15 December, 2010

Global Preference for Social Networking Service

Here's an interesting map from Vincenzo Cosenza which mashes up Alexa data with Google Trends to produce a map displaying the primary preference for a particular social networking preference by country.

Also, this table (from the same site) displays the top three social networking services by various countries:

Facebook is all conquering, apart from Google's Orkut in Brazil which remains an large exception, even if Portugal has already been steam rollered by the Zuckerberg machine (stolen from Hi5 actually).

What is interesting is how recently, eg June 2009 (visit Vincenzo's site and scroll down), the picture was much more fragmented, with the odd domestic provider holding out against FB. These would appear to be second choice networks now. MySpace appears to be a US oddity too.

13 December, 2010

Japan has 600 LTE base stations

News of this capability comes from Gerhard Fasol at Eurotechnology - see this recent newsletter.

This sounds impressive but Mike Bryant, an analyst with market research company Future Horizons points out in this article from EE Times that LTE cells can support MUCH fewer users than 3G cells.

Whereas a 3G basestation cell could support 4,000 users, an LTE cell is smaller and can only support 600 users, so seven times as many basestations are needed to support the same number of users, Bryant said. That means additional sites have to be found and, in addition, placing LTE equipment on the roofs of tall buildings doesn't always provide street-level coverage as it normally did for 3G basestations.

Bryant further concludes that:
The result is likely to be an inability to service the demand created by sales of smartphones. Already monthly flat rate data usage plans are being dropped by many operators in favor of per-Gbyte charging schemes to increase profits and throttle demand.

I have been a firm believer in the view that all-you-can-eat data schemes are disastrous for operators and that per-Gbyte must surely make better sense, even if it is a marketing proposition.

Also, this interesting article (from July 2010) also declares that WiMax is dead as operators are deploying the spectrum to other technologies

Viber VOIP For iPhone - 1m downloads in 3 days

Viber is VoIP client for iPhone which has racked up one million downloads in the 3 days after launch (according to 3G.co.uk).

It allows you to make free calls to other Viber users. Is how is it different?
  • Well your ID is your mobile number - which eliminates registration / authentication, making adoption easier. (This is the most novel part I think)
  • Once installed, Viber automatically scans contact list in your mobile phone and highlight the users that have Viber, so you know who can you call for free. (Truphone does this too, I believe)
  • Viber runs automatically whenever your mobile is turned on. 
It remains unclear how Viber will make money in the future, of course.

Effectively, it is an easy way to substitute your voice minutes by using data package. Given that adoption and substitution is so easy, I would anticipate a reaction from mobile operators.

12 December, 2010

The 5 Myths Of Building A Great Mobile Team

Techcrunch has an article from guest author Elad Gil who kickstarted Google’s mobile efforts back in 2004: The 5 Myths Of Building A Great Mobile Team.

As someone who recruited a team for an application that spans PC, mobile and web I have some scars in this subject area!

Myth 1: You need to hire mobile experts.
Reality: Hire great athletes; mobile “experts” will be useless in 6 months

So true. Yes, you do need some specialist mobile knowledge, as the idiosyncrasies are many, but just because they have expertise in mobile doesn't mean that they should lead the team, but rather they should be used as a mobile SME for the rest of the team.

Myth 2: Your mobile codebase is different from regular code.
Reality: It's just code. You should treat it as such.

True, but I don't think this is a myth, so a red herring really.

Myth 3: You need carrier or handset deals to distribute a mobile product.
Reality: Focus on standard consumer distribution first, not carriers or handset manufacturers.

Hmm, moot point, as this definitely not true any more, but once upon a time, getting your apps on mobile operators' deck (ie their home page which listed 'recommended' apps) was key.

Myth 4. You must build for all platforms from Day One.
Reality: Start with iPhone or Android only first.

Myth 5. (Once the app launches) We are mobile geniuses!
Reality: Stay hungry and keep questioning your mobile direction

Both are true, but so obvious, this isn't a myth.

Some of my own observations:

1. Version Control and Release Management is more important
With multiple platforms with interdependencies between web code set and mobile code set and PC code set, then release management and planning must be taken to a whole new level.

Agile programming and development approach (which work really well on for internet deployment) slowly crumble in the face of multiple environments. Development can be done in short 'agile' styled bursts, but only really work for interim releases (ie NOT vX.0 releases).

Significant functionality enhancements (ie X.0 releases) require mega planning so that the new functionality works at every tier. As a result, some platforms 'get ahead' of others. eg the mobile platform is dragging its heels, so the web dev team start working on the next release (or even the release after that). As you can imagine, Code Management has to be very robust! (And DO avoid the temptation to crash a release out on one platform, even if it isn't ready on other platforms - the user experience / PR fall out is significant!)

Do check out my Feature Prioritization & Product Road Mapping Whitepaper which covers these issues in detail. 

 2. Architecture is very important to get right first time
For the reasons in (1), getting the architecture is very, VERY important, as modifying this is SOOO painful. Again, an Agile approach of 'hmm, let's build something simple to start with and see what happens' is full of fallabilities - I'm not saying it is wrong, but will generate problems in the future. (I have LOTS of scars here from this decision - porting data from database structure to another seemlessly so users aren't impacted took months and months. (I am very, very pleased to start that the project was a fantastic success, but it required a lot of time and some very high calibre people to see it through.)

09 December, 2010

Waitrose using QR Codes on television to connect to consumers' phones

Waitrose, the UK grocery retailer, has announced its intention to start a series of television commercials for Christmas using QR codes to engage with customers (and their phones) - news via ZDNet.co.uk.

Unusually, the snapping the QR code with your phone will take users to an App (for iPhone and Android) that provides recipes from celebrity chefs Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal. The more usual destination is to an informational website.

Also, the QR code is displayed for 2 seconds at the end of the commercial, so viewers had better be lightning quick or have the ability (and inclination) to record and replay the advertisement. (ZDNet reports problems with snapping the QR Code with Android 2.2 devices.)

Methinks someone had some marketing budget to blow up the chimney before year end and an ad agency dude managed to persuade someone that this would be claim some thought leadership, irrespective of actual bottom line impact. I assume a couple of people (and their iPhones) will be looking for a new position in the New Year!

Update: The TV Ad is back up with some point of sale advertising too. There's a good rant on the poor quality of execution of the campaign here.