Europe

InMobi: Android Gains Global, iPhone Top Device

Mobile ad network InMobi today released its "Mobile Insights Report: Global Edition January 2011." The report effectively covers all major regions of the globe and there's a trove of data from each continent. I'll focus only on North America and global data.

The company reports that smartphones now represent 36% of global ad requests on the InMobil publisher network, up from 24% -- just three months ago. Most of that growth has been driven by Android. But most ad requests (84%) are coming from mobile Web vs. apps (16%). 

Unlike in the US where Android is now the top smartphone platform, Nokia and Apple outstrip Android on a global basis. However Android's growth is much greater than that of the iPhone and Nokia is declining by almost as much as Android is growing.

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In North America operating system share appears like this to InMobi:

  • Android: 37%
  • iPhone: 24%
  • RIM: 11%

InMobi explains that Android has gained 21 share points in just three months to become the largest OS in North America. 

These numbers are not an absolute reflection of market share but what InMobi sees in terms of handsets and operating systems making ad requests. In terms of individual handsets, the iPhone continues to dominate on InMobi's network globally and in North America.  

Global device share: 

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North American device share: 

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It's clear from the totality of all the available data that Android's gains are coming through the sheer number of devices in the market. Windows isn't on the radar for InMobi in North America. And RIM appears to be getting overwhelmed by the Android onslaught. 

Microsoft in Deep Mobile Trouble

Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile OS is well reviewed but it isn't really moving. According to comScore's latest data, the platform continues to lose share vs. rivals. And the big bet and tie-up with Nokia that was announced last month won't have the opportunity to bear fruit for many months still. There are rumors that a Nokia-built Windows Phone won't be out until October. That's quite a long time to wait in this market. 

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Bloomberg is now reporting that Microsoft is paying Nokia "more than $1 billion to promote and develop Windows-based handsets as part of their smartphone software agreement." That's a chunk of change to keep Nokia away from Google.

We won't know how competitive these "Nokisoft" phones are until they hit the market -- though the mock-ups look nice. However, as mentioned, consumers don't seem to be flocking to existing Windows Phone handsets. So absent some compelling new features and marketing campaign it's not clear that simply having Nokia build them will help all that much. 

Separately other reports indicate that there won't be a Microsoft tablet (notwithstanding the Windows 7 HP entrant) out until basically August or September of 2012: 

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, won’t release a competitor to Apple Inc. and Google Inc.’s tablet operating systems until the 2012 back-to- school season, people with knowledge of the plans said.

I've argued that the company should adapt Windows Phones OS for the tablet rather than trying to modify the PC OS. Waiting until Q3 of next year to put out its 1.0 tablet means a longer wait for a truly competitive product. Xoom is already toast vs. iPad2 and Samsung is rethinking its pricing plans.

Regardless of how many tablets you think will sell this year (30 million?) they do appear to be eating into PC sales. According to the Wall Street Journal

Today Gartner Inc., a tech research shop, reduced its forecast for 2011 and 2012 personal computer shipments. The firm said the popularity of other devices, such as the Apple iPad, will cut into sales fro traditional PCs.

Here's Forrester's view: 

It's quite possible that Microsoft, if slow development cycles continue, will effectively be shut out of much more than a minority share in the smartphone and tablet segments. However an irony here is that Android OEMs might turn to Windows as a hedge against Android dependency and being reduced to "commodity producers" of the Google devices.

See related: Microsoft Is Said to Pay Nokia More Than $1 Billion in Deal.

Big News Roundup from the Mobile World Congress: Tablets, Nokia, NFC and WAC

There were a number of major stories that drew focus this week at the Mobile World Congress, which is wrapping up. Here's my summary and commentary about what I thought were the biggest news items surrounding the conference. 

Nokia-Microsoft: 

Almost a week ago Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced that Nokia would bet its future on the Windows Phone OS. Discussion of the wisdom and viability of that move has continued unabated. A group of nine Nokia shareholders tried to organize a revolt and called for Elop's head, only to abandon their effort a little more than a day later. 

Nokia several outlets are reporting that the first "Nokisoft" phones won't be out before October 2011 at the earliest

NFC-Mobile Payments:

There was plenty of NFC news coming out of Barcelona, with RIM saying that "a majority of new BlackBerry devices" this year will include near-field communications technology. All Android OS updates henceforth will also include NFC, as the Gingerbread-enabled Nexus S does now. Google CEO Eric Schmidt sees NFC being used extensively in advertising as well as in mobile payments. 

T-Mobile will be making a big NFC push in Europe and later in the US. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom and other EU carriers France Telecom, Vodafone and Telecom Italia are joining forces to help advance adoption of NFC-based payments in Europe.

Facebook Phones:

HTC introduced two Android-based phones with dedicated Facebook buttons. This followed the INQ Facebook Cloud Touch phone, which offers a new and innovate Facebook interface on top of Android. Facebook and OEMs will be offering many more devices that seek to integrate Facebook deeply into the user experience and even the branding of the handset.

What's important here is the rise of Facebook as a huge force in mobile (and at some point a mobile ad network) and the beginnings of some interesting and innovative new interfaces on top of Android. 

Tablets and Android Handsets:

A range of tablets made their appearance at MWC or this week. Those include the Motorola Xoom (which will be $799 as originally thought) as well as slates from HTC, LG, Acer, HP-Palm. Samsung showed off a 10" tablet, the Galaxy 10.1. And more are on the way. However, despite the tablet mania now sweeping the market there will be only a few survivors a year from now. Pricing and features will be determinative of success. 

In addition to all the new Android (Honeycomb) tablets there were many new Android handsets introduced -- at least 10. Despite all this the iPhone 4 was awarded "best mobile device" at the show.

Apple and the iPhone:

Apple wasn't at the MWC of course but it strategically leaked information to the Wall Street Journal about the iPhone 5, a potential iPhone nano, MobileMe changes and other developments. For that reason this week has been full of talk about Apple devices. In addition Apple announced its content subscription plan for the iTunes store, which was followed the next day by a more publisher-friendly plan from Google

As mentioned the iPhone 4 was awarded "best mobile device" at the show.

Wholesale Application Community (WAC):

Global mobile carriers announced the formal launch of the Wholesale Application Community (WAC). Participants include ATT, Sprint, China Mobile, MTS, Orange, Smart, Telefónica, Telenor, Verizon and Vodafone. Hardware OEMs Huawei, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ZTE are also involved.

The idea is to create a developer ecosystem and apps platform of massive scale that carriers can leverage to give them independence from the iPhone and Android app stores. Despite all this participation the outlook for success of this effort is mixed at best. Apps may be developed that get pre-installed on handsets but there's a much smaller chance of success in the direct-to-consumer market.  

Apps Beat Browsers for Time Spent: Report

GSMA, the organization behind the Mobile World Congress, commissioned research in January that showed mobile apps generally beating the browser for time spent. The research had a global scope and was performed by European mobile analytics company Zokem

However apps vs. browser access differed by category according to the findings:

News, search and commerce apps and sites receive much more usage still from mobile web browsers, with 86%, 85% and 66% of mobile web browser users using them monthly. Only 22% of web browser users access web-based email services, and only 18% use games through a web browser. For email, native apps reach 76% of smartphone users monthly, and games reach 45%.

Multimedia related services, like online music and video, are predominantly used through native apps rather than a smartphone web browser. Apps and web browsing usage patterns, therefore, are quite different, and the usage balance between browsers vs. native apps is driven by the type of app in question.

Mobile apps are responsible for 667 minutes of use per user each month according to Zokem. Compare messaging (671 minutes), voice (531 minutes) and web browsing (422 minutes).

Social networking apps (the category is not clearly defined) consume "almost 10 percent of all smartphone 'face time.'" Facebook and YouTube are the most heavily penetrated social media apps. (I disagree with YouTube being characterized as social media.)

The study found that iPhone and Android owners used roughly 15 apps per month; BlackBerry and Nokia owners used about half that number (8). The iTunes store and Android Markets enjoyed 95% reach with their users, while Blackberry App World has 50% reach and Nokia's Ovi store reached less than 30% of Symbian users. The data also showed that "iPhones generated more than 200 percent more traffic per month on average than Android devices."

Contradicting some other data and claims in the market the study found smartphone usage declined on weekends but "averaged more than 70 minutes per day with apps capturing more face time than any other activity at weekends."

iPhone 'Nano' Rumor Upstages Many MWC Announcements

There are already dozens of announcements coming out of Barcelona and the Mobile World Congress. Many of them have to do with new devices (mostly tablets); there are a few acquisitions and partnerships being announced, many carrier-related announcements, some mobile payments activity and many chip and networks-related announcements. 

Several of the highlights include the following:

Last night Nokia CEO Stephen Elop went before reporters to further elaborate upon the Microsoft deal and deny that he was a "Trojan Horse" sent by Microsoft to secure this deal in particular. It also emerged that Nokia will receive "billions" in value from the Microsoft relationship in direct and indirect ways.

Essentially Microsoft appears to have "outbid" Google for the Nokia deal but the scales were also tipped by Nokia's fear that if it adopted Android it would become a commodity producer of Google devices and would have a diluted brand in the marketplace. (Arguably it should have embraced both Windows and Android.)

Intel will apparently go on with development of the open-source MeeGo despite the fact that Nokia has essentially abandoned it. It appears that Intel was blindsided by the Nokia-Microsoft announcement at the end of last week. Effectively MeeGo is now an "also-ran" OS.

Seeking to grab attention and divert it from rivals Apple strategically leaked information to the Wall Street Journal (earlier reported by Bloomberg) that it was developing a "nano" version of the iPhone, somewhat smaller and about 50% cheaper to better compete with Android at the low end. We discussed this last week when the first rumors surfaced. 

According to the Journal:

Apple Inc. is working on the first of a new line of less-expensive iPhones and an overhaul of software services for the devices, people familiar with the matter said, moving to accelerate sales of its smartphones amid growing competition.

One of the people, who saw a prototype of the phone late last year, said it is intended for sale alongside Apple's existing line. The new device would be about half the size of the iPhone 4, which is the current model.

The new phone—one of its code names is N97—would be available to carriers at about half the price of the main iPhones. That would allow carriers to subsidize most or all of the retail price, putting the iPhone in the same mass-market price range as rival smartphones, the person said.

Apple is also considering making its cloud-storage service MobileMe free. Currently it costs $99 per year.

The purpose of the leak was to generate coverage, discussion and speculation about Apple's products during the MWC event and upstage other OEMs that are showcasing their competing devices. Apple has done similar things in the past in conjunction with CES, another show it doesn't attend. 

So far, the strategy appears to be paying off

Mobile World Congress: CES Redux

Next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is a gargantuan event that will feature a kind of soup-to-nuts inventory of what's happening in mobile: advertising platforms, developers, carriers and handset OEMs will all convene to promote themselves. The press releases are already flying fast and furious. 

Even though it's not a hardware show exactly, most of the focus will be on handsets and tablets. There will likley be little genuine news of interest and mostly PR about mobile. Probably the biggest news of the event happened today with the announcement of the Nokia-Microsoft deal

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer will keynote but there will be little new information. He will likely re-iterate the new world that Nokia's adoption of Windows opens up for Microsoft. Yahoo's Carol Bartz will speak. Twitter will be represented in a keynote. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie will be there. All the chipmakers and carrier CEOs are there.

Everything to say will already have been said in various forums: mobile is huge, disruptive and so on. 

I was actually seeking to go this but the absence of available hotel space thwarted my effort. Nonetheless I'm on the press list and will be receiving all the news. I will be blogging about the things I find most interesting but certainly not providing anything like comprehensive coverage. 

Apple will apparently have no official presence (just like CES) but will cast its long shadow over the event as Europe's most popular smartphone. 

MWC is like a mashup of CTIA (carriers) and CES (devices).

Nokia Makes Its Choice: Windows Phone

All over the technosphere this morning is the news of Nokia's deal with Microsoft: Nokia will compete with the iPhone and Android by using Windows to power its smartphones.

This came as no surprise and had been speculated about for months. Here are the high-level bullets and general outline of the deal:

  • Nokia would adopt Windows Phone as its principal smartphone strategy, innovating on top of the platform in areas such as imaging, where Nokia is a market leader.
  • Nokia would help drive the future of Windows Phone. Nokia would contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.
  • Nokia and Microsoft would closely collaborate on joint marketing initiatives and a shared development roadmap to align on the future evolution of mobile products.
  • Bing would power Nokia’s search services across Nokia devices and services, giving customers access to Bing’s next generation search capabilities. Microsoft adCenter would provide search advertising services on Nokia’s line of devices and services.
  • Nokia Maps would be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. For example, Maps would be integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and adCenter advertising platform to form a unique local search and advertising experience
  • Nokia’s extensive operator billing agreements would make it easier for consumers to purchase Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit-card use is low.
  • Microsoft development tools would be used to create applications to run on Nokia Windows Phones, allowing developers to easily leverage the ecosystem’s global reach.
  • Nokia’s content and application store would be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace for a more compelling consumer experience.

Nokia chose Microsoft's operating system in part because it was credible and because Nokia CEO Steven Elop is a former Microsoft employee and has a good relationship with the company. He may have also been offered "hundreds of millions" in support from Microsoft (and to not adopt Android):

Most Nokia smartphones run on the much-criticized Symbian operating system. To get Nokia to switch, Google and Microsoft are offering hundreds of millions of dollars worth of engineering assistance and marketing support, according to a person who has done consulting for the company and was told of the talks. 

Android might have been a better choice for Nokia from a consumer standpoint; Android has more traction, more apps and bigger developer ecosystem and so on. However adopting Android would have turned Nokia into "a commodity" provider of Android devices. It would have diluted Nokia's brand. With Windows Nokia can retain some measure of "proprietary uniqueness."

It will be very interesting to see how Asian Windows Phone partners (e.g., HTC, Samsung) react. My guess is that Windows Phones have not sold well for them vs. Android. This move may alienate them somewhat. I'm speculating. 

The Nokia-Microsoft deal is probably better for Microsoft than it is for Nokia as my comments above suggest. However the interests of the two companies are well-aligned; they sink or swim together. I suspect, in the end, this will marginally boost Windows' share of the smartphone market and will arrest Nokia's slide to some degree. 

I doubt whether it will be the "game changer" that both companies are looking for however. 

Related stories:

Opera's State of the Mobile Web January

Opera's state of the mobile web report is back. The company says that in January it had nearly 100 million users globally. It's interesting to note that no Android phone is in the top 10 in any of the three markets I present below. However this may only reflect Opera Mini and not Opera Mobile usage.

Nonetheless, it's curious that Android is now so large in the US but not among the top handsets for Opera. Opera Mini and Mobile are available on Android.

Does this reflect the sufficiency and general satisfaction with the Android browser or simply inertia on the part of Android users? 

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Nokia's Windows Phone Announcement Imminent

It appears that Nokia will announce its new deal to offer Windows Mobile on Nokia hardware either this Friday or very soon thereafter in London. No surprises there. Windows is a much better mobile OS than it used to be but it doesn't have much visibility or traction among consumers. Microsoft hopes the world's largest handset maker can change that. And Nokia hopes that by going with an outside OS it can be competitive with Android and Apple.

The strategy should work better than the status quo for both companies. The question is: how many units will sell? 

The other question is: will Nokia do anything with Android? My guess is that Microsoft worked very hard to prevent that relationship from happening. A tweet noticed by TechCrunch from Google's Vic Gundotra suggests that there's no forthcoming Android-Nokia announcement. 

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Previously Android chief Andy Rubin said in a conference appearance that, in the wake of management changes at Nokia, the company might be open to building phones that run Android. Despite prior Nokia hostility toward Android, Rubin hinted Google and Nokia might already be talking about the hardware OEM using the Google OS: 

Asked pointedly whether Google has discussed Android with Nokia, Rubin answered: "I think the company has new leadership and ... they are evaluating what their options are ... I'm a big proponent of Android and I hope they adopt it."

About whether a meeting took place, Rubin only said: "I'm not going to talk in detail."

I would think that Nokia wouldn't completely rule out Android, especially if Nokia-made Windows Phones fail to catch on. However there may be some period of exclusivity that Microsoft has secured or negotiated. European carriers have also reportedly lobbied Nokia against using Android.

There may be a highly favorable Windows Phone licensing deal whose terms reduce the cost of licenses substantially for the Finland-based Nokia. That's pure speculation on my part. (I'm sure there's some financial incentive coming from Microsoft however.)

Either way, we'll know certainly by this time next week what Nokia's new direction is and whether it's going to release just Windows Phones or whether Android is in its future as well. 

Related posts: 

'Facebook Phone' Surfaces: INQ Cloud Touch

The new INQ "Cloud Touch" is getting a lot of play today. Unveiled yesterday this is an Android-based Facebook-optimized phone. INQ is a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, which is based in Taiwan. HTC is also planning to introduce an Android phone that has a higher degree of Facebook integration.

INQ previously released a line of "social mobiles" that were social-networking optimized handsets. The Cloud Touch is the next generation of that line with an emphasis on Facebook in particular. 

What's most interesting to me from the video I've seen -- I haven't held the device in my hands -- is that the phone offers a new interface for Android and thus stands out from among the scores of generic-looking Android phones now in the market. It's the first really interesting new Android interface (Motorola's Motoblur and HTC's Sense interface are basically worthless).

According to the Financial Times, "users will only have to sign in to Facebook once, when setting up the device, allowing their credentials to be used automatically by third-party applications." That will help create some interesting user experiences; Facebook recenty introduced single sign-on for mobile. This is removes friction but also creates potential privacy issues. 

The Cloud Touch is also like Flipboard in a certain way in that it points to and reflects the media, links and content that are being shared; it's not all about the Facebook interface. The handsets also integrate streaming music service Spotify, which isn't in the US and may never be because of rights issues. 

The new handsets are coming to the UK market later this quarter (and probably Canada) but there's no word on a US release date. 

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The Android apps interface is in most respects a knock-off of the iPhone interface -- all touch-screen smartphones now in the market are derivative of the iPhone -- but this interface is innovative. It may mark the beginning of true differentiation among Android handsets. 

I suspect the INQ Cloud Touch will be quite popular when it's released. 

Related posts:

Nokia's 'The Platform Is Burning' Memo

By now many of you have seen or read Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's "Platform is burning" memo. At least one former Nokia executive believes it's a hoax. Regardless it's interesting. 

Here are some excerpts; I've edited it down quite a bit (the full memo is available via the link above):

In 2008, Apple's market share in the $300+ price range was 25 percent; by 2010 it escalated to 61 percent. They are enjoying a tremendous growth trajectory with a 78 percent earnings growth year over year in Q4 2010. Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.

And then, there is Android. In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry's innovation to its core . . .

While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind . . .

We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market . ..

(Nokia has reportedly killed its MeeGo handset before launch.)

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we've lost market share, we've lost mind share and we've lost time.

Consumer preference for Nokia declined worldwide. In the UK, our brand preference has slipped to 20 percent, which is 8 percent lower than last year. That means only 1 out of 5 people in the UK prefer Nokia to other brands. It's also down in the other markets, which are traditionally our strongholds: Russia, Germany, Indonesia, UAE, and on and on and on.

How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?

This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally.

Nokia, our platform is burning.

It doesn't read like a fake memo. But even if it were fake it correctly and soberly captures Nokia's challenges. The company is widely expected to announce a deeper strategic relationship with Microsoft in which it starts building Windows Phones essentially. There may also be some experimentation with Android, although European carriers are counseling Nokia against using Android

If this is genuine it would appear to be Elop's attempt to prepare "the troops" for some radical moves to come. 

TeleNav Holding Its Own vs. Google Navigation

I would have thought that free Google Navigation, which is very good, along with free navigation from Nokia might have killed all the subscription-based providers out there. But TeleNav seems to be holding its own; part of that is its enterprise and white-label businesses. The company provides navigation for AT&T, Sprint and other carriers outside the US. Beyond this the company is also being very inventive and expansive in its thinking about its product.

The company's latest financial release -- it went public last year -- shows healthy growth:

  • Revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 grew 19 percent over the second quarter of fiscal 2010 to $48.0 million.
  • Average monthly paying end users for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 increased 54 percent over the second quarter of fiscal 2010 to 19.6 million.
  • Revenue from automotive, enterprise LBS, mobile advertising and commerce and premium LBS was seven percent of total revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2011,up from six percent of total revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2011.
  • Cash generated from operations for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 was $28.5 million.

Now the TeleNav is putting out a Verizon version of its consumer-facing TeleNav GPS app for the iPhone. It costs $2.99 per month or $21.99 per year. This is cheaper than both the AT&T iPhone and Android versions of the app. It has lots of useful features:

  • Spoken Turn-by-Turn Directions with Street Names
  • 2D and 3D Moving Maps
  • Automatic Reroute 
  • Nighttime Optimized Navigation 
  • iOS Multitasking Support
  • More Than 22 Million Local Listings in the U.S. 

This is a good solution for iPhone users who don't have access to Google Navigation. In addition to turn-by-turn directions, the app can be used expansively as a local search tool and business finder (it has voice search as well). TeleNav is also integrating local ads from xAD, AT&Ti and others.

One of the "coolest" aspects of the product is "Shake-to-Go." Shake-to-go "allows users to simply shake their iPhone 4 while using TeleNav GPS and they will automatically be routed" to their home location. 

I've had an Android version of the app for a number of weeks. I've used it and liked it, although I have to admit the seamless integration of Google Maps and Navigation into Android create a big barrier to the use of any other mapping platform or tool. 

TeleNav also introduced APIs late last year to allow developers to integrate navigation into any app. Advertisers can also do this using the API. In other words one could ad a "drive there" or "get directions" button on any display ad in mobile. That's pretty interesting and I think not widely known. 

Some time ago I met with the markeing people at TeleNav and was struck by how broadly and creatively they're thinking about the product, the challenge of free navigation and expanding their apps' boundaries well beyond traditional GPS. 

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Big Changes in Store for Nokia, Maybe RIM

Over the past few days there have been a flurry of articles and speculation about changes that may be coming to Nokia, as soon as the Mobile World Congress in a week:

Last year Microsoft and Nokia announced an alliance and now, with both companies struggling in mobile, it appears that alliance will become deeper and more strategic, with the world's largest handset maker adopting Windows for some or all of its new high-end smartphones.

I had anticipated that Nokia would build some Android phones for the US market and possibly Europe. But the Microsoft move is more logical given that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is a former Microsoft executive himself and given the fact of their existing alliance. 

Microsoft's new OS is nicely designed (except for the home screen in my view) but lacks visbility and momentum. Being on Nokia handsets could bring both almost immediately or very quickly. There's also the risk that such a move would fail to halt Nokia's slide or sufficiently boost Windows. 

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Right now the iPhone and Android are absolutely sucking all the consumer attention out of the room for everyone else. It's still possible that Nokia would put out an Android phone or two beside Windows Phones; however Microsoft might try and prevent that as part of any strategic deal between the two. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

One widely discussed scenario is the outright purchase of Nokia by Microsoft. The former is now worth just over $41 billion -- a costly pill to swallow. However the acquisition of Yahoo would have been worth $44 billion. So Microsoft is not above using its balance sheet when absolutely necessary.

Yet an acquisition would probably be unnecessary if a strategic alliance that put Windows on Nokia smartphones advanced penetration for the operating system. 

For its part RIM will also be compelled to do some radical things to reassert itself.

Its new QNX operating system on the Playbook tablet and later BlackBerry handsets will apparently be able to run Android applications helping RIM play catch-up on the apps front. However embracing Android apps will likely mean the end of the company's own BlackBerry App World; why would developers focus on it when Android apps could reach BlackBerry users?

Does the move to embrace Android apps also suggest that RIM will put out an Android handset? Probably not; RIM will likely maintain its proprietary OS in the wake of the QNX and TAT acquisitions. Regardless, RIM may continue to struggle and will probably see tablet sales disappoint vs. the iPad, Samsung,  Xoom and several others as the tablet market becomes increasingly "noisy." 

UK NFC Mobile Payments Go Live in July

Orange and T-Mobile (via their UK joint venture Everything Everywhere) are going to roll out NFC mobile payments this summer. The payments processor is Barclaycard. Reportedly more than 40,000 stores are set to accept NFC-based mobile payments.

According to the release:

  • The UK’s first commercial contactless mobile payments service, to be rolled out by Everything Everywhere and Barclaycard by early summer (second quarter of 2011)
  • The new service will offer consumers greater convenience and control on the high street with over 40,000 stores ready to accept contactless payments
  • Industry backed secure SIM-based payments approach, ensures excellent purchase protection for consumers
  • Latest move builds on Everything Everywhere and Barclaycard’s ongoing partnership, which has already produced a co-branded contactless credit card and the forthcoming Orange Cash pre-paid contactless card

The Google Nexus S is compatible with the service. And the iPhone 5, slated for summer 2011 release, is apparently going to have NFC built in. It's not clear how many other handsets will work with the new system.

Contactless payments allow users to waive their device in front of a terminal to conduct the payment transaction. Many will be watching the UK roll out to see how well it goes.

There are many other ways to do mobile payments/mobile wallets without NFC, however. And those methods will likely gain acceptance in the US before the requisite NFC infrastructure is developed. 

See related posts:

AdMob Now Seeing 2B Daily Ad Requests

Now that AdMob is part of Google we're not getting the great monthly data and reports that we used to see from the company. But Google has just put out some new data on impression growth. The headline (literally) is that AdMob is seeing 2+ billion ad requests per day (on a global basis).

Here's more: 

  • Ad requests have grown 4X in the past 12 months
  • More than 100 million unique Android and iOS devices requested an ad each month, nearly doubling over the last six months.
  • Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago.
  • The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%)

Google previously said that it had a $1 billion mobile advertising run rate. I did a quick analysis of how that billion might break down, assuming that mobile ad revenues were distributed along the same lines as paid-search revenue generally speaking.

IDC's revised US mobile ad numbers show Google as totally dominant over the rest of the field in terms of market share.

  • Google: 59%
  • Apple: 8.4%
  • Millennial: 6.8%
  • Yahoo: 5.6% 
  • Microsoft: 4.3%
  • Other: 15.9%

These figures below include search, which is 56% of mobile ad revenue in the US according to the firm. Almost none of the competing mobile ad networks and platforms have search ad revenue, which is why it's so lopsided in Google's favor. Just looking at display the IDC numbers look somewhat more balanced:

  • Google: 19%
  • Apple: 18.8%
  • Millennial: 15.4%
  • Yahoo: 10.1%
  • Jumptap: 8.4%
  • Microsoft: 7.8% 
  • Others (including AOL, Nokia): 20.5%

Skype Will Mainstream Video Calling

In creating FaceTime Apple brought a differentiated feature to the iPhone 4: video calling. However it only works over WiFi. Fring stepped up to offer it over 3G but the company is relatively obscure outside tech circles. But now that Skype has added video and 3G support for the iPhone, it's truly poised to become a mainstream phenomenon.

Here's what the updated app does according to Skype:

  • Make video calls to people on their computers as well as other iPhones (details below)
  • Make free audio calls to anyone else on Skype
  • Make great value calls to landlines and mobiles around the world

Skype also repeated a stat about its usage: "approximately 25 million people [are] signed into Skype at any given time." That's a lot of people but a much smaller number than the broader group of "registered Skype users," numbering in excess of 400 million globally. 

Screen shot 2010-12-30 at 10.16.06 AM

I haven't yet tried it and don't know how good it is but I suspect it will be extremely popular.

Once the iPhone comes to Verizon it will be interesting to see how Skype is handled. Currently Skype calling on Verizon's other smartphones (e.g., RIM, Android) counts against voice minutes, which makes no sense from a user point of view though it does from the perspective of a carrier worried about users circumventing or sidestepping the limits of its voice plans. 

The UK's Top 100 Mobile Search Queries

UK mobile content and search vendor Mobile Commerce revealed its analysis of the UK's top mobile search queries of 2010. Three out of the top 10 are Facebook:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. Bebo
  4. Youtube
  5. www. facebook.com
  6. Ebay
  7. Facebook.com
  8. Hotmail
  9. Yahoo
  10. Ebuddy

These are, almost without exception, navigational queries. The exception is Google, which would then lead to some other kind of lookup or search presumably.

For comparison here is Opera's November list of the top UK sites visited by its users:

  1. google.com
  2. facebook.com
  3. bbc.co.uk
  4. youtube.com
  5. wikipedia.org
  6. live.com
  7. my.opera.com
  8. amazon.co.uk (back on the list)
  9. ebay.co.uk (10)
  10. m2d.de (new)

Below is the expanded list of Mobile Commerce's "top 100 mobile search terms for 2010." Assuming that the MC list is generally accurate what's interesting and curious, among other things, is that Google Maps appears at number 60. Yet we know that Google Maps is one of the most widely used tools on the iPhone and Android devices in particular.

What that suggests is that much of Google Maps usage is coming via app and not through the search box (of course). But it's a potential window into the larger "apps vs. search" phenomenon. Similarly, compare Opera's list above (where Amazon is number 8) to Amazon's position at number 48 on the list below. This is again suggestive of app usage or another way to get to the site (i.e., bookmark) vs. mobile search. 

Picture 5

Nokia Considering Both Windows Phone OS and Android?

One report out this morning, being widely picked up, suggests that Nokia is considering putting the Windows Mobile OS (7) on some of its phones:

Nokia has started talks with Microsoft to expand their cooperation. The talks were initiated by the new Nokia management.  And they are talking not about the technology exchange, or more Microsoft apps on Nokia phones. They are talking about the creation of new line of Windows Phone devices, which could be sold under Nokia brand, via Nokia distribution channels and have some typical  Nokia features.

Earlier Android chief Andy Rubin suggested in a recent conference appearance that it the wake of management changes at Nokia the company might be open to building phones that run Android. Despite prior Nokia hostility toward Android, Rubin hinted Google and Nokia might already be talking about the hardware OEM using the Google OS: 

Asked pointedly whether Google has discussed Android with Nokia, Rubin answered: "I think the company has new leadership and ... they are evaluating what their options are ... I'm a big proponent of Android and I hope they adopt it."

About whether a meeting took place, Rubin only said: "I'm not going to talk in detail."

It's possible that new Nokia CEO (former Microsoft Exec.) Stephen Elop is talking to both Google and Microsoft and will test non-Nokia operating systems on selected phones. Symbian has been unable to compete in North America and Europe against the iPhone and increasingly Android smartphones. Nokia continues to dominate in a range of markets around the world with inexpensive handsets. 

Without publicly saying so, Nokia has shifted from Symbian to MeeGo as the high-end OS that it hopes will create a more competitive smartphone experience (as well as on other devices). However, the first MeeGo devices will not be seen until at least the middle of next year.

Each quarter Nokia fails to deliver a more compelling smartphone product is one that Apple or Google will steal more share. Of the two, Android is the one that Nokia needs to worry about more because it can compete with the company at the lower end of the price spectrum, whereas the iPhone cannot as readily.

Elop's Microsoft background and affinity may predispose him to working with Redmond. Then there's the old logic of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."  

Can Nokia Avoid Android for Much Longer?

With a number of mixed reviews to date, it doesn't appear that MeeGo will solve Nokia's competitive problems in the US -- or maybe anywhere else. Among smartphone owners and would-be smartphone buyers Nokia isn't on the radar in the US market. Arguably the weakness is not the hardware but the mobile OS.

Financial analysts have been urging Nokia (and RIM) to adopt Android going foward. However an outgoing Nokia executive was very critical of the idea previously:

A Financial Times interview with Anssi Vanjoki, the departing chief of Nokia’s smartphone division, said that hardware OEMs who've adopted Android (e.g., Motorola, Samsung) are like "Finnish boys who'pee in their pants' for warmth in the winter. Temporary relief is followed by an even worse predicament."

Vanjoki argued that while there would be some immediate gains and cost savings, in the long term adopting Android would be destructive of Nokia. Adopting Android, he argued, would turn Nokia into "a commoditised box-maker like Dell, scrapping for market share with rivals that all use Android and so seem more or less the same."

Android chief Andy Rubin suggested in a recent conference appearance that it the wake of management changes at Nokia the company might be open to Android. Rubin hinted Google and Nokia might already be talking about the hardware OEM using the Google OS: 

Asked pointedly whether Google has discussed Android with Nokia, Rubin answered: "I think the company has new leadership and ... they are evaluating what their options are ... I'm a big proponent of Android and I hope they adopt it."

About whether a meeting took place, Rubin only said: "I'm not going to talk in detail."

A Nokia spokeswoman refused to comment Wednesday on whether executives from the two firms have discussed Android adoption by Nokia.

Recent comScore estimates show that Nokia has a pesence in the feature phone market in the US but almost none in the smartphone segment. 

 Picture 37

If the world's largest handset OEM were to adopt Android it would dramatically boost the OS and could build Nokia's share in the US. But it would turn the Finnish company into "a commoditised box-maker like Dell." The question is whether Nokia will have any choice. 

Survey: iPhone Outselling N8 6 to 1

The Nokia N8 handset is being outsold by the iPhone in Europe 6 to 1 according to a Morgan Stanley survey of 150 European wireless phone retailers released last week. However the Nokia Symbian 3 handset is reportedly meeting sales targets despite this apparently poor showing.

According to Morgan Stanley's research here are the bestselling smartphones in Europe right now in order of volume:

  1. iPhone
  2. Samsung Tocco Lite
  3. Samsung Galaxy S
  4. Nokia 5230
  5. BlackBerry Curve
  6. Nokia N8