Operating Systems

Windows Mobile 6.5.3 Upgrade Soon Available

Windows Mobile 6.5.3 will reportedly be available soon. The OS is more "finger friendly" and adds some clear keyboard improvements. The video below offers a nice walk-through including the keyboard demo. 

Many people were surprised that Windows Mobile was so little discussed by Steve Ballmer in his keynote at CES last week. It remains to be seen whether Windows 7 can address all the "issues" with the mobile OS that make it less competitive among consumers than Android and the iPhone. However the 6.5.3 upgrades appear to be moving in the right direction. 

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Here's an eWeek visual tour of "10 must see windows mobile smartphones from CES." 

Microsoft believes that its three screens + cloud strategy will help it with consumer mobile phone sales. Microsoft's Robbie Bach also raised expectations for WinMo 7 in a recent discussion with financial analysts:

I have had the pleasure of seeing [Windows Mobile 7], looking at it and playing with it. I am certainly confident that we are going to see it as something that is differentiated and sets the bar forward, not in an evolutionary way from where we are today, but something that looks, feels and acts and performs completely different.

Separately LG, a WinMo partner, said that about 50% of its handsets will be Android phones going forward:

Nam Yong, LG's chief executive officer, said the firm's smart phones will focus on Android, an operating system for the mobile devices provided by Google. Smart phones, which allow access to wireless Internet, differ from traditional cell phones in that they require an operating system.

"We will have smart phones running on Windows Mobile, but about 50 percent of our smart phone models will run on Android," Nam told reporters at a trade show in Las Vegas.

As we've argued Windows Mobile and Android compete more directly than Android and the iPhone because of the positioning of the two operating systems. All of Microsoft's major handset partners, LG, Samsung, HTC, Sony, are making (or "diversifying into") Android phones as well. Former partners such as Motorola and Palm are no longer using the platform. 

A great deal is riding on the success of Windows Mobile 7. Microsoft needs it to do what Windows 7 did vs. Vista: redeem the platform.

AdMob Also Sees iPod Touch Growth

Mobile analytics company Flurry saw app downloads on iPod Touch devices far exceed those on iPhones on Xmas day, suggesting that there were a lot of new iPod Touch owners out there. This would also be suggested by Amazon's electronics bestsellers list, which featured two iPod Touch devices in the top five.

Now AdMob has posted data that seem to argue the same thing: there were a lot of iPod Touches given this holiday season as gifts:

In terms of actual devices, there was a 57% increase in the number of iPod touch devices used on December 26th compared to average daily usage of the week before Christmas.  Device growth was strong across the top markets, particularly in the UK.  

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To the extent the iPod Touch is received as a gift by a minor, the argument goes, this is conditioning that person to become a later iPhone buyer. 

Pricing & Plan Details for Nexus One

Gizmodo has what look like screenshots of PowerPoint slides from a Google presentation about the forthcoming Nexus One, to be announced (in all probability) on January 5 at a special Google press event.

According to the Gizmodo report, which relies on a "tipster," the phone will sell unlocked for $530 and with a two-year T-Mobile plan for $180. Let's assume all this is true.

The post also says that there's a single rate plan available, the $79 "everything" plan. That's actually the best post-paid plan on the market in the US, beating Sprint's $99 "everything" plan. The Sprint network, however, is considerably stronger than the T-Mobile network. 

Apparently there's a limit of five phones per Google account, which you must have to buy the phone online. 

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T-Mobile has the HTC G1, the HTC MyTouch 3G and the Motorola Cliq (with "MotoBLUR"). The Nexus One then becomes just the next in line for both Android/Google and HTC. Apparently if you buy the phone at the subsidized price and then cancel the T-Mobile contract you're penalized and must pay the difference between the subsidized and unlocked prices.

You could also buy it unlocked and use it with the AT&T network. However that's unlikely for several reasons, among them the $530 price and the battered reputation of AT&T's network. The GSM Nexus One won't work on Sprint or Verizon's networks in the US.

I could be quite wrong but I doubt that Google will sell many of these handsets for $530. One question I have is: Will it be avaiable to hold and test in T-Mobile stores. The rumors leading up to the announcement suggest it won't, which will also negatively affect sales. 

In the end then this turns out to be not the one "Google Phone" but another HTC Android handset, among a growing number. Yet it has the distinction of being (for now at least) the best Android handset in the market -- better and faster than Droid. 

Lots of Non-Smartphones Still Out There

Below are comScore data -- extrapolated from consumer surveys -- showing the breakdown of mobile operating systems and handsets in the US. The headline that many people are running with this data is "iPhone overtakes Windows Mobile for the first time." But the other thing to focus on is how many non-smartphones there still are in the market -- almost 200 million. Also note that Symbian has more users (although I remain bearish on Nokia's US prospects).

In discussion after discussion I just hear companies writing off non-smartphone users. They make the facile assumption that smartphones will be 50% of the market in 2011. That may not happen because of the cost of dataplans and replacement cycles (read: the availability of carrier discounts) taking a bit longer to kick in. We see smartphone growth and adoption too but it may not happen quite as quickly as people think or are hoping. 

That said, smartphones will be where the growth and Internet action are; however non-smartphones (and SMS marketing by extension) will be around for a long time. SMS marketing extends to smartphones as well; that's the point: there's major reach in the segment.

I think there are untapped opportunities in this group (see MSFT OneApp, voice search) that someone will profit from or leverage. Certainly marketers should be looking at these numbers and thinking about a "diversified" approach to mobile advertising and marketing.

Consumers are going to want something that resembles an Internet experience (or at least access to Internet content), call it "Internet lite," on these handsets as well.

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Compilation/chart is FierceWireless

Android's 'Campbell's Soup' Strategy

No sooner does one "flagship" Android phone launch than another seems to follow in its wake just a month or two later. This is largely because so many hardware makers are now using the platform to develop phones: HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Acer, Dell, among others to come.

The most recent example is the Motorola Droid from Verizon in the US. It was last's months "iPhone killer," already superseded by the new Nexus One (at right), which just appeared over the weekend (from HTC). Here's the latest from my post at Search Engine Land. I also wrote a long story here over the weekend as the news was leaking out.  

As an aside this is what we know about the Nexus One:

  • It's been approved for sale in the US by the FCC
  • It's a GSM phone
  • It looks like the HTC Droid Eris but with a larger screen and no "Sense" interface
  • It will be sold online directly to the public but T-Mobile has agreed to provide some sort of financial support or subsidy 
  • It won't be the "Google Phone" but reflects the greatest level of involvement to date of Google in the development process
  • It's running Android 2.1

Poor Droid; only a couple of months old and already passe, yesterday's news, old hat, used up, etc.

It's kind of ridiculous that each phone seems to trump the next and there's no apparent coordination in terms of software updates and hardware rollouts. On the latter point one wouldn't necessarily expect that given the multiple hardware OEMs. But Google seems to be quite fickle in its approach to the market, working with one OEM and then the next in turn. 

And now, Nexus One isn't even out and we may already have seen its successor, the HTC Legend:

Picture 73Even if this particular phone doesn't trump the still unreleased Nexus One in terms of specs and performance -- it's reportedly not as fast -- it illustrates that the Android handsets just keep coming. One financial analyst says there will be 50 in the market in 2010.

So what the heck is going on? First you've got a bunch of OEMs competing for attention. But at a higher level I believe Google understood that by creating a strong OS and making it free (or mostly free) it would see this kind of frenzy in the market.

It's a kind of "shelf space" strategy -- hence the Campbell's Soup reference. Many of the varieties of Campbell's Soup are not widely purchased; we might call that the "long tail of canned soup." But the plethora of flavors means that the company takes up more shelf space than competitors. 

This is what's starting to happen in the handset world: more Android handsets at more carriers means that competitors are pushed out or pushed to the side, literally and figuratively. There's also the frenzy of media coverage that surrounds Android, specifically the Google vs. Apple narrative that's emerged. 

I suspect the iPhone will hold its own. But as I said previously what's not getting discussed in these stories is the way that Android is grabbing all the coverage and mindshare from Windows Mobile, Palm, Nokia and even RIM. Only the iPhone continues to star in its own articles and blog posts. 

The iPhone's Race for Wider US Distribution

The iPhone is the most popular individual handset (as opposed to handset line like BlackBerry) in the US according to Nielsen. Outside the US the device is no longer exclusive to any single carrier (except in China I believe). But in the US it remains exclusively on the AT&T network for the at least immediate future. That exclusivity now represents a drag on sales and provides an opening for Android to become "good enough" to blunt the iPhone's future in the US market.

RIM is in something of a separate category because of its enterprise legacy and installed base. 

Google has developed a phone that equals and perhaps exceeds the iPhone in many if not most hardware specs. That and other Android devices may be sufficient for most people if the iPhone doesn't become available to other US carriers next year. The Droid device, backed by a massive Verizon marketing campaign has seen some success vs. the iPhone in terms of brand perception among males.  

Overall smartphones across the spectrum will continue to gain, driven by price competition, cultural visibility and cachet and by general competition that is making these devices more and more consumer friendly and powerful. 

The iPhone has the potential to become the dominant smartphone and mobile computing platform on a global basis. The US market and non-AT&T exclusivity are keys to that momentum. But the unlocking needs to happen next year or the opportunity will potentially be lost. 

Survey: Developers Unhappy with Android Apps Performance

Skyhook Wireless, which supplies location positioning to chipmakers, mobile hardware OEMs and apps publishers, published (.pdf) the results of an October survey of 30 mobile app developers. This is a follow-up of sorts to an early 2009 developer survey by Skyhook that sought to assess developer interest levels in the various smartphone platforms.

This is a small sample. But if these survey findings can be generalized or are representative of the larger developer community's satisfaction levels -- let's assume that they are directionally -- it's not good for Android as a platform.

Here are the top-level findings:

  • 57% of developers said they are not satisfied with their profits on Android.
  • 90% of developers reported individual app downloads of 10,000 or under on Android.
  • 52% of Android developers’ apps were downloaded fewer than 5,000 times.  
  • Developers are concerned that Google Checkout contributes to their low download volumes.
  • 43% feel that they would sell more apps if Android used a carrier billing or another simpler billing system.
  • 82% of those surveyed feel that the design of the Android Marketplace makes it difficult for apps to be noticed.
  • 68% of those surveyed are somewhat or not likely to put further work into their apps, compared to when they first released their app.

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Source: Skyhook Wireless (11/09, n=30)

The question here is: how important are apps to the ultimate success of the Android platform? Android ultimately is about the browser and the mobile Internet as apps platform. However the failure to maintain a healthy apps marketplace will harm Android's reputation among consumers.

This is not the first time developers have griped about Android. I have heard some developers, however, discuss that they like the open platform and the ability to "iterate" accordingly without the need to get repeated approvals before pushing new versions live. Future versions of the Android Marketplace promise a better user experience, which may help with downloads and revenues. 

Verizon and Motorola Bring Google Voice Search to Times Square

Google, Verizon and Motorola have sure developed a flair for the dramatic. According to this post on a site operated by the Android's leading triumvirate, you can use "just your voice" to "search Time Square without touching a single button."

The claim is a bit overblown. What they mean to say is that after pressing 10 buttons to tap out 888-DROID DO (888-376-4336), you'll be able to speak your query terms for interpretation by the speech recognition resources of Google Mobile Search. It's part of an advertising and promotional campaign whereby Verizon will use the digital billboards that light up time square to prompt passers-by to dial the toll-free number "search for practically anything" and then see the results illustrated on those digital billboards rendered in Google Maps.

According to this post in Silicon Valley Insider, the companies launched the service earlier this month to coincide with the general availability of Motorola's Droid in retail stores. They didn't take into account the Yankees' World Series Victory Parade, so it was sparsely attended, making it the perfect shake-down cruise for the service. On November 27 (Black Friday) the billboards will be up and operating at 6 AM and stay active until 3 AM the following morning. While it is touted as a promotion for all things Droid, it amounts to a highly visible showcase for speech-enabled, multimodal mobile search. It embraces spoken input of query terms and visual rendering of results. Now all we have to do is convince the general public that they don't have to book all the digital signage in Time Square to use their voice to get turn-by-turn directions on their mobile phones.

This story is also posted on www.opusresearch.net

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Postscript: This kind of marketing and promotion is what voice needs to become mainstream. We'll see how sustained this type of promotion is; however, it's a very strong first step to generate word-of-mouth and PR around voice search. 

There's also more detail on the Google Mobile Blog. 

AdWeek Says 'Wait 'Til Next Year' on Mobile

AdWeek's Brian Morrissey writes a contrarian piece on mobile advertising: Mobile Ads: Wait Until Next Year. In it he catalogs the reasons why mobile isn't ready for most marketers:

  • For all the big numbers bandied about in mobile, the opportunities today are quite small . . . In fact, fewer than one in five Americans has a smartphone, according to most estimates. That knocks out the most advanced ads like applications -- and greatly cuts into the opportunity to reach mobile consumers.
  • AdMob is an example of an early iteration of mobile advertising. Most of the ad impressions it serves are tiny static billboards.
  • Targeting ads to mobile phone users is still in its infancy. The carriers sit on a trove of user information and location data that is largely unavailable to marketers. 
  • BIGresearch concluded in a study released last week that two-thirds of users objected to mobile text ads. Over half said all mobile advertising was an invasion of privacy.
  • The mobile Web is much like the Internet in its early days: a small market without standardized methods and simple ways to run and measure campaigns. There's one other glaring factor missing from mobile that holds it back: an easy transaction option.
  • For one, it isn't easy to track campaigns alongside Web display pushes in third-party media planning tools.

I'm not going to try and refute any of these points, which are generally valid; although in terms of reach AdWeek doesn't really address SMS, which is nearly universal and has the potential to reach Internet-sized audiences. The article does acknowledge rapid consumer adoption, which is part of the point -- marketers need to address these audiences or miss out on an opportunity.

Yes, mobile is relatively new and complex. But in some ways that's what's interesting: the new options and opportunity to figure out the best way to engage consumers on these very "intimate" devices. What's already clear is that eventually mobile will be a more effective medium than almost any other. It may not offer the same "spray and pray" opportunities for direct marketers but it is already proving very successful across a range of use cases and scenarios. (See some of the case studies in our Mobile Marketing Summit.)

Now is the time for marketers and advertisers to test and experiment. Those that do will reap rewards later on as those that waited struggle to figure out how to best integrate and leverage mobile as part of their overall media mix. 

Droid's Solid Start, Nokia's Blues

Analyst polling and estimates put the Motorola Droid weekend "box office" at about 100,000 units a "good start." According to Bloomberg:

Verizon Wireless, the carrier for the device, had 200,000 Droid phones on hand, and most stores sold at least half of their stock, Mark McKechnie at Broadpoint AmTech Inc. said yesterday. Including other models, Motorola will sell 1 million phones based on Google Inc.’s Android software in the fourth quarter and 10 million in 2010, he said.

Motorola and Verizon are competing against a new version of Apple’s iPhone, offered in the U.S. through AT&T Inc. Apple sold more than 1 million of the latest model in its weekend debut in June. Motorola’s share of the global phone market dropped to an estimated 4.7 percent last quarter from about 5.5 percent in the second quarter, the company said last month.

Earlier today I wrote about Samsung's new mobile OS and its rumored adoption of Android (and its own OS) at the expense of Windows Mobile -- and Symbian. And speaking of Nokia, today it began shipping the much anticipated N900 "mobile computer," which is also a phone.

Om Malik gave a mixed but upbeat review of the device and in a blog post today GigaOM tentatively suggested that this Maemo 5 handset  "may be a first step in reversing its fortunes." I'm here to say that assessment is incorrect and that the device -- in the US at least -- is very unlikely to succeed.

First it doesn't offer a strong enough user experience from what I can tell. And priced at €500 (almost US$750) there's absolutely no chance it will succeed as a mainstream device without a major carrier subsidy. The de facto price ceiling for smartphones (with operator subsidy) is $200. That figure will be used to judge the N900 when it makes it to the US. That means it must have a pretty aggressive subsidy to be competitive. Even with such a subsidy it will have difficulty competing. 

The Nokia brand has limited value (after years of neglect) in the US and there are very few apps that Nokia's Ovi store offers:

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Source: news reports and company documents

It doesn't matter that there are no apps; it's a handheld PC, a "mobile computer" right? Netbooks cost less than this device and thus people with that mindset ("I want a mobile computer") will likely buy a netbook before they buy an N900. As a smartphone it will lose to the iPhone and Android in terms of brand, UX and consumer appeal.

Accordingly, this is not the device that will turn Nokia's fortunes around in the US or probably at "home" in Europe. Indeed, at a conference in Europe last week I heard a number of people discuss how they had left Nokia for the iPhone and how Nokia was "falling behind." That was the phrase they used. These comments are isolated and anecdotal but I consider them to be significant because they were from people who had generally be loyal to Nokia until now. 

I've argued in the past that Nokia's "way back" in the US market lies in cheap but reasonably high functioning smartphones to develop mass appeal, as a springboard for other product launches. However even that may be foreclosed to Nokia with the likes of the Droid Eris at $99 and a $99 iPhone, not to mention sub $200 BlackBerry devices). Because its operating systems are not as strong as competitors' it will have difficulty competing at the high end. A radical step would be to try and acquire a Palm and simply throw Symbian and Maemo away.

Nokia retains global handset and smartphone leadership but its share continues to erode. 

Samsung Creates 'Bada' OS, Letting Go of WinMo?

Korean-based Samsung is the second largest mobile handset maker after Nokia. Today the company announced that it too is creating an "open mobile platform" -- bada. According to the press release out this morning:

The name ‘bada’, which means ‘ocean’ in Korean, was chosen to convey the limitless variety of potential applications which can be created using the new platform. It also alludes to Samsung’s commitment to a variety of open platforms in the mobile industry. Samsung bada also represents the fresh challenges and opportunities available to developers, as well as the entertainment which consumers will enjoy once the new platform is open.

Based on Samsung’s experience in developing previous proprietary platforms on Samsung mobile phones, Samsung can create the new platform and provide opportunities for developers. Samsung bada is also simple for developers to use, meaning it’s one of the most developer-friendly environments available, particularly in the area of applications using Web services. Lastly, bada’s ground-breaking User Interface (UI) can be transferred into a sophisticated and attractive UI design for developers.

Samsung will be able to expand the range of choices for mobile phone users to enjoy the smartphone experiences. By adopting Samsung bada, users will be able to easily enjoy various applications on their mobile.

It's not entirely clear but Samsung seems to be saying that bada will include smartphones and non-smartphones: 

More and more people want rich and connected application-experiences that are currently available only for smartphone consumers. Samsung has developed bada to make these exclusive smartphone experiences available to everyone.

Another mobile OS doesn't make a lot of sense, given how many already exist and the market's willingness to only support a handful of them. Still, Samsung as the number two handset maker might find some success . . .

Separately there's speculation, based on an HMC Investment Securities report, that Samsung will dramatically reduce its reliance on Windows Mobile as a smartphone OS over the next several years:

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While Samsung is the second-largest handset maker in the world, its smartphone share is 4th or 5th. The chart above (which again is speculative, based on the aforementioned report) shows Windows Mobile declining as a mobile OS from roughly 90% of Samsung smartphones to about 20% in 2012, with Android growing -- and presumably "bada" as well. 

Droid vs. iPhone: Dudes vs. Chicks

You're probably overwhelmed (and maybe even bored) by all the stories comparing Droid vs. iPhone, which usually include speculation about whether Droid will truly challenge the iPhone or whether it's finally the "iPhone Killer." It's not an iPhone killer. However an interesting angle that has not been extensively discussed is the gender angle of the two devices.

Droid (from Verizon) is definitely being marketed to "dudes." As a case-in-point see the following sci-fi-oriented commercial:

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Now compare data from the "iPhone Moms" study by ad network Greystripe (based on US surveys collected between July and September, n=279):

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Reflecting on these two devices, it's pretty clear that the iPhone has broader appeal to women (and perhaps moms in particular). Of course there are lots of men who have the iPhone -- in fact more men than women own the device. However the iPhone is much more "chick friendly" than "Droid," which by its name and marketing is cultivating male-geek appeal. I wonder if someone will try and develop an Android device directed toward women.

Windows Mobile 6.5: A Brief Look

Thanks to Microsoft, Internet2Go was given an HTC Pure handset loaded with Windows Mobile 6.5 to play around with. There are a number of exhaustive reviews out there already describing the features and functions – and debating the platform’s improvements, or lack thereof – so I won’t go into much detail, but I wanted to provide a few quick thoughts about the experience.

The “Today” screen is a marked improvement in clarity and navigability compared to the home screen found in Windows 6.1. Icons for applications are arranged in a staggered layout -- theoretically to provide easier finger touchpoints – allowing quick access to contacts, messaging, camera, Office Mobile, and more. And not having to scroll through a Start menu or communications manager (as I do now with my T-Mobile Dash) was a breath of fresh air.

For mobile search, three separate options appear on the Today screen: Internet Explorer, Opera, and MobileWeb (which opens an Opera browser, landing at MediaNET, AT&T’s deck). In my testing, I found Opera to be a superior experience in terms of loading pages faster and became a preferred browser. While there is no multi-touch screen sensitivity, the navigation is relatively intuitive with obvious icons for possible actions and a suitable virtual keypad.

The addition of the Windows Marketplace app store is, of course, a simple necessity in keeping up with what’s expected in a smartphone experience today. Apps are appropriately arranged by “Categories,” “Most popular,” “What’s new,” etc. but inventory is clearly only a fraction of what’s found in the Apple app store. Interestingly, Microsoft’s own Bing app does not come preloaded on the HTC device and is included among the “Most popular” apps, but down a scroll or two. The free, downloaded app is essentially what Live Search is on the Windows 6.1 platform.

And as Greg Sterling pointed out, I could not find any reference to Tellme anywhere while navigating on the device, though the Bing app does provide a voice input option.

NearbyNow Launches Another Magazine iPhone App: Brides

In addition to Lucky, Seventeen and Runner's World, NearbyNow has launched Condé Nast Brides magazine. (Consider this to be a prelude to many more Condé Nast magazine mobile app launches.). The app is similar to NearbyNow's original Lucky Magazine iPhone app. It allows brides and interested others to browse wedding dresses and related apparel. They can make an appointment to try on a dress at a local bridal shop, buy online and/or email images of the dress to friends and relatives.

The target audience is reportedly affluent female iPhone owners between 20-35 years old. Here are some screens from the app: 

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The app also features advertising sold by Brides magazine.

NearbyNow is shifting more of its resources into developing apps like this for magazine publishers. NearbyNow CEO Scott Dunlap recently told me that there was considerable demand from these traditional publishers, some of whom where already making good money from ads that they were sellling into these iPhone apps. It's impressive to me that these traditional publishers, otherwise considered perhaps to be digital laggards are leapfrogging brands and other types of marketers by so aggressively embracing mobile. 

As one of the benefits of working with NearbyNow the company already has retailer inventory information and so can locate the item in stores and enable consumers to reserve it for purchase in the store later on. 

Here's some additional discussion from Mobile Marketer.  

Bridging the PC-Mobile Divide

Google and Yahoo! are both doing a range of things in mobile that connect the PC experience to the handset more directly. I've recently written about this with Google's local results in mobile. But there are other examples as well. Yahoo! does ad targeting from PC to mobile if users are signed in on the Yahoo! mobile site.

This bridging between mobile and PC is consistent with a "one Web" (Opera's phrase) vision that both companies are explicitly promoting. To that end, yesterday Google enabled its recently introduced PC "search options" in mobile, allowing users to refine or fliter search results as one can on the PC. Here are some screen images from the Google Mobile blog:

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While this may be helpful in select situations it doesn't represent a big enhancement to the mobile search experience on Google in my view. It's more important as another example of the PC-mobile crossover and attempt to leverage the PC experience to build mobile user loyalty by providing familiar tools and capabilities. 

Yahoo! isn't exactly duplicating the PC experience in this way but it is seeking to build a familiar experience in mobile. Yesterday Yahoo! announced some changes and upgrades for its mobile homepage. It's now available on 1,900 mobile devices and there are a range of improvements (including more video) for smartphones:

  • Dynamically updated content with pagination – without using additional screen real estate or refreshing, users are able to access a wealth of content. For example, the ‘Today’ module now surfaces ten of the leading stories from around the Web and gives users immediate access to 48 of the top news, business, sports and entertainment articles directly to consumers’ fingertips.
  • An enhanced RSS reader –   that now supports photos with captions, and adds the ability to scroll through more headlines from favorite feeds without having to refresh content.
  • Enhanced mobile video integration – with one click consumers can watch streaming video including the Yahoo! produced Tech Ticker – a rundown of the latest financial news, and Prime Time in No Time – a recap of last night’s TV shows, as well as news, entertainment and sports videos from the Associated Press.
  • Enhanced movie results – movie posters now show you exactly what’s playing at a theatre near you, and with a few simple clicks you can watch the trailer, read reviews from Yahoo! and Rotten Tomatoes, and even buy tickets from participating theatres – all directly from your mobile device.

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Yahoo! has built a terrific mobile experience. The "My Favorites" functionality in a way conceptually duplicates the personalized homepage experience that Yahoo! introduced on the PC, although it's not a direct crossover. My guess is it will eventually become that.

Stepping back, Yahoo!, Google (and Microsoft) are seeking to take their massive audiences online and port them to mobile (especially smartphone) devices. This is also true of Facebook. In the mobile traffic reports we see how the brand strength of these companies (Microsoft to a lesser degree) is translating into mobile user behavior and loyalty. As they continue to invest in mobile the PC-mobile connect becomes stronger and harder for companies that don't have that strength to get attention. Witness, for example, how Facebook and MySpace (to some degree) are starting to squeeze out all the mobile-only social networks because they have no brand or usage presence on the PC. 

WinMo, Bing and Voice Search

We're waiting to see the Bing upgrade of Microsoft's mobile search client app. The old Live Search app offered speech and was very good. It didn't get the recognition it deserved. But Bing is higher profile and has an opportunity to grab more attention and usage. The screenshot to the right is a preview of the look of the client.

Separately Tellme is integrated, from what I understand, pretty deeply into WinMo 6.5. Nobody really discussed this in the reviews I saw yesterday of the updated OS. However Clint Boulton at Google Watch offers a video demo of Tellme running on the new Samsung Intrepid (a Windows Phone). Tellme's capabilities extend beyond just search into other functions on the device (e.g., dictating SMS messages). 

Tellme (and maybe Bing) are assets that can potentially differentiate Microsoft's OS, mobile services and experience from Google. But that's contingent on the user experience and degree of integration. It has to be broader and more holistic; in other words not just a search box and list of search results. I've long believed that Tellme is an asset that's under-exploited by Microsoft. 

I'm eager to test out 6.5 and Tellme on the new devices. I'm also eager to see what the updated Bing search client will be like. I like the last one but I no longer own a Windows Phone. Accordingly, the company needs to think about making a Bing app for the iPhone, RIM and Android as well as Windows Mobile -- it needs to reach the users where they are today. 

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Windows Mobile 6.5 Gets Mixed Reviews, Mobile Browser Much Improved

Windows Mobile is officially out today, though we haven't yet held a device with one and used it. Looking across a wide range of reviews out this morning the consensus is that it's an improvement over 6.1 but ultimately "disappointing." On the favorable side is the following from Venture Beat:

But the software is really what is useful here. Microsoft markets the experience in a clever way. It says it’s a “smartphone that’s smart enough to bring all the parts of our lives together,” striking a balance between business life and personal life. You can get all sorts of communications apps: voice, email, instant messenger, photo sharing, and social networks . . .

Overall, Windows Mobile 6.5 moves Microsoft into a somewhat defensible position compared to its rivals. But observers are eagerly awaiting better things from Microsoft when Windows Mobile 7 launches sometime next year.

Yet the language there is tepid ("somewhat defensible"). On the negative or more critical side are the following from Gizmodo ("There's no excuse for this"):

It's a superficial update, and not a very thorough one. It's an interim product, and a vain attempt to hold onto the thinning ranks people who still choose Windows Mobile despite not being somehow tethered to it until the tardy Windows Mobile 7 comes out, whenever that may be. And it won't work.

And then there's this one from ZDNet's Matthew Miller, normally a Windows Mobile fan:

I’ve had the chance to use both an AT&T HTC Pure and Pharos Traveler 137 running Windows Mobile 6.5 and I have to say Microsoft disappoints me greatly with this release. We have seen more leaked than what was released today so maybe there will be some upcoming updates, but I am disappointed by the lipstick Microsoft gives to us with WM 6.5.

The implication here is "lipstick on a pig." Ouch. Miller offers a video tour of 6.5.

I had seen videos of 6.5 and thought it would be a dramatic improvement over 6.1, which I owned and used daily for over a year. Overall from these reviews it does not appear to be the needed reinvention of the Windows Mobile OS.

However I'll withhold final judgment until I get a chance to form my own impressions. But if these critical reviews are accurate then Windows Mobile will be in trouble. Windows Mobile 7 is due out at some point next year. But in the meantime, the competition continues to intensify -- to put it mildly. 

In conjunction with the WinMo updgrade debut, Microsoft has simultaneously launched its app store competitor, Marketplace for Mobile, and its My Phone cloud back-up service as well. One area where Microsoft does seem to have made a solid improvement is mobile IE 6, pre-installed on WinMo 6.5. It provides full flash support as well. CNet offers a positive review and video of the browser upgrade. 

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Related: Former rivals Google and Verizon (for the 700 MHz spectrum) plan an announcement later today, which is probably the first Android handset launch on Verizon. Google may have timed this announcement consciously to steal some of the PR thunder from Windows Mobile. 

Monday Morning Mobile News Roundup

There's a good deal of news this morning and not a lot of time to expand on it. I will if I can later. Right now, here are the headlines and a few comments . . .

T-Mobile in its bid to become the US carrier most closely associated with Android, said that it would carry the Samsung Behold II, the Korean OEM's first Android handset. In addition the company is trying to boost enterprise visibillity with a big WiFi push.

Google joins the Adobe Open Screen Project to put flash on mobile devices. Now Adobe has secured flash on everyone's handsets/platforms but the iPhone. We'll see if Apple eventually is forced to roll out flash by virtue of its coming availability on competitive handsets. The Android Hero already offers flash support, and so does mobile browser Skyfire. 

Tomorrow is the big WinMo 6.5 launch day but AT&T's HTC Pure and Tilt 2 are already on sale (the Pure for $149) with Window Mobile 6.5. Note the aggressive pricing: smartphone pricing is coming down and the more it does the more adoption there will be. The more adoption, the more mobile Internet engagement . . .

VoIP provider Vonage is releasing BlackBerry and iPhone apps

The NY Times reports on how more and more apps have a marketing angle and how companies are embracing them as marketing tools. It also covers the history of the tablet.  

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Update: the iPhone will get flash after all: 

The next version of Flash Authoring will enable developers to create stand-alone iPhone applications using Flash technologies (including ActionScript 3). These applications are just like any other iPhone application and can be distributed via the Apple iTunes Application store. Indeed, there are already a number of applications created with Flash on the store today.

One thing I want to stress is that this is for standalone applications, and is not the Flash Player for mobile Safari (which is something we continue to work on). The end result is a native iPhone application, and not a SWF that runs in the browser.

Windows Mobile: Poised to Surge or on Its Deathbed?

People in the analyst community and in the technology press are pretty polarized when it comes to Windows Mobile. One narrative is that Window Mobile is now fatally flawed, hopelessly behind and Microsoft should buy Palm (or otherwise dispose of WinMo). I was more or less in this camp until I saw some of the demo video of 6.5, which seems like a big improvement over 6.1 (which I owned for over a year). However I haven't been "hands on" with 6.5, let alone 7. 

On the other side are WinMo fans and boosters who tout Microsoft's global relationships with OEMs, strong position on the PC, software assets and general balance sheet as evidence that the mobile OS will be a strong player and not an also ran in the smartphone space. In that latter camp would appear to be iSuppli, which published a forecast that argues Windows Mobile will be the number two (after Symbian presumably) player in the smarpthone market on a global basis. 

Here's the company's chart showing the anticipated growth: 

Picture 227

I would argue that neither the detractors nor the boosters are entirely correct. The future cannot be truly predicted. There is no "Windows Mobile" brand that the public knows, hence the "Windows Phone" rebranding. But that has yet to be established. Unless or until it gains traction in the public mind, Microsoft is partly dependent on third parties to succeed:

  • Carriers have to subsidize the phones. Any handset over $200 in the US is DOA. 
  • Hardware OEMs have to build attractive cases, camera and features around the OS

For its part, Microsoft can (and must) improve the OS and tie it to online services; it can also develop its apps ecosystem to be competitive. However, right now, there are fewer WinMo smartphones in the world in operation than iPhone + iPod Touch devices (30M vs. 50M). So iSuppli's forecast is optimistic in my view.

There's is a lot of work that Microsoft must do, both on the OS and the Windows Phone brand before it will be able the market share numbers iSuppli is predicting.

Loyalty and Longevity Among Mobile Apps

There's an emerging sense of what might be described as "app best practices," although the rules aren't entirely clear. This extends to pricing and update strategies. One thing that's hard to estimate is how much people will use a particular app or whether people will simply download and discard it after some initial curiosity.

What types of apps do people hold on to and use with any frequency? In my case there are scores of apps on my iPod Touch but I only use a handful with regularity, let alone daily. These questions were examined by mobile analytics provider Flurry in a 90 day study of 19 categories of apps from the iTunes store. The most retained categories of apps over 90 days were the following, in order:

  1. News
  2. Medical
  3. Reference 
  4. Productivity
  5. Navigation

But these weren't all used equally. Medical is long retained, though infrequently consulted, while news drives both usage frequency and loyalty. Here are two views from the company of retention and usage frequency:

Picture 214Picture 213

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Related: Business Insider reports iPhone gaming stats (e.g., 65% of apps downloaded are games, which seems to directly contradict the above data). See also Mobile Marketer on how mobile advertising drives mobile app downloads.