Mobile industry consultant Chetan Sharma conducted a 2012 predictions survey among "executives, developers, and insiders (n=150) from leading mobile companies and startups from across the value chain." The complete findings are available here. Many of them are interesting, but in total they indicate to me that most insiders have no great clarity on the direction of the market.
What's most interesting to me about the survey is the discussion of mobile payments. Respondents thought that mobile payments will be the "breakthrough category" of 2012. But they also believe that banks and credit card companies will dominate the emerging segment:
While it's logical to assume that banks would control mobile payments -- they control the infrastructure -- I don't agree that the "financial guys" will define the segment. For the most part the credit card companies and operaters are not going to be able to deliver a compelling user experience -- especially the operators.
Visa, Amex and MasterCard will be the "Intel inside" of mobile payments but the user-experience front end will be delivered by someone else in my opinion (like Square). Some consumer surveys indicate that, right now, credit card issuers are more trusted than others in the emerging ecosystem (other surveys show the opposite). Credit card issuers and banks are a known quantity; they're familiar to consumers.
However mobile payments are still mostly hypothetical for most people because few have had any practical experience with it. Once various "solutions" appear and people engage with them the landscape of survey responses will likely change to favor those with the best user experience (and/or most favorable terms on the merchant side).
Source: Retrevo (Q4 2011)
Square contradicts the "banks will dominate" assumption. The company is an amazing success already, largely because it created an elegant user experience for both merchants and consumers. This is not something that would have been done by a credit card company or bank. Ultimately a credit card company, financial entity, Intuit or eBay will buy Square, however.
In the next few years, there will probably be a few mobile payments entry points for consumers on top of a couple of payments infrastructure ecosystems. Unless there are common standards, however, there won't be many consumer-facing players.
I don't think this means that Visa or Amex will dominate, though they will have to be involved. I also don't think that PayPal will win in the segment. I would have bet on Google in the past but the operators (at least Verizon) seem inclined to block the company's mobile wallet. Amazon and Apple are dark horses but still have considerable potential because of their installed bases of credit card accounts.
As with the example of Square I think there's still room for startups in mobile payments, provided they don't ask users and merchants to change behavior or adopt new proprietary systems. However unlike some of the larger or more established companies they must overcome the "cold start problem" (building usage among consumers and merchants simultaneously).
In my view this year is still about developing the ecosystem and infrastructure and not a "breakthough" year for payments. That will come in 2013 or 2014 in terms of mainstream consumer adoption.
It has taken some time, and longer than I would have expected, but more people are now using apps to access content on mobile devices than are doing so with a mobile browser according to comScore's most recent data release. While the number of people who "used downloaded apps" and "used browser" are almost identical this is the first time in comScore's tracking that apps have surpassed browser usage.
The data are survey based. They likely underestimate the relative role of apps in the overall smartphone user experience.
What these comScore data mean effectively is that mobile apps have a reach that now slightly exceeds the mobile browser on smartphones. But in terms of time spent or engagement mobile apps have for some time dominated mobile browsing (and even PC browser time according to Flurry Analytics).
Flurry also estimated that during the Xmas to New Years Day period, more than 1 billion apps were downloaded around the world.
Separately research has confirmed that apps can have a dramatic, positive impact on brand favorability metrics. Accordingly brands' attention to apps as interactive marketing tools should increase dramatically in 2012. And we should also see much more mobile display advertising used to build app awareness and generate downloads.
It used to be that the "free" phones being given away by the carriers were very low-end feature phones. Not anymore. Now, with a two-year contract, you can get a range of no-cost Android smartphones from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile.
Verizon was especially aggressive during the holidays; and this morning I counted no fewer than six pretty decent Android handsets available for free from T-Mobile with a two-year contract. These kinds of promotions have helped power Android's rise. The operating system now represents about 47% of all US smartphones according to comScore.
I don't have and haven't seen data about upgrade patterns from feature phones. But my guess would be that most smartphone upgraders are going to Android, partly because of the "free" promotions as well as the selection and ubiquity of these devices.
InsightExpress not long ago pointed out that all smartphone owners aren't the same. They can be segmented by engagement and activity level. And while I haven't seen any data on the behavioral differences between Galaxy Nexus owners (Android flagship) and those who own an LG Optimus (entry level Android handset), there likely are some.
How else does one explain the NetApplications data now making the rounds. These data, showing browser usage across millions of sites, reveal iOS with more than 3X the mobile browsing share of Android in December (iOS includes tablets here).
Given the comScore numbers above these data from NetApplications are fairly dramatic -- and curious. However, the gap isn't nearly as large in StatCounter data (global and North America below):
In North America, Apple's lead is considerably less than in the NetApplications data; and if one looks at "mobile browser" share -- the data above reflect "mobile operating system" -- Android is ahead of iOS in North America and globally. It's not clear how to explain these differences between the data sets.
Another piece of data: last month an online and mobile shopping study found that iOS devices accounted for 92% of all non-PC sales. In other words Android users aren't very active in m-commerce. In addition the study reported that "Apple mobile devices also have a larger AOV compared to other mobile platforms ($123 for Apple vs. $101 for Android in December 2011) – and far outstrip desktop orders ($87)."
Last year Nielsen posted some demographic data on iPhone and Android users and found them more similar than different. But in 2011 the recommendations site Hunch conducted a user survey (n=15K) and found some meaningful differences between Android and iPhone users. Chief among these differences were levels of education and affluence; iPhone users were generally older, more urban, better educated and had higher incomes according to the self-reported data.
Back to the comScore data above. Clearly Android is a more "mainstream" smartphone than the iPhone. Almost twice as many people own Android handsets in the US than the iPhone. However, looking at the rest of the data above, iPhone users are more engaged and active than their Android-owning counterparts on the whole.
As we move from a market still dominated by feature phones to one controlled by smartphones, by the end of this year, we'll see most people embrace Android as they upgrade. Apparently, however, this doesn't mean that they'll immediately begin displaying radically different behavior, though it does mean at least incremental changes.
Accordingly it might be fair to say that the lower-end Android handsets are becoming "the new feature phones."
Navigation provider TeleNav is launching what it's calling "the first HTML5 browser-based, voice-guided, turn-by-turn GPS navigation service for mobile devices." The new developer-facing service will be available here (soon). The idea is to enable mobile publishers and developers to add a single line of code and then deliver GPS-based maps and voice-guided directions within their app experience to users (via HTML5).
Remarkably, the company says the service will be entirely free and available across mobile platforms (because it's HTML5). It will become publicly available in Q1 2012. However TeleNav is soliciting developers for early testing now.
The benefits of this are obvious. Currently on Android and iOS, any mapping request takes users out of the publisher app experience to Google-branded maps on either platform. This TeleNav functionality would not only allow publishers to retain users within apps when maps are requested but would provide voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions to locations (retaurants, hotels, shops, etc.) as well.
I haven't spoken to TeleNav about this or the fact that they're making it free to publishers -- I'm guessing it's a branding/distribution play. But it's a pretty sweet proposition if it all works as the press materials represent.
I've now written a number of posts, yesterday most recently, that point out most mobile shopping and purchase activity is not happening in stores or "on the go," but at home. Data vendor Compete last week released some findings from its most recent smartphone user survey that confirm this.
What Compete found is that mobile "shopping" (not buying) was largely performed in the home or, to some degree, at work. What's significant here is that people are choosing to use mobile devices (smartphones typically) when they likely have access to a PC.
A significant minority of people (34.5%) used their devices in stores (price checks, reviews, coupons) and another sizable group (28.6%) shopped while killing time.
Below are the most common mobile shopping activities. Note that the largest category is "store information" (people preparing to visit a store location). According to Compete "made a purchase" just missed the list with 31.8% of people reporting making a purchase on mobile devices.
Of all the mobile shopping apps in the market, the company with the most data on consumer-user behavior is undoubtedly Amazon. But price monitoring mobile application ShopAdvisor also probably has a pretty good window into consumer behavior as well.
The company behind ShopAdvisor, Evoqu, released some data (based on its 100K users over the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend) that captures the varied ways in which mobile apps are being used by consumers. It revealed three mobile shopping behaviors (based on purchase location):
Evoqu said that consumers generally placed products above $156 on "WatchLists" for later research, discussion or price drops. Price-driven alerts later caused purchases of many of the "watched" items. This was also interesting about e-commerce vs. local/offline shopping: mst of ShopAdvisors' users stayed away from local stores during that first weekend:
Mobile users shop locally, but not so much on Black Friday. The proportion of consumers who used ShopAdvisor to find local products dropped by 50% during the busy holiday shopping weekend. In the week prior to Thanksgiving, 20% of mobile users chose a local retailer to make a purchase, but from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, only 10% of users braved the mall or other local shops.
Here are the top 10 categories by percentage of mobile shopping (not necessarily buying) activity:
Assuming that the data above (in-store, couch, deferred) reflect the actual point of purchase, what's interesting is that the minority of mobile purchases happened during in-store shopping, which may have been based in part on crowd avoidance that weekend. Most (at least 54%) happened at home, where a PC was readily available. It may also be that a sizable chuck of the deferred purchases happened at home. It's not clear.
Regardless, this is another study that shows how assumptions about mobile behavior and actual mobile behavior are often quite different.
Nielsen has published data on the Android apps with the greatest "active reach" by age group (US market). Active reach means "percentage of Android owners who used the app within the past 30 days." After the Android Market app itself, Facebook is dominant across age categories.
After Facebook, Google occupies the next four slots with slight differences by segment. But basically it goes: GMail, Google Maps, Google Search and YouTube. In the top 100 free apps in the iTunes store, Facebook comes in at #24, Twitter at #48 and Google at #61.
In September here's what Nielsen said about overall active reach of Android apps:
Below is a chart (UK data from 12/10) that shows how dominant Facebook is in terms of time spent in aggregate minutes:
Starbucks issued a press release this morning that proclaimed the company the "mobile payments leader," which is probably not incorrect. Here are some of the numbers exposed in the statement:
These are impressive numbers and Starbucks is likely doing more to popularize and educate people about mobile payments than any other entity in the US. The company plans to expand its apps/mobile payments program internationally as well.
In a related story, VentureBeat reported this morning that US carrier Verizon, the first to gain access to an Android 4.0 handset (Galaxy Nexus), is effectively blocking Google Wallet. The Galaxy Nexus is the second US Android handset to include NFC capability. The blog received a statement from a Google representative confirming that “Verizon asked [Google] not to include this functionality in the product."
The motivation for the carrier's move is obvious: it has a competing mobile wallet/payments offering in ISIS, a joint venture with AT&T and T-Mobile. It's not clear how much "outrage" this will generate among consumers, given that most have not tried mobile wallets and are conceptually ambivalent about them according to several surveys.
According to a Retrevo survey, carriers are less trusted than Google or Apple to provide mobile payments functionality:
I'm very skeptical that carriers will be able to provide a good and highly functional mobile payments experience. Google is in a much stronger position to do so than the carriers (in the US or internationally). I've got a note in to Google and will update this post if I'm able to talk to them.
The firm ChangeWave Research surveyed Apple iPhone 4S owners (n=215) and found higher consumer satisfaction levels than for its predecessor, the iPhone 4. The firm discovered that 77% of owners reported being "Very Satisfied" vs. 72% of iPhone 4 owners. Siri apparently is a large part of that, as the most liked feature on the handset.
The biggest frustrations or "dislikes" were:
After Siri, the best liked features of the iPhone 4S were:
This is the first emprical proof we have beyond media reports that Siri is really making an impact on people.
Tablets are for fun, entertainment, relaxation, while laptops are for work says a new study from Google. The company is releasing some very interesting (and more nuanced) data today on tablet usage, which has come into sharp focus following all the post-holiday analysis.
The data in the Google study are based on self-reported dairies consumers kept over a two-week period (sample size undisclosed). Google found an emerging bifurcation between tablet and PC usage, as well as some other interesting consumer behaviors.The bottom line here is that tablets are used in the home primarily, mostly by one person for leisure activities and often along side other media.
Most consumers in the study "use[d] their tablets for fun, entertainment and relaxation while they use[d] their desktop computer or laptop for work." Just over 90% of usage turned out to be personal (email is an exception perhaps). Google added, "When a consumer gets a tablet, we’ve found that they quickly migrate many of their entertainment activities from laptops and smartphones to this new device."
Other findings from the study:
Tablets are, according to Google, “mobile within the home, with the highest usage taking place on the couch, from the bed and in the kitchen" (see first graphic above).
Google also offers some implied recommendations for publishers: “For many people, websites and apps designed for smartphones just don’t cut it on tablets" In other words have sites and apps optimized for tablets. That's somewhat ironic given how few tablet apps exist for Android -- they're mostly stretched smartphone apps (which will change hopefully soon with Ice Cream Sandwhich).
In a parallel vein, Google said that consumers expect more interactivity from ads on tablets:
Consumers are engaging with useful, relevant and rich ads that take advantage of the touchscreen interface on tablets. Some consumers expect more interactivity from ads on tablets than they do from ads on their desktop computer.
Interestingly, most activities carried out on tablets were limited to tablets, according to Google. Only 18% were conducted across platforms (on PCs or smartphones).
With the iPad topping wishlists and millions of Kindle Fires being sold this holiday season the influence of tablets will only grow. This seems to be further confirmed by Google's finding that tablets were mostly used by one person. This argues for subsequent tablet purchases by other family members so "each can have his/her own."
And in a bad economy those purchases will likely come at the expense of PCs.
IBM, eBay, comScore and others have been pouring out data reflecting revenue gains over the weekend and on Monday for e-commerce and specifically mobile. In particular comScore says that Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in US history clearing $1.25 billion. PayPal said that it saw a 552% increase in mobile payment volume vs. last year and a nearly 400% (397%) increase in mobile shopping.
There are a range of other statistics that reinforce the fact that there was a great deal of shopping on mobile devices over the weekend and on Monday.
For example, IBM said the following about mobile shopping and mobile traffic over the weekend:
IBM added on that on Cyber Monday mobile represented 7.7% of all online sales, up from 2.2% last year.
So what does all this mean exactly? As a basic matter, it means that people are using smartphones and tablets to shop for products and some are making purchases on them.
We need to ask several questions, however, before we can take the full measure of what happened:
Answering at least some of these questions will give us a better sense of what's really going on in terms of mobile behavior. Screen size, location, time and the immediacy of user needs are all variables that contribute to a larger consumer-behavior context. For example, a tablet (iPad) user at home is very different from a smartphone user in a store, and so on.
While marketers and publishers can't address all these variables and nuances, they need to strive to better understand them to be effective and understand where mobile sits in the new cross-platform shopping paradigm.
Source: Google-AdMob, March 2011; Nielsen Q1 2011
Data released by eBay/PayPal and IBM today show some early holiday 2011 digital commerce trends. PayPal (and parent eBay) said that there were two mobile shopping peaks yesterday across its various sites. The first happened between 1pm and 2pm PST. The other occurred between 6pm and 7pm PST.
The most popular merchandise categories on eBay mobile were the following:
The top mobile-purchased items in the electronics category were:
PayPal also recorded a "511% [increase] in global mobile payment volume compared to Thanksgiving 2010."
IBM reported that "Thanksgiving 2011 sales were up 39 percent over Thanksgiving 2010." The company also said the following about mobile traffic and purchases yesterday:
EBay has said that it will record roughly $5 billion in mobile purchases and PayPal will process $3.5 billion in mobile payments by the end of 2011. Of course these sites, and rival Amazon, are leveraging a huge installed base of users. These are not new mobile adopters but existing customers who are using mobile apps to carry out transactions. Both eBay and Amazon have invested heavily in mobile apps and their overall mobile user experiences.
All of this is helped quite a bit by consumer credit cards already on file. Most other retailer sites will see significant increases in traffic from mobile devices but not corresponding purchases. The reasons for this will be a poor mobile user experience and/or lack of a stored credit card number. One solution is Card.io, which captures credit card information through the smartphone camera, eliminating the need to key in 16 digits.
I've not had my hands on an Kindle Fire but the reviews are generally fair to negative, except in the context of its price: "a good tablet for the price" is the consensus. And consumers are responding to that price in large numbers. Amazon will sell millions of Kindle Fire tablets to existing Kindle owners and to some would-be iPad buyers seduced by the $199 price and the assurances of the Amazon brand.
Amazon is also intending to release a larger version of the Kindle Fire next year, though it won't be quite as large as the iPad. Putting aside the Nook and hypothetical Windows tablets, Amazon's Kindle Fire is instantly the most successful tablet after the iPad by a huge margin.
Until someone else comes along with a cheaper, better Android tablet Amazon owns the market. So when the dust settles early next year after holiday sales are over it will effectively be a two tablet market: Apple vs. Amazon. I say "Apple vs. Amazon" because Amazon has effectively obscured all Android (and Google) branding. Most people buying a Kindle Fire don't know or care that they're buying an "Android device."
It's possible that Samsung or HTC will build a competitive tablet featuring Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"). But the current crop of Gingerbread and Honeycomb tablets simply "blow" (as they say in the vernacular) by comparison to the iPad. It would also be very challenging for any Android tablet maker to match Amazon's pricing given that the company is effectively taking a loss -- sellig the device for less than it costs to make on the assumption that it will increase product and content sales for Amazon.
There is a scenario where wireless carriers give away some future, stellar Android tablet in exchange for two year contract commitments. However, consumers are basically loathe to enter into a second set of wireless contracts beyond the ones they already have for their smartphones. WiFi tablets are more popular than carrier-subsidized tablets. It's therefore a much longer shot.
Recent consumer surveys from Retrevo, Nielsen and ChangeWave have shown increasing demand for tablets, with the iPad leading the group but with Kindle also in the clear second position.
As tablets replace PCs for some people the question of how other PC OEMs repond to the Apple-Amazon challenge becomes a major, strategic question. As Samsung, Dell and others have already shown, they can't (so far) match Apple on quality or hardware-software integration. And they can't match Amazon on price.
Thus until the forseeable future it's a two tablet race. And right now Amazon owns Android.
One of the big trends of the past few years has been the "consumerization of enterprise IT." This manifests in various ways, including the emergence of enterprise "social" tools that mimic consumer sites and user experiences (e.g., Salesforce's Chatter). Another way in which enterprise IT is changing is that workers now have more choice about the devices that they can use on the network.
RIM's stronghold and bulwark against irrelevance had been the corporate IT department, but that's no longer the case. The iPhone is now the top smartphone in the enterprise according to a new survey, the iPass 2011 Mobile Enterprise Report (based on 2,300 responses from workers at 1,100 enterprises globally).
Below are a selection of data presented in the survey report:
Current enterprise smartphone share:
Intention to buy smartphones in 2012:
Current tablet share in the enterprise:
Another interesting finding is that a growing number of workers (especially younger workers) leave their laptops at the office more frequently. Roughly 42% of workers said they left their business laptops at the office at least several days a week because they have alternative devices at home.
Question: Do you leave your business laptop at work on weekends/evenings and just use your smartphone or tablet?
In tandem with the above finding the survey discovered that roughly 25% of respondents said they were using their laptops less today than a year ago.
The Gap has enabled Google Wallet at 65 San Fransisco Bay Area stores (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Banana Republic Factory Stores and Gap Outlet). You can still only pay with MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you can fill with another credit card. Eventually Google wall "accept" all sorts of cards into Wallet.
To promote the initiative Gap is giving Google Wallet users 15% off. The deal is presented in the Google Wallet app, in the "offers" area.
Google doesn't "see" any of the transactions today (and may never see them precisely). It only knows a transaction was made and the city in which it was made. It doesn't know the amount, the item or the store. However the Gap, in this case, knows all that information.
Beyond the fact that this represents a convenience for the consumer it offers a powerful analytics capability to the marketer. In the not-too-distant future brands and marketers will be able to track promotions and ads to the point of sale with services like Google Wallet. In a lower-tech way Foursquare offers a similar capability through check-ins. The larger point is that NFC, check-ins and point of sale integration are starting to enable marketers to get more visibility on online-->offline transactions (or traditional media to POS). This is a major development and the arrival of a new form of analytics.
By the day there's some new mobile payments announcement it seems. Indeed, the world of mobile payments is starting to get pretty noisy and potentially confusing to merchants and consumers. Visa, Amex, Mastercard, Verifone, Google, Apple, mobile carriers, eBay/PayPal, Square, Intuit and others are all competing for consumer and merchant attention. While not all of these players are directly competing, many of them are.
On the merchant side there need to be standards or at least compatible systems to enable mass consumer adoption of mobile payments. Fragmentation or different standards and systems will confuse and frustrate merchants and consumers alike, and only delay adoption.
Very small merchants and service providers will likely turn to simple-to-adopt services like Square. Larger entities will ultimately adopt NFC-based systems I suspect. Broad adoption by retailers like the Gap helps the cause accordingly.
Tomorrow at 1 US Eastern, 10 Pacific is our free webinar: The Convergence of Local and Mobile Marketing. I'll be providing a broad market overview on the following issues:
AT&T Interactive’s Executive Director of Product Management Matthew Goldman will offer their view of the mobile market "on the ground." What are consumers really doing in mobile and what are they looking for? How are they responding to mobile ads? And, beyond surveys, is there truly demand among SMBs for mobile marketing? If so, where is that demand concentrated?
We'll also take questions from the audience on these and related issues. If you're operating in the local-mobile segment or selling to small business advertisers you won't want to miss it.
To attend you must first register here.
Windows Phone (especially after the 7.5 "mango" update) has received positive reviews -- some extremely positive. I have one of the Samsung Windows Phones and have been using it periodically for several weeks and can attest to some of the accolades. The browser for example is very fast. I also like the operation of email on the handset.
Some of the various reviews assert that the Microsoft OS has "caught up" to Android and iOS. And with the release of the first Nokisoft phones, the future looks much better for Microsoft's mobile efforts (and maybe for Nokia) than it did a year ago.
However, right now at least, the best prospects for Windows Phones are feature phone users upgrading to a smartphone. These are people who generally speaking haven't been living with and become "acculturated" to an iPhone or Android device -- although the iPod Touch and iPad expose non-smartphone users to iOS.
There's almost zero chance that an iPhone user is going to switch to a Windows Phone at this point. By the same token the chance that an existing Android user will switch is low, though not as low as with the iPhone. iPhone owners display greater loyalty than Android owners. By my logic, then, Windows Phones are most likely competing for attention from those individuals considering upgrading from a feature phone to an Android handset. (Although the iPhone 4 is now $99 with a contract.)
In addition, Windows Phones are probably not competing with the top-of-the-line Android handsets (e.g., Samsung Galaxy, HTC Rezound, Moto Razr). They'll be competing more at the entry level, although Nokia's Lumia handsets are not positioned as entry level devices. To win buyers, however, they'll need to be priced as though they were entry level smartphones.
Windows Phones must generate sales to show that the platform has traction in order to make their case to developers. Without developers and a sufficient supply of desirable apps, Windows Phone will remain a second-tier OS. For higher-end users, Microsoft also needs to "answer" Siri with some compelling voice capabilities in future updates.
There's no word on precisely when the new Nokisoft handsets will be available in North America. They'll come first to Europe and then perhaps Asia and the developing world before the US market. This makes sense because Nokia's brand is much stronger in Europe and developing markets, where the company is known for cheap devices.
To compete in the US these Nokia handsets -- and Windows Phones in general -- must be priced at or below $150, and probably $99, with a two-year contract. That's chiefly because they don't have the apps ecosystem to compete with Android. Until they do this is a major deficiency and competitive disadvantage. That's why price is key. But Microsoft knows all this.
If I were a US-based marketing executive for Windows Phones I would secure carrier relationships that allowed pricing at $99 (with a contract). Then I would target smartphone upgraders (low-end Android buyers) and make the case that the Nokia-made devices are better.
I would also be very aggressive with developers. For example, I would pay them to port over their most popular apps to Windows, which appears to be what Microsoft is doing. And I would allow them to keep 100% of the proceeds of app sales for the first year on the platform -- maybe the first two years.
All of this positioning advice is just based on my instincts and market observations (rather than survey data). But Microsoft and Nokia need to "get it right" or potentially miss a window of opportunity. And without some initial success and perceived momentum, both developers and carriers will be less interested going forward.
By almost all measures Android tablets have been a flop so far. The most "viable" of the Android tablet family, Samsung's Galaxy Tab line, offers a weak software experience and poor hardware-software integration. But the Kindle Fire -- and to a lesser degree the Nook line -- may vindicate Android in tablet form.
However the success of those devices has little or nothing to do with Android. This is especially true with Kindle Fire. (Amazon has probably compensated for the software shortcomings of Android on tablets with its own layer on top of the OS.)
The apparent popularity of the Amazon device is about two things: its $199 price tag (the major driver of sales) and the Amazon brand. The latter gives consumers confidence that it will likely perform as promised and builds on Amazon's successful track record with Kindle.
According to Retrevo survey data, there's a sizable group who might substitute the Kindle Fire for the iPad during the holidays.
While there have been other cheap Android tablets in the past, the difference here is that the Amazon brand and promise of content through Amazon Prime gives people confidence to buy it sight unseen. Amazon Prime would otherwise cost $79 per year. Indeed, with that factored in as "opportunity cost," Amazon is going be losing money on Kindle Fire. We should thus see the device more broadly as a marketing vehicle and loyalty play for Amazon. It will help Amazon sell more stuff in general.
The survey also found that a meaningful number of people may add a second tablet to their growing inventory of gadgets. Here the 7" form factor and perceived benefits of having the Amazon device may cause people to buy a Kindle Fire if they already have an iPad.
The anticipated success of the Kindle Fire tablet could light a fire under the 7" tablet segment more broadly but not unless those devices are priced competitively. Those 7" tablets (e.g., from HTC, Samsung) that cost more than $250 will probably sit on the shelves. And those 10" Android tablets that cost $499 or more will be seen largely as copies of the iPad and sit on shelves as well.
The strength of the Amazon brand, the success of earlier Kindle devices and the aggressive pricing (including Amazon Prime) will create success where other Android tablets have failed. The Android "brand" may even be something of a liability in the tablet segment right now. And most Kindle Fire prospects and early buyers probably have limited or no awareness of the device's operating system at all.
Earlier my colleague Dan Miller wrote up the news that Amazon had acquired speech provider Yap yesterday. So begins a ridiculous "Siri Killer" meme.
What's more interesting however is how Siri, less than a quarter out in its current form, is already reshaping the calculus of what features and capabilities mobile devices must have or offer their users. Call it the "speech interface."
Dan Miller, who is probably the foremost analyst-authority on voice and speech services, has much deeper knowledge of speech recognition and its related manifestations than I. However in my more limited experience I can tell you that Siri offers the best speech user-experience I've encountered to date. (Nuance provides the voice recognition for Siri.)
As a long-time Android user I've had good experiences with Google's voice search and voice actions and I've had very frustrating ones. Siri (+Nuance) is better. And the way that Siri is integrated into the iPhone 4S (with more to come) is much more compelling than a voice overlay. Siri's "personality" matters as well. It's not only driving engagement and usage it has become a major differentiator and sales-driver for what was otherwise a less-than-compelling product release.
Sure Android has "voice actions." But Apple has "Siri." You get the difference.
Google and Microsoft already have considerable speech assets but both will need to "up their game" to compete more effectively. Accordingly we can expect more acquisitions in the voice segment as these companies (and others) create their own versions of the speech interface. This will eventually extend to TVs, cars and other "appliances."
I suspect "virtual assistant" Vlingo will be acquired, because it provides the "assistant" capability as well as speech recognition. (However litigation between Vlingo and Nuance operates as something of a cloud over any potential takeover.)
In a presentation I gave on a range of topics yesterday at the Local Social Summit in London I said Siri is to voice commands and “voice search” what the iPhone was to smartphones in 2007: a breakthrough experience that forces competitors to respond. I guess Amazon just did.
Amazon, which doesn't have a smartphone, will clearly be integrating voice control and commands into Kindle Fire. Siri isn't yet available for the iPad but that's probably one of the new features that will be bundled into iPad 3.
In written testimony submitted to the US Senate Judiciary committee on antitrust, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt identified Apple's voice assistant Siri as a competitor in mobile search:
Moreover, history shows that popular technology is often supplanted by entirely new models. Even in the few weeks since the hearing, Apple has launched an entirely new approach to search technology with Siri, its voice-activated search and task-completion service built into the iPhone 4S. As one respected technology site reported: “[E]veryone keeps insisting that Apple will eventually get into the search engine business. Well they have. But not in the way that everyone was thinking. Siri is their entry point.” Another commentator has described Siri more simply as intended to be a “Google killer."
The hyperbolic "Google killer" designation is invoked by Schmidt to show that Google is beset by competition on all sides. I've written previously that Siri may actually increase the number of Google searches coming from the iPhone, as people discover they can "search the Web for . . ." Siri can also be used to search Bing or Yahoo, though most people continue to have Google as their "default" search provider on the iPhone.
In the short term Siri doesn't to anything to degrade Google search query volumes. As I said it may increase them. Over time, as apps become integrated into Siri, people may use it as a tool to access their favorite vertical search or content providers for local, travel, health, weather and so on. In such a scenario (which is how the original Siri app was set up and intended to be used), Google could see less traffic. However that's speculative at this point.
The way that Siri "harms" Google today is by making itself and not Google the starting point for mobile search and discovery on the iPhone. It hasn't become that for most users but it could in short order. Siri sits "on top" of Google (or Bing) just as Google sits on top of third party sites and content on the PC.
In that way Siri supplants the Google brand and becomes the "go to" source for information for iPhone 4S owners. This is the way that Siri really damages Google, at least in the near term. It potentially does to Google what Google has done to so many third party content providers online.
I don't actually think that Siri is Steve Jobs' revenge -- he famously threatened to spend all Apple's cash reserves to destroy Android -- I just wrote that to get attention.