PayPal, Google, Visa, Amex, Square, mobile carriers and others are competing in the rapidly developing world of mobile payments. NFC is one vision (though mass adoption is several years off if at all), while there are others such as Square and PayPal that are pushing NFC-free shopping concepts or tools.
Earlier this week PayPal laid out a very comprehensive and ambitious vision for the "future of shopping" and payments. It's a holistic concept that involves merchants, consumers and advertising; and it's built in part on recent acquisitions: Zong, Milo and Where.
PayPal wants to bring together payments on any device (call it "cloud payments") with offers (demand generation), "local search" and store inventory data. It's a strong vision and being smartly knit together through acquisitions and PayPal's existing assets. Look for them to make more acquisitions.
PayPal has the resources and most of the assets to make a pretty successful run at this vision. One of its great strengths is that it doesn't require infrastructure upgrades to work: consumers don't need new NFC-enabled devices nor do merchants need new POS terminals. So adoption could be more immediate. But there's a problem in PayPal's brand clout.
Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Google (even potentially Amazon) all have stronger brands than PayPal or eBay. And I think this is a major challenge for the company in getting merchants and consumers on board en masse. PayPal will also need to revamp and reduce its fee and commission structure to gain broader usage and adoption for all the scenarios envisioned in the video below.
In my mind, however, the brand issue (strength, trust) is a profound obstacle standing in the way of the realization of this otherwise powerful vision.
Comscore has released data this morning on smartphone usage across the "EU5," which encompasses France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Symbian-based smartphones remain the most prevalent. However they're in decline, while Android devices have now passed the iPhone to become the second most common smartphone type in these five countries.
Comscore says there are roughly 88.4 million smartphone users in the EU5 (Spain and the UK have the greatest smartphone penetration). That compares to comScore's estimate of 81.9 million smartphone owners in the US. By contrast, Nielsen says US smartphone owners comprise 40% of the market or more than 93 million people.
Microsoft mobile operating system handsets (including Windows Phones) are off almost 5%, which is an ominous sign for the coming Nokisoft partnership. However great hardware-software integration could give Europeans a reason to switch or upgrade from existing Symbian handsets.
Below are lists of "mobile content" activities and penetration rates across the EU5, contrasted with the same data from the US market. With the exception of the UK market mobile app usage in Europe is considerably lower than in the US, while text messaging is lower in the US than Europe according to these data.
Nielsen is now measuring the penetration and reach of apps on Android and iOS handsets in the US. The idea is the measure "actual consumer behavior" (rather than survey responses) based on usage patterns of 5,000 US smartphone owners who've agreed to participate.
Other data captured will be: frequency, duration, and size of total audience. Below are some of the data released by Nielsen to promote the new service, showing reach of various apps on Android smartphones:
Between men and women there are some differences. For example, among female Android users, Facebook is the most heavily penetrated Android app after the Android Market itself.
Forrester Research has released a report ("delayed a week out of respect for Steve Jobs") that argues Amazon's forthcoming Android tablet(s) will potentially sell 3-5 million units in Q4. This report, in "the works for months," can be boiled down the following:
Amazon’s willingness to sell hardware at a loss combined with the strength of its brand, content, cloud infrastructure, and commerce assets makes it the only credible iPad competitor in the market. If Amazon launches a tablet at a sub-$300 price point—assuming it has enough supply to meet demand—we see Amazon selling 3-5 million tablets in Q4 alone.
The analysis can be further distilled into two points that argue Amazon's got a shot at success:
I agree that Amazon's brand and marketing capabilities will give its tablet(s) a head start. But it's really price that will be the driving factor here. That's the lesson of the TouchPad buying frenzy: people are willing to buy an iPad imitator at the right price. In that case it was $99 and HP took a major loss on the inventory.
I own the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the user experience is woefully inadequate compared to the iPad. I won't enumerate the ways but the device doesn't hold a candle to the iPad (Apple shouldn't be so afraid of it).
Any tablet Amazon sells under its own brand, based on the Android OS, will also be inadequate by comparison. There are no tablet apps on Android, for example. Accordingly it will have to be very aggressively priced to succeed.
The most expensive "regular" Kindle is sub-$200. The larger "Kindle DX" is $379. Pricing a color Android tablet that doubles as an eReader (which they will have to) at less than the cost of a DX kills the DX.
If Amazon were to price a 10-inch Android tablet at $499 it would suffer nearly the same fate as all of Apple's tablet rivals to date: failure. If it goes down to $300 or $299 it will sell (especially with 3G built in). However, given the poor quality of the Android tablet experience in general at this point, it's far from certain that it will sell as many units as Forrester predicts.
We'll have to wait for the device and see how "good" it is. Regardless, price is going to be nearly the lone determinant of success or failure for Amazon.
Related: Changing demographics of tablet owners.
Looking to move unsold inventory over the weekend, HP chopped TouchPad pricing down to $99.99 and $149.99 from $499 and $599. It ignited a well-documented buying frenzy that melted the HP servers. BestBuy and other stores are now sold out.
The way that people snapped up these devices reveals that for other than iPads consumers are highly price sensitive. As we argued early on and often, the way to compete with Apple's device was on price. (I also earlier argued that smaller tablets could succeed as well, though have reconsidered that position.)
Amazon is about to enter the tablet fray and it may be able to succeed where others have not. However to date all of Apple's main competitors (RIM, Samsung, HP, MOTO, HTC) have failed to generate more than token sales of their tablets. Part of the reason for that is that these non-Apple devices perceived as imitators. So far they also generally offer a poorer quality user experience -- this includes the Samsung devices -- and have priced their tablets at or above (e.g., Xoom) the cost of Apple's iPad.
E-readers Kindle and Nook have succeed in part because they are single-purpose devices, though the Nook has broadened its scope, and they're relatively cheap (sub-$250). It remains to be seen what Google can do for Android tablets after it acquires Motorola. Right now, however, it appears that nobody selling a $499 tablet is going to make inroads against Apple.
While the HP TouchPad $99 frenzy may not immediately impact the market, over the long term it will probably mean that Android and other tablets (regardless of size) will have to come in under $400 without carrier subsidies and much less with them (sub-$250). That also means that non-iPad tablets are likely to become very low margin commodity products -- like PCs today.
And that's not a very attractive market.
Last Monday, when I was out on vacation, Google dropped a bomb on the mobile ecosystem: it entered into an agreement to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Everyone is more than familiar with the story and there's been a ton of analysis in the intervening seven days.
Here's the crux of that analysis:
The response to all of this is yes and yes. While I don't know the actual truth of the Microsoft acquisition rumor (I believe it) all of these motivations likely played a role. Now regulators must approve the deal, which I suspect they will do.
Google said that the acquisition shouldn't change anything among its other hardware partners or the Android ecosystem generally (Samsung, HTC, LG, etc). Here's the quote from the press release:
Our vision for Android is unchanged and Google remains firmly committed to Android as an open platform and a vibrant open source community. We will continue to work with all of our valued Android partners to develop and distribute innovative Android-powered devices.
But it clearly does change things. Hardware OEMs will be taking a harder look at Windows now to "hedge" and "diversify." But what about WebOS?
The other bombshell last week was HP's announcement that it's getting out of the PC business and potentially going to unload WebOS. In April last year HP (under a different CEO) bought Palm for $1.2 billion, chiefly to get WebOS. Now it may sell the software assets and it's possible to imagine several parties being interested.
It has been suggested by some that Facebook should buy WebOS. But one could imagine HTC, Samsung (even with Bada), LG and others -- including Nokia -- being interested the platform if the price were right. But what if HP were to hold onto WebOS and open-source it or license it on very friendly terms? Indeed, HP is now saying or clarifying that it will hold on to WebOS and continue to support and even license the software.
The platform, which was early on regarded as platform most competitive with iOS, could gain new life as an alternative to Android for nervous handset OEMs. With a post-MOTO Google competing with its partners in a new, more direct way the market could well be ready for a new "open-source" Mobile platform. It's a long-shot and HP could still sell Palm/WebOS to a single buyer. If that were to happen WebOS would likely continue to languish and ultimately disappear.
However open-sourcing the platform or offering friendly, low-cost licenses to various hardware makers could give WebOS new vitality and a future.
Google's purchase of manufacturing partner Motorola Mobility is about to establish itself as the most favored hardware platform for the Android operating system. Even though Google CEO asserts (in a press release) that the join endeavor "will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers," it is a tacit acknowledgement that today's status quo for Android provides a user experience that is uneven at best. Some of the work by its developer network is brilliant, but thanks to its free-wheeling approach to application development and delivery (when compared to Apple's terms and conditions for its App Store) the overall experience falls short of "amazing."
Google is paying a 63% premium over the current stock price for Motorola Mobility. It is a statement that the company expects direct ownership of the manufacturer to accelerate scales and promote proliferation of the Android OS. But Google's management is underestimating the impact of its action on other manufacturers who have endorsed and support Android as they must now regard Google/Moto as a direct competitor and not just a benign endorser of an "open" OS.
This post by long-time industry follower Mike Cane captures the probable outcome in the simple statement: "Google pulls a Zune." He refers to Microsoft's decision to begin making its own MP3 player after spending a few years endorsing and supporting the PlaysForSure digital rights management platform. Musicians and publishers who believed that Microsoft would stay "hardware agnostic" dealt with the news by understandably abandoning the product. HTC, Samsung and the other manufacturers in the Android camp must be looking more closely at alternatives.
I agree with Mike Cane that this will lead other manufactuers to evaluate their OS strategy. It is a disruptive move that could benefit HP, for example. I very much like the idea of it creating a new market for WebOS as a licensed product for manufacturers who are now concentrating on boosting their Android sales. Market share projections under the old regime are almost meaningless.
Much has quickly been written about the just launched Amazon HTML5 "Cloud Reader." It's a "web app" that could be used to replace the native Kindle iPad and iPhone apps. It's being widely read as a response to Apple's more restrictive App Store terms about in-app purchases/subscriptions. (Amazon has removed the button linking to the Kindle store from the most recent version of its iOS apps.)
I agree with John Gruber and others who believe this has been in the works for longer than Apple's more restrictive terms around in-app purchases. Cloud Reader does, however, completely side-step Apple and its App Store terms. The Financial Times and Walmart's Vudu also recently did something similar. More publishers and developers will follow, who don't want to give money to Apple or simply don't want to worry about Apple's rules.
An added benefit is compatibility with all mobile platforms. However developing native apps is relatively easy these days because, unless/until Windows Phones break out or BlackBerry stops its slide, only two operating systems matter: iOS and Android.
In contrast to some of the rapturous reviews I've seen Cloud Reader is not as strong as the Kindle native app. It works well and allows users to read books offline (e.g., on the iPad). But it's not as responsive or fast the native app.
Yet for certain types of sites or publications HTML5 will be fine and quite usable. However for higher functionality a native app is better, even necessary (e.g., games).
But now that several companies have "validated" the HTML5 strategy will we see the migration from apps to HTML5 that the industry has always anticipated? Not exactly. I think what we'll see is continued development of native iOS, Android (later maybe Windows Phone) apps and HTML5 from everyone else. However Apple doesn't help its cause with all its rules and restrictions.
There are two competing mobile handset stories running simultaneously in the tech press right now. The first is how Android is increasing its dominance over other operating systems including iOS. The second, which largely contradicts the first, argues that Android will potentially lose meaningful market share when the next iPhone comes out.
Below is the data that the "pro-Android" stories are built on; first Nielsen:
Google’s Android operating system (OS) now claims the largest share of the U.S. consumer smartphone market with 39 percent. Apple’s iOS is in second place with 28 percent, while RIM Blackberry is down to 20 percent.
Android, the number one platform by shipments since Q4 2010, was also the strongest growth driver this quarter, with Android-based smart phone shipments up 379% over a year ago to 51.9 million units . . .
Now the survey data on which the "pro-iPhone" stories are based:
Roughly two weeks ago ChangeWave came out with survey data that argued those planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days expressed a preference for the iPhone over Android 46% to 32%.
Then, earlier this week, Piper Jaffray released some survey data (which got way too much play for its tiny and unscientific sample) suggesting that most mobile phone owners would be buying an iPhone next. Indeed, the data argue that Android will see less than 50% retention:
No doubt many people are interested in the next iPhone but attitudes and survey responses don't always translate into concrete behavior. For the overheated claims to come true ("iPhone 5 could double iOS market share") Apple will need to unveil a true blockbuster.
A new US-centric ChangeWave consumer smartphone survey (n= 4,163) looks at mobile operating system preference and specifically iOS vs. Android. Accordingly those planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days expressed a preference the Apple product to Android 46% to 32%.
The perhaps most striking finding -- and grim news for RIM -- is that only 4% of respondents say they intend to buy a new BlackBerry device.
In terms of customer satisfaction the following graphic reflects the percentage of current smartphone owners who say they're "very satisifed" with their current handsets. Again Apple and Android lead.
However ChangeWave noted the following about improvement for Windows Phone 7 vs. Windows Mobile:
We continue to see a big difference between the high Very Satisfied rating for Windows Phone 7 (57%) vs. the much lower rating for Windows Mobile OS (14%). Even so, the higher Windows Phone 7 rating has yet to produce a sustained momentum boost for Microsoft in term of buyer preferences.
ChangeWave also said that demand for Motorola Android devices was down (8%; down 4-pts) after the iPhone had come to Verizon:
After benefitting tremendously in the years Verizon subscribers were barred from the iPhone market, Motorola is now seeing a loss of market share at least partially attributable to the Verizon iPhone release that occurred earlier this year.
There are a number of articles reporting recent European findings about smartphone ownership based on quarterly survey data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. They reveal some interesting insights into what's driving Android sales and the danger to Apple if it doesn't create a lower-cost iPhone.
The high-level data include the following:
It appears from the data that as users upgrade they're generally migrating to Android and RIM handsets (in the UK at least). Price is a significant consideration for many of these buyers.
This makes the iPhone a less attractive option than Android. The strong platform loyalty (at least for iPhone and Android) argues that Apple faces major challenges if it cannot grab some of these upgrading price-sensitive users.
Tablets aren't taking off as fast as some analysts expected and the iPad is still the only tablet that matters. However Amazon is reportedly preparing a full-frontal assault on the iPad's market dominance. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Amazon has placed orders for up to 1.2 million Android-based tablets for sale in Q3 this year.
Meanwhile Net Applications reported earlier this week that the iPad now represents 1% of all Internet browsing globally; 2% in the US market. The same report shows that iPad-based traffic is orders of magnitude ahead of tablet competitors, which have so far foundered. Net Applications also says the iPad delivers 25% of all mobile Internet browsing and is the third largest source of mobile Internet traffic, after the iPhone with 35.2% and Android with 31.6%.
In June the Pew Internet Project reported that "8% of adults report owning a tablet computer such as an iPad," while 12% said they owned an eReader (e.g., Nook). Between November 2010 and May 2011 eReader ownership doubled and tablets saw growth of only 3% according to the Pew survey.
The difference in sales is most likely due to price, given the relatively lower cost of eReaders vs. Tablets. The ad-supported Kindle is just $114, while the iPad retails for $500. But for the first time Nook has dethroned Amazon's Kindle as the best-selling eReader, according to IDC. The firm also said that tablet shipments were coming in well below its previous lofty forecasts:
For 1Q11, the seasonal trends typically found in more mature consumer electronics and computing categories had a notable impact on the burgeoning media tablet market . . . The eReader market (which IDC counts separately) experienced similar seasonality, undergoing a sequential decline in shipments to 3.3 million units as the post-holiday season proved to be challenging for that category. However, eReaders enjoyed 105% year-over-year growth . . .
Apple's iPad and the recently introduced iPad 2 continue to dominate the media tablet market, as other vendors have had a more difficult time finding market acceptance for their products. But even Apple's shipments for the quarter were well below expectations . . .
The firm pegs Android-based devices at 34% of the overall tablet market. That figure is probably way off, however, and may suggest its other numbers are wrong too. The weight of other evidence points to Android tablets being a much smaller part of the overall pie.
For example, the chart immediately below shows Google's own data reflecting the different Android operating systems in the market and their relative shares. Android 3.0 (and 3.1), which are on the new Android tablets, represents less than 1% of all Android devices in the market.
The original 7" Galaxy Tab runs Android 2.2, which is the most common version of the OS and on almost 60% of all Android devices today. The 7" Galaxy Tab is also the best selling non-iPad tablet.
Apple said in May that it had sold 25 million iPads. If the iPad is 66% of the market (vs. Android's 34% per IDC) that means approximately 13 million Android tablets would have been sold globally. And the overwhelming majority of these would have to be the 7" Galaxy Tab given the chart above (and other data).
In January 2011 Samsung itself announced it had "sold" 2 million 7" Galaxy Tab devices. However these were not actual consumer sales but shipments to retailers. It's very unlikely at this point that the 7" Galaxy Tab has sold even 5 million units to consumers (as opposed to retailers). If anything sales of the 7" Samsung tablet have slowed because of a broader range of Android-based competitors.
Beyond this comScore data argue that Android tablet devices are not a significant source of Internet traffic compared to the iPad. According to comScore, in June, the iPad represented “89 percent of tablet traffic across all markets.” In the US the figure is 97 percent. Those figures suggest that Android tablets are much closer to 10% of the market, if that.
The "totality of evidence" thus argues that the IDC Android sales estimates are way off. In terms of the larger market, however, it's not hard for me to believe that tablet sales are down or, perhaps more accurately, not keeping pace with analysts' previously aggressive estimates. This may have less to do with the actual popularity of tablets than it has to do with analyst firms being too starry eyed about their sales projections.
We'll see what happens when Amazon, with its brand strength and marketing capabilities, introduces its iPad competitor. As I've argued before pricing with be a key driver of success or failure.
Right now Android tablet software and the overall UX remain inferior to the iPad; so until the OS catches up (which may or may not happen) and there are some Android tablet apps, which are still MIA, price will be the key success variable in Amazon's tablet effort.
As a final note, I have previously been an advocate of the 7" tablet as a segment where Android could shine, especially given that Apple doesn't have an entry. And while it's certainly more "mobile" than 10" tablets, I'm now of the view that 7" is not sufficiently larger than a smartphone to warrant buying one.
I spent some time with the HTC Flyer recently. And while I like the device a lot -- much more than the Galaxy Tab -- most smartphone owners are probably not going to buy it. Indeed, if you're going to carry around or own two devices the second one needs to be considerably different than your smartphone. Alternatively if you could use a 7" Android tablet as a phone it might make the devices more attractive. Right now you could use Skype with a carrier data plan but that's not going to be desirable for most people.
My guess is that over time we'll see smartphone screens get somewhat larger (4.5", 5") and all tablets smaller than about 9" will go away, unless they're purchased as mobile gaming devices.
Many people (including some analysts) make simplistic assumptions about the mobile market: for example that mobile and local are all but synonymous. I'm obviously a big advocate of local but I see mobile usage as quite complex and defying easy conclusions about usage or the future direction of the market.
There are lots of functions and activities that people perform and do on mobile handsets that have nothing to do with their immediate surroundings or local. For example: games, news, entertainment, music, sports, social networking and so on.
A new set of Nielsen data about app downloads/usage in the past 30 days reflect that mobile is a platform that is complex and diverse in its usage. While local content and apps are well represented in the hierarcy a large number popular app categories have nothing to do with location.
Instead they probably reflect that people are using mobile as a "generic" Internet access tool. Games, the most popular category, is a phenomenon unto itself.
Most purchases occur in the physical world. So most mobile ads will either direct people to actual stores or, in the case of most future display campaigns, offer a dealer or store locator -- at a minimum. Mobile will be a huge branding medium, irrespective of any localization component. And there will be many awareness ads that have a location component as secondary or perfunctory matter.
Moreover we get into an "accounting" problem in defining what is a "local" ad in mobile.
Is a Klondike Bar ad that contains a store locator buried two clicks down a "local ad"? What about mobile click-to-call ads for a florist network, which sends users to call center to place an order fulfilled locally? Is a mobile-video brand campaign for Hilton Hotels that can direct you to the nearest property if you initiate a search or lookup?
There's a lot of gray in determining what is a local ad. We might want to "require" localization in the ad creative before we consider mobile ads as "local." Just a thought.
But just as people often fail to recognize how local or offline purchase intent permeates a great many things that happen on the PC it's equally the case that non-local activity/interest is very much tied up in mobile activity. The chart above nicely illustrates that.
MediaMind, formerly Eyeblaster, released the results of an extensive study examining roughly 230 million mobile ad impressions in Q4 2010 and Q1 2011. The company affirms or confirms that mobile outperforms PC for display advertising. There's no search data in this report but it's also true for search CTRs. However there are others who have data that contradicts these claims (e.g., iCrossing).
Below are some of the top-level findings in the report:
There's a big practical mobile advertising takeaway from the report: "Serving ads in the evening can prove much more effective as compared to earlier in the day, and can reduce the cost per click of mobile."
Mobile ad network Jumptap released its second MobileSTAT issue for June earlier today. It's very much like the Millennial Media SMART reports or the AdMob Metrics reports that began the trend. There are a range of interesting findings in the document; I excerpt and summarize some of that material below.
Among smartphone operating systems, Android leads the iPhone by a margin of 42% to 30% on the Jumptap network. This 12 point margin is consistent with the Nielsen-reported 11-point margin between the shares of the two operating systems in the broader US mobile market.
Compare Nielsen's data released earlier today:
A relatively unique piece of data in the report is the "content consumption" breakdown between apps and the mobile Web (below). There's no discussion of this graphic in the report so one would need to speculate on whether this is based on where Jumptap ad impressions were served or whether this is somehow a broader measure of consumption trends on mobile devices.
According to a recent report from mobile analytics company Flurry, which some have disputed, mobile apps have overtaken the Web (PC and mobile) in time spent. Regardless of whether that's precisly accurate, plenty of data indicate users are spending increasing amounts of time with mobile apps.
There's also considerable data in the report about CTRs on mobile ads. The first graph immediately below shows Jumptap's CTR by smartphone OS. The Apple iOS platform shows CTRs that are almost double those of Android and other platforms except the Palm webOS.
Mobile ad exchange/mediator Smaato offers a similar chart (global, Q1 2011), which shows Windows Phones leading the CTR pack followed by Symbian and then Apple, et al.
Jumptap also said that people between 50 and 70 years old clicked on more ads than members of other age groups. This is an interesting and somewhat curious finding. I would be interested in seeing age-CTR segmentation data by handset type. I suspect that for smartphone owners it would skew younger.
Mobile subscribers with incomes above $50K clicked on ads quite a bit more than those with incomes under that threshold. Again I would suspect that higher incomes correlate positively with smartphone ownership and that's going to factor in to this data.
There's now a fair amount of data from various sources about what time of the day/week mobile users are most active. In the Jumptap chart below ad clicks start to grow in mid-morning (with increased mobile activity generally) and peak at about 6pm.
Local-Mobile network Verve Wireless also recently put out findings about consumer behavior on its network. The company said that nearly 60% of page views on its network occurred during the afternoon commute hours and in the evening (between 7-10pm).
Another very interesting data set released by Jumptap is based on a mobile ad campaign with "a major auto advertiser," which targeted selected, demographically qualified zip codes "that are more likely to purchase their brand." According to Jumptap these zip-based ads showed terrific lift "over ads broadly targeted in almost every campaign" -- as much as 85%.
The final bit of data I'm including from the report shows the "post-click activity" or objectives of advertisers. Sixty seven percent of users clicked from an ad to a mobile Web-based landing page (or site), while 18% clicked to call and 15% downloaded something (probably an app).
Because we don't now when it says "click to Web" whether these are just PC sites on a mobile browser or HTML5 optimized landing pages we can't evaluable how sophisticated these advertisers are. As a general matter however I would speculate that we'll see a movement away from "click to Web" as marketers try and maximize the effectiveness of their mobile campaigns.
The tablets keep coming but none of them -- including the RIM Playbook -- have so far seemed to affect the momentum of the iPad or had much of an impact on consumers. As I've said before I now have the Samsung 10.1" tablet (courtesy of Google) and found it lacking compared to the iPad2.
I do think that some of the 7" tablets may do well. And lower-priced 10" tablets may also see some success. But there are many who would now argue that the tablet market is becoming like the MP3 player market of the last decade: all about Apple. While there were lots of MP3 players there was only one visible product and brand: the iPod.
It's still too early to say that the tablet market is already won, but there are signs that despite the best efforts of Motorola, Samsung and RIM, the iPad remains the most desired tablet by a factor of 4X or more. Survey data released on Monday by Bernstein Research found that consumers were far less interested in rival tablets than the iPad.
The same survey found that the 7" tablet form factor wasn't very interesting to consumers either. I'm a bit surprised by this finding and continue to believe Android will see some success with the smaller size. By contrast the 10" tablets feel very derivative of the iPad -- although we haven't yet seen the HP TouchPad in action yet. But it too will probably be shunned by consumers.
As a consequence of rivals' disappointing tablet rollouts, they have scaled back sales estimates and reduced orders for parts. This includes Motorola's much hyped Xoom and the more recently released Playbook. There are at least a dozen companies bringing tablets to market now and later in the year. Most will probably fail because they seem like imitators of the iPad. (At a low enough price point, i.e., 250, clones can succeed.)
I've argued elsewhere that the most competitive Google device vs. the iPad is probably the recently launched Chromebook (from Samsung, Acer). However Amazon, which is poised to bring out full-blown color-screen Android tablets, could prove a formidable competitor to Apple over the long term.
According to a recent report in Taiwan-based DigiTimes:
Amazon is poised to step into tablet PCs and will launch models as soon as August-September, with targeted global sales of four million units for 2011, according to Taiwan-based component makers.
The timing of launch is to meet the peak sales period prior to Thanksgiving in the US and the year-end holidays in the US and Europe, the sources pointed out.
Amazon adopts processors developed by Texas Instruments, with Taiwan-based Wintek to supply touch panels, ILI Technology to supply LCD driver ICs and Quanta Computer responsible for assembly, the sources indicated. Monthly shipments are expected to be 700,000-800,000 units.
One can assume that Android will get better on tablets. Currently Android 3.1 offers an overall inferior user experience to the much more polished iPad software and environment. Improving software, combined with Amazon's Android appstore and the company's brand, distribution and marketing muscle could make Amazon the number two tablet player by early next year.
However success or failure will still largely depend on the quality of the device and how much it costs.
Once again RIM is a takeover (talk) target. The recent drop in the company's stock value, declining market share and newly announced layoffs have rekindled discussion among financial analysts of a potential Microsoft acquisition. The following appeared today in Bloomberg/BusinessWeek:
Research In Motion Ltd. has lost so much value that an acquirer could pay a 50 percent premium and still buy the BlackBerry maker for a lower multiple than any company in the industry.
RIM, once worth $83 billion, fell more than 80 percent from its record three years ago as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android platform siphoned off smartphone customers. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company, which plunged last week after saying quarterly sales may drop for the first time in nine years, closed yesterday at $25.89 a share, or 4.7 times earnings next year. That’s less than any communications-equipment provider, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The BlackBerry maker's market cap is currently about $14.6 billion. It's quite possible that a private equity fund could rush in and try to buy the company. But putting that aside Microsoft is always mentioned as the logical buyer (because of RIM's enterprise foothold and the hardware business).
Yet Microsoft just spent $8 billion on Skype and more than a billion (reportedly) on its deal with Nokia. Would Microsoft turn around and now spend $15 billion or more on RIM? Beyond the cost, it would probably undermine the deal that Microsoft and Nokia have just done -- or at least trust between the companies. Suddenly Microsoft would be directly competing with Nokia, it's premier handset partner.
I suspect Microsoft won't make a move to buy RIM in the wake of Nokia. If it were to do that Nokia might rethink "betting the farm" on Windows Phone. After all Nokia just released a pretty nice looking handset (N9) based on MeeGo. In fact the demo looks so good it makes one wonder why Nokia felt compelled to do the Microsoft deal in the first place.
An online consumer survey from electronics site Retrevo finds that most US mobile users are ignorant of or otherwise not interested in mobile wallets. However, among those interested, iPhone users are quite a bit more enthusiastic than Android users.
This is curious because Google is, so far, is the most visible proponent of mobile payments. And Google Wallet is only available for Android handsets right now. Before I speculate about what's behind the findings, I'll provide a basic overview of the survey data.
Retrevo found that 79% of respondents were either "not interested in mobile wallets or don’t know what a mobile wallet is." Of the 21% indicating interest, Men were more interested than women (27% vs. 15%) and younger users (18-35) were more interested than those over 50. Among those ignorant or not interested, "nearly half . . . [said] they wouldn’t trust any of the companies [on the suggested list]." That list included credit card companies and mobile carriers, as well as mobile platform providers such as Google and Apple.
For the minority interested in mobile payments, awareness and demand was about 15 points higher among iPhone owners than Android owners.
Apple and Google were more trusted than credit card issuers and wireless carriers to manage a mobile payments platform. Apple was much more trusted than any other company on the list. However Android owners don't trust Apple. Indeed, for many savvy mobile users they bought Android as a reaction against Apple and its brand image.
Beyond the simple observation, "mobile payments vendors have their work cut out for them," a more interesting question to explore is why Apple beats Android so handily in this survey?
My view of the answer is that Android is still a weak brand and the carrier often overshadows Google and Android among consumers. The "Droid Incredible" is at least as closely associated with Verizon as it is with Google, for example. And the EVO at least as closely associated with Sprint as it is Google. Carriers are generally disliked by their subscribers in the US. This could account for the lack of trust.
Alternatively, Android handsets have multiple brands associated with them in a way that the iPhone does not. This might create a certain consumer confusion or "dilution" of trust. With the iPhone it's just Apple and the carrier. And of the two the Apple (iPhone) brand is dominant.
Usability will be key to the success of mobile wallets, as will be coverage and breadth of acceptance in the physical world. However, all things being equal, these survey data are an indicator which companies' initiatives might get traction and which ones might not (hint: ISIS).
To promote the launch of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung conducted an online consumer survey (n=1,000). The results show that a majority of US adults are potentially interested in buying a tablet in the future.
The press release makes the somewhat misleading statement: “The survey revealed that 90 percent of U.S. consumers either already own a tablet or would consider buying one.” It's misleading because only a small fraction of the population owns a tablet.
Among other things, the survey examined what people do with their existing (mostly iPad) tablets:
The iPad and iPad2 together constitute roughly 82% of all tablets sold in the US according to Nielsen. Apple said yesterday that it had sold 25 million iPads globally to date. I'm unable to find the breakdown of North American sales vs. international.
According to several sources tablet penetration in the US is about 4%-5%. So clearly most US adults don't have tablets and there's considerable room for growth. The Samsung survey suggests that the remaining well over 200 million US adults are interested in buying one.
Survey responses and behavior are often distinct things. But if the pro-tablet sentiment is as widespread as suggested by the survey it will mean huge tablet sales and potentially diminished PC sales over the next couple of years accordingly.
In advance of Google's press conference this morning, we already know a great deal about Google's NFC payments initiative, which will apparently be called "Google Wallet." A leaked internal memo from The Container Store showed up online yesterday:
Google will launch a test of "contactless" payment through a mobile device--so customers will be able to just tap a special device and pay with their phone in stores at POS! And this Thursday, Google will announce all of the innovative retailers who will be participating in their test--and guess who is on that list? You got it right! We are! And how cool that Google thought of us, The Container Store!
Stay tuned for many more details regarding this test of Google Wallet and the participating markets. We won't start this program September 1st, but thought that we should all have the heads up on this neat opportunity now because we expect it will receive a lot of press in the upcoming weeks when Google makes its official media announcement about this initiative.
When: this summer
Where: apparently five cities initially . . . San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.
Partners: so far Sprint, Citigroup, MasterCard, Verifone and ViVOtech
Retailers: Container Store, Macy's, American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Subway (incomplete list)
As I've said I'm sure there are more retailers/stores on the list of launch partners. It's not clear (to me) how many Android phones currently in the market are NFC compatible. The Sprint Nexus S clearly is; and the next-generation of Android phones now coming out are supposed to be.
Google has more tricks up its sleeve than simply the announcement I would imagine. Accordingly I suspect we'll see offers tied in to help motivate people to use the system.
Initially however it will be accessible to a relatively small group of people and there will probably be several months where Google and its partners are watching the consumer reaction and working through bugs and kinks.
Simply because Google has built it doesn't mean that consumers will come; however this is sure to help accelerate the broader industry move toward mobile payments.