All News

Apple Now Top Global Brand, Followed by Google

Technology and internet companies have supplanted traditional brands at the top of Interbrand's annual "Top 100 Global Brands" list. Apple and Google are number 1 and 2 on the list respectively, beating out perennial winner Coke and others such as IBM, Disney, Microsoft and GE.

Notwitstanding its beating at the hands of investors and doubts about its future performance, Apple was picked by Interbrand as the world's "most valuable brand" for 2013. Google was last year's number 4. 

Facebook is number 52 on the list and Amazon comes in at number 19. Yahoo and BlackBerry dropped off the list entirely this year and Nokia "experienced the largest decline in brand value" in the 13 year history of the report. The top 15 on the list are below. 

Interbrand determines its annual ranking using a formula that combines:

  • The financial performance of the branded products or service
  • The role the brand plays in influencing consumer choice
  • The strength the brand has to command a premium price, or secure earnings for the company

Apple's rise to become the world's most valuable brand is striking. Interbrand says the Apple brand is currently worth $98 billion, which is considerable but much less than the company's overall market cap of $435 billion. According to Interbrand:

Apple has appeared on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands ranking since 2000, when the ranking debuted. In 2000, Apple ranked #36 and had a brand value of USD $6.6 billion. Today, Apple’s brand value is USD $98.3 billion– almost 15 times the amount of its brand value in 2000. Apple’s meteoric rise in brand value can be attributed to the way it has created a seamless omnichannel experience for customers. By keeping consumers at the center of everything it does, Apple is able to anticipate what they want next and break new ground in terms of both design and performance. With 72 million Macs in use and record-breaking sales of both the iPhone and iPad, Apple has made history by unseating Coca-Cola and becoming Interbrand’s most valuable global brand of 2013.

Amazon's New Devices, Aggressive Pricing Seek to Reclaim Tablet Spotlight

When Amazon introduced its original color tablet the Kindle Fire its chief innovations were aggressive pricing ($199) and the fact that the company used a "forked" version of Android that declared its independence from Google. There have since been two updates to the line (including yesterday's), which now includes four color tablets.

Yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced refreshed Kindle hardware and software. There's a new "operating system," called Mojito (based on Android Jelly Bean). There are essentially two new tablets: Kindle Fire HDX (as in "beyond HD") in 7 and 8.9 inch versions. The Kindle Fire HD (7 inch) has been dropped to $139, which is sure to be the biggest seller, though it's effectively last year's model. There's also a clever new cover/stand called Origami

The big software innovation is "Mayday," which is live video tech support on the tablet screen. Here's how Amazon describes it: 

Kindle Fire HDX also introduces the revolutionary new "Mayday" button. With a single tap, an Amazon expert will appear on your Fire HDX and can co-pilot you through any feature by drawing on your screen, walking you through how to do something yourself, or doing it for you—whatever works best. Mayday is available 24x7, 365 days a year, and it's free.

As a practical matter Mayday is mostly a marketing gimmick, which probably won't see a great deal of actual use but will give some confidence to older and less tech-savvy buyers. What's more interesting to consider is the degree to which Mayday may be emulated by other industries (e.g., travel, shopping) for customer care purposes. That will be fascinating to watch. 

North American Non-iPad Traffic Share

Source: Chitika, September 2013 (North American Android tablet traffic share)

Currently in North America the iPad controls about 84% of tablet-based web traffic according to Chitika. The remaining 16% is mostly Android tablets and really a battle between Amazon, Samsung and Google (in order of market share). The $139 price point on the Kindle Fire HD will capture buyer attention and may put pressure on Samsung and Google. 

When Google introduced its new Nexus 7 earlier this year the company raised the price from $199 to $229 for the entry level model. The price increase was justified on the basis of new specs and a higher resolution screen. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is almost $100 cheaper at $139. Without ads it's $154. The Nexus 7 is a superior device (to the Kindle Fire HD) but many people will not see a difference and opt for the much cheaper Kindle. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is $199. Accordingly it will be very challenging for Google, Amazon or anyone to sell many smaller tablets at much above a low $200 price point. Whether the iPad Mini feels similar pricing or sales pressure is a question that remains to be answered. However I suspect iPad Mini sales will only be affected at the margins. 

Study: More than 75% of iPhones Sold Are the 5s

There was an initial surprise yesterday that Apple had sold 9 million iPhones over the weekend. Since the smoke cleared, however, there has been considerable "day two" analysis of those sales. Mobile analytics firm Localytics, for example, has done a geographic breakdown of global activations and traffic iPhone 5s and 5c devices in the past 72 hours. 

According to the company's analysis, the majority of overall new iPhone sales have been in the US, followed by Japan and the UK. 

iPhone 5s and 5c Global Market Share by Country

Though a still small market for the iPhone in absolute sales, China is significant in that the Chinese seem to be buying the 5s in much higher numbers than the 5c. This is something of a suprise considering that the price of the 5s in China exceeds $800. The now sold out gold version is selling on the grey market, according to several reports, for more than double that. 

iPhone 5s vs 5c by Country

In the US, roughly 3 out of every 4 iPhones sold is a 5s. Internationally, Localytics says that more than 80% of new iPhones sold are 5s devices.

 iPhone 5s vs 5c Distribution by Region

Our survey, conducted a week ago among 1,500 US adults, correctly predicted high demand for the 5s as well as the 5s to 5c ratios. 

What's interesting is that even in the face of massive weekend sales, the perceived weakness of the 5c is keeping Apple's stock down and fuelling the bearish Apple-investor narrative that the company has lost its old magic.

Perhaps surprising was that of the eight countries where the most iPhone 5s’ or 5c’s were sold, the highest ratio of preference for the 5s wasn’t in the United States or Japan; leading the pack is actually China.

iPhone 5s vs 5c by Country

One possible explanation: there was a lot of hoopla around the addition of the gold-colored iPhone 5s as a very attractive addition in particular for Asian markets so this hypothesis may hold true. Keep in mind the gold-colored version is only available on the 5s, not the 5c.

Other major markets also had a very high ratio of the 5s vs. the 5c. In fact, the only country that didn’t have at least a 3 to 1 ratio of the 5s vs. the 5c was the United Kingdom. With the economy in the UK still in recovery, a slightly less strong affinity for the 5s could be the result of a more cost-conscious buyer. Subsidies also play less of a role in the UK’s phone market than in the US, making the upfront cost of phones higher for consumers. Globally the iPhone 5s represented 78% of all of the new iPhone 5s and 5c devices; 76% in the U.S. and 82% in the rest of the world.

 iPhone 5s vs 5c Distribution by Region

 One possible reason why more iPhone 5s’ were sold was because of the tendency of hardcore apple users wanting to buy the top of the line iPhone on the weekend it was released. It will be interesting to see if the 5c can pick up a bit of momentum in the next few weeks.

iPhone 5s & 5c Adoption by Country

Overall, the United States accounts for 68% of all active iPhone 5s and 5c devices worldwide, with Japan in second place with 13% of 5s and 5c’s.

iPhone 5s and 5c Global Market Share by Country

- See more at: http://www.localytics.com/blog/2013/china-leads-the-pack-in-preference-for-iphone-5s-over-5c/#sthash.tVuxOsR6.dpuf

Most US Consumers Still ‘Not at All Interested’ in Mobile Wallets

picture

Precis

Several years ago many analysts projected that “mobile payments” and “mobile wallets” would become massive, multi-billion-dollar markets. With the exception of mobile e-commerce, it hasn’t happened.

The term “mobile payments” is used loosely to refer to a range of different types of activities. However imprecise use of the term creates confusion and widely varying assessments of the outlook for “mobile payments.” What we mean here by “mobile payments” is more specific: using a smartphone (and associated apps) as a credit card or wallet replacement in the real world.

That was the concept behind near-field communications (NFC) based Google Wallet. The assumption was that Google’s clout and visibility would propel both NFC and Google Wallet into the mainstream. However, two years later it’s safe to say that Google Wallet, at least as originally conceived, has failed. 

By contrast, so-called "m-commerce" and mobile payments through specific apps have shown increasing momentum. But the broad concept of a "horizontal" mobile wallet remains mostly undesirable to US consumers (at least in the abstract). 

A year ago Opus Research surveyed roughly 1,500 adults to determine their awareness and demand for mobile wallets. The question was: “How interested are you in using you mobile phone to pay for things and replace cash or your credit cards?” There were four potential responses. In order of waning enthusiasm they were:

  1. I’m extremely interested
  2. I’m fairly interested
  3. I have limited interest and
  4. I’m not at all interested

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (pheadrick@opusresearch.net).


First Weekend iPhone Sales Exceed 9 Million

Apple announced this morning that it had sold more than 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c devices this past weekend. It did not indicate how many of the 9 million were 5c devices vs. 5s devices. Most of the demand globally is likely to have been for the 5s. That's what our survey showed (see below).

The market became very nervous after the 5c went on sale for pre-orders a week ago and Apple didn't issue a press release last Monday. Many institutional investors sold Apple shares. Then the very postive 5s reviews came out stoking consumer demand.

Here's what Apple said in its release this morning: 

Apple today announced it has sold a record-breaking nine million new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c models, just three days after the launch of the new iPhones on September 20. In addition, more than 200 million iOS devices are now running the completely redesigned iOS 7, making it the fastest software upgrade in history. 

Essentially the 5s sold out of its initial supply.

demand for 5s

Source: Opus Research, n=1,508 US adults (Sept 16 – 19 2013)

Last year Apple said it had sold 5 million iPhones during its first weekend. That was a record at the time. This nearly doubles it. The company also announced this morning that since iOS7 became available late last week, 200 million devices around the world have been upgraded.

I was concerned that I would dislike or be ambivalent about the new OS. However I actually like it quite a bit. 

The iPhone 5s sellout will only fuel further demand for the device. Supplies of the 5c remain available. But the public seems to recognize the 5c as "last year's model" with a new coat of paint. While that's not entirely true (there are some upgrades) demand for the 5c has been much less than the 5s as our survey last week predicted. 

Update: Localytics now answers the 5s vs. 5c sales question, saying that the 5s outsold the other device by a factor of more than 3X in the US and an even larger margin outside the US:

Carrier market share for iPhone 5s and 5c

5s vs 5c global

Report: PayPal Nears Deal for Rival Braintree

According to the Wall Street Journal, "PayPal is near a deal to buy Braintree Payments Solutions." Braintree has had great success as a payments platform and processor both for e-commerce and in mobile.

Braintree is behind payment processing for companies such as Uber, AirBnB, LivingSocial and OpenTable among others. The company has roughly 4,000 customers according to the WSJ piece. 

Braintree processes roughly $12 billion in payments annually, about $4 billion of which come from mobile commerce transactions. PayPal, by contrast said that it would process roughly $20 billion in mobile payments in 2013.

The deal would help further accelerate PayPal's mobile business. PayPal would also acquire Venmo, a P2P payments aoo, that Braintree bought in 2012 for just over $26 million. 

Among mobile wallet/payments companies PayPal is far and away the best-known brand, though US consumers still show relatively little interest in generic "mobile wallets," according to our survey data.

Google Wallet has largely failed to date and other "mobile wallets" and mobile payments providers are almost totally unknown to the public. This deal would help cement PayPal's leadership in mobile payments.

Recently PayPal introduced Beacon, a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) in-store payments and indoor-location solution that is helping, together with Apple, show NFC the door in North America. 

Survey: Testing US Consumer Demand for the iPhone 5s Ahead of Launch

picture

Precis

On September 10, Apple formally unveiled the long-anticipated iPhone 5s and the rumored iPhone 5c. The 5c takes the place of the current iPhone 5 in Apple’s iPhone line-up. It’s essentially the same device with a few upgrades and a colorful polycarbonate exterior. The 5c is $100 less expensive than the “flagship” 5s. Speculation about what the “c” stands for has ranged from “cheap” to “China” and “color.”

On September 13, the 5c became available for pre-order (Apple isn’t allowing pre-orders of the 5s). Analysts and journalists had expected a triumphant press release the following Monday. But no such release came, leading to speculation that the 5c was a dud and had failed to generate significant pre-orders.

This weekend Apple launches the 5s amid rumors of "severly constrained" supplies.

Rather than wait for an official press release on September 23, we conducted an online survey of 1,508 US adults between (September 16 and September 19) to assess demand for the new iPhones vs. competitors. We asked survey respondents, “Which of the following [handsets] would you like as your next mobile phone?” They were permitted to select a single answer from a randomized list of options.

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (pheadrick@opusresearch.net).


Pew: 137 Million Mobile Internet Users

Today 91% of American adults own mobile phones according to new data from The Pew Research Center. More than 61% (64% per Nielsen) own smartphones. In this latest survey Pew takes a look at common activities on mobile devices (including non-smartphones).

Pew found that 81% of mobile phone owners text, the most common activity, while 60% access the internet. Just under half (49%) use maps or access location-based information on their handsets. All these percentages are higher if non-smartphones are excluded. 

There are approximately 250 million US adults today. If 91% own mobile phones that means about 228 million adults in real numbers. Of that group about 146 million own smartphones (per Nielsen's 64%). If kids and teens are added in we easily have in excess of 150 million smartphones in the US market. 

If 60% of adult mobile phone owners in the US access the internet that would be roughly 137 million people (not counting teens and kids).  

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.16.06 AM

Among the 60% going online from their mobile handsets (not including tablets) Pew says the following: 

African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to do so than whites. Younger adults, those with at least some college education, and those with an annual household income of over $75,000 a year are particularly likely to access the internet via cell phone. Those who live in rural areas are less likely than urban or suburbanites to have mobile internet access. Among those who use the internet or email on their phones, more than a third (34%) say that they mostly access the internet from their phone. 

A recent Nielsen study found that 46% of US survey respondents relied exclusively on smartphones or tablets in conducting online research across a range of categories (i.e., retail, banking, gas and convenience). That same study found that, in the banking category, more than 50% of smartphone and tablet users did not use a PC to make purchase decisions (e.g., about credit cards).

What we're thus seeing is the emergence of a "mobile first" population in the US, which may be 50 million people on the low end and 75 million on the high end. 

Nielsen: Smartphones Now 64% in US Market

The first wave of iPhone 5S reviews have come out and they're essentially raves, exemplified by Walt Mossberg's superlative laden missive: “[T]he new iPhone 5s is a delight. Its hardware and software make it the best smartphone on the market.”

While there is some question about the early success of iPhone 5C pre-orders, the 5S is almost a sure sellout when it's released this weekend. According to a survey by Opus Research, the 5S is the most desired "next smartphone" available in the US market, while the 5C is in fourth place (after Galaxy and other Android devices). 

However according to new data from Nielsen, 61% of recent smartphone buyers chose Android devices vs. 34% who bought iPhones. We'll see how those numbers are impacted, if at all, by the launch of the 5S.

Overall Nielsen says that in the US 64% of mobile subscribers are now owners of smartphones. Those in the 25 - 34 age group have the highest smartphone penetration at 81%, with teens 13 -17 closing in at 70%. Feature phones are now concentrated among those over 55 years of age. 

Below is the current smartphone OS market-share distribution according to Nielsen:  


Google Wallet Moves Beyond NFC in Bid for More Consumer Adoption

As I wrote last week the advent of iBeacon and bluetooth low energy may effectively mean that NFC as an in-store mobile payments standard in the US market is dead. Google Wallet had placed a big bet on NFC payments but has been thwarted in its bid for adoption by two principal factors:

  1. The public doesn't understand or care about NFC and the NFC infrastructure is still piecemeal
  2. The major carriers other than Sprint blocked Google Wallet because they have a competing NFC intiative (this anti-competitive behavior was never investigated by the FTC)

Google Wallet 1.0 thus was a failure. Google is now out with a new Android version (and soon iOS) is making a renewed bid for consumer adoption with a range of new features and a partial move away from NFC. In-store payments still depend on NFC and so won't be happening at scale any time soon for the same reasons cited above.

However the new features add utility and breadth to the user experience. Here's what's new:  

  • Google has added the ability to send money via email from Wallet (following the ability to use Gmail to send money with Google Wallet). This is a great feature. 
  • The ability to enter/scan loyalty cards into Google Wallet. ("Google Now will notify you when you have a saved loyalty program nearby.")
  • Save and later redeem Google Offers via Wallet (showing the phone at checkout to redeem).

Exactly a year ago we surveyed 1,501 US adults and found the vast majority were not interested in the idea of mobile wallets: 71% said "I'm not at all interested . . . in using [my] mobile phone to pay for things and replace cash or credit cards." Another 15% said they had only "limited interest." Only 14% had some interest or significant interest. 

In specific contexts, where consumers see the tangible benefits of mobile wallets, these numbers change. But in the abstract the public remains largely uninterested in mobile wallets.  

Charting the Rise of the 'Mobile-First' Audience

This morning the Pew Research Center released new survey data about mobile internet access. According to the findings, 93% of smartphone owners (and 63% of all mobile phone owners) go online with their handsets. Tablet usage was not part of this survey.

The most interesting finding, however, was that 34% of all those who go online with their phones do "most" of their internet browsing via mobile:

One third (34%) of cell internet users say that they mostly use their cell phone rather than some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer . . . Half (53%) of cell internet users say that they mostly go online from a device other than their cell phone, while 11% say that they use both their phone and some other device(s) equally.

Pew told me in email this number was basically the same percentage for smartphone and non-smartphone users.

Those who are "mostly mobile" include "young adults, non-whites, the less educated, and the less affluent." This is highly analogous to those who have a mobile phone but not a landine (or who essentially don't use a landline).  

Nielsen's recent Mobile Path to Purchase study (sponsored by xAd, Telmetrics) found that in certain categories the "mostly mobile" or "mobile only" internet population was nearly 50 percent (or above 50% in the case of online banking). Indeed, in specific segments or verticals (e.g., Local) the numbers may exceed 50%. For example:

  • 59% of searches on Yelp are from mobile devices
  • 50% of search on YP’s network is from mobile devices
  • As of Q4 2012 Google Maps had more mobile than PC users
  • Nearly 50% of Groupon transactions in June (for North America) came from mobile 
  • More than 50% of search traffic on Zillow is from mobile devices

What we're witnessing is the rise of an audience that may not use the PC at all in certain cases or use it purely as a secondary matter. As a counterpoint, see the recent comScore-Jumptap data that show people prefer larger screens in many instances.

Once more sites and internet experiences are better optimized for mobile devices, however, we may see an accelaration of this mobile-first/mobile-only trend. 

McDonald's Could Accelerate Mobile Payments Adoption

Last week news broke than McDonald's is considering rolling out mobile payments. Currently the McDonald's app is primarily a store locator. The app also offers nutrition information.

According to a Bloomberg report, the company has been testing mobile payments in Salt Lake City, Utah and in Austin, Texas. McDonald's has roughly 14,000 US stores and 35,000 globally. 

Mobile payments would allow McDonald's patrons to pre-order meals online and then pick them up at the drive-thru window. Other fast-food chains have tested, are testing or now using mobile ordering/payments. The McDonald's app will also feature deals and rewards according to Bloomberg.

A mobile ordering/payments capability may also help McDonald's attract younger users and Millennials, who are less inclined than others to visit the QSR chain. According to an AdAge write-up of an NPD Group survey

Millennials are indeed going to burger chains, but they are going less often. The hamburger category, which includes McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King, still receives 29% of all millennials' quick-service visits, according to NPD, more than any other restaurant category. Fast casual, which includes chains like Chipotle, gets 6% of millennial quick-service traffic.

But hamburger chains have seen a 16% decline in traffic from Millennials since 2007, NPD said. In the year ended November 2012, Millennials made 3.6 billion visits to hamburger chains, down from 4.2 billion visits in the year ended November 2007. There was a 12% decline in quick-service restaurant visits by Millennials in the same time period.

Ultimately all QSR chains will offer mobile ordering/payments. And that will help acclimate a generation to using their smartphones as wallets to pay for things. 

Once people are familiar and comfortable with mobile payments in a specific context (e.g., ordering food) they will be more inclined to embrace them in other scenarios.

Time Spent Online: Mobile 51%, PC 49%

Jumptap (now part of Millennial Media) and comScore released a report last week on cross-platform device usage. The report contains considerable data about smartphone and tablet penetration, day parting and device usage by content category and demographic group.

Much of the data is from comScore and has already been released in other contexts. However there were a number of interesting data points in the report worth revisiting, including the fact that combined smartphone and tablet time online now exceeds time online with PCs.

As a general matter smartphones and tablets have increased overall time spent online rather than simply cannibalizing PC time, though there has been some of that (e.g., maps, local). 

Another interesting set of data in the document explore device share of online minutes by content category or vertical. The PC is dominant (more than 50% of time spent) in a little more than half the categories examined.

PC usage is highest in the automotive segment and lowest in "radio" (think Pandora). Retail sees slightly more mobile than PC time. 

The numbers above are aggregate data. Demographic segments are going to display different device behaviors. For example, those in the US under 30 are likely to be more involved and spend more time with smartphones than those over 50. That pattern has been repeatedly shown in our surveys and other third party data, including this report.

Below are the demographic groups profiled in the report:

Age 18 - 24: 

  • 69% own a Smartphone
  • 65% of digital users are cross-platform
  • 59% of time with digital is mobile

Women 25 - 49:

  • 69% are cross-platform
  • 67% own a Smartphone
  • 14% Mobile only (vs. 17% PC only)
  • Spend 63 hours monthly on Smartphone
  • 75% of time on social media is on Mobile

Men 25 - 49:

  • 74% of digital users are cross-platform
  • 62% own a Smartphone
  • 45% of time with digital is Mobile

Age 50+:

  • 39% own a Smartphone
  • 51% are cross-platform
  • Represent 31% of Tablet owners (only 25% of Smartphone owners)

There's quite a bit more data in the report, which can be downloaded for free.

As a broad takeaway marketers can now assume almost everyone above a certain income threshold is "cross platform." The minority are "smartphone only" or "PC only" (select younger and older users respectively).

Marketers can also reliably make the assumption that those under 45 are going to favor smartphones vs. PCs as primary devices in a wide range of categories. However people are also rational and prefer larger screens in many contexts (at least until mobile user experiences are improved).

By comparison tablet behaviors are still being established. However the tablet is typically used as a PC substitute (provided a larger screen) in the home.

Microsoft Bought Nokia to Block Android Lumia Phones

Nokia's Lumia handsets represent about 80% of Windows Phone's sales. However Nokia was continuing to lose share to Android and iPhone in key markets across the globe. By the same token Windows Phones had failed to enable Nokia to re-enter the US smartphone market in any convincing way. 

Since the inception of the Microsoft-Nokia deal in early 2011, we had been arguing it was a serious mistake for Nokia to not offer an Android phone. However the terms of the agreement between the companies precluded that. In 2014 the deal was set to expire. But before that deal was renegotiated, Microsoft acquired Nokia's phone hardware business for roughly $7.2 billion.  

In the middle of last year we speculated that Microsoft might be compelled to acquire Nokia for defensive reasons. When the acquisition was announced a little over a week ago, I argued had Nokia embraced Android it would not have been so weakened and forced to sell itself. I also speculated this summer that Nokia would be compelled to come out with Android handsets if it wanted to survive:

My view is that Nokia will be compelled -- notwithstanding contractual exclusivity with Microsoft -- to adopt Android at some point in the not-too-distant future or remain stuck in what amounts to neutral.

Now the NY Times is reporting that Android Lumia phones were in development: 

A team within Nokia had Android up and running on the company’s Lumia handsets well before Microsoft and Nokia began negotiating Microsoft’s $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone and services business, according to two people briefed on the effort who declined to be identified because the project was confidential. Microsoft executives were aware of the existence of the project, these people said.

There are two overlapping potential scenarios: Nokia was developing Android handsets in part to add leverage in negotiations with Microsoft (for renewal or acquisition); and/or Nokia was developing Android handsets in earnest and would have rolled them out -- forcing Microsoft to avoid that outcome through an acquisition.

Regardless it appears that the idea of Nokia marketing both Android and Windows Phones was a potential disaster that Microsoft sought to avoid at great cost -- literally. As I've written elsehwere, however, it remains unclear that Microsoft's $7.2 billion have been well spent.

Microsoft Readies Its Answer to Siri: 'Cortana'

Microsoft is reportedly readying its answer to Siri and Google Now: Cortana. Named after a central character in the game Halo, Cortana aims to go beyond both Siri and Google Now by being a more comprehensive way to interact with Microsoft devices.

According to Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley:

Cortana, Microsoft's assistant technology, likewise will be able to learn and adapt, relying on machine-learning technology and the "Satori" knowledge repository powering Bing.

Cortana will be more than just an app that lets users interact with their phones more naturally using voice commands. Cortana is core to the makeover of the entire "shell" -- the core services and experience -- of the future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox One operating systems, from what I've heard from my contacts.

A comprehensive personal assistant powered by AI across all Microsoft systems and devices is a very ambitious plan. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can do it. 

Yet in order to not be perceived as more than a me-too product Microsoft will have to roll out something truly impressive and more utilitarian than Siri or Google's mix of voice-enabled search and personalized data features.  

Update: TheVerge offers a series of relatively bland Cortana screenshots.  

Apple Shunned NFC, Has Anointed BLE for Indoor Location

I wrote several days ago on my Screenwerk blog about PayPal's new Beacon payments and indoor location initiative. I explained that Apple's decision not to include an NFC chip in the new iPhone means essentially that NFC is marginalized if not dead in the US market. In its place Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may become the mainstream alternative to what NFC would have enabled (e.g., mobile payments).

PayPal Beacon relies on BLE. At those businesses where a Beacon device is plugged in PayPal users simply check-in. Beacon identifies them and payment is automatically transferred from the default account. Payment happens “hands free” without a tap, swipe or other app interaction. 

Beacon is also PayPal’s entry into indoor location. PayPal will obviously know you’re in a venue and then can do any number of things, including delivering highly specific, indoor marketing messages or ads. PayPal is also making Beacon available to third party developers, who will be able to do similar things accordingly.

Apple's iOS 7, which will be available on September 18 (to older iPhones as well), will permit all eqipped devices to interact with BLE iBeacons in malls, airports, stores and other venues. 

Apple acquired indoor mapping company WiFiSlam earlier this year. That was the "wake up call" for many people to take indoor location seriously. One of the first and obvious applications of iBeacon is indoor mapping. But it doesn't stop there. 

Just as with PayPal's BLE initiative, iBeacon will enable Apple to move into payments and indoor marketing and allow third party developers to leverage those capabilities. With its more than 600 million credit cards on file I've got to believe that Apple will enter mobile payments eventually and BLE will be the way in all likelihood.

More broadly I suspect that iBeacon will popularize and jumpstart indoor location for a host of third party developers. 

For a comprehensive introduction to the indoor location and marketing opportunity, and its broader implications, come to Place 2013.

iPhone 'Touch ID' Is the New Siri

The Apple iPhone event just concluded. Everything that was announced at the event had been leaked or written about beforehand, including:

  • The cheaper iPhone 5C in 5 colors
  • The gold iPhone 5S
  • The faster 5S processor
  • iTunes Radio
  • The biometric fingerprint sensor that unlocks the phone ("Touch ID")

However that last item, the "Touch ID" fingerprint sensor, was the stand-out announcement in my view. It will enable users to both unlock their phones and confirm iTunes purchases instead of entering a password: 

Put your finger on the Home button, and just like that your iPhone unlocks. Your fingerprint can also approve purchases from iTunes or the App Store.

What I mean by the headline is that Touch ID is to the 5S what Siri was to the 4S: a kind of "wow" feature that helps it stand out from other smartphones. It partly compensates for the fact that Apple didn't introduce a larger screen, which everyone now wants. That's coming with the iPhone 6. 

Twitter Buys Mobile Exchange MoPub for Ad Tech, Network

MoPub presents itself as the "world's largest RTB exchange for mobile apps." Arguably, MoPub emerged over the past couple years as the leading mobile-publisher/developer exchange.

In May the site announced it had reached a $100 million "run rate." That of course is tiny compared to the major mobile networks and publishers such as Google and Facebook.

Today one of the other major mobile ad platforms, Twitter, announced that it had acquired MoPub. TechCrunch estimated that the purchase price was $350 million. MoPub said nothing would change for the publishers in its network: 

It’s important to underscore that our commitment to you, the publisher, will not change. In fact, it will be strengthened. Twitter will invest in our core business and we will continue to build the tools and technology you need to better run your mobile advertising business.

In addition to investing in new capabilities for our publisher platform, we believe there are opportunities to bring better native advertising to the mobile ecosystem. With the support of the team and resources of Twitter, we’ll be able to move even more quickly towards the realization of our original vision.

MoPub CEO Jim Payne likened Twitter's acquisition of MoPub to Google's acquisition of DoubleClick. He argued that Twitter's resources would enable MoPub's to get even stronger and serve its publishers better. Indeed Twitter's brand strength and clout may attract more mobile advertisers to the platform.

For its part Twitter was pretty transparent about what it was after in buying MoPub: 

The MoPub team has built a leading mobile ad exchange, and their focus on providing transparency to advertisers and publishers aligns with our values. We’ll continue to invest in and improve their core business. In particular, we think there is a key opportunity to extend many types of native advertising across the mobile ecosystem through the MoPub exchange.

We also plan to use MoPub’s technology to build real-time bidding into the Twitter ads platform so our advertisers can more easily automate and scale their buys. We’ll maintain the same high quality standards that define our platform today. Our approach is to show an ad when we think it will be useful or interesting to a user, and that isn’t changing.

This acquisition gives Twitter a significant new mobile asset and ad network. This follows Millennial's acquisition of Jumptap for technology and more scale. It may also indicate that a new wave of mobile network consolidation has begun. 

Splashy New Apps from Yahoo, Opera Make a Play for iPad Usage

Both Opera and Yahoo introduced splashy new apps for the iPad today. Opera introduced a new browser called Coast. On first glance, the browser has some nice features. In particular users can pin icons to the home screen, much like they can on the iPhone and close pages by swiping them away (like the old PalmOS and Android today). Most of the nagivation is based on swiping or the touch of a single button. 

Opera calls Coast a totally new tablet experience: 

The result is a completely designed-for-iPad browser, subtly elegant, made to fit tablet users in every respect. Crafting Coast meant redesigning the complete experience. We focused on how iPad users actually interact with their tablets. Coast is the perfect companion for your iPad, allowing a more relaxing and lean-back browsing experience when you are on the go or just hanging out on the couch.

The iPad is nearly buttonless; why shouldn’t the apps for it be? Elements such as back and forward buttons are gone from Coast. All navigation is done by swiping the way you naturally would on an iPad – just like in a good iPad app. A single button takes you to the home screen, and another shows the sites you have recently visited – that’s about it for buttons in Coast.

When using touch-based navigation, small buttons that work on a regular computer don’t work well on a tablet. It’s not about just enlarging already existing elements; it’s about making the design interesting and uncluttered . . .

Designing for iPad means rethinking everything. Tablets have a lot of screen real estate, and we thought it was about time to put it to good use. Coast does way more than merely migrating the lessons learned from desktop computers to a tablet.

Yahoo has a new tablet-centric video app (though it also works on the iPhone). Called "Yahoo Screen," the app features video from multiple sources, including Comedy Central and SNL, among numerous others. It's not YouTube but an attempt to created a video destination, with lots of clips that can support video pre-roll ads. There's quite a diverse array of content from food and instructional video to sports and movie clips. 

Yahoo has done a nice job with the user experience. Content is the key to success however. The company will continue to need to feed content to the app if it wants to build and sustain an audience. The company had sought to buy Hulu at one point. And now it's moving ahead with its own video product and increasingly original web-only programming. 

While Opera's iPad app is part of a bid to remain relevant in a mobile-centric world -- its mobile browser has largely been sidelined by Android and the iPhone -- Yahoo is hoping to create a way to generate more mobile revenue from lucrative video ads.

Aisle411 $6.3M Round Shows Growing Investor Focus on Indoor Opportunity

A few years ago companies like aisle411 or PointInside were mobile apps in search of an audience and a business model. In the past couple of years, however, everything has changed.

The proliferation of public WiFi, the adoption of smartphones (now 62% in the US) and the recognition among hospitals, malls, airports, stadiums, grocery and retail stores that indoor location could bring better customer experiences (and compelling data) has radically altered the landscape. The principal business model also went from being an ad/coupon-supported one to a technology licensing model, with indoor analytics leading the way.

Today aisle411 announced a $6.3 million Series A round (Cultivation Capital, Google’s Don Dodge, St. Louis Arch Angels, the Billiken Angels, and the Springfield Angel Network). The total the company has raised since being founded in 2008 is roughly $10 million. 

Most major US retailers (e.g., HomeDepot, Macy's, Wal-Mart, Target, Nordstrom, etc.) and malls across the US are now adopting indoor location, to reap the "big data" and offer more personalized, locally relevant and engaing customer experiences. We're only just at the beginning of a huge wave of indoor innovation.

One of the featured sessions at the Place Conference will showcase aisle411. I'll also be "in conversation" with Google's Don Dodge on why he believes indoor location and marketing will be bigger than outdoor maps and GPS. 

The conference will also present other in-venue and retail case studies from PointInside, ByteLight and Meridian (Aruba). If you haven't yet registered for the October 8, 2013 event do so today