Hardware

Apple and Nokia Change Places As Lumia (So Far) Fails to Ignite

Ahead of Apple's quarterly earnings call next week, Fortune has rounded up analysts estimates regarding Q1 2012 iPhone sales. The consensus range is 30 to 35 million units:

The average among the Wall Street analysts is 30.5 million . . . To hedge our bets, we've singled out the six analysts who have turned in the most accurate estimates over the past five quarters. Their consensus: nearly 35.1 million units, an increase of 88.5% year over year.

Apple was the insurgent and Nokia the market leader. Now the roles have been reversed.

Nokia will report a loss later this week and expects a similar result in Q2. The bottom has fallen out of Symbian phone sales. However the company said it had sold 2 million Lumia handsets (globally) to date:

In the first quarter 2012, Nokia sold more than 2 million Lumia devices at an average selling price of approximately EUR 220 (reported within the Smart Devices business unit). Furthermore, Nokia has seen sequential growth in Lumia device activations every month since starting sales of Lumia devices in November 2011. Lumia has gained market share with both distribution partners and consumers. The Windows Phone ecosystem is also attracting developers and has expanded rapidly with more than 80,000 applications available.

Dpending on whether you think "it's still very early" or whether the company should have sold more units to date, you either conclude that the device is off to a good start or failing to take off. My view is in-between. I think it will sell moderately well to people interested in an inexpensive handset and not loyal to either Apple or Google.

The phone is apparently selling well on Amazon with overwhelmingly positive reviews, leading one person to question whether the reviews had been faked.  I do believe that some of the reviews are fake; though many if not most are probably genuine. Nokia, AT&T and Microsoft have a great deal riding on the success of the handset, creating incentives for people to generate positive reviews.

I have used Windows Phones and found them to be good but not great. The chief problem is a lack of apps. I also don't favor the homescreen UI.

If Lumia is as great as the reviews suggest then sales should pick up considerably in the next quarter. This is the make or break year for both Windows Phone and Nokia as a company.

Are Tablets the True 'Second Screen'?

There's plenty of data that shows people are on mobile devices while watching TV. Many Superbowl ads assumed and tried to play off this, largely without success earlier this year. But it may turn out that tablets (iPads) become the primary "second screen" during TV viewing.

According to a Q4 multi-country survey from Nielsen, "88% of US of tablet owners and 86% of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period." In addition Nielsen found that 45% of tablet owners used their devices along with TV "on a daily basis and 26% said they did this several times a day."

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While checking email during commercials was a primary activity of the second screeners, the survey also found that there was engagement with TV content and products:  

The most frequent tablet or smartphone activity across all countries while also watching TV was checking email — either during a commercial break or during the show. Yet device owners also seem to engage with content related to the TV as well, either by looking up information related to the show or looking for deals and general information on products advertised on TV.

While shows like QVC, American Idol and The Voice are already doing things with simultaneous TV-mobile use, we should see more formal incorporation of mobile devices into shows. (I'm sure there will be lots of interesting and creative implementations to come.) In a more mundane vein, advertisers may start to direct people to e-commerce sites or offer flash sale incentives to mobile users on the couch. It should be a very interesting trend to watch. 

Tablets are much more likely, however, than smartphones to generate e-commerce sales. This is why they will be preferred by marketers. They'll be preferred by consumers because of their larger screens. 

Google's AR Glasses Cool but Would Anyone Actually Use Them?

Make no mistake Google's augmented reality goggles are fascinating and "cool." I applaud Google for developing them (if they have actually been developed; I suspect there's no working prototype yet) but I also wonder if anyone would actually buy and wear them. Of course some people would; but could the product break out of cult status?

The effort, called Project Glass, is an initiative of Google's advanced products team ("Google X"). It represents a form of "wearable computing" and it's very interesting as an extension of the Internet beyond more conventional devices like smartphones. 

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Putting aside the fashion dimension, which I think is awkward in the images shared by Google, AR glasses might be useful while driving, shopping or in an art museum. However they might equally be distracting and annoying, removing you from the experience of being in the "real world."

There's already a backlash building against living your life with your nose in your smartphone. This would take the smartphone obsession one step further.  

Pricing is uncertain. If they were expensive (more than $199) they wouldn't see much uptake I would imagine. And what about advertising? Imagine ads literally popping up in front of your eyes. That would be highly undesirable to say the least. Other issues include battery size and life, as well as data plans and costs. 

Glasses are a logical place to put a wearable computer and at some point we will see wearable computers. However I'm skeptical that this product has mainstream appeal. But prove me wrong; I'd love to see it in action.

Survey: 8.5 Million US Teens Have iPhones

Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports on the results of the latest teen survey by investment firm Piper Jaffray. The survey polled 5,600 American teens, evenly divided between genders. The average age was 16. 

The following are a couple of the questions and answers from the survey:

  • Do you own an iPhone: 34% yes (vs. 17% a year ago)
  • Do you own a "tablet computer": 34% yes (vs. 22% a year ago)  

While the sample is very large, the question is: how representative of all US teens is this survey?

There are somewhere between 25 and 30 million teenagers in the US, depending on how "teen" is defined, according to the US Census Bureau. Thirty four percent of 25 million would be 8.5 million teens with iPhones. That seems plausible. Another 8.5 million teens have tablets/iPads by the same extrapolation. 

According to comScore's most recent figures 13.5% of US mobile subscribers own iPhones (or roughly 14.04 million people out of a total smartphone population of 104 million). These data points are from different sources but the numbers suggest that more US teens than adults own iPhones. That doesn't seem correct.

What's not exposed is the degree to which teens aspire to ownership of any other type of smartphone. Also not discussed is whether the tablet 34% of teens claim to "own" is actually theirs or owned by a parent. It would be interesting to know whether there are multiple iPads/tablets in the house. 

But Why Do iPhone Owners Use WiFi More than Android Users?

Beyond its February US smartphone marketshare data, released earlier today, comScore also exposed some additional, interesting data about WiFi usage among Android and iPhone owners in the US and UK. In general iPhone owners are apparently much heavier users of WiFi than Android owners. And UK residents are also generally bigger consumers of WiFi than their US counterparts.

In the US the percentage of Android WiFi users is half as large (32% vs. 71%) as iPhone WiFi users. But why?

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As someone who owns both devices I can speculate about why this may be.

More Android handsets operate on 4G networks, whereas the iPhone is limited to slower 3G networks. The move to WiFi alleviates some of the frustration of being on slower networks for iPhone owners. Beyond this, on Sprint and Verizon in the US, iPhone owners can't access voice and data at the same time. Where WiFi is available they can. 

In addition, whenever a new WiFi network becomes available iPhone owners get a prominent, even disruptive, notification that takes over the screen. iPhone owners are thus much more likely to be aware of the presence of WiFi than Android owners. The process of connecting to WiFi is also faster and easier on my iPhone than it is on my HTC Android phone. 

Android at 50%: Is the Platform Surging or Stumbling?

There are two contradictory memes in the market about Android. One is that the platform is surging toward world domination; the competing narrative is that Android is losing adherents and is faltering.

ComScore boosted the first narrative today with a release (based on survey data) that shows Android crossing the 50% threshold in February. In other words, 50% of US smartphones now are Android handsets. 

Interestingly comScore's data show only 44% US smartphone penetration, while Nielsen shows 50%

In addition, Nielsen and financial analysts from Canaccord Genuity claim that the iPhone is "clawing its way back" among recent purchasers and closing the gap with Android. The Q1 2012 Appcelerator also appears to show mobile app developers losing some interest in Android. 

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These indicators suggest Android is losing some momentum, although the comScore data directly contradict that assertion. Regardless, it's clear that Android is on its way to replacing Nokia as the leading smartphone platform globally.

The comScore report also confirms the accelerating decline of RIM and shows that US consumers are not buying Windows Phones. We'll see what happens after the massive marketing campaign that's about to be unleashed by AT&T, Nokia and Microsoft. 

We're Going to Discover the Capacity and Limits of Marketing with Lumia Campaign

Nokia, AT&T and Microsoft are about to begin their "do or die" marketing blitz for the Lumia 900. Nokia (or someone on its behalf) has set up a site that tries at once to be humorous, viral and to take down the iPhone with actor-dramatized "hidden camera" videos that purport to show its weaknesses (e.g., "death grip"). The site proclaims "the beta test is almost over" and features former "SNL" actor Chris Parnell.

This site is merely one of a multiplicity of efforts and campaigns on behalf of Nokia and Windows Phones that are about to unfold.

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Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent in the coming year seeking to get North American mobile subscribers to pay attention to the Lumia and consider buying it. AT&T has priced the device at $99 and says it's going to put more marketing dollars behind the launch than any other device, including the iPhone.

Depending on whose numbers you believe, Windows has less than a 5% share of the US smartphone market and an even smaller chunk of "recent purchases."

For all the spending we're about to see I think US Lumia sales will only be modest. I could be completely wrong but I think that when the smoke clears a year from now the postmortem will be (once again) that marketing dollars can only go so far in shaping perceptions and getting people to buy a product.

Cheap Google Tablet Almost Certain to Be a Hit

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published what amounts to a round-up of recent Google tablet rumors. None of the information was really new.

Previously Eric Schmidt confirmed that Google would be putting out a "highest quality" tablet at some point later this year. A Google-branded tablet (expected to be 7-inches) is intended to compete directly with the Kindle Fire. It's also a direct response to the failure of other Android tablets to date.

Here's are the quasi-factual nuggets extracted from the WSJ piece: 

  • Co-branded Google tablets (think Nexus smartphones) will be made by Asus and Samsung
  • Google's Motorola unit will make Google-branded tablets
  • Pricing of a Google tablet would match or beat the Kindle Fire ($199); Google will subsidize the device accordingly

Earlier rumors suggested that the price might be $149. Either at $149 or $199 a decent 7-inch Google tablet is likely to be highly successful.

The Kindle Fire is actually quite a mediocre tablet compared to the iPad. It's well integrated with Amazon content but that's about it. Email and web surfing are quite painful on the device. Google almost certainly would make a more functional tablet for general purposes. It would also have the benefit of Google's voice actions. 

Google also has nearly the content ecosystem that Amazon does (i.e., Google Play). It can also afford to subsidize the device because it will make money on search and mobile display advertising. 

A $149 Google tablet would undermine Kindle Fire, compelling Amazon to lower its prices. Pricing here is a key variable. Regardless of whether it comes in at $199 or less, a cheap 7-inch Google tablet will be successful. The outlook for a larger tablet and direct iPad competitior would be more murky. 

However I would predict that Google will sell millions of these smaller, highly subsidized devices. 

Nielsen: US Smartphone Ownership Now 50%

Although the Pew Internet Project was the first to report that at least 50% of US mobile phone owners had smartphones, Nielsen waited until today to make the same statement: "Almost half (49.7%) of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones, as of February 2012." This compares with 36% a year ago. 

However if smartphone ownership is segmented by age and income, the numbers are much higher than 50% for some categories. 

SmartPhone_income-and-age

Nielsen says that Android's share of smartphones in February was 48% while Apple's was 32%. However among 90-day recent buyers, the numbers are much closer (48% vs. 43%), reflecting the popularity of the iPhone 4S and its availability from mulitple carriers. 

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All others, including RIM and Microsoft are under 20% collectively. However the trend is away from these platforms among recent buyers. Microsoft is hoping to reverse that with the expensive and high-profile launch of the Lumia 800 at AT&T next month. 

The Real 'Windows Phone Challenge': Can a $99 Lumia 900 Generate Momentum for the Platform?

No more "early days" excuses will be possible if the Nokia (Windows Phone) Lumia 900 fails to deliver. The flagship Windows Phone will go on sale on April 8 from AT&T in the US for an aggressively discounted $99 (with a two-year contract). It will be the least expensive high-end smartphone on the market.

The price will help but it could still flop.

AT&T promises to support the launch with considerable marketing muscle. It's far from clear, however, that consumers will bite. Some no doubt will buy because of the $99 price. Aggressive pricing is key to Nokia's US market strategy.

The Lumia 710 has apparently done relatively well at T-Mobile (at either $49 or free). However, developer interest in Windows Phones remains muted. And without sufficient apps, Windows Phones simply won't be competitive. 

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Earlier this year I had predicted that Nokia-Windows Phone handsets would see modest but not spectacular uptake in the US market. If this launch is fumbled and fails to generate real momentum for Windows Phones it could be a serious blow to the outlook for the platform -- at least in the US market. 

As a promotion Microsoft has mounted a Pepsi-Challenge like contest, inviting iPhone and Android users to take the $1,000 Windows Phone challenge and supposedly discover that Windows Phones are faster. But the PR value of the effort has already been compromised by a blogger named Sahas Katta.

Katta used his Galaxy Nexus and beat the challenge in a Microsoft store but was denied the $1,000 prize by store officials. He blogged about it and that post has now seen widespread attention.

Report: Half of Teens Have Used a Mobile Phone to Access the Internet

Roughly one in four teens (23%) has a smartphone according to a new report from the Pew Internet Project. An equivalent number of teens have no phone at all. Therefore the actual number of smartphone teens is higher if considered only in the context of all mobile users. Rougly 54% of Pew survey respondents report having a conventional mobile phone or not knowing the type of their phone. 

The survey was conducted in mid-2011, so some numbers might be different today.

Interestingly, unlike adults, "There are no differences in ownership of smartphones versus regular cell phones by race, ethnicity, or income." Older teens are more likely to have phones and smartphones in particular, with 31% of those aged 14-17 saying they owned smartphones. 

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The volume of texting for teens has gone up, but voice calling has declined. "[V]oice calling with friends on cell phones has declined in the past two years, from 38% of teens calling friends daily on cells in 2009 to 26% two years later," the report explained. This is apparently true for landline communication as well. One question to consider is: will this no-calling behavior carry over into the lives of these teens as they become adults?

Here are some additional findings from the survey: 

  • The median number of texts sent on a typical day by teens 12-17 rose from 50 in 2009 to 60 in 2011.
  • Older girls remain the most enthusiastic texters, with a median of 100 texts a day in 2011, compared with 50 for boys the same age.
  • 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives. This far surpasses the frequency with which they pick other forms of daily communication, including phone calling by cell phone (39% do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network site messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking on landlines (19%) and emailing (6%).

Another interesting finding: "29% of all teens exchange messages daily through social network sites," which is more than the 19% who talk on landlines daily. 

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The chart above indicates the methods that teens use to get online. Roughly half (49%) had used a "cell phone" to access the Internet within the past month, while 16% had used a tablet. 

 

Apple CEO: 'We Had a Record [iPad] Weekend'

On a conference call this morning discussing Apple's decision to issue a dividend and buy back $10 billion worth of shares, CEO Tim Cook said the following about iPad sales so far: “We had a record weekend and we’re thrilled with it.” He declined to discuss it further.

Some analysts and pundits over the weekend were arguing that sales were less than anticipated. However, according to AT&T (via CNN) the company said it saw record activations of the 4G iPad on its network: 

On Friday, March 16, AT&T set a new single-day record for its iPad sales and activations, demonstrating robust demand for the new iPad on the nation's largest 4G network, covering nearly 250 million people.

We won't know what pre-order and initial weekend sales were unless or until Apple puts out a press release. Given AT&T and Tim Cook's remarks, however, I suspect the company will do so. 

Update: And they did a little while ago. Apple said it had sold more than 3 million "new iPads" as of today: "Apple today announced it has sold three million of its incredible new iPad, since its launch on Friday, March 16."

Pew: Almost 30% Getting News on Smartphones, Tablets

According to a sweeping report from the Pew Reseach Center ("State of the News Media 2012"), 27% of the US adult population now gets its news on smartphones and tablets. The report says that "70% of desktop/laptop owners report getting news on their computers. Half of smartphone owners (51%) use their phones for news. A majority of tablet owners (56%) use the devices for news." 

Mobile news consumers, especially users of news apps, are more engaged than their PC counterparts: "People spend more time per session with news on mobile devices than they do on computers, and read more articles per session and more articles per month." 

The data were collected through various surveys earlier this year. They show that people are accessing news on multiple devices, more frequently. Mobile news consumption appears to generally be "additive" to consumption on the PC, although there's evidence that smartphone and tablet owners are shifting some of news reading to those devices.

Pew also says that "mobile news consumers are even more likely to turn to news organizations directly, through apps and home pages, rather than search or recommendations — strengthening the bond with traditional brands."

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Although people are getting news on multiple devices, 82% of survey respondents get their digital news primarily on a computer. Pew adds, however, "But much of that may mainly come from the computer being their only digital option . . . 43% of all desktop/laptop owners [do not] own another device."

Pew observed that for people with multiple devices some amount of their news consumption is shifting, "[A]s we have seen with other technology shifts, consumers are drawn to newer forms and may even make them their primary mode, but they are not abandoning older forms altogether. Instead their news experience widens and deepens."

Smartphone owners who read news on their handsets are evenly split, "46% still get most of their news on the desktop/laptop; 45% get most on their smartphone." For iPad and Kindle Fire owners, "47% still get most of their digital news via desktops or laptops, while a third, 34%, have already transitioned to consuming most of their news on the tablet." 

On the PC Web most news publishers were largely "disintermediated" by search (Google). Their brands were diluted and weakened as they were presented among hundreds of news sources for a given story. They were often out-maneuvered by aggregators and others more skilled at SEO. Mobile news apps and the move away from search as universal content gateway (in mobile) gives publishers an opportunity to reestablish a more direct relationship with the consumer -- and with that capture more digital revenue. 

JD Power: iPhone Wins Cust Sat Survey (Again), Nokia Near Bottom

JD Power and Associates yesterday put out its 2012 handset customer satisfaction survey findings, covering both smartphones and non-smartphones. The iPhone won the smartphone category (for the "seventh consecutive time"); LG and Sanyo were at the top of the non-smartphone handset category.

HTC was second in the smartphone category. Android market leader Samsung was third but "below industry average." 

JD Power used a range of criteria to measure satisfaction, which were slightly different in each category. For smartphones the weighted criteria were: performance (35%); ease of operation (24%); features (21%); and physical design (20%).

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The iPhone rankings are not a surprise. The much more interesting aspect of these survey results is the low score of Nokia. On both lists it was second from the bottom.

If this survey were conducted in Europe or developing markets Nokia might get higher marks. But the low scores in the US survey reflect the poor performance of its existing products and the weakness of its brand. That brand weakness is further diminished by the scores themselves.

It will be very challenging, even with its new Lumia Windows Phones, for Nokia to "climb out of the basement." Indeed, the existing weakness of Nokia in the US/North American market creates a "deficit" for Lumia devices as both Nokia and Microsoft seek to market them to North American consumers. 

Related: iPhone Grabs Camera Market From Sony

 

Despite iPad Lead, Forecast Shows Android Overtaking It in 2016

Today the iPad pre-orders arrive and the iPad becomes available in stores. Yesterday reviews of "The New iPad" come out and overall they're very positive. Based on the success of iPad pre-orders, financial analysts have boosted their estimates of iPad sales for 2012. Some are now saying that Apple may sell a combined total of 65 million iPads or more this year. 

One question is whether this lead will be so overwhelming that rivals will be shut out. So far the only successful Android tablet is the Kindle Fire and that success is largely based on its price. It's an inferior product, whose sales could be affected by the reduced price iPad2 ($399). 

Yet IDC has projected that the iPad will be overtaken by Android tablets in 2016. IDC estimated that Amazon sold 4.7 million tablets in Q4 of last year.

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The chart above reflects "shipments" and not actual sales. The logic behind this forecast showing Android overtaking the iPad is based on a simplistic analogy to the iPhone, and Android's growth over a period of years to a dominant market-share position. However, as several others have pointed out, the better analogy might be the iPod, which established a dominant market share and was never challenged.

In the US, Apple maintained an exclusive iPhone relationship with AT&T for three years after launch. That allowed Android to develop huge momentum. People were more inclined to buy an altenative smartphone than change carriers. The iPad has no such carrier constraints. 

There have so far been well over 100 Android tablets and all but the Kindle and Nook have fallen flat. It's unlikely there are any new tablets on the horizon that will have great success -- Google's rumored 7" inexpensive tablet could be an exception. As I've written before, Android tablet OEMs are "boxed in" on pricing by Kindle on the one end and the iPad on the other. The lower-priced iPad2 makes their lives even harder. 

The next test for the iPad will be the arrival of Windows 8 tablets, the first of which will probably show up for holiday shopping at the end of the year. But for at least three quarters the iPad will have little or no competition. That could enable Apple to sell 45 or 50 million more tablets. 

Paymentpalooza: PayPal's New Dongle and BOKU's New Bucks

Several years ago I met with someone working for PayPal and we talked about how the company could more deeply penetrate the small-business market. We talked about various ideas but everything seemed "hard." Cut to the arrival of Square; the solution is now obvious.

Square has blazed a trial that has been followed and copied by Intuit and now PayPal, with PayPal Here, a similar but triangular dongle that also fits into smartphones and iPads. In Q4 last year Square announced that it was processing $11 million in payments per day. 

How will PayPal's service differentiate from Square? PayPal Mobile VP David Marcus (who came via the Zong acquisition) explained in a blog post:

So, you’re asking, how is this different from other small business mobile payment solutions? The key differentiator is that it comes from PayPal, a trusted brand in the online payments industry with more than 100 million customers around the globe and years of proven payment innovation, driving growth for millions of businesses globally. PayPal Here comes with our world-class fraud management capabilities, and our 24×7 live customer support. In addition to accepting more payment methods, PayPal Here offers a simple flat rate of 2.7% for card swipes and PayPal payments. Merchants are also given a business debit card for quick access to their funds and 1% cash back on eligible purchases – which means if you use the debit card, your fees are actually just 1.7%!

In other words: 

  • The PayPal brand, merchant support and scale
  • Cheaper transaction fees (1.7% - 2.7%) 

Square's transaction fees currently stand at 2.75%. However I suspect Square will respond to PayPal's reduced rates.

Beyond the (somewhat smaller) transaction fees, if PayPal Here can deliver on its promises of security and customer support it could impact Square's growth opportunity. Yet Intuit has had a competitive solution for some time, and that hasn't really affected Square. More likely, PayPal's entry into the market will grow the overall payment-dongle market and affect banks and existing vendors that make money from merchant accounts and credit card processing. 

Separately, payments startup BOKU received another substantial infusion of capital to focus more on the offline market. Companies like Zong and BOKU initially focused on virtual goods and online transactions. However the real action is offline -- a market that is many times larger than e-commerce and virtual goods. 

The $35 million received by BOKU brings to roughly $75 million (per TechCrunch) the total funds raised to date. Spanish telco giant Telefonica is one of the investors in this latest round. 

In the SMB segment, the growing number of payments options and startups will likely create confusion. PayPal and Square (and maybe Intuit) are the companies that will be able to rise above that noise given their brands. While Square doesn't have the same brand equity as Intuit and probably PayPal, it does have more momentum than either in the SMB mobile payments segment. 

See related posts: 

Study: Consumers Open to Ads on Tablets, Least Interested in Mobile Ads

Today the Pew Internet Project put out some research arguing pretty unequivocally that consumers don't want to be tracked or targeted even if it might mean that the ads and content they see are more "relevant" or aligned with their interests. A survey released at the end of last month by Upstream and YouGov (US and UK respondents) also contains a warning of sorts to publishers and developers about advertising overload.

In this survey consumers expressed frustration over the volume ads and promotions they were receiving. Two-thirds said they received too many ads, while slightly less than a quarter of respondents said they saw the "right amount" of advertising. 

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Consumers found ads on their phones to be the "most unacceptable" vs. other media channels or devices. This is consistent with lots of survey data that show consumers are ambivalent or hostile to mobile advertising. However mobile ads typically outperform PC advertising, which is a paradox: people don't want it yet they respond to it. 

Q: Which ONE of the following electronic devices would you find it MOST unacceptable to receive unwanted advertising on?

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Interestingly these survey respondents were much less hostile to ads on their tablets. In fact, they more were accepting of ads on their tablets than they were ads on their PCs. However when a version of the question was asked in a more positive way, PC or laptop where the top choices. 

Q: How you would prefer to receive an offer or promotion through an electronic device that you use / own?

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In terms of positive features that consumers said would make them respond to advertising, the top answers were:

  1. Clearly tailored to my personal interests
  2. Specific to my location
  3. Contextually relevant to something I'd just been doing 

Q: Which, if any, of the following would make you MORE likely to respond positively to marketing messages?

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In terms of ad units or types, email was the most favorably received among several categories that included SMS, paid search, display, QR codes and augmented reality. By implication email advertising was the least intrusive of the types presented to these respondents.

Q: Which, if any, of the following types of message would you be likely to respond positively to if you received these adverts or promotions?

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In the Pew survey consumers were willing to sacrifice ad and content relevance to avoid tracking and targeting. Put another way, they declined the idea of improved relevance through tracking and personalization. In the YouGov survey respondents said they would be most inclined to respond to ads "clearly tailored to their personal interests" and that were specific to their locations.

The two surveys taken together reflect that consumers want advertising and content that is relevant but doesn't rely on data mining. In mobile -- where consumers were least interested in ads -- there's a higher burden of relevance than on the PC. But that can be achieved in ways that don't require behavioral targeting or data mining but rely on location and context. 

Marketers and publishers must be careful to respect user desires for privacy as they try and fulfill the demand for relevant and "tailored" information. This is a bit of a tightrope to walk. However the industry must walk it. 

Why PC Vendors Are Compelled to Compete with the iPad -- but Probably Can't

In two years, the iPad has gone from being a "frivilous" and "unnecessary" device to outselling PCs. Yesterday Apple unveiled the "3rd generation iPad" or "the new iPad," if you prefer. It boasted a range of upgrades, including the "retina display," 4G models, improved cameras, improved software and a new quad-core processor, among others.

Last week ad network InMobi surveyed North American users and found that 30% of respondents were interested in buying the new iPad (many would also buy an iPad2 at a reduced price). The following was a list of most desired features according to the survey:

Interestingly Apple delivered on almost all of these except "size & weight" (smaller, lighter iPad). On battery life the iPad already does incredibly well, better than any laptop or other tablet (except the original Kindle). So that was probably something of an unreasonable expectation. The fact that it was able to deliver 4G with a nine hour batter life is pretty remarkable actually. 

Users also got the ability to buy the iPad2 at an entry level price of $399. Apple is going to sell a lot of those also. The price is close enough to Amazon's Kindle Fire that it could affect sales of that device. 

It's not clear how many people pre-ordered a new iPad, although the initial batch of white 4G models may have sold out based on the absence of a March 16 delivery date on the Apple site. 

During the press conference yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook showed what was perhaps the most significant slide of the event:

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Amazingly the iPad outsold PC vendors in Q4 2011 -- not collectively but each individual vendor. And because consumer PC sales are flat this will likely continue to happen in the future. Tablets are an emerging "necessity," not just for gadget savvy consumers but for PC makers who could see their fortunes decline dramatically if the trend holds.

Thus all of the OEMs on this slide shown yesterday are compelled to enter the tablet market. They literally can't afford to ignore it now. They can choose from the Android OS or the forthcoming Windows 8. Dell is banking on Windows 8 to boost its fortunes. 

Windows 8, which is supposed to be a cross-platform OS and which has received some favorable early reviews, remains a wild card. There's not going to be a Windows 8 tablet until Q4, if then. In the meantime Apple may have sold 20 - 30 million more iPads, including in the enterprise. (If Microsoft builds an iPad version of Office, that will partly undermine the case for Windows 8 tablets.)

Among the OEMs that have chosen Android, they confront the problem of competing without many specialized tablet apps and against the price pressure created by Amazon's Kindle Fire ($199) and the WiFi iPad ($499). In other words, if they try to price their tablets to create PC-like margins, they won't sell. If they price tablets aggressively (as they must) they may sell units but they won't make any money.

Awaiting the iPad3 and Preparing for When PCs Are 'Just the Work Computer'

Next Wednesday Apple will reveal the iPad3 (and potentially a new Apple TV), with an improved display and Siri among other features. Mobile ad network InMobi released consumer survey data last week finding that 29% of respondents were intent on buying the new iPad, with half of those reporting they don't currently own a tablet. Many people (44% of those intending to buy one) also said they wouldn't consider another brand.

Whether or not these survey findings turn out to be accurate they reflect the momentum and mindshare of the Apple tablet, which has sold nearly 60 million units on a global basis. However, when the first iPad was introduced in Q1 2010 it was met with considerable skepticism and predictions of failure. It was seen as an "unnecessary" product, delivering a "watered-down" Internet experience; it was also "too expensive" and "wouldn't fit in your pocket." 

A year later Dell also predicted that the iPad wouldn't succeed in the enterprise. However in Q3 2011 Apple reported that 93% of the Fortune 500 were testing or deploying the iPad. By comparison Dell recently announced that it's exiting the consumer PC business. This juxtaposition is essentially a metaphor for state the PC industry as a whole. 

Increasingly, instead of buying a second computer or laptop, US (and non-US) households will choose tablets. While there's still growth in the enterprise PC market the consumer PC market is flat-to-declining. Many analysts expect Apple to sell 50-60 million iPads this year. When iPads are considered "PCs" (which they are not), Apple becomes the largest "PC" vendor surpassing HP.  

Mobile display advertising outperforms PC display according to considerable research from InsightExpress and Dynamic Logic. Beyond this, ads on the iPad and other tablets further outperform conventional mobile dislay advertising. Engagement with tablets is higher than PCs and consumers have shown a willingness to buy things through tablets in far greater numbers than they have on smartphones. There's also mounting evidence that people are spending more time with mobile devices and tablets than on the PC Internet and even with TV (in some geographies), according to recent data from Flurry and InMobi.

The totality of all this data leads to the inevitable conclusion that PCs will be outnumbered by smartphones and tablets within a year or two. PCs and the PC-Internet experience will merely be one form of Internet access and not the primary way people access the Internet (except at work). We truly are in a "post-PC" era. (That was a Steve Jobs marketing slogan that is becoming factually true.) Microsoft hopes to change the trend with the introduction of Windows 8 of course. But Windows 8 will also work on tablets. Moreover its consumer success, however, is far from certain. 

Publishers and advertisers that fail to recognize these trends and act on them in the near term will be at a significant disadvantage. (Flash should be abandoned right now, for example.) Indeed, publishers and advertisers should shift the bulk of their attention and development resources away from the "PC Internet" and toward smartphones and tablet-optimized sites. Mobile and tablet site design should guide PC website design (as recently happened with the redesign of Kayak.) This is especially true for certain categories such as retail and travel.

The notion that mobile is just an extension of the PC-centric Web, which still prevails in many companies, is completely misguided.

US Smartphone Ownership Now Over 50% -- Pew

According to new data out this morning from Pew, the US mobile market has reached an important milestone: 50% smartphone owners. In fact Pew's survey data, which the polling firm says is representative of the US population, indicates 53% smartphone ownership.

By comparison, Nielsen says the number is 48% and comScore says it's 42%. Among select segments, however both Pew and Nielsen say smartphone penetration is considerably higher than 50%. According to Pew, for college graduates, 18-35 year olds and $75,000+ earners, smartphone ownership has crossed 60%. Nielsen says for some of those groups it's even higher (75%).

The graphic below is Nielsen's US smartphone ownership chart by age and income segment. For example, if those over age 55 are excluded from the sample, US smartphone penetration rises to roughly 75%. For people between the ages of 25 and 44 and making $100,000 or more per year, Nielsen says 77.5% own smartphones. 

SmartPhone_income-and-age

The Pew findings are qualified and explained, given potential consumer confusion over what qualifies as a smartphone: 

--45% of cell owners say that their phone is a smartphone, up from 33% in May 2011
--49% of cell owners say that their phone operates on a smartphone platform common to the US market, up from 39% in May 2011

Taken together, just over half of cell owners (53%) said yes to one or both of these questions and are classified as smartphone owners.

Tracking smartphone adoption and penetration was/is really a surrogate for other things: mobile Internet access -- people with smartphones behave differently than feature phone owners -- and the mobile ad opportunity. We should now collectively shift our focus to mobile operating system share (which people are obviously tracking) and mobile Internet adoption and frequency.