandora, Twitter and "weather."
Google's Gmail and search apps are at the top of the Android list but absent from the iPhone list.
Nielsen is also reporting that there are an average of 32 million Maps users on the iPhone each month. That's more usage than Facebook or YouTube, which both have huge mobile audiences in the US.
It's also a significant loss of traffic for Google. However because there were very few ads on the iOS 5 version of Maps it's not a revenue loss for Google.
Millennial Media has released an infographic that offers year-in-review data. I've excerpted what I thought were the most interesting aspects. However you can see the entire infographic here.
There were two data sets that I found most interesting. The first is verticals ranked by ad spend on the company's network. Automotive was the leading vertical and biggest gainer in 2012. This is mostly car makers doing broad, awareness-oriented brand advertising.
Below is an example of automotive general awareness advertising (though not necessarily from Millennial Media). The screens I've presented are just a few from the ad. The ad makes it possible to locate a dealer to do a test drive -- but that capability is buried a few clicks down and below the fold.
If you take a look at all the categories in the Millennial top verticals list, all are categories in which most of the transactions will be realized offline. However I would bet that few if any of the advertisers in these categories are doing anything like trying to drive consumers into local outlets or stores.
For example, the graphic below shows Millennial's most recent data on the distribution of "post click" objectives associated with the campaigns on its network. Only 19% of these ads contained a "store locator." And those are probably not prominently displayed. Most of these campaigns are simply branding campaigns.
This is a significant missed opportunity. Only 5% of retail spending in the US happens online and an even smaller amount through mobile devices. The rest -- literially more than $4 trillion -- is offline. The ability to lead consumers to a store or point of sale is one of the great opportunities of mobile. However it's not really being utilized or exploited by advertisers.
The other interesting piece of data in the Millennial infographic shows the growth (and decline) of Android OEMs. Samsung is winning and HTC, Motorola (Google) and LG are losing when it comes to Android share.
As I've now argued numerous times Android is increasingly identified with Samsung. Partly this is because Samsung is making compelling devices -- although the LG Nexus 4 is the best Android handset on the market -- but it's equally because Samsung is spending so much money on marketing around the globe.
Just as Android now controls more than 50% of the global smartphone market, Samsung will soon control more than 50% of the Android market.
This morning the IAB reported that Q3 US online ad revenue came in at $9.3 billion. First half digital revenues were $17 billion. It's quite possible that the second half will see $19 or $20 billion total, bringing FY 2012 to $36 or $37 billion in online ad revenue (including mobile). However the IAB didn't provide a detailed breakdown of Q3 revenues by segment.
Two days ago eMarketer revised its mobile ad forecast upward for 2012 from $2.61 billion to just over $4 billion.
The IAB said that mobile advertising revenue was $1.2 billion for the first half. It also said that mobile represented 8% of Q2 2012 revenues, or $661 million. While mobile is the fastest growing digital ad segment it's still small relatively speaking. If mobile continued to represent 8% of digital ad revenue in Q3 that would translate into $744 million.
However if mobile grew as a percentage of overall digital revenue to, say, 10% that would represent $930 million in revenue. That's probably the range that's reasonable to assume: $744 to $930 million. Let's take the midpoint of that: $830 million.
Because of the holiday shopping activity surrounding mobile devices we can assume that mobile ad revenue will grow further in Q4. Accordingly, it's possible that Q4 US mobile ad revenues might reach or slighly exceed $1 billion.
We can probably expect mobile ad revenues to come in for the full year between $2.6 and $3 billion on the high end. It's very unlikely that they will reach $4 billion this year however.
Earlier this week Appcelerator released its quarterly mobile app developer survey. The survey of more than 2,700 global developers found they were primarily focused on the iOS and Android operating systems, with Windows Phones, RIM and others relatively far behind. This reflects the "duopoloy" of iOS and Android (increasingly "Samdroid') sales in the global smartphone market.
The challenges of creating a strong developer ecosystem for Windows is partly what's holding the mobile OS back. Sales are relatively good in isolated EU markets (e.g, Spain, UK) but lackluster on a global basis and in North America in particular, where Windows continues to lose market share.
According to the survey, about 36% of developers indicated interest in building apps for Windows devices. However Windows Phone's modest market share is creating a kind of Catch-22 for the platform.
Without boosting the perception that Windows has app-parity (at least among the most important ones), there won't be more handset sales. Without more handset sales there won't be more consumer usage and without consumer adoption there are few incentives -- except direct payments from Microsoft -- to develop for the platform. The majority of developers, according to the Appcelerator survey, can only focus on two mobile platforms.
Separately, IHS iSuppli released a full-year, 2012 estimate of global smartphone market share. The calculation is based on the untrustworthy "shipments" metric. However, the company shows Nokia dropping to third position, Apple in second and Samsung-Android now leading iOS "decisively":
Samsung and Apple ended 2011 in a neck-and-neck battle for leadership in the smartphone market, with only 1 percentage point of market share separating them. However, entering the 2012 year, Samsung moved ahead decisively ahead of Apple with a wide range of Android smartphone offerings. Samsung made significant gains in both the high end as well as the low-cost market with its Galaxy line of smartphones. This diversified market approach has allowed Samsung to address a larger target audience for its phones than Apple’s limited premium iPhone line.
The Samsung and Apple duopoly represents the dominant force in the smartphone market, with the two companies accounting for 49 percent of shipments in 2012, up from 39 percent in 2011. While Nokia and Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) also held double-digit shares of the market in 2011, Samsung and Apple remain the only two players that will each command a double-digit portion of the smartphone space in 2012.
As Google-owned Motorola, LG and HTC struggle for consumer attention and handset sales, Samsung becomes more and more identified with Android in the consumer mind. RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry 10 OS is truly the company's "last hope." Nokia too will likely need to do something fairly radical if it is to remain viable (i.e., adopt Android) in the smartphone market.