Operating Systems

Carriers Unite in Launch Long-Shot Apps Bid

Everybody's got an apps store, including many carriers. But the carriers increasingly see themselves becoming marginal players, ISPs providing the data connection while software and hardware providers take their place at the center of the mobile universe. Today at GSM a consortium of global operators announced an initiative aimed at creating an open apps ecosystem to bolster and improve their "relevance" to end users.

Called the Wholesale Applications Community, it consists of the following carriers to start:

América Móvil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind

A selection of these companies are also part of the Google-led Android Open Handset Alliance

The stated objective of the group is the following:

The alliance's stated goal is to create a wholesale applications ecosystem that – from day one – will establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world. In the immediate future the alliance will seek to unite members' developer communities and create a single, harmonised point of entry to make it easy for developers to join.

This makes sense and may work for feature phones and in-between devices that are not feature phones but not quite smartphones. However it's unlikely to have much impact on smartphone users/owners. With moves like allowing VoIP over 3G (see Verizon and Skype's anticipated announcement), carriers are becoming less and less central to the user experience. (Indeed, they will likely see the erosion of voice revenues in the near-term.) They provide the pipe and not much else. 

Vodafone has perhaps been the most aggressive of the carriers in offering cross-platform social tools in Vodafone 360 and a range of developer APIs. The company is also getting more involved with mobile advertising. Location and demographic targeting data can be offered to third party networks with a revenue share to the carrier. 

Apple changed the mobile landscape and smartphones forever by making the device and platform more important than the data/voice provider. Carriers are reacting and struggling to play catch-up with moves like this, as ambitious as it sounds.

Notwithstanding this impressive lineup, it's very unlikely that the operators will have much success with consumer services/software for smartphone owners. However I believe there's still a massive feature-phone opportunity that's largely being neglected -- and that's where their efforts should be concentrated. That's where this consortium and its developer community can really play and potentially succeed. 


Related: Google reportedly believes the effort won't succeed.

And speaking of carriers and advertising . . . Orange is rolling out ambitious MMS/SMS marketing throughout its European and some Middle Eastern markets: 

Building on its UK success, Orange is sharing innovation across its footprint, starting in Spain this month with new interactive ad-supported service, Mio. Orange is taking a different approach with Mio, offering all mobile customers in Spain the chance to opt-in, reaching beyond youth audiences. Mio customers will receive gifts, content and the opportunity to win monthly and annual prizes. Interactive SMS and MMS advertising campaigns will roll-out to other Orange markets in 2010. Other mobile advertising trials are also taking place in Egypt and Jordan in the first half of this year, allowing for expansion into emerging markets, as well as mature markets.

The operator has partnered with Blyk in the UK and Velti in Spain, as part of the program. 

WinMo 7: Is It Truly 'Do or Die' for Microsoft?

Windows Mobile 7 (and maybe a few other things) are being formally announced today in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. As a quick digression, there will be dozens of announcements coming out of the show; most will be of little consequence. But Microsoft supporters and critics alike are waiting to see whether Windows Mobile 7 can surprise, excite and reverse the growing downward marketshare trend that the OS has experienced over the past year.

There's been recent speculation about whether Microsoft might attempt to buy RIM as a way to "get back in the game." It's unlikely however when you consider that RIM is worth about $40 billion and Microsoft's biggest acquisition to date was aQuantive for about $6 billion. While it could be done hypothetically for cash and stock -- Microsoft's cash on hand is about $36 billion -- a bid for RIM would be a desperation move and a very last-ditch effort.

Certainly there's a logic here about the enterprise market that makes sense and is partly driving the rumor. Palm is a better choice (and much cheaper at $1.7 billion) in many respects but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly isn't interested. Meanwhile Palm's handsets, introduced to much fanfare, are now languishing essentially.

Redmond, which bought the Danger OS a couple years ago, believes that it still has a shot with WinMo 7, which reportedly won't offer Flash. (We're also waiting for the rumored Microsoft-branded phone that is code-named project Pink.)

Because of Microsoft's cash position and resources -- as well as the strategic imperative to succeed in mobile -- you cannot dismiss the company, really ever. However it will have a big challenge to overcome the mounting skepticism that it can match and catch Apple, RIM and Android with the forthcoming OS upgrade.

Mobile Web vs Apps Takes a Turn with Adobe Air

There are a number of firms out there that promise "write once, publish to multiple platforms as native apps." Those companies include Appcelerator and Rhomobile (among others). Add Adobe to that list with the release of Adobe Air for mobile. The company's vision is that developers will use Air and create cross-platform "native" apps for multiple smartphone operating systems simultaneously.

By no means an original vision or idea, if this can be achieved by Adobe it will likely mean that the expected migration from apps to HTML5 (mobile Web apps) will not necessarily happen or, perhaps more accurately, happen as quickly. It now becomes a race between Adobe and HTML5 as the company struggles to make itself relevant in mobile. (There were suggestions that Adobe was trying to prevent the current HTML5 "spec" from being published.)

Apple has blocked and publicly disparaged Adobe Flash for mobile. Adobe's announced relationship with Android is a bit of an intentional poke in the eye to Apple. But back to the central question at hand.

This "Air for mobile" announcement and its promise is an example of why mobile is so hard to predict at the moment. People assume that apps won't survive but they could we under a true cross-platform publishing tool. Apps offer a generally better user experience and if they're easy to publish across the top platforms developers will do so for obvious reasons (they also can't make any money off mobile Web apps). 

That doesn't mean that HTML5 or mobile Web apps wouldn't develop as well. Indeed, mobile websites (Web apps) will probably be developed in HTML5 going forward. It just means that the obituary for apps is perhaps been written too soon. 

It's Opera vs. Firefox in the Battle of Independents

Opera showed off a version of its browser for the iPhone (though officially no third party browsers are on the iPhone) that it will demo in Barcelona next week. Hopefully Apple will allow other browsers to be made available on the iPhone and iPad -- or risk an anti-trust issue (see Microsoft and its history with IE). This one-browser-only policy will especially become a problem for Apple if the iPad sells briskly. 

Regardless, and notwithstanding the presence of Skyfire and Dolphin and one or two more providers, the battle of the independent mobile browsers is going to come down to Opera (the incumbent) and Firefox (the insurgent).

I got a demo of Firefox mobile on the N900 from Mozilla's Jay Sullivan last Friday. I know Jay from his PocketThis days (subsquently bought by CallGenie) but he's much in demand as the head of mobile development at Mozilla. I was impressed with what I saw and won't do a review of its features right now. But Firefox's installed base of millions of users globally and the "weave" capability -- am add-on that enables your browser, tabs and bookmarks to be accessed from any device -- will be strategic advantages. The PC-mobile crossover will be huge for Firefox as it comes onto Android, WinMo (already there) and other platforms. 

Opera is well established and just crossed the 50 million user threshold. So it has a big head start. But the company has limited presence on the PC side, which may enable Firefox as it rolls out more smartphone versions to catch up relatively quickly. 

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Would Google Buy T-Mobile? Unlikely

Years ago there were always suggestions and discussion about whether Google would acquire a newspaper or yellow pages publisher. The culture of Google and those types of companies were so different -- which the proponents never fully understood -- that it was never going to happen. Now we have a similar argument going on in favor of Google buying the US operations of German carrier T-Mobile.

T-Mobile is struggling in the UK and US. In the UK the company has sought to form a joint venture with Orange and merge their operations. It has yet to be approved by regulators. In the US there have been persistent rumors that T-Mobile would have to do something similar or buy smaller carriers or merge with Sprint, etc. to advance its position in the market. 

Android devices and aggressive pricing have not been able to move the needle for the company. The same is true for number three US carrier Sprint, however the company did lose a much smaller number of postpaid customers last quarter

From Google's point of view, there's a certain logic to buying a carrier: 

  • It wants to sell phones directly to the market
  • It gets a network
  • It gets retail outlets to push its devices

However, I'm still quite skeptical that this would happen because of HR issues (buying employees) and other questions (direct competition with carrier partners). But it's not as much of a stretch now, given Google's plans and strategy, as the "Google should buy a newspaper" arguments made in the past. 

While Google is unlikely to buy a T-Mobile it's hypothetically possible that Google would make an investment in T-Mobile to gain access to its network, as it has with Sprint's Clearwire. 

New US Mobile Numbers from comScore

Based on activity of US mobile subscribers 13 and older, comScore put out data today that covers September through December 2009. While comScore counts 234 mobile subscribers, CTIA claims 271 million US mobile subscribers. The four major US carriers report approximately 250 million. 

Here are the charts reflecting the comScore data: 

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Google/Android doubled its market share during the Q4 period, while Palm, RIM and Windows Mobile all lost share. These Palm devices, notwithstanding the "plus" versions debuting at Verizon have clearly stalled. 

Here's "mobile content usage" according to comScore: 

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The 27% number for "used (Internet) browser" is very consistent with survey data well pulled in 2009.

What that number translates into in terms of "mobile Internet usage" depends on whether you think the base is 234 million or 250 million users. In the former case, the number of US mobile Internet users would be 64 million; in the latter it would be just over 68 million (a number consistent with Nielsen's figure).

The social network figure (15.9%) translates into 39.7 million social network users (with a 250 million base).  

Mobile Ads: Best of Times, Worst of Times

Brands, agencies and marketers of all stripes are increasingly interested in mobile advertising (or so surveys reflect), especially in the last six months. However "a fragmented landscape of different devices, operating systems and application storefronts" is confusing to many: What should we buy and how?

Companies such as Velti, Amobee and others aim to simplify mobile advertising with "end-to-end" solutions. But confusion remains. 

Meanwhile the data continue to show that mobile outperforms online by almost 5X in terms of most brand performance metrics. Those that get in now will reap the benefits while others remain on the sidelines whining and scratching their heads. 

Here are recent data from a broad survey of Insight Express-monitored and measured campaigns:

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Here's what the press materials said about these metrics:

The study used norms developed in online ad testing as a benchmark to draw conclusions around the performance of advertising on mobile devices. InsightExpress compared the two using InsightNorms, the company’s normative database containing over one thousand online ad effectiveness campaigns and over one hundred mobile ad effectiveness campaigns . . .

InsightExpress found mobile campaign norms were 4.5 to 5 times higher than online norms against measures of unaided awareness, aided awareness, ad awareness, message association, brand favorability and purchase intent.  “Online campaigns continue to offer exceptional reach, flexibility and variety,” said Joy Liuzzo, Senior Director of Marketing & Mobile Research at InsightExpress.  “However, the high levels of engagement, the explosion in technical capabilities, low levels of clutter and the novelty of mobile advertising all likely contribute to increased brand impact.”
A comparison of three different mobile media types (Mobile Internet, SMS and Mobile video) revealed that Mobile Internet is the current powerhouse. Mobile Internet campaigns resulted in increases of 9 percentage points for unaided awareness, 9 percentage points for aided awareness and 24 percentage points for ad awareness . . . SMS campaigns generated increases of 5 percentage points for unaided awareness, 10 percentage points for aided awareness and 18 percentage points for ad awareness.    

SMS offers the greatest reach, followed by mobile Web and then apps and video. 

Greystripe Extends Support to Ovi Store

Rich media mobile ad network Greystripe announced that it's extending its support Nokia's Ovi Store. According to the release out today:

Although Greystripe has supported hundreds of millions of Java downloads, this is the first time they will be supporting apps in the Ovi store. Greystripe is beginning to migrate 1,200 Gamejump.com Java titles into the Ovi App Store. With this announcement, Greystripe now supports the top three smartphone marketplaces: the iPhone App Store, the Android Marketplace, and Nokia’s Ovi App Store . .

Currently Greystripe supports over 1,400 Java handset models, in addition to iPhone and Android. Greystripe continues to expand its Java/Symbian app downloads, which account for approximately 250,000 app downloads on the network per day. Since Symbian is still a popular platform globally, this announcement is significant for brands that want to reach a wider audience by advertising on the Java/Symbian network, such as Navy and JC Penny.

We learned last week that Nokia's Ovi Store is seeing "more than 1 millions downloads a day." These numbers suggest that, at least outside the US, Ovi will be a force to be reckoned with.

Previously Greystripe did a deal with online ad network Tribal Fusion to automatically translate IAB ad units into mobile: 

Greystripe takes Flash ads and transcodes them using their award winning technology so the ad is compatible on the iPhone. With this process, advertisers are seeing 10-20x higher performance with the mobile ad compared to the same online campaigns, with average CTRs well above 1%.

This model is the future of much of mobile display advertising -- one buy across platforms, or an "extension" into mobile of an existing campaign -- and will accelarate the movement of ad dollars into mobile. Mobclix offers something similar with Advertising.com but on a smaller scale. Google will likely be doing this with AdMob if that transaction gains approval. 

And, in an effort to grow and protect its distribution vs others., last June Greystripe launched what it calls a CPM protection program that guarantees iPhone developers a minimum CPM.

Will Firefox Win the Battle of Mobile Browsers?

Firefox agrees with Google that HTML5 and mobile Web development will ultimately "kill" app stores. There's a logic here that makes sense, but I don't think that app stores -- or at least the iTunes store -- will die any time soon. What you may get is iPhone apps and then mobile "Web apps" for nearly everyone else. Android has apps but Android handsets are much more about the mobile Internet than apps -- at least that's true for the Nexus One. 

Examples of terrific "touch" Web apps that are almost as good as true "native apps" include:

  • new.m.yahoo.com
  • touch.facebook.com
  • mobile.nytimes.com
  • Google Voice for the iPhone 

These prove that you can develop highly functional "apps" for the mobile Web and avoid the app store "tsarus," to use the Yiddish word for grief/trouble.

Somewhat ironically, however, Mozilla sees Firefox as a development platform for third party "add-ons" (as exist on the PC). The parallel between add-ons and apps is pretty direct.

Mozilla just released Firefox Mobile for Nokia's Maemo and the N900. But the real sink or swim platform for Firefox Mobile will probably be Android (at least in the US), unless WinMo dramatically improves with 7's release. Apple locks out browsers other than Safari and RIM isn't compatible with Firefox because of its architecture. That leaves: 

  • Feature phones
  • Nokia (not in US for foreseeable future)
  • WinMo (much is riding on WinMo 7)
  • Palm/WebOS (not a player at scale)
  • Android 

But Android has a webkit browser. You can get Opera Mini on Android today; however I suspect there haven't been tons of Opera downloads because of the otherwise decent built-in browser. On Android, Firefox will be going up against the lesser known and unattractive but functional Dolphin browser, which provides multi-touch where Android's own webkit browser does not (see Droid, Nexus One).

There are also other independent browsers in the market, such as Skyfire, that Firefox will compete against. The company has the advantage of a huge installed base of PC users and trusted brand recognition. But it's a late-comer and will need to produce something pretty compelling to surmount the Android handset's built-in browser advantage.

Millennial Media: Portals & Directories Become Top Category by Ad Spend

Millennial Media's December/Q4 SMART report reflects some interesting trends, but mostly incredmental changes from November. The top ad spending category is now "portals and directories," which includes major Internet players (e.g., Yahoo, MSN). Travel moved up from category number 10 to number eight, as well.

Here are the highlights, as reported verbatim by Millennial:

  • The U.S. Mobile Web: Decreased slightly to 66.6M users, according to Nielsen (Nov.)
  • For the first time since S.M.A.R.T™ was first published in March ’09, Entertainment was not the top advertising vertical.  Portals and Directories took the top slot in Q4. Telecom, Finance, Entertainment and Dating round out the top 5.
  • Engagement: Average monthly page views per user increased to 125 in December from 113 in November; and, average user session times increased from 5:02 to 5:09 (min:sec).
  • Devices: Samsung represented approximately 23% of our network’s impression share in Q4. But the iPhone was the leading smart phone on our network with 41% of our network’s U.S. impressions. 

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We don't know all the specific advertisers in these categories but I would argue that at least five (maybe six) of these categories are substantially or mostly concerned with local "on their face":

  • Entertainment
  • Dating 
  • Retail/restaurants
  • Travel
  • Automotive 

Turning to handsets and OS market share, here's what Millennial is seeing on its network:

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Compare AdMob's smartphone share numbers (North America) from December:

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In both cases the iPhone is has the largest share, but on Millennial RIM is second, while AdMob's network shows Android handsets second to the iPhone. Among the top 20 mobile handsets appearing on Millennial's network, the G1 is the only Android handset reflected to date. 

Could IDC Be Really Wrong on Android?

IDC's recent prediction that Android would be the second most numerous smartphone OS in the world by 2013 has garnered much uncritical coverage. Here are the IDC bullets:

  • Symbian will retain its leadership position worldwide throughout the forecast period. Due primarily to the strength of Nokia in markets outside of the United States, Symbian continues to lead all other mobile operating systems.
  • Android will experience the fastest growth of any mobile operating system. Starting from a very small base of just 690,000 units in 2008, total Android-powered shipments will reach 68.0 million units by 2013, making for a CAGR of 150.4%. Android will benefit from having a growing footprint of handset vendors supporting it and will finish second to Symbian in shipments by 2013.

Before IDC Gartner made the same prediction, but by 2012. Both of these firms could turn out to be wrong -- very wrong.

It makes sense that Android will continue to gain, given the number of OEMs building and releasing devices with the OS. Indeed, Google SVP Jonathan Rosenberg, on the Q4 earnings call, said "Android started 2009 with just one device and is now at 20 in 48 countries." And the Verizon Android Droid is credited with dampening some of the iPhone's recent sales momentum: the iPhone sold "only" 8.7 million units vs. the 9.1 - 9.5 million that some of the most bullish Wall Street analysts had anticipated. 

OK, Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones in the most recent quarter, but it also sold sold 21 million iPods. The company doesn't break out iPod Touch sales. But while iPod sales are declining, iPod Touch sales are up. At the end of the last quarter there were almost 60 million iPhone OS devices around the globe (including the iPod Touch). Morgan Stanley estimated the number at 57 million in early December. 

So let's assume that 5 million of those 21 million iPods are iPod Touch devices. That would put the combined sales of the iPhone OS units at more than 70 million today. So the iPhone OS (not the iPhone itself) has already beaten the IDC Android unit sales projections for 2013. 

What happens tomorrow with the iPhone is important for the future success of the platform in the US market. Regardless of whether there's a new iPhone OS or 4G device, if Apple announces that AT&T exclusivity is through and that the handset will be available from Verizon and/or others, we're likely to see Android momentum falter. If not, Android will continue to gain steam.

Apple executives made some comments yesterday, however, that suggested AT&T exclusivity may not be done. They expressed confidence in AT&T and its ability to "fix" network problems that have frustrated and infuriated iPhone users. That kind of remark doesn't sound like one from a company about to walk away from its exclusive relationship with AT&T. But we'll see. 

If Apple fails to "cut the chord" tomorrow and broaden iPhone distribution in the US it will cede millions of users to Android. I would be happy using the Nexus One rather than switching to AT&T, with its network's mortally wounded reputation, to get the iPhone (I have an iPod Touch). And while it's not as intuitive or "elegant" as the iPhone, and the apps are not as polished, the N1 generally substitutes. Its speed and screen are better than the current iPhone as well. And the voice-text input features are compelling. 

Apple may not see this timing issue as critical. It will exit AT&T exclusivity at some point. If it does so now, it will establish itself on a trajectory to become the dominant smartphone in the US market and Android's rise will be blunted (though perhaps not RIM's, the current market leader). If it waits for 2011, US iPhone prospects will likely have moved on or set their sites on other handsets. All the defectors that are going to head to AT&T for the iPhone have already done so. 

As suggested, RIM is a wild card in this discussion and so is Windows Mobile, which is declining now but could get a big boost from WinMo 7. Nokia, regardless of Symbian UI upgrades, will continue to lose share in the US and Europe in the coming 12-18 months. It will remain strong in Asia, Latin America and Africa -- emerging markets that seek lower-cost handsets. Palm, I'm afraid, will be largely an also-ran in this race. 

The market for smartphones, however, is very much evolving and in flux. What happens tomorrow (from Apple) could be very significant for both the iPhone and for Android's future in the US. It might be that Apple makes the wrong choice, falters and Android benefits. The thinking that Android will automatically grow to be the world's number two, however, is simplistic. 

Little Overlap in Top Apps on Mobile Platforms

App store analytics provider Distimo has released its latest report profiling activity in the various app stores. The report points out, among other things, that app prices are highest in Europe and on the BlackBerry. It also shows that the majority of apps in the Android market (65%) are from US developers, presumably catering to the US market. However that will change as Android gains momentum in other markets.

Interestingly, the charts reflecting the top free and paid apps don't show much overlap on the major platforms. Below are graphics from the Distimo report about the top free apps:

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Here are a few casual observations. Facebook is universally popular, voice search tools show up across platforms (Bing, Vlingo, Nuance/Dragon). Weather is there a couple of times (RIM and Android). Barcode scanners are also popular. Not reflected above, RedLaser is the top paid app for the iPhone, and two scanners are in the top 10 for Android, according to these data. 

Some of the differences in app popularity may have to do with timing. Pandora was released first on the iPhone and was the most popular app that year. Later it rolled out to other platforms and became popular accordingly, while its popularity in the iTunes store declined.

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Apple Results Out: Best Quarter Ever

The release is just out, here are the numbers:

  • $15.68 billion in revenues vs. 11.88 billion a year ago
  • Sold 3.36 million Macintosh computers during the quarter, representing a 33 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.
  • Sold 8.7 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 100 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter (but somewhat lower than expected)
  • Sold 21 million iPods during the quarter, representing an eight percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter (however iPod Touch sales are up)

Listen in on the earnings webcast at 5 Eastern if you're hungry for more.

Selected bits from the call:

  • iPhone in 86 countries now. Sales worth more than $5B in the quarter. 
  • COO Tim Cook says that "AT&T is a great partner," doesn't take bait to suggest that there will be wider availability for iPhone in US
  • Tim Cook: China iPhone sales: 200K units activated to date. "We're building the brand for the long term, we think there's significant potential there." 
  • Tim Cook: 70% of the Fortune 100 deploying or testing iPhone (in US)
  • No comment on Nokia IP litigation
  • Tim Cook: "Joy of surprise at our latest creation" re Wednesday product launch
  • Tim Cook: re iPhone . . . when we add carriers in markets, growth and share increases
  • Apple CFO re Quattro: "We wanted to offer a seamless way for our developers to make more money on their apps, especially those providing free apps." 
  • CFO Peter Oppenheimer: We work with Google in some areas and compete with them in others. Mobile advertising "is in its infancy." 

AdMob December: Nokia Leads in Developing Markets, Slipping in West; Apple, Android Showing Growth

It's always important to point out that AdMob's data come from its network, which is not the same thing as the mobile Internet as a whole. Certain trends may be exaggerated or underrepresented accordingly. But I believe that directionally the data capture what's going on in the broader market. With that caveat, AdMob has released its December, 2009 metrics report

This report captures handset and smartphone operating system share around the world. Here are some of the regional bullets the company has released:

  • Asia: Nokia continues to be the leading manufacturer in Asia by a wide margin with 53% of requests in Q4 2009.  After launching in several countries in Asia in 2009, the iPhone had a strong Q4 and doubled its share of smartphone requests to 27%.
  • Eastern Europe: Nokia’s share decreased slightly throughout the year to 35% in Q4 2009.  Apple, Sony Ericsson, and Samsung devices generated 23%, 12% and 9% of requests, respectively.  Eight of the top 10 smartphones in the region were Nokia devices, including the 6300, N70, and N95.
  • North America: In Q4 2009, Apple lead with 40% followed by Samsung with 17% and Motorola with 11%.  The iPhone generated 54% of smartphone requests in Q4 2009. Android share grew throughout the year reaching 27% in Q4 2009, by far its highest penetration in any region.
  • Western Europe: Apple made strong gains in manufacturer share in 2009. In Q4 2009 the Apple iPhone and iPod touch generated more than half of total requests from the region at the expense of Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.  Android had a strong Q4 2009 and generated 8% share of smartphone requests, second only to North America in penetration.

 Here are the market share graphics . . . 

Global manufacturer and smartphone operating system share: 

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 Devices Western Europe:

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 Devices North America:

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North America shows strong Android growth above (though it's off in Europe), while Palm is fading. In particular Droid showed significant growth vs. the previous quarter. In AdMob's data BlackBerry is flat or off (BlackBerry had huge international sales last year, which should show up at some point in AdMob's data). Finally Windows Mobile is MIA in these data. 

Nokia should see these data (as well as others in the market) as alarming. Symbian will get an update and new UI upgrades this year but it may not be enough in the face of iPhone, RIM and Anroid competition. Nokia has a very strong position in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe but it's losing momentum everywhere else according to AdMob. 

Google AdWords Gets Some New Targeting Options

As was reported yesterday Google has added some new targeting capabilities to AdWords for mobile devices:

If you've chosen to show ads on iPhones and other mobile devices with full internet browsers, you can now target specific mobile devices or carriers.

This feature makes it easier for you to reach the right users if you have a carrier- or device-specific message. This includes landing pages that have been optimized for a specific device, billing relationships with certain carriers, or mobile apps developed for a specific platform . . .

We're also making sure that ads linking to mobile app downloads will automatically appear only on devices that offer those apps. Plus, the ad will display a 'Download' link instead of a URL. Simply include 'itunes.apple.com/' or 'market.android.com/' followed by the app name in the ad's visible URL, and it will automatically display as 'Download iPhone App' or 'Download Android App.'

Here's what the screen looks like:

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As the Google AdWords blog points out this is helpful if the advertiser is targeting a specific type of handset or specific carrier's users for a promotion. But there's also proxy demographic information here too. Ad networks such as JumpTap that work directly with carriers actually provide that data ("by age, gender, context, demographics, location, ethnicity, finance, occupation, handset, and language") to advertisers at varying levels of anonymity. Presumably Microsoft is also getting access to some of that data through its deal with Verizon. 

However, the profiles of users of MetroPCS and Cricket are going to be quite different than Verizon for example. Much of this information is out in public.

What's also interesting is that Google is adding carriers for whom there are effectively no smartphones. Boost/Nextel (Sprint) just added its first BlackBerry device and MetroPCS and Cricket have very limited smartphone selection. The prerequisite here for the showing of AdWords in mobile is the presence of a full Internet browser on the handset. This anticipates, in my view, Android devices for these carriers. 

This list of check boxes in the screen above will likely become more elaborate and precise over time. For example, the ability to target BlackBerry users (ultimately) might be important for advertisers wanting to reach an enterprise audience or more affluent users in certain cases.

Google's mobile AdSense units have a range of targeting options, including location (which also exits for AdWords). AdMob, which Google is seeking to acquire, offers more elaborate targeting including by gender and age. 

Google Postpones China Android Launch

According to the Associated Press Google is holding off its formal launch of Android in China:

"It is postponed," Google Inc. spokeswoman Marsha Wang said. She said a launch ceremony planned for Wednesday was canceled but declined to give a reason for the decision or to say when the launch might be rescheduled.

I had thought incorrectly that there were already Android handsets in the market, the world's largest with an estimated 700 million mobile phone subscribers. (Dell's showed/demo'd its Mini 3i handset). When Google announced its bold new policy to no longer comply with Chinese government censorship, we asked how that would affect Android in China.

While Android and Google's search and services can be uncoupled, that hasn't happened on any Android handsets to date. Carriers China Mobile and China Telecom are part of the Open Handset Alliance that supports Android. And HTC had formally announced it intended to introduce two Android handsets into the market this year. Samsung and Motorola are also planning China Android launches. This "standoff" between Google and China is quite significant for Android's future there, as well as the fortunes of all these OEMs banking on the operating system.

Assuming no settlement between Google and China, this means that HTC, Dell and others will need to "strip out" Google search and other services from the Android OS (part of their appeal) in order to continue to operate in the market. Absent such a move it might mean that Android wouldn't enter China (except illegally). But a Google-less Android diminishes the handset/OS somewhat for users -- and certainly for Google.  

The iPhone (with Google search) current is in China. The potential withdrawal of Google from China won't necessarily impact the iPhone, which can or could substitute other search and services on the device. 

CBS Launches Local News Apps for iPhone

CBS is smartly launching stand-alone apps for local TV affiliates (for the iPhone/iPod Touch) that complement its several national CBS News apps. According to the release, the apps will feature:

  • Local and national news (incl. sports)
  • Local weather
  • Twitter feeds
  • Video (local and national news)
  • The apps will be supported with both display and pre-roll video ads

Thirteen markets are covered:

WCBS-New York, KCBS/KCAL-Los Angeles, WBBM-Chicago, KYW-Philadelphia, WBZ-Boston, KPIX-San Francisco, KTVT-Dallas/Fort Worth, WCCO-Minneapolis/St. Paul, WFOR-Miami, KCNC-Denver, KOVR-Sacramento, KDKA-Pittsburgh and WJZ-Baltimore.

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The analogy in a local directory context would be a flagship "horizontal" app complemented by more vertical apps covering specific categories -- as AT&T has tried to do with YP Mobile and its "Have2" verticals.

WinMo 7 (or 6.6) Coming to Barcelona?

When is Windows Mobile 7 coming out? Is it 2011 or . . . next month? The rumors are all over the place. Just last week we heard that Windows Mobile 6.5.3 would soon be available. And now Bloomberg is speculating that in fact the new OS may be shown next month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona:

Microsoft Corp. plans to unveil its new mobile-phone operating system next month, a bid to reverse market share losses to Google Inc. and Apple Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter.

The company may use the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to demonstrate the new software, called Windows Mobile 7, said the person, who didn’t want to be identified because the plans are confidential. The decision isn’t final, the person said.

Now there's a difference between showing and releasing the software, but showing it in February would probably mean releasing it no too many months later. Windows Mobile is in something of a race against time to generate more excitement among OEMs and consumers for the operating system. The OS's market share is clearly under tremendous pressure: 

Picture 193

Source: Canalys/Smaato

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Source: StatCounter, Jan 2010

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Source: AdMob, November 2009

There's also considerable speculation this morning that it's not 7 but "6.6" that will show up in Barcelona. Regardless, I'm hopeful that Windows Mobile X (next one) is enough of an improvement to get Microsoft back in the mobile OS game. 

Popluar Apps Similar Across Platforms

Mobile app and games discovery provider Mplayit published a comparative list of most-popular apps on the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms. It's based on a survey "of 42,000 visitors to Mplayit on Facebook between 20 December 2009 and 5 January 2010." One question to ask is whether these apps are in fact intrinsically the strongest in their respective categories or whether other factors are fueling their popularity. 

The Mplayit release doesn't attempt to answer the question or explain why certain apps may be popular across platforms. In the case of a Yelp, Facebook or Pandora, there's a strong brand there that transcends the mobile OS and that people are responding to, for example. But the fact that some "no-name" apps beat out brands such as "Buddy Mob" on beating Facebook or Aloqa beating Yelp on Android (during the survey window) suggests that a compelling or engaging app can drive adoption without substantial brand equity or recognition.

Here's the chart: 

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Will Google Turn Away from 700 Million Users?

Google has said that its infrastructure was hacked in an apparent effort to get at Chinese dissidents' GMail accounts. The implication is that the Chinese government was behind the attacks. The company has taken a laudable and very strong stand and said it will no longer comply with Chinese government censorship. It also said that if it cannot operate in an uncensored way going forward it may exit the market entirely. 

According to the Google blog post:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

China is the world's largest mobile market with 700 million subscribers, more than twice as large as the US population as a whole. The Internet advertising market in China is less mature than in the US and Europe, but over time it would be worth many billions off dollars. Baidu currently dominates search on PCs with roughly 65% - 80% market share. 

This is a very gutsy move on Google's part. There's no reason to believe the Chinese government will allow Google to operate on an uncensored basis. So that may mean -- if Google is true to its public word here -- that it must say goodbye to the world's largest Internet market. 

Presumably Android handsets would still be available in China (e.g., the Dell Mini 3) but they would likely have to be stripped of Google Search and other services.