Operating Systems

Google Makes Downpayment on the 'Star Trek Computer'

At the Google developer conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, Google demonstrated "conversational search" on the PC. It was one of the clear highlights of the nearly three-hour keynote. What the demo showed was Google's voice search (and audio read back) capability together with "context awareness" of previous query results.

For years Google has very self consciously been trying to replicate the "Star Trek computer." Now Google is making some meaningful strides toward that objective. 

In the demonstration at the Google event, we saw the capacity to search for a person, place or thing and then do follow-up searches using pronouns or otherwise building on the previous query. The Google representative spoke to the computer and planned a trip to the Northern California beach community of Santa Cruz. She spoke queries to her PC and got voice-response answers from the Google "assistant."

This kind of "context awareness" or "conversational" capability is present to varying degrees in Siri today (and other "assistants") as well as other "AI" driven call center and customer service solutions. 

Following the lead of Siri and then going beyond it, Google is transforming conventional search into a personal assistant experience. This is the clear future direction of the market. Google's voice search and Google Now information or answer "cards" illustrate this trajectory. As of late yesterday some of those same capabilities have been brought over to the Chrome browser on the PC.   

If users update their Chrome browsers to the latest version they'll find a prominent new voice-search experience on Google.com (it isn't yet available from the URL bar search). Many of the answers or results are "read back" to you (where there's an answer card or Knowledge Graph entry). However this doesn't happen all the time. And in my quick testing, the ability to follow up with secondary searches using pronouns and queries referencing previous results was very limited. 

Still, the spoken read-back (as in mobile search) is fun and as Google develops this contextual and conversational capability further you may be inclined to start having more verbal interactions with your computer. 

Apple Bests Others but Loses Satisfaction Points, Samsung Gains

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has released new data on mobile phone satisfaction. Apple (iPhone) comes out on top, as it does in the JD Power surveys. However the iPhone has lost two satisfaction points, while Samung jumped seven points, since last year.

The iPhone may be losing ground because Android devices are being released more frequently with a range of feature improvements and form factors. For example, the iPhone 5's screen, which was enlarged vs. the 4S, looks puny by comparison to some of the Samsung devices.  

Most other competitors on the ACSI list gained vs. last year except LG, HTC and BlackBerry. Immediately below are the ACSI rankings. 

 

For comparison purposes, here are the JD Power rankings. After Apple, Nokia came in second beating Samsung. Motorola, second in ACSI's list above, was fourth overall in the JD Power rankings. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 6.33.48 AM 

The ACSI people will tell you that satisfaction ratings matter because they're broadly predictive of future sales performance. I accept that as sound. However the data from year one have not always correctly predicted market share or sales performance in year two. One case in point is online search, where ratings declines for Google have not translated into market share loses and vice versa for other competitors.

It's also worth noting that the satisfaction rankings differences between JD Power and ACSI are probably the result of a focus on different criteria and different questions to consumers. Thus both lists may not be entirely complete measures of consumer satisfaction. However the iPhone did top both lists, which is significant. 

By Saying 'No' to Android Has Nokia CEO Elop Sealed His Fate?

There are some signs of progress for Windows Phones and Nokia's Lumia line of handsets that exclusively use the operating system. Especially in Italy and the UK Nokia seems to be making some headway. There were also some data showing an uptick in Windows Phones' market share in the US.

The following are two sets of survey-based market share data from comScore and Kantar. Kantar shows much greater growth in Windows Phone adoption in the US than comScore. Regardless, over the past 18 months Windows Phones have largely failed to make a dent in the smartphone dominance of Android and Apple devices. 

comscore March mobile market share 1

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech smartphone data

It's almost 100% certain that Nokia, with its well-reviewed Lumia hardware, would be selling more phones if there were an Android option. However Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has essentially refused to consider that option and is sticking to the company's Windows-only strategy. This comes amid intensifying investor pressure to adopt Android.

According to a recent WSJ article:  

Shareholders approved the dividend-suspension proposal, but appear to be losing patience as questions about Samsung and Apple loomed over Tuesday's session. One shareholder asked Mr. Elop why Samsung is achieving what the investor characterized as 10 times better results than Nokia, and another concluded a round of tough questions by saying that right now Nokia isn't displaying "the spirit and charisma" that Apple has.

Over the next 2 - 3 quarters, Nokia may see slightly better results but they won't show the kinds of growth desired by institutional investors. Unless or until Nokia adopts Android sales won't accelerate to any significant degree, to the increasing frustration of investors. 

One way or another Nokia will likely be developing Android devices by this time next year -- absent a Windows sales miracle. Either Elop will give in to investor calls for Android or, if he does not, he will be ousted by their calls for his head. And the first act of any successor CEO will be to fast-track Android handset development. 

Tablets 'Shipment' Numbers Inconsistent with Traffic Reality

I'm a big opponent of using "shipments" as an indicator of market share. It may be a directional indicator of market share in some cases. But there are times when "shipments" is simply the wrong metric. IDC's latest tablet numbers offer a case-in-point.

The firm reported the following tablet shipment figures globally for Q1: 

  • Android -- 56.5%
  • iOS -- 39.6%
  • Windows -- 3.3%
  • Windows RT -- 0.4%
  • Others -- 0.2%

Basically the positions of Android and iOS tablets have reversed since last year. Shipments are put forward as a proxy for market share by IDC. However that's a dubious proposition at best. Shipments do not equal sales, let alone usage.

The following chart reflects North American tablet traffic share as of March, according to Chitika. After the iPad's 82%, Kindle Fire has a 7% share of traffic. Samsung Galaxy tablets come in at 4.3%. Needless to say these actual traffic data show a massive discrepancy vs. IDC's shipments estimates.

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Below is StatCounter data from 2012 (via Royal Pingdom) -- I was unable to find more recent global traffic data. These data reflect something very consistent with the Chitika data above.

In these various geographic markets the iPad is generating around 80% or more of tablet traffic. Even if we assume iPad share has fallen by 10 points since last year, these data are still a radical departure from the IDC figures. 

 tablet OS faceoff

Undoubtedly lower-priced tablets and the sheer proliferation of devices will necessarily diminish the iPad's "shipments share" over time. But it remains to be seen how actual usage is impacted. For the moment market share (as measured by consumer usage and traffic data) looks nothing at all like IDC's projections.

Google Brings Virtual Assistant to iOS 'Now'

Whether we call Google Now "predictive search," "anticipatory search" or a "virtual assistant," the capability is highly useful and improving regularly. Previously exclusive to Android devices with OS 4.1 or higher ("Jelly Bean") Google Now is now available for the iPhone and iPad.

You'll need to download the latest version of the Google Search app to get it.

Google Now is partly Google's answer to Siri (and Passbook) and partly a wholly independent development that takes your search history, your Gmail entries, your calendar, your location and other "context" to deliver a range of personalized information without having to actively search for it.

Google Now for iOS operates in essentially the same way as it does on Android devices: users swipe up from the bottom of the screen to receive customized information cards. The cards feature weather, traffic, stock quotes, recent sports scores, local places of interest, movie showtimes and so on. Below is a complete list of the content/data available through Google Now. 

Google Now comparison iOS vs. Android

Source: Google

The cards on the chart above "missing" from iOS are newer cards that will soon come to iOS. Google confirmed this. 

Those who download and use the service will likely find themselves using it regularly (as I do). While it can sometimes be flawed or inaccurate -- if you travel a lot it will often give you information about the city you just left rather than where you are -- it offers a growing corpus of useful information. As mentioned, it continues to expand and improve. 

Google requires users to sign in to get access to Google Now, so the company will gain mobile usage data it wouldn't otherwise have in the process. It's a very effective way for Google to get iOS users re-engaged with search on their iPhones and iPads. 

A survey we conducted in June of last year (n=503 US iPhone 4S owners 18 and older) found that most people who searched Google on their iPhones didn't use the Google Search app: 

Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?

  • I visit Google.­com to search: 44.9 percent
  • I use search in the Safari toobar: 26.4 percent
  • I use the Google mobile app: 19.3 percent
  • I use Siri to search the web: 11.1 percent
  • I use Bing and/or Yahoo: 6.6 percent

If this survey were done today we might see slighly different percentages but directionally the results would be similar. It will be interesting to see whether and how the numbers change several months from now -- and whether the introduction of Google Now for iOS has had a meaningful impact on user behavior. 

Apple Sells More iPhones, iPads than Wall Street Expected

Apple has just released earnings. The company reported quarterly revenues of $43.6 billion. Second quarter revenues in 2012 were $39.2 billion. Total 1H 2013 revenues were $98 billion. 

There were better-than-expected iPhone and iPad sales in the quarter. Gross margins came in at 37.5%. This compared to 47.4% last year.

Now the device numbers:

  • iPhone: 37.4 million (vs. 35.1 million a year ago)
  • iPad: 19.5 million (vs. 11.8 million a year ago)
  • Macs: "Just under 4 million" sold last year (vs. 4 million a year ago)
  • iPods: (5.6 million; iPod Touch represents 50%+ of sales)
  • iTunes: $4 billion (new sales record) 

On cheaper devices: There were lots of questions during the earnings call about Apple's competitive position and ability to compete in markets around the world. CEO Tim Cook repeated several times that an aggressively priced iPhone 4 is the crux of Apple's strategy to attract first time smartphone buyers in developing markets. 

This is a product, however, that's two generations old. While Apple says it won't make "cheap products" it's very likely that Apple will develop a less expensive iPhone to compete in those markets where "first time buyers" can't afford the state-of-the-art iPhone. 

On mobile payments: Tim Cook was asked about getting into mobile payments. Cook responded that the market was in its infancy, implying that Apple would be waiting to enter it in earnest (if at all). 

On the prospect of a larger iPhone screen: One of the financial analysts asked about a larger iPhone display. Cook respondend, " The iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry." However he acknowledges that "some customers" value screen size. He explained that larger displays require trade-offs in quality. He then said that the company won't ship a larger iPhone display "while these trade-offs exist." That in turn implies that a larger display may be on the iPhone 6 or a later model. 

Low Awareness, Lack of Interest Plague BlackBerry, Nokia

It turns out that despite lots of media coverage and celebrity personality Alicia Keys as "creative director" most North Americans don't know about the launch of BB10. That's according to a survey commissioned by MKM Partners. The poll of 1,500 adult consumers (conducted during the past three weeks) asked about device adoption and future purchase intentions. It found, consistent with other data, much higher recognition and interest in Apple and Samsung. Others generally fared poorly.

The survey found that 51% of respondents owned smartphones, with 39% saying they bought their in the last six months.

Ownership breakdown by handset OEM: 

  1. 33% Apple
  2. 28.3% Samsung
  3. 9.9% LG
  4. 9.3% HTC
  5. 9.3% Motorola
  6. 4.4% other
  7. 3.4% BlackBerry
  8. 1.6% Nokia 

Current mobile OS:

  1. 55.1% Android
  2. 31.3% iOS
  3. 6.4% Windows Phone (higher than other surveys)
  4. 3.4% not sure
  5. 3.1% BlackBerry

Future purchase intentions:

  1. 44.5% “not sure” of next phone
  2. 19.6% said Samsung (Android)
  3. 17.7% iPhone
  4. 5.9% BlackBerry
  5. 4.4% Motorola
  6. 3.7% HTC
  7. 3.1% LG
  8. 0.7% Nokia

Asked about BlackBerry 10, 83% of respondents indicated they weren't aware of the launch. Asked about Windows Phones, 61% lacked awareness of the OS. When asked about interest in BB10/BlackBerry or Windows Phones the majority of respondents indicated indifference.

Not interested:

  • 68% not interested in BlackBerry
  • 63.9% not interested in Windows Phone

Separately investment firm Piper Jaffray conducted another wave of its research among US teens about device ownership and future intentions.

piper_jaffray_teen_survey_apr13

Notable findings include the following: 

  • 51% of surveyed teens owned a tablet
  • 50% owned smartphones

In both cases iOS was dominant. However Android has made slight gains in both smartphone and tablet categories since the previous survey was conducted last fall. And aggressive pricing, especially in the tablet category, may drive Android penetration up vs. iOS among younger users.

Will It or Won't It? Microsoft's iOS-Office Dilemma

Microsoft is in a tough spot: Windows Phones aren't selling well outside of a couple of EU markets and data indicate that neither is Windows 8. Windows RT and Surface tablets have so far been a major disappointment as well. While it's way to early to "count Microsoft out," clearly the company is in trouble as mobile internet access and mobile computing accelerate at the expense of the PC. 

There have been persistent rumors that Microsoft was bringing a version of Office to iOS and specifically the iPad. You can use Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based product on the iPhone or iPad. (I have not.) But the experience will not be as rich as with a native app. 

There are two theories about why Office has not come to iOS as a native app: Microsoft won't pay the 30% "tax" to be in the iTunes App Store and, perhaps more significantly, if Office came to the iPad (or Android tablets) it would undermine the sales outlook for Microsoft's own Surface tablets -- currently the only tablet that offers Office. 

Microsoft's compromise may be to offer Office 365 through the browser to iPad users. However by not offering a native app it risks ceding the centrality of  Office to a range of apps. Offering a native-app Office would potentially cloud the future of its own tablet devices, which may not be so bright anyway.  

Low-Cost Tablets to Accelerate Decline of PC Market

Last week there was a Reuters report asserting the next Google-ASUS Nexus 7 will have an improved screen and may cost as little as $149. The current entry level Nexus 7 is $199. Reuters also said that if it's not the new Nexus 7 than the existing tablet's price may be reduced. The current entry level Kindle Fire from Amazon (with ads) costs $159.

As this all indicates there's a kind of "race to the bottom" going on that may radically depress margins on Android tablets. Furthermore we're likely to see a decent $99 7-inch Android tablet in the next year.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 7.19.32 AM

The growth of smartphones and the emergence of these reasonable-quality low-cost tablets such as the Nexus 7 are accelerating a trend toward mobile device adoption at the expense of PCs and further extending PC replacement cycles. In developing countries PCs will likely never reach penetration levels seen in North America or Europe.

In its latest device forecast Gartner joins the party, affirming what we already know about PC erosion in favor of smartphones and tablets on a global basis. In its projection Gartner sees Android as the big winner, effectively replacing Microsoft as the dominant OS on tablets and smartphones.  

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 7.02.46 AM

The particulars and timing of this forecast will undoubtedly turn out to be wrong. However the direction of the forecast is probably accurate. With its resistance to matching price competition (probably wisely) Apple iPads will not reach tablet penetration levels of low-cost Android based tablets (though the company is considering a lower-cost iPhone).

So far, Microsoft's "2.0" efforts in mobile, Windows Phone and Surface tablets, have only made modest gains in selected markets. However Microsoft still makes money from Android OEMs via patent licensing fees. If it has to rely on licensing the company's future will be pretty grim.

If these figures are anywhere near accurate tablets are poised to become the primary computing (and advertising) platform. Yet we're likely to see quasi-converged devices (i.e., tablets with keyboards like the Surface Pro) become laptop replacements in the near term.  

BlackBerry Z10 Is Merely a 'Stop the Bleeding' Phone -- if That

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins recently got a lot of coverage, in anticipation of the BlackBerry Z10 launch, for the remark that the iPhone was now outdated.

The much-hyped Z10 is now available in the US from AT&T (soon from Verizon) and a range of carriers in international markets. I went into an AT&T store this weekend to take a look at and get a "hands on" sense of the device. Unimpressive. 

It was immediately clear that this handset may keep some number of BlackBerry customers from "defecting" to the iPhone or Android. However it's not sufficiently exciting to lure existing iPhone and Android users to the BlackBerry platform. The UI and software are not entirely intuitive for iPhone and Android users. In addition, the collection of apps is limited.

The phone resembles an HTC device and is generally unremarkable otherwise. Indeed it has a "generic smartphone" quality.

Much has been made that AT&T employees haven't been trained to promote the phone. That seemed evident in my visit. In the store I entered there was not only a lack of promotional signage but the phone was placed in a far corner almost as an afterthought. It was simply there among a row of competing smartphones -- not highlighted in any way. I had to ask store salespeople multiple times where it was to locate the phone.

It's almost 100% certain this device will not be the engine of new growth for BlackBerry and that the device maker will continue to fall out of favor in the US market. 

iPhone Tops in Satisfaction Again, Nokia Beats Samsung

As Apple reportedly prepares to release a less expensive, plastic version of the iPhone to boost sales in the developing world, it's trying to strike a balance between cost and quality. It will simultaneously have to make the phone appealing (perhaps with a slightly different design and color) while not cannibalizing its flagship.

The perception of higher quality is one of the few remaining advantages that the device has over Android rivals, who over the past three years have dramatically closed the quality and features gap. Despite these gains, the iPhone has consistently beaten its smartphone competitors in customer service ratings from JD Power. The latest survey is no exception. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 6.33.48 AM

JD Power surveyed nearly 10,000 US smartphone owners. The satisfaction criteria, in order of importance, were the following:

  1. Performance
  2. Physical design
  3. Features
  4. Ease of operation

This is the ninth consecutive time that the iPhone has ranked #1. JD Power said the Apple device did particularly well in the areas of design and ease of operation.

In a bit of a surprise, Nokia edged Samsung in the survey. However Nokia has many fewer users (by an order of magnitude) than Samsung, whose Galaxy smartphone line is the best-selling Android handset in many markets around the world.

It's interesting that LG performed so poorly given the success of the LG-made Nexus 4, which repeatedly sold out and to date remains overall best Android handset on the market. In contrast, among feature phone OEMs, LG performed best, which is somewhat curious. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 6.34.07 AM

Apple iOS Devices Continue Market Dominance in Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising and platform exchange firm Velti has released its monthly snapshot on the "State of Mobile Advertising" for February 2013.

Among the interesting tidbits, the report found Apple iOS devices accounted for a whopping 8 out of the top 10 mobile devices serving ad impressions. iPhone devices had a 37.4% share, while iPads comprised 17.2% of all impressions served in February.

And while Samsung Galaxy devices comprised less than 5% combined market share, the report speculates the release of Galaxy S 4 might significantly alter the mobile ad market in the coming months.

Velti_DeviceShare

In terms of market share by OS, Apple still clearly shows an advantage holding steady at around 65% for the month of February 2013.

Velti_iOSshare

One noteworthy datapoint in the report highlighted how weekends continue to see the highest levels of app usage, with Sundays accounting for 15.7% of all impressions served. The report stated: "Publishers and marketers should keep in mind daily usage patterns as an important factor in getting the highest return on clicks, and ultimately revenue, for their specific site or app."

Velti_DayofWeek

Velti’s "State of Mobile Advertising" report gathers data from the Mobclix Exchange and is provided on a monthly basis.

Report: iPhone Traffic Still Roughly 2X the iPad in North America

Recently there have been several reports starting to show that tablet (iPad) traffic is beginning to overtake smartphone traffic. For example, a report last week from Adobe found that, on a global basis, tablet traffic now exceeds smartphone web traffic (8% to 7%).

A new report from ad network Chitika, however, says that at least in North America the iPhone still generates roughly 2X the web traffic of the iPad. The iPad dominates tablet-only traffic with more than 80% market share. 

In late February, Chitika looked at traffic distribution from "250,000+ publisher websites." The company found that "iPhone users still generate more than two times the traffic of [ ] iPad users."

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 3.09.48 AM
The iPhone was responsible for 61.5% of North American web traffic from iOS and the iPad for just under 31%. The iPod Touch drove roughly 8% of iOS-generated web traffic according to Chitika. 

The Chitika report didn't look at engagement or time on site. The earlier Adobe report found that "on aver­age inter­net users view 70% more pages per visit when brows­ing with a tablet com­pared to a smartphone."

As tablet penetration grows, we should see its share of iOS and all web traffic commensurately grow. The interesting question is whether tablets are substituted in the home for smartphones or PCs. A recent Google-Nielsen report found that 77% of smartphone search activity happened at home or in the workplace (when people typically have ready access to PCs).

Samsung Debuts 'Life Companion' S4, Apple Compelled to 'Go Big' by Galaxy's Success

Last night in New York Samsung formally announced its much anticipated Galaxy S4 follow-up to its hugely successful S3. The hardware update was relatively modest: a somewhat larger high-resolution AMOLED screen, more CPU power and thinner body. It will be challenging to tell the S4 from the S3 without a close look. 

Much of the evening was about software though decidedly not about "Android" or "Google." Android got a single mention and Google was never mentioned.

Here are the S4's major "specs":

  • Screen: 5 inch HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) display, 441 ppi
  • Processors: 1.9 GHz Quad-Core Processor / 1.6 GHz Octa-Core Processor
  • OS: Android 4.2.2
  • Camera: 13MP (rear), 2MP (front) 

With its splashy, Broadway inspired show last night Samsung entered Apple's "big launch" turf. It also perhaps unwittingly emulated Apple's "incremental" handset update cycle. Indeed, we might call the S4 the "S3s" because of its "evolutionary" changes over the S3. 

There were tons of software updates and new additions to the handset; many of them related to the camera and many of them were impressive seeming. However today several outlets are reporting that the Samsung software didn't always work as promised. In fact the S4, which will undoubtedly be popular, has received some quite mixed reviews -- especially from Gizmodo last night, which called it a "missed opportunity." 

Samsung has taken a bit of an "A/B testing" or shotgun approach, if you prefer, to developing mobile devices. Over the past three years it has released a wide range of tablets and handsets vs. Apple's much more deliberate and controlled pipeline. Yet through its experimentation with larger screens and a range of devices (as a differentiation strategy) it has helped cultivate in consumers an appetite for larger smartphone screens. 

But for that shift in the public's appetite, Apple wouldn't have made the "taller" iPhone 5. Yet there's considerable pressure to make still larger iPhones. 

A larger screen has become one of the key hardware features and differences between the first-tier Android handsets (especially from Samsung and HTC) and the iPhone. Thus Apple will be rolling out an even bigger iPhone (probably at 6). Apple would do well to bring that larger phone this summer and not wait another full year to do so.

Apple is not used to compensating and being on the defensive. It normally leads the market with design. But it has been playing catch-up recently.

The unexpected success of smaller tablets forced it to create the iPad Mini. And the unanticipated development of giant-screened smartphones (Note II, S4) forces Apple to offer a larger iPhone, thereby betraying Steve Jobs' "single hand" operation philosophy. In addition the need to sell more iPhones in developing markets (vs. less expensive Androids) has given rise to rumors of a cheaper, "more plastic" iPhone. 

Samsung clearly emulated, imitated or copied (take your pick) the iPhone's look and feel at the outset. But the Korean company has now gone beyond it in several ways -- including in the hyperbolic claim that the S4 is a "life companion." And, ironically, Apple is now being compelled by the Galaxy line's success and by public demand to make the iPhone much more like Samsung handsets. 

Users Prefer Apps to Mobile Sites But High Expectations Burn Developers

Many developers and digital marketers still cling to the assumption that HTML5 and the "mobile web" will eventually win out over native apps. There's a kind of logic to that position. However they may be waiting a very long time for that to happen.

As has previously been written, the overwhelming majority of consumer time spent with mobile devices is spent in apps ("4 out of every 5 mobile minutes," per comScore). And according to a new survey from Compuware the majority of international respondents (85%) preferred apps over mobile sites.

The survey had a total of just over 3,500 respondents from the US, UK, France, Germany, India and Japan.

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 12.12.02 PM

Despite the positive news for app developers the survey also had some harsh findings. For example 59% of respondents said that an app should load in two seconds or less. In addition, poor user experiences result in app abandonment, switching to competitors' apps, negative word of mouth and erosion of brand perception -- among other negative consequences.

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The most common problems encountered were freezing/crashing (62%) and slow load times (47%), as well as the more generic "didn't function as expected" (37%). A majority of users had encountered one or more of these problems in using apps. Users expect apps to load faster and perform better than mobile sites: "78% expect mobile apps to load as fast as — or faster than — a mobile website."

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Nearly 80% of the survey respondents said that they would give an app one (maybe two) more chances if it didn't work correctly the first time. And app-store ratings are being taken very seriously by users: "84% users say app store ratings are important in their decisions to download and install a mobile app."

The survey report cited third-party data for the proposition that the average number of apps on users' smartphones is 41.  

Changing of Guard at Android Suggests Consolidation of Google Operating Systems

There has always been a somewhat awkward relationship between Google's Chrome OS (PC) and Android OS (mobile). Many people have remarked about it. Today that tension was potentially resolved.

Google CEO Larry Page announced that Android founder and Google Mobile chieftan Andy Rubin was transitioning to another role at the company. In his place SVP Sundar Pichai (who was once unsuccessfully recruited by Twitter) will take over leadership of the Android team. Pichai is currently responsible for Chrome OS and the two groups will be under his combined command.

Here's what Page said about him in a blog post announcing the change:  

Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use—and he loves a big bet. Take Chrome, for example. In 2008, people asked whether the world really needed another browser. Today Chrome has hundreds of millions of happy users and is growing fast thanks to its speed, simplicity and security. So while Andy’s a really hard act to follow, I know Sundar will do a tremendous job doubling down on Android as we work to push the ecosystem forward.

There's a clear logic here and the move makes sense. But my instincts tell me that all may not go as smoothly as that logic suggests. 

By all measures Android is flying high: "60 manufacturers; more than 750 million devices have been activated globally; and 25 billion apps have now been downloaded from Google Play." Yet device activations have slowed somewhat and Samsung has all but taken control of Android handset (and perhaps eventually tablet) sales. Samsung Galaxy devices represents an increasingly large share of all Android sales. 

Windows Phone is unlikely to challenge Android, nor is BlackBerry -- for at least the foreseeable future, if ever. Android can coast for some time (which is clearly not happening) and the platform would continue to dominate globally. By some estimates Android is on 80% or more of Chinese smartphones.  

If indeed this leadership change is a precursor to OS consoidation we may see some technical challenges a la Windows as a unified operating system across devices. But then again, but for Apple (and partner Samsung), Google really has no competitive threats to its global-mobile dominance on the horizon.  

Jumptap: Samsung Will Control 60% of US Android Market This Year

New US smartphone figures came out today from comScore for January. According to the comSumer survey Android had 52.3% of the market, while Apple was at 37.8%. Those numbers represent a jump for Apple and a dip for Google since October, the comparison period. 

Apple is the top smartphone OEM in the US followed by Samsung. Their relative shares are 37.8% to 21.4%. However Samsung is the dominant Android handset OEM by far, though LG did experience an uptick because of the extremely popular Nexus 4 (the best Android handset currently on the market). 

comScore mobile subscriber data Jan

Today also mobile ad network Jumptap released its latest MobileSTAT report for February. In that report Jumptap says that from 2011 to 2012 Samsung's share of Android handsets on its network grew from 42% to 56%. Jumptap is predicting that Samsung's share will continue to grow, perhaps beyond 60% of the US Android handset market this year. 

Weaker or fading rivals HTC, LG and Motorola will have a much smaller share: no greater than 11% in any individual case according to the Jumptap prediction. The chart below illustrates the degree of Samsung's dominance in the US smartphone market. The comScore numbers above are not quite as severe.  

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.14.08 PM

Operating system share will remain relatively stable in 2013 according to Jumptap. Accordingly, Windows Phones and BlackBerry are stuck in the basement with a combined 4% share. Indeed, 2013 will be the year that Nokia needs to make a decision about whether it wants to "diversify" with Android. If these numbers hold it will be all but compelled to do so. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.14.33 PM

Tablets will take mobile browsing share from smartphones according to another Jumptap prediction. The firm believes that tablets will grow to capture 29% of mobile traffic while smartphones will generate 70% of mobile traffic. The tablet impact on PCs is not discussed.  

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.14.21 PM

According to an earlier report from comScore mobile now represents 36% of internet time vs. 67% on the PC. I believe tablets will continue to take meaningful share from PC usage even has they cannibalize some share from smartphones (chiefly in the home).  

Coaster Another 'Point Solution' That Will Drive Mobile Payments Adoption

Some people have described the competition for business owners in the mobile payments segment as a "race to the bottom" in terms of credit card processing fees. Indeed, there are now at least 10 mobile payments or POS vendors targeting small businesses that are undercutting traditional credit card processing fees. The include LevelUp, Groupon, Square, PayPal Here, GoPago and others. 

Just yesterday Coaster introduced an iPad POS app that charges bar owners zero credit card fees -- zero. It makes money off charging consumers a small amount for the "premium service." 

Clearly this is not the company's long-term strategy. It's trying to create more bar "inventory" for consumers in the hope of driving app adoption and expanding beyond San Francisco, it's only current market. However the zero credit-card processing fee is a major incentive for bars to sign up and use the system. 

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Coaster is another example of something I've written about multiple times: vertical or point solutions that offer self-evident value to consumers and will drive adoption of mobile payments. My favorite example is mobile parking payments but Coaster is a pretty good example.

By using Coaster smartphone owners can order, pay and tip at bars without giving over their credit cards directly or waiting in line. I've not yet used the app myself. However Coaster offers concrete and obvious value for bar patrons (and bar owners).

These kinds of vertical scenarios or "point solutions" will educate consumers and get them comfortable with mobile payments, paving the way for broader adoption of "horizontal" solutions such as Google Wallet. Exposure to a positive veritcal payments experience will tend to accelerate broader payments adoption. 

By contrast people often don't see the reason or need for "mobile wallets" in the abstract. 

How interested are you in using your mobile phone to pay for things, and replace cash or your credit cards?

Survey: mobile payments

Source: Opus Research (August, 2012; n=1,501 US adults)

Millennial Media's 2012 Highlights: Samdroid Reigns, Top Verticals by Spend

Millennial Media has released an infographic that offers year-in-review data. I've excerpted what I thought were the most interesting aspects. However you can see the entire infographic here

There were two data sets that I found most interesting. The first is verticals ranked by ad spend on the company's network. Automotive was the leading vertical and biggest gainer in 2012. This is mostly car makers doing broad, awareness-oriented brand advertising. 

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Below is an example of automotive general awareness advertising (though not necessarily from Millennial Media). The screens I've presented are just a few from the ad. The ad makes it possible to locate a dealer to do a test drive -- but that capability is buried a few clicks down and below the fold. 

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If you take a look at all the categories in the Millennial top verticals list, all are categories in which most of the transactions will be realized offline. However I would bet that few if any of the advertisers in these categories are doing anything like trying to drive consumers into local outlets or stores.

For example, the graphic below shows Millennial's most recent data on the distribution of "post click" objectives associated with the campaigns on its network. Only 19% of these ads contained a "store locator." And those are probably not prominently displayed. Most of these campaigns are simply branding campaigns. 

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This is a significant missed opportunity. Only 5% of retail spending in the US happens online and an even smaller amount through mobile devices. The rest -- literially more than $4 trillion -- is offline. The ability to lead consumers to a store or point of sale is one of the great opportunities of mobile. However it's not really being utilized or exploited by advertisers.

The other interesting piece of data in the Millennial infographic shows the growth (and decline) of Android OEMs. Samsung is winning and HTC, Motorola (Google) and LG are losing when it comes to Android share.

As I've now argued numerous times Android is increasingly identified with Samsung. Partly this is because Samsung is making compelling devices -- although the LG Nexus 4 is the best Android handset on the market -- but it's equally because Samsung is spending so much money on marketing around the globe.  

Just as Android now controls more than 50% of the global smartphone market, Samsung will soon control more than 50% of the Android market.  

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Year Ends with Mixed Outlook for Microsoft & Nokia

Earlier this week Appcelerator released its quarterly mobile app developer survey. The survey of more than 2,700 global developers found they were primarily focused on the iOS and Android operating systems, with Windows Phones, RIM and others relatively far behind. This reflects the "duopoloy" of iOS and Android (increasingly "Samdroid') sales in the global smartphone market.  

The challenges of creating a strong developer ecosystem for Windows is partly what's holding the mobile OS back. Sales are relatively good in isolated EU markets (e.g, Spain, UK) but lackluster on a global basis and in North America in particular, where Windows continues to lose market share.

According to the survey, about 36% of developers indicated interest in building apps for Windows devices. However Windows Phone's modest market share is creating a kind of Catch-22 for the platform.  

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Without boosting the perception that Windows has app-parity (at least among the most important ones), there won't be more handset sales. Without more handset sales there won't be more consumer usage and without consumer adoption there are few incentives -- except direct payments from Microsoft -- to develop for the platform. The majority of developers, according to the Appcelerator survey, can only focus on two mobile platforms. 

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Separately, IHS iSuppli released a full-year, 2012 estimate of global smartphone market share. The calculation is based on the untrustworthy "shipments" metric. However, the company shows Nokia dropping to third position, Apple in second and Samsung-Android now leading iOS "decisively":

Samsung and Apple ended 2011 in a neck-and-neck battle for leadership in the smartphone market, with only 1 percentage point of market share separating them. However, entering the 2012 year, Samsung moved ahead decisively ahead of Apple with a wide range of Android smartphone offerings. Samsung made significant gains in both the high end as well as the low-cost market with its Galaxy line of smartphones. This diversified market approach has allowed Samsung to address a larger target audience for its phones than Apple’s limited premium iPhone line.

The Samsung and Apple duopoly represents the dominant force in the smartphone market, with the two companies accounting for 49 percent of shipments in 2012, up from 39 percent in 2011. While Nokia and Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) also held double-digit shares of the market in 2011, Samsung and Apple remain the only two players that will each command a double-digit portion of the smartphone space in 2012.

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As Google-owned Motorola, LG and HTC struggle for consumer attention and handset sales, Samsung becomes more and more identified with Android in the consumer mind. RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry 10 OS is truly the company's "last hope." Nokia too will likely need to do something fairly radical if it is to remain viable (i.e., adopt Android) in the smartphone market.