Mobile Platforms

Data Smackdown: Two Views of M-Commerce (Smartphones vs. Tablets)

E-commerce hosting and services provider MarketLive released a mid-year benchmarketing report yesterday, covering digital marketing and commerce trends through the lens of its many clients. There are many interesting findings. I'll focus however on the mobile aspects of the report, which appear to directly contradict a comScore m-commerce report released today.

The comScore data argue that there are many more e-commerce transactions happening on smartphones vs. tablets. This was something of a surprise to me. Accordingly, comScore puts the total value of US mobile-drive e-commerce at $10.6 billion for 1H 2013; 6% is from smartphones and 3.5% is from tablets.

mobile commerce

These numbers contradict everything I've seen about conversions and commerce on smartphones and tablets. One potential explanation may be that there are nearly 2X the number of smartphones as tablets in the US market.

However the MarketLive data, as mentioned, show something much more consistent with earlier findings I've seen from many sources: tablet e-commerce conversions are higher and tablets are driving a greater percentage of overall revenue than smartphones. 

According to the very busy MarkeLive slide below, smartphones drive more overall traffic but tablets generate considerably more revenue. MarketLive says that roughly 12% of e-commerce revenue for its clients are coming from tablets, whereas only 2.7% is coming from smartphones. However 19% of traffic comes from smartphones vs. 13% of visits from tablets. 

Tablet conversions are 3X conversions on smartphones. 

I cannot reconcile the comScore data with the MarketLive data. The weight of evidence is on the side of MarketLive however. 

Mobile Teens Voice Privacy Concerns, Facebook Offers More Privacy Control

This morning the Pew Internet & American Life project released new data on teen app usage and mobile privacy. The big "takeaway" is that teens care very much about privacy and have taken action against (deleted) mobile apps they feel unnecessarily or gratuitously collect personal information or location data.

Pew says that 78% of teens have a mobile phone (though not all have smartphones) and 23% have tablets. The teen smartphone penetration number is probably 58%, given that's the number of teens who have downloaded mobile apps. 

Just over half (51%) "have avoided apps due to privacy concerns" while 26% have uninstalled an app because it was collecting personal data. And 46% of teen mobile users have turned off location tracking features (on their phone or in an app) out of concern for privacy. 

Teens and location tracking

Teens are more forgiving of apps that seek location data where there's a logical and clear justification for the information (e.g., maps). Girls are more likely to disable location tracking than boys; 59% of girls vs. 37% of boys have done so. 

Separately but still on the theme of privacy, Facebook announced today that it would give more control to Facebook mobile log-in users over what information is shared by third party apps on the Facebook Timeline and News Feed. Here's what the company said today in its announcement:

Although Facebook Login is widely used, we understand people’s concerns about apps posting on their Timeline or to their friends. For the past several months, we’ve been rolling out a new version of Facebook Login on mobile to address these concerns.

With this new update, mobile apps using Facebook Login must now separately ask you for permission to post back to Facebook.

Don’t want to share your music playlist or workout routine with friends? You can choose to skip sharing altogether.

Clearly separating sharing means people can decide whether they only want to use Facebook Login for fast registration without also sharing back to Facebook. If you want to share later, you still can.

This involuntary sharing element was a selling point for publishers and developers but a turn-off to many users. It became a significant barrier for some to using Facebook log-in for third party apps/sites.

By separating sharing from social log-ins Facebook hopes to remove friction for many people who might log in with Facebook but don't today for privacy reasons. I'm in that group. 

Facebook Closing in on $4B Mobile Run Rate

To say that Facebook's mobile ad revenue growth has been impressive is an understatement. It has been, what you might call, meteoric.

In the course of a 12 month period the company has gone from less than 10% of ad revenue from mobile to 41% in Q2 of this year. By the end of this year (or very early next) 50% of Facebook's ad revenue will likely come from mobile. (By comparison, in 2012 more than half of Twitter's ad revenues came from mobile.)

Facebook mobile ad revenue growth

In Q2 '13 Facebook made more than $650 million in mobile ad revenue. If current trends continue expect Facebook to have a $1 billion mobile quarter by 1H 2014 (and possibly Q1 earnings). That would enable the company to claim a $4 billion annual mobile-ad revenue run rate.  

Based on averages and simple math, Facebook made roughly $0.80 per mobile user in Q2 on a global basis -- up from $0.50 in Q1 of this year. However developed markets offer more revenue than emerging markets and so the revenue generated per mobile user will vary considerably from market to market in practice.

Facebook monetization per mobile user

In 2010 we asked "How Long Before Facebook is a Mobile Ad Network?" and predicted that when Facebook turned on mobile ads it would immediately become the largest mobile "network." 

As formidable as Facebook is becoming in mobile Google is still dominant globally. Incredibly, Mountain View is expected to capture more than 50% of mobile revenues on a global basis this year. Facebook claims a much smaller percentage of mobile revenues, but still ranks as the number two player in mobile advertising today. 

Most Smartphone Commerce Happening in the House

As apps and websites become optimized for mobile commerce, and as the "credit card problem" is addressed (see TheFind and Jumio), there will be more buying on smartphones. Most retailers and brands currently assume smartphone transactions happen on the go or in stores (or on other devices). In the home e-commerce is supposed to be the domain of PCs (and increasingly tablets).

The conventional wisdom is that smartphones are more heavily used for shopping out of home and that's been supported by prior survey data. Yet data released yesterday by Nielsen tell a somewhat different and more nuanced story.

Americans are indeed buying things on their smartphones (24%) but they're mostly doing it at home: 72% of people making purchases on their smartphones did so at home and not "on the go," as one would have expected. Only 3% of smartphone owners buying things on their devices did so in stores; 6% did so in their cars. The remainder, 18%, fall into an unidentified "other" bucket. 

It's interesting that smartphones are so widely used for commerce-related activities (store locators) on the go but buying happens at home. Nielsen doesn't offer any real explanation however. It may be that the "immediacy" and availability of the device make it a preferred option for some. 

There's also no data about audience segments. It would be interesting to see if these at-home smartphone transactors are younger, older and whether they have other devices available to them. 

Regardless this is another "wake up call" arguing that marketers and retailers need to quickly optimize e-commerce experiences for smartphones. 

Acxiom, 4INFO Announce Deal for CRM-Based Mobile Ad Targeting

The reinvented 4INFO announced a deal with Acxiom this morning that is consistent with the way mobile and the broader digital advertising markets are evolving: advanced targeting and in-store/sales lift measurement.

According to the release, "The partnership provides US consumer brands new levels of mobile advertising precision and confidence for customer relationship campaigns, including the ability to measure results where it counts — at the cash register." Accordingly, companies will be able to use their own data to target existing customers (and prospects) on mobile devices -- and then track response to the point of sale and see direct sales impact.

Facebook has a similar product and relationship with Acxiom. At Facebook "Custom Audiences" allows companies to find and target their own customers on the site or in mobile. Catalina has a deal with 4INFO that leverages the former's purchase history data so that third party CPG companies and others can target buyers of specific products/product categories. But the 4INFO-Acxiom CRM-based targeting and sales measurement may be a first (other than Facebook) in mobile. 

Behind the scenes the advertiser's CRM/customer data (or Acxiom audience data) are matched with 4INFO's database on a 1:1 basis. 4INFO claims profiles of 152 million mobile devices covering 101 million US households.

4INFO will also be making Acxiom audience segments data available to its "AdHaven Bullseye" advertisers. Most of the ad inventory 4INFO uses come from mobile exchanges. 

It's worth repeating; what's significant about the announcement are the ways that it's a kind of harbinger of the future:

  1. Increasingly sophisticated and precise mobile targeting
  2. Ability to measure in-store/sales impact 

As I've argued elsewhere in-store/sales measurement will become an almost mandatory requirement of many mobile campaigns (depending on the objectives). There are now multiple companies including Placed, PlaceIQ, uSamp and others offering the capacity to measure in-store lift from mobile campaigns. Being tied into CRM databases offers even greater accuracy in terms of measuring sales impact. 

Once these methodologies become more widely available and understood, advertisers will demand them. Placed and PlaceIQ will be talking about ad tracking to the point of sale and in-store measurement at Place 2013. The early bird conference rate expires this week. To take advantage register today

Has Android 'Peaked' in the US?

Android's share (of smartphone shipments) across the globe is gaining momentum according to the latest IDC numbers. By contrast there's evidence that Android's US share may have "peaked" according to analysis from Asymco's Horace Dediu. 

Below are IDC's estimates showing global market share for Q2 by shipments: 

  • Android: 79.3% (2012: 69.1%)
  • iOS: 13.2%  (2012: 16.6%)
  • Windows Phone: 3.7%  (2012: 3.1%)
  • BlackBerry: 2.9%  (2012: 4.9%) 
  • Others: 1%  (2012: 6.2%) 

Thus Android stands near 80% of global smartphone shipments, which aren't identical with sales. But it's a directional indication of actual sales.  

However in the US market the story is different; Android's share is flat (per comScore): 

smartphone market share june by OS 

Dediu points out that over the past six to eight months in the US the iPhone has gained more usage than Android (11M vs. 6.6M users). So it would appear that Apple's US and international fortunes have significantly diverged. 

However we also have research from CIRP, which finds (via survey data) that "first time smartphone buyers" in the US (meaning those buying smartphones for the first time now) tend to be older and more price sensitive. They buy "secondary Android brands" (e.g., LG) and keep their phones longer. 

Apple's strategy for more price-sensitive consumers has been the iPhone 4 and 4S, which has been reasonably successful to date. However rumors suggest a low-cost "plastic" iPhone for emerging markets and more price-conscious consumers. 

When looked at in the context of overall computer operating systems (including the PC), Android will be the dominant OS by 2015 on a global basis -- far outstripping Windows. By comparision, Apple's overall OS share (iOS + Mac OS) is expected to nearly match Windows. 

Nielsen: US Smartphone Penetration Now 62%

Nielsen revised slightly upward its smartphone penetration data for the US market. Last quarter the figure was 61%; as of today Nielsen says that 62% of American adults own smartphones. 

Kantar research has been arguing that their data show the rise of Windows Phones in the US. However the Nielsen numbers reflect that in Q2 Windows Phones had just 2.3% market share. BlackBerry had 3%. And the remainder, 92%, was divided between the iPhone and Android. 

Apple continues to be the single leading smartphone OEM, followed by Samsung. Motorola, HTC and LG are closely arrayed after that.  

file

Motorola is hoping to "reboot" its brand and sales with the new Moto X. What's perhaps most fascinating about the handset is that it targets women specifically, by positioning the phone as a personal fashion accessory.

Motorola's former (pre-Google) strategy had been very spec- and male-centric. The company had even attacked the iPhone at one point for being a "princess." At least with this model (Moto X) it's a dramatic shift for the company. 

Conflicting Claims: Which Smartphone Is More 'Satisfying'?

Last week the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released findings asserting that the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note II beat the iPhone 5 for customer satisfaction. The Galaxy S4 was not part of the study, which was conducted before the device's release. Somewhat Ironically, Korean consumers said the opposite: that they preferred Apple devices to Samsung's. 

Here are the US ACSI scores by device: 

Smartphone Customer Satisfaction 2013

Survey questions addressed the following areas:

  • Design (including weight and screen size)
  • General handset features
  • Video and audio quality
  • Software and ease of use (including OS and UI) 

What's interesting is that Apple rates higher than Samsung overall in the ACSI company scores -- though Samsung has closed the gap vs. 2012: 

 

Apple more handily beats Samsung in the JD Power ratings, where the iPhone 5 contributed to Apple's overall 2013 smartphone win. In the JD Power satisfaction scoring, Samsung is at the bottom of the group. How can these conflicting scores (within the ACSI and between ACSI and JD Power) be reconciled?

 

The ACSI report offers no real explanation for the Galaxy and Galaxy Note wins. Other than screen specs, Samsung's phones are not the highest quality Android devices on the market. Arguably HTC, LG and perhaps Motorola have stronger offerings from an overall quality perspective. However Samsung outspends them all (combined) on marketing, which has been the chief driver of the Galaxy line's success. 

My suspicion is that consumers are responding to screen size more than any other single variable or factor in rating the Galaxy S3 and Note II above the iPhone. This underscores the larger-screen imperative that Apple now confronts. The company needs to produce an iPhone with a larger screen. And according to multiple rumors, that will happen with the iPhone 6 though not the "5S," which is supposed to retain its current screen of just over 4 inches.

The new Google-Motorola Moto X chose not match the S4 and go to 5 inches after the company did considerable consumer research and arrived at 4.7 inches as the optimal screen span. Accordingly, an ideal screen size for a smartphone is probably right in-between the current iPhone 5 (4 inches) and the Galaxy S4 (5 inches). 

Moto X: Google Turns the Whole Phone into a Personal Assistant

There are a number of interesting things about Googlerola's just-released Moto X. First, it emphasizes design over specs. The latter had always been the hallmark of Motorola's previous Android ("Droid") phones. The new phone also allows for an unprecedented degree of customization:

  • 22 phone back covers (including wood)
  • 7 trim-band colors
  • White or black front/face

In fact, the way the phone is presented on the Motorola site makes it effectively into a fashion accessory. However that's how many people do treat their smartphones today. The customization, which is smart, is apparently made possible because the phone is manufactured in Texas (rather than China). 

But beyond those things, the phone can be activated or invoked without touching it. Users can speak commands to the phone and get responses or create reminders, set alarms and so on. Like Google Glass, Google Now can be initiated with a "wake up" phrase: "OK Google Now." This effectively turns the entire phone into a personal assistant. The TV spot linked below demonstrates this positioning and the functionality in action.

Previously Google Now and voice actions on Android devices had to be initiated by touching the screen: swiping up or touching the microphone icon. That's not required here (I haven't had a chance to use the device). Google/Motorola are using this "always ready" assistant capability to make the device stand out from both the iPhone and other Android devices. Below is one of the new TV commercials for the Moto X, which showcases how Google Now is now being "personified" -- much more like Siri than in the past.

Moto X is priced at $199 with a two-year carrier contract in the US. There will be a Google Play edition but there's no word at this point on unlocked pricing.

Why the Future of Mobile Payments Looks More Like OpenTable than ISIS

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that carrier-backed and NFC-based mobile payments venture ISIS would begin rolling out nationally:

The nearly three-year-old venture, known as Isis, plans to announce Wednesday that it will launch the payment service nationwide later this year after nine months of testing . . . 

Isis said that the pilot tests' findings will be incorporated into the latest version of the system. Among other things, the test showed that active users tapped their phones for payment more than 10 times a month. Two-thirds of active users chose to receive offers and messages from specific brands, according to the test results.

While mobile payments will eventually be widespread -- different global markets are seeing varying rates of development and adoption -- the near-term future of mobile payments in the US looks less like ISIS and much more like OpenTable's new (vertical) payments offering.

The NY Times yesterday reported that the restaurant reservations app will soon incorporate no-frills mobile payments:

The payment process, still in testing, will be straightforward, Matthew Roberts, chief executive of OpenTable, said in an interview. At the end of a meal, the diner would open the OpenTable app and pay the check with the tap of a button. The diner can review the check, adjust the tip and finish the payment.

“There’s no scanning, there’s no bar codes, there’s no geeky stuff,” Mr. Roberts said. He said that OpenTable would not take a cut of each transaction if a diner paid with the app. The restaurant would be charged the typical interchange fee for a credit card transaction. The simple transactions through the app are another way to attract people to use OpenTable, which charges restaurants for reservations made through the service as well as a monthly service charge for using its equipment.

In individual store and specific vertical contexts mobile payments are starting to take hold in the US. That's because consumers see concrete value or convenience in using mobile apps to pay (parking is my favorite example). Arguably the most successful example of mobile payments in the US to date is the Starbucks app.

As a general matter, however, credit cards remain very easy to use and there's no common standard or experience available across merchants. Most US consumers don't see a justification for mobile payments in the abstract. But "in the moment" or in very specific situations consumers can recognize their value. 

The transition to NFC-based payments will probably still take years in the US market -- unless the next iPhone enables them (ISIS wants to expand to iOS). But there's a significant, immediate opportunity for vertical apps like OpenTable to cultivate consumer mobile payments usage. Mobile payments through the OpenTable app also may create more loyalty and frequency vs. competitors such as Yelp or TripAdvisor.

I believe that these very concrete use cases will help train consumers to trust and adopt mobile wallets/payments, which will eventually pave the way for services such as ISIS or Google Wallet. However it will be 3 - 5 years before there's strong, national consumer usage (and merchant adoption) of these "horizontal" payments offerings. 

By contrast people will be using OpenTable payments as soon as OpenTable flips the switch. 

Mobile Credit-Card Scanning Should Be Ubiquitous

Dan Miller and I took a briefing with Jumio this morning. Jumio is an authentication and identity management platform (mischaracterized originally as "augmented reality"). The company has been around since 2010. 

It has two major products that rely on the same technology. Netswipe helps facilitate transactions on mobile apps and Netverify enables accurate remote identity authentication for fraud prevention. I'll focus on the former but the latter is very impressive and worthy of its own discussion later.

Jumio works in the same way that Card.io did. Using an SDK developers embed the Jumio solution within their apps. When the consumer is ready to complete a transaction or check out (book a room, flight or make another kind of purchase), she merely scans the desired credit card and enters the CVV number manually. The transaction takes a fraction of the time that would otherwise be required if she were to key in 16 digits, enter her address information, etc. 

If you've already got your credit card and related information on file (see, e.g., Amazon, iTunes) there's less of a need for this approach. However developers should offer it to new customers as a way to generally eliminate barriers for consumers, and capture credit card details for faster checkout next time.

Jumio competitor Card.io was acquired by PayPal one year ago, leaving Jumio as the lone independent vendor of this type card-scanning technology. Every mobile publisher and developer should be using Jumio or Card.io to improve conversion rates and the customer experience. Beyond mobile transaction-abandonment, frustrating users reflects poorly on the brand according to many studies.

Accordingly, every mobile developer should be using a mobile card-scanning solution as one way to remove friction from mobile transactions. It's not clear why they might not, except for perhaps for ignorance, lethargy and inertia. I could also imagine this approach as an alternative to card swipes in stores, although that's less necessary.  

Jumio has adopted a flat-fee SaaS model. Customers pay a fixed monthly fee for an unlimited number of transactions. 

It's rare instance where consumer and merchant interests are entirely aligned. But here they are: more secure and faster transactions for the merchant and consumer, as well as fewer charge backs and fraud. It's kind of a "no brainer." 

Below is a promotion video that explains the Jumio Netswipe offering: 

Apple's $35.3 billion Quarter Visualized

Apple just reported a $35.3 billion quarter, which was somewhat better than a year ago and beat financial analyst expectations -- largely on the strength of iPhone sales. The company also announced profit was $6.9 billion (vs. $8.8 billion a year ago). Sales outside North America accounted for 57% of revenue.

The company sold 31.2 million iPhones (vs. 26 million a year ago). But it sold fewer iPads than expected:14.6 million. Mac sales were down but Macs outperformed the PC industry as a whole, which is slumping badly. 

Below are two charts that show the distribution of revenues by segment/geography and by product line (figures in $billions): 

Unit sales of iPads were a concern for many financial analysts. The company sold 14.6 million tablet devices compared with 17 million last year and more than 19 million last quarter. While this implies market share erosion or shift away from the iPad, today Chitika released data showing that in North America at least, the iPad's web traffic share had grown since April and now stands at just over 84%. 

June iPad traffic

Source: Chitika

While Apple continues to generate huge quarterly revenues growth has slowed or declined in some cases. Accordingly there's enormous pressure from investors to bring out new products or create new product categories: TV, wearables, etc. On the earnings call Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said, “We are on track to have a very busy fall" though he wouldn't elaborate.

New iPads and iPhones are expected to be introduced. There may even be "surprise" products such as the rumored iWatch. 

Report: Apple Considering Building a 'Phablet'

The term "phablet," used to describe devices that operate like a phone but approach the size of small tablets, is horrible. But what may be more horrible is that Apple is reportedly considering creating one, potentially mimicking Samsung's strategy of a range of devices of differing screen sizes. 

Samsung is throwing a lot of mobile device spaghetti at the refrigerator, metaphorically speaking, to see what sticks with consumers. One might even describe its strategy as "incoherent." Nonetheless Apple may be moving toward introducing more devices with various screen sizes. That's according to an article in the Wall Street Journal:

The tests with suppliers seem to suggest that Apple is exploring ways to capture diversifying customer needs when many mobile device makers offer smartphones and tablets in various sizes.

In addition to potentially developing a device in-between the iPhone and current iPad mini, Apple is also apparently experimenting with larger screens for iPads. Most of these prototype experiments probably won't come to market.  

The huge-screened Samsung Galaxy Note has proven popular; however it's unclear how many units have sold. Indeed, Samsung has been the primary creator of market demand for larger-screen smartphones. And now Apple is feeling pressure to respond with a larger-screen iPhone. However that's not likely to be the 5S, due out later this year.

It might make sense for Apple to offer two iPhones: one with the current screen (small) and one with a 5-inch screen (large). However beyond that it makes little sense for Apple to go.

When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple as CEO 1997 one of the first things he did was to simplify Apple's product lineup, which had become cluttered and confusing to consumers. This is the danger if Apple tries to follow Samsung and create multiple device screen sizes.

Consumers do want a larger-screen iPhone but they haven't been asking for multiple devices of incrementally larger screens. It's also not clear that anyone wants or cares about a larger iPad. Maybe one with a slightly larger screen would be interesting but that would need to entirely replace the current iPad.

It makes sense for Apple to have four devices at most: iPhone (two screen sizes perhaps), iPad Mini and iPad. Beyond this the product lineup becomes muddled and confusing. And to the extent that Apple seeks to imitate Samsung's approach it may indicate the company has lost confidence in its vision. 

Retailers Fail to Connect with Customers Via In-Store Technologies

While countless retailer apps and mobile websites are designed specifically to deliver an "omnichannel" experience -- tracking a customer through the lifecycle of a purchase -- retailers are missing out on opportunities to engage customers through in-store technologies, says a new report by EKN Research.

A survey of more than 60 large retailers found just 13% of retailers are offering in-store features for mobile apps indicating a significant gap in leveraging the use of smartphones or mobile devices for customer engagement.

In terms of providing the infrastructure for ubiquitous connectivity, only 1 in 5 retailers currently offer free in-store wi-fi, with 42% of retailers having no intention of ever offering free wi-fi in stores.

InStore_Technologies_Jul8

Mobile technologies may offer new opportunities for customers but many retailers are not willing to make the investment. The report finds that IT spending on store technologies will remain relatively flat in the next three years, representing 31% of the total IT budget in 2013. Though the share is expected to increase to 35% by 2016.

"In 2013, increasing store operations efficiency remains retailers’ top goal from investments in store technologies. Running an efficient store should be table stakes for mature retailers, and their top goal should focus more directly on improving customer engagement. EKN views this as evidence that the focus hasn’t yet shifted for a majority of the retailers."

This news comes on the heels of a recent comScore report that found consumers are open to communications from retailers on their mobile devices with 47% of shoppers willing to have a retailer to send a coupon to their smartphone when they are in-store or nearby.

And previous data suggest a majority of mobile users are accessing retailers' websites for in-store sales or customer service functions.

We'll be exploring the current pulse of retailers and in-store marketing technologies at our upcoming Place Conference this October in San Francisco.

Superman Can't Save Nokia, But Can Iron Man Help HTC?

Nokia paid for product placement in the wildly popular Dark Knight films and released a special Batman-themed Lumia 900 when The Dark Knight Rises was released. The short answer: no, it didn't really "work."

Nokia Windows Phones (Lumia 925) also appear several times in the also extremely popular Man of Steel. Apparently in the alternate reality of Metropolis Nokia-made Windows Phones are the only smartphones in existence. However even the Man of Steel with all his remarkable alien abilities and strength probably won't do much for Lumia handset sales. 

The Superman film is opening in China this week and Nokia is offering a Chinese "Superman Limited Edition" Lumia 925 with the "hope" (S) insignia on the back. Depending on how excited the Chinese are by Man of Steel there may be some sales lift. However the Chinese market is dominated by Android devices. 

Meanwhile over in the Marvel universe (Superman is a DC Comics character), Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr. is reportedly being paid $12 million in a two-year deal to promote HTC smartphones. It doesn't look like the Iron Man character is part of the deal or will appear in the ads. 

Downey is a recognizable and popular celebrity but he probably isn't powerful enough -- at least without the Iron Man suit -- to compete with Samsung's Galaxy juggernaut (The Avengers might collectively have a shot at defeating it). The Korean company spent over $400 million in 2012 to achieve and maintain its Android smartphone lead. That compares with HTC's $46 million and Nokia's almost non-existent $13 million. 

Office Comes to the iPhone -- by Necessity

Microsoft has been in a kind of "double-bind." It has been trying to use Office integration with Windows Phone and Surface tablets to differentiate those products vs iOS and Android. However they haven't been selling particularly well (save in a few isolated countries). Yet the longer Microsoft held Office back from iOS (and Android) the more it faced the prospect of people getting used to alternative software or (Google) docs in the cloud.

Rumored for a very long time, today Office officially comes to the iPhone in app form (though not the iPad). In order to use the app iPhone owners must be subscribers to Office 365. It also requires iOS 6.1 as well and works on the iPhone 4 and above. 

The product appears to require a SkyDrive account in addition but that may be a built-in feature of Office 365. (I'm not a subscriber.) 

The new iPhone app allows users to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. However you can only create Word and Excel documents on the app. Users will also be able to edit docs "offline" and they will sync when the connection is resumed (think airplane flight). Microsoft promises that "formatting and content remain intact" on the iPhone and back to the 365 documents in the cloud.

As mentioned, there's no Office for iPad app but that will ultimately come in all probability. For the time being iPad users can access Office 365 through the browser. So effectively Office is available for the iPad. 

There are now hundreds of millions of iOS devices in the market globally. This year more tablets are expected to ship than laptops and by 2015 more tablets than PCs in general. In the aggregate there will be more "mobile device" users than PC users in the very near future. Thus Microsoft was all but compelled to bring Office to iOS (Android users can access via the browser). 

After Windows, Office is Microsoft's most important and lucrative product -- generating rougly $25 billion in revenue last year. The rise of mobile devices puts enormous pressure on both product lines. However the arrival of Office for iOS means there's less reason to buy a Surface tablet. 

Google Will Start to Punish Sites not Optimized for Mobile

There's a great deal of debate and discussion about the right approaches to mobile site development in the "SEO community." Should people build dedicated mobile sites; should they use responsive design; what about dynamic serving? The debates revolve around three considerations: complexity, optimal user experience and impact on mobile visibility (chiefly in Google search results).

Yesterday morning Google posted on its "Webmaster Central" blog that desktop sites using faulty or "irrelevant" redirects -- sending people on smartphones to the mobile site homepage, "page not found" pages or otherwise the wrong page in mobile -- would potentially suffer ranking consequences in mobile search results. 

Google expressed concern that "irrelevant redirects" are frustrating and disruptive to users -- and by implication reduce confidence in Google's mobile results. The company didn't address the precise ranking implications of not following its recommendations. However sites that don't correctly send people from PC pages to equivalent mobile pages will be demoted in the future.  

This is part of a larger push by Google to create good mobile user experiences and reinforce mobile search among consumers.

Last year, in a first, Google recommended responsive web design. Most marketers accepted that as gospel accordingly. However Google did not say that responsive was mandatory or recommended in every single case. It's certainly the lowest common denominator solution for publishers (though not always easiest to implement). 

Yet there are many reasons why "responsive" may not yield the best user experience overall (page load time, different mobile user intent, etc.). Regardless, Google is beginning to compel publishers to pay more attention to mobile user experiences (if they're not already) or suffer the ranking consequences. 

Google Becomes More Like Siri, As Siri Becomes More Like Google

It's fascinating to watch Google evolve from a "search engine" into something much more interesting and complex. The rise of mobile, the launch of Google Now, the improvements in voice search and the more recent, conceptual introduction of what Google is calling "conversational search" all point to where search at Google is headed.

The search metaphor is giving way to the personal assistant metaphor. The entry of Siri in the market roughly two years ago was the trigger of the transition.

Google search boss Amit Singhal was deeply enamored of Star Trek as a boy and, like others at Google, has openly fantasized about building the "Star Trek computer." In other words, a computer one could simply speak to naturally and get correct and complete information. 

Google Now, also sometimes called "predictive search," tries to go beyond that purely "conversational" scenario by anticipating user needs and interests based on big data and personal search history (and movements). Google Now is highly imperfect but when it works it's impressive. 

While Google has only recently sought to move in the direction of "personal assistant," Siri has always been an "assistant" but only recently aspired to be a search utility. Siri was explicitly conceived as a tool that would enable the accomplishment of specific tasks and not simply the retrieval and display of information.

As Apple has added more structured data feeds to what Siri can access it has improved -- much of Siri's value for users still comes from controlling the device and initiating calls, texts and emails rather than "searching" -- however the great "Achilles heel" for Siri has been its limited dataset and lack of flexibility. 

Although it wasn't true when Siri was first introduced, Google has now exceeded Siri by bringing its web-search capabilities and into the virtual assistant equation. Google has a much deeper (albeit mostly unstructured) knowledge base to call upon vs. Apple. Thus for numerous questions where Siri didn't have a structured response it would have to default to web search (i.e., Google): "I didn't understand XYZ [query], shall I search the web for XYZ."

Google would then ride to the rescue. In the Google universe it can bring increasingly structured answers to the same user queries but also its full index as a backup. 

With the coming integration of Twitter, Wikipedia and especially Bing into Siri's roster of data sources with iOS7, Apple adds a full web index and much more breadth to what Siri can do without having to hand off to a third party search engine (i.e., Google). And unlike current scenarios where users typically have to explicitly ask Siri to "search the web" to obtain XYZ information, soon they'll just ask for "XYZ" -- and Bing will supply the necessary or desired information.

The deal has potential to dramatically broaden Siri's utility and usage frequency. Equally it could, if successful, significantly increase search query volume coming to Bing from iPhone users. The integration will need to be very "elegant" to win over users, who are accustomed to either using apps or Google in the Safari toolbar to "search the web" on the iPhone. Users will need to be educated about Siri's new capabilities.

The integration of Bing's search capabilities is a "crossing the Rubicon" of sorts for Apple as it declares that comprehensive data and search capabilities are necessary to fully deliver on the promise of the personal-virtual assistant. 

Pew: 81 Million US Adults Own Tablets

According to telephone survey data (n=2,252) released this morning by The Pew Internet & Life Project, 34% of US adults now own tablets. What that means as a practical matter is: 81 million adults. There may also be 20 million more people in the US under 18 who own tablets. (Our house has four.) 

I think it's relatively safe to say that if the number of tablets in the US isn't yet 100 million it's extremely close.  

A large majority of tablet owners are substituting tablets for PC usage in many instances and either buying fewer PCs overall or delaying PC replacement for a much longer period. This morning Apple will open its developer conference. A upgraded iPad/Mini is not expected to be among the announcements but it's possible. 

. Pew tablet ownership

As with other device categories, the story is largely the same with tablets. Penetration rates are higher among college educated (49%) and more affluent adults (56%). Affluent means at least $75,000 in income.   

The chart above reflects the growth of tablets since 2010 when only 3% reported tablet ownership. It's possible that by Q4 of 2014 half of the US adult population will have tablets (and 75% of affluents).

Global tablet shipments this year are expected to exceed those of laptop computers according to IDC. IDC also argues most of those sales will be at the lower end of the market (size, price).

Last week both Pew and Nielsen reported that 61% of mobile subscribers now own smartphones.  

It's Official: 61% of US Mobile Subscribers Have Smartphones

Earlier this week survey data from the Pew Internet Project argued that 61% of US adult mobile subscribers now own smartphones. Today Nielsen announced agreement with that number:

More than three out of five (61%) mobile subscribers in the U.S. owned a smartphone during the most recent three-month period (March-May 2013), up more than 10 percent since smartphones became the mobile majority in early 2012.

Comscore, for its part, says that the percentage of mobile users with smartphones is slightly less: 58%. Overall we're talking about 140 - 150 million people in the US now with smartphones.

In terms of OS market share, Nielsen reports that Android has 53% of the US smartphone market, while Apple controls 40%.

By comparison comScore says that it's 52% (Android) to 39% (Apple). Kantar (a market research division of WPP) shows a generally similar set of market share metrics for Android and iOS (iPhone).

comscore smartphones April 2013 US market

Source: comScore 

Kantar mobile market share data

Source: Kantar Worldpanel ComTech  

Where these market-share data disagree is with respect to Windows and BlackBerry. Nielsen says Windows Phone has 2% of the US smartphone market, while comScore says it's 3% and Kantar says it's closing in on 6%. 

If we look at actual web traffic in the US, the relationship between Android and iOS flips. (Here iOS may well include the iPad.) Internationally Android is ahead.

The following are StatCounter data showing traffic being driven by each of the major mobile operating systems:

US market:

  • iOS: 54%
  • Android: 40%
  • Windows Phone: 1.3%
  • Other: 4.7%

Globally:

  • Android: 38%
  • iOS: 26%
  • Symbian: 8%
  • BlackBerry: 3.5%
  • Windows Phone: 1.3%
  • Other: 23%