Product Management :: Product Marketing

19 December, 2013

Watching TV Online

36% of UK internet users confirmed they watch online content every single week, much more than consumers in Germany, France, Spain and Italy. See Simplify Digital for more

02 December, 2013

Mobile Subscriptions to rise to 9.3 billion by 2019

According to latest  Ericsson Mobile Report, mobile subscriptions will rise to 9.3 billion by 2019.

Wow, I thought that's a lot. Then the report went on to say that total mobile subscriptions currently stands at 6.6 billion.

Look at the explosion in data usage:

Johan Wibergh, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Unit Networks, discusses the latest Mobility Report:

01 October, 2013

The rise of Google Chrome

This graph from the Economist (Daily Chart - Browse beaten) shows how many Internet Explorer users have migrated to Chrome.

According to another Economist article Chrome rules the web:
Chrome is now responsible for about 43% of all the web traffic generated by the world’s desktop computers. When Chrome was launched the dominant browser was Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), with a 68% share—it is now down to just 25%.
The penetration of Android on mobile phones and now tablets will surely increase this dominance.

09 September, 2013

The use cases of 4G

In a previous blog post, I laid out the status of 4G mobile roll-out.

Everything Everywhere, the operator with the most advanced 4G deployment has released their 4G Mobile Living Index Report.

Clearly it is brochure bigging up 4G, but my inbuilt skepticism kicks in. Reading the report, there are some interesting snippets:
  • People are sharing videos and pictures over 4G, leading to network upload traffic overtaking download traffic at key events.

The key task that has been enhanced with 4G is video streaming (ie downloading). Reading emails, posting on social networks - network speed isn't a major differentiator for these tasks exactly - but network coverage is. However, if you have bought a whizzy 4G phone, then it will have a nice 5Mb / 8Mb / 12Mb camera. If you wish to upload a photo to Twitter (who immediately compress it to <500kb a="" another="" appear="" be="" it="" media="" nbsp="" or="" p="" process.="" site="" social="" tedious="" to="" will="">
What is really interesting is 4G usage for tablets:
Looking at 4G-capable tablets and smartphones, there is a marked difference in how the devices are being used. Broadly, smartphones match general web browsing usage patterns (see previous page of the PDF Report) and tablets reflect streaming.

It demonstrates how the smartphone on a 4G network is an integral part of daily life, with activity beginning relatively early in the morning and only tailing-off just before midnight. With 4G, the promise of the "always online" generation becomes a reality.

The bottom graph displays iPad usage. It peaks markedly in the evening, highlighting that not only do 4G users like to stream on their tablet devices, but that the tablet is less a feature of the normal working day for most people than the smartphone. There is a small peak around 4pm on the iPad graph that likely indicates children use it either upon return from school or when travelling home.

I conclude that tablets are a leisure device - particularly for junior members of the family. Dad is watching the football on the main TV and the children bounce in between games, messaging and watching a TV programme on their tablet.

Opera make a browser specifically for the iPad

I make no secret of the fact that I am a massive Opera fan. They have produced a browser just for tablets.

I applaud the decision - which recognises that a touch only interface impacts the User Interaction.

However, given the availability of hybrid devices (ie tablets that have keyboard docks) I'm not sure of the merits of this being a stand alone app - ie separate from standard Opera. Surely this would be best as a 'mode of use' option? It would be great if Opera sensed whether the user was in tablet mode or in laptop mode (ie with keyboard) and popped up an invitation to switch into an alternative user mode.

I would be most interested in feedback as to how Opera Tablet works.

31 August, 2013

The state of 4G in the UK

Many column inches has been written this week about the state of 4G, as Vodafone and O2 launched their 4G services on Thursday. There's no need to bore you with the summary here as you can get it elsewhere. As I work for CInergy International whose biggest customer is the mobile operator, Everything Everywhere, these market developments are important.

So, EE have had the 'mindshare' of the market for the past 10 months, being the only provider with 4G. They have publicly stated that they want a million 4G customers by the end of this year (see Everything Everywhere sees strong takeup of 4G).

Having walked the floors of their call centres, specifically in the Sales and Retention areas, then I can assure you that the deals for home broadband and 4G mobile (in particularly in combination) are amazing.


According to Mobile News:
  • EE have strongly differentiated the pricing of their 4G plans from their 3G plans - mainly because they can.
  • Vodafone and O2 will be adding £5 premium for their 4G plans.
  • 3 will be charging the same price as their existing plans.
Operators are assuming that the faster speeds will encourage more consumption, meaning that consumers will feel obliged to purchase more expensive bundles with greater data allowances.

In my mind, the entrance of Vodafone and O2 really opens up the market.

News from this week's 4G Coverage

However, below are some of the interesting nuggets from the coverage this week:
  • Three will launch 4G in 3 cities in December (fortunately for 3 and for consumers these are: London, Birmingham and Manchester). See Mobile News.
  • Note that Three have upgraded their network to be 3.5G - giving perfectly tolerable speeds of  > 10Mbps.
  • For existing 3 customers to upgrade to 4G, they with a 4G compatible device will need to instal software, but do not need to sign a new contract, change tariffs, swap SIMs or visit a store. (We'll see how successful that upgrade programme is!)
  • The iPhone 5, works on the 1800 Mhz spectrum only. EE uses this frequency whereas O2 or Vodafone's uses different frequencies. One assumes that the anticipated release of the next iPhone will solve this problem.

4G Coverage plans

EE still leading, as you'd expect, having launched first.
  • Three - 98% cent of the population by the end of 2015.
  • EE - 98% coverage by the end of 2014
  • O2 and Vodafone - 98 per cent “by 2015”.

Network Frequency

Frequency is important for 4G - and has shaped the way the market has developed. (See Vodafone and O2 begin limited roll-out of 4G networks.)
  • The 800MHz band which was previously used for TV signals. This low frequency spectrum is best for providing long-distance 4G services, helping give access to the countryside, as well as offering superior indoor coverage.
  • The 1.8GHz band, previously used for 2G and 3G networks, but can be reassigned for 4G.
  • The 2.6GHz band, which had previously been used by operators of cord-free video cameras to send back footage of live events, including London's Olympic Games. The high frequency can deliver faster speeds across smaller distances, making it best suited for densely populated cities. 

What the operators bought
  • EE built its 4G network by re-appropriating some of the 1.8GHz spectrum bandwidth previously used for its 2G and 3G services. It has since bought space on both the 800Mhz and 2.6Ghz bands.
  • Vodafone paid the most for its spectrum bands, buying part of the 800Mhz and 2.6GHz bands for just over £790m.
  • O2 paid £550m for part of the 800MHz spectrum and Three paid £225m for other parts of the same band. 

28 August, 2013

IT slurps 10 % of all electricity production

This report, sponsored by the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, claims that IT needs 1,500 terawatt hours of energy per year - or about 10% of global electricy production. See The Cloud Begins With Coal – Big Data, Big Networks, Big Infrastructure, and Big Power (August 2013).

This figure is a headline grabber, but it is a slightly misleading title as the cloud isn't cloud computing. The report considers the energy cost of production of the hardware, the energy required to keep networks humming etc. However The Register notes that the report:
ignores the data centers the video is served out of, and tablet charging. 

I recall this report by the EPA in 2007 which estimated that US data centers consumed 1.5% of US electricity production, and was projected to rise to 3 percent by 2011.

There is the strong possibility of a major shift in IC power design which could radically change these figures. Cambridge-based ARM has started its foray into server chips and Interworx (who may have a bias!) think it is significant: What ARM In The Data Center Means For Hosting Companies.

15 May, 2013

Musings from a startup entrepreneur

These insights from a successful, start-up CEO (Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot) on made me nod in agreement and chuckle: Startups: 10 Things MBA Schools Won't Teach You:

I particularly liked the following points - which I paraphrase:

2. Start-ups need to be clear about what they are not doing.
Everyone knows that a business plan is an extremely creative piece of literature that projects lot of results about lots of decisions made in the future. The purpose of writing business plans to primarily to do lots of thinking about scenarios so that when you reach a decision cross roads, some of the factors to be considered might be familiar to the management team - thereby preventing either paralysis or constantly switching strategy.

5. Pricing is discovered in the market
ie in customer conference rooms in pre-sales, in project planning meetings with customers, NOT in Excel in the office!

6. "Every time you add a new product or product option a small part of your company dies"
It just becomes messier on virtually every front! Treat product extensions with caution!

7. Marketing is about more than .... the right shade of blue for your logo.
Oh, the hours that have been spent on colour palettes, the depth of drop shadowing, the size of the font on the slogan underneath the corporate logo. It makes me want to pound the table and cry!

24 April, 2013

Weakness of Crowd Funding

Crowd funding is now a recognised mechanism for raising entrepreneurial money. However I remain sceptical of its merits. Raising money in the public domain (or rather semi-public domain - it isn't quite an wide open-access web page with every excruciating detail listed) doesn't fill me with confidence.

At its best, it may well find  a niche for public service initiatives or for social enterprises.

I wouldn't favour crowd funding for these reasons.

1. Too many investors make for a lot of overhead
Having been a co-founder of a start-up, presenting to potential investors, soliciting feedback and answering questions were interesting for the first, second or third time. However, it did become a slog. I was delighted that my fellow co-founder, Simon Grice, led our fund raising efforts. As for dealing with investors, taking their telephone calls, responding (nicely as possible) to their emails was, in general - some exceptions did exist, a massive time soak.

Investors do have a right to question the management team on their progress and their strategy. Given that investment in early stage start-ups is illiquid and investors can't, for all practical purposes, sell their shares, they must pitch into the business and help it out. However, throwing stones at their investment is destructive - it debilitates the very thing that they are trying to nurture and soaks up time from the key members of the management time are really required to focus on the business of making the company successful, rather than fighting 'internal' battles.

Christian Salaman, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP: expressed it elegantly : "The sophisticated entrepreneur does not want dozens of cooks in the kitchen."

This raises an interesting question: is crowd funding useful for an 'unsophisticated' entrepreneur'? In reality no, an 'unsophisticated' entrepreneur would be best to surround his company with a bevy of mentors before going into the lion's den of a crowd funding round.

2. Issue of Confidentially
Crowd-funding means that many more people have access to the 'magic sauce' that makes your business special. If it is a low-tech or a life-style business then the 'magic sauce' is the management team's personnel, their connections, their knowledge of the market etc. High-tech businesses, on the other hand, are likely to build intellectual property which is in greater danger of being pinched by others.

So crowd funding is not suitable if there are first mover advantages in the market.

3. Higher transaction costs
Deals are likely to be smaller and therefore the legal cost of executing an investment transaction are likely to be proportionally higher.

Here's the perspective from the US lawyers.

Attorney Brian Korn, of counsel at Pepper Hamilton LLP said in this article Is Crowd funding Dead On Arrival? A Legal Perspective:
It puts big deal procedures and liability on small deals. The expense of complying with crowd funding, combined with the low issuer maximum that can be raised ($1 million over a trailing 12 month period) will be prohibitive for most issuers.

I would estimate crowd funding expenses would surpass 15% or 20% on many transactions.

Only those transactions that cannot be done by any other means will be done through crowd funding, which potentially will make the crowd funding issuer universe potentially a world of dregs, cast-offs and Hail Marys. This lays the riskiest investments at the doorstep of those investors that can least afford the risk.  

06 March, 2013

Teens are bored with Facebook, but Mr Zuckerburg needn't be worried

According to this article on Business Insider, teens are losing interest in Facebook and they're seeking a more private, intimate place to share with close friends. (Let's face it if your Dad's on Facebook, it can't be cool!)

Instead they are becoming obsessed by Instagram and Snapchat. Fortunately for Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg personally negotiated the purchase Instagram for sweet $2bn in April 2012 (see TheNextWeb article on the acquisition story).

07 February, 2013

Length of phone call drops and texting will decrease

The Register reports that call duration on Vodafone's network has dropped from over 3 minutes to 1 minute 40 seconds (see Mobile phone calls shorter).

Researching this issue further, fixed line voice minutes (not the same as duration obviously) have been cannbalised by the existance of mobile phones - no surprises there.

This interesting bar chart from the Economist from Hanging up - Reports of the death of the phone call are greatly exaggerated.

Notice that voice consumption - regardless of device - is dropping. The Economist's report notes that this decrease is matched by an explosion in texting. In the future, I anticipate that we shall look back and see that voice and texting have been in decline since 2010 as communication via data mushrooms.

See also this from Ofcom's The Communications Market Report from July 2012 from James Thickett, Ofcom's Director of Research:
'Our research reveals that in just a few short years, new technology has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate. Talking face to face or on the phone are no longer the most common ways for us to interact with each other.

'In their place, newer forms of communications are emerging which don't require us to talk to each other especially among younger age groups. This trend is set to continue as technology advances and we move further into the digital age.'In short, the arrival of each new generation of technology impacts incumbent technology and after a short period of innovation and experimentation, users work out the most efficient / optimal new mix of technologies at their disposal.'

The new kid on the block - 4G
I remain concerned about the potential success of 4G - there is the need for the quantity of data being transmitted, but I don't see the need for the speed. And Network operators do need to do a much better job of data pricing. As I have mentioned before (see Orange (at last) has a common sense data plan) unlimited policies provide no upper ceiling and are open to abuse. And abuse by 1% will account for a disproportionate cost of serving that content (ie video!).

16 January, 2013

Hybrids unveiled at CES Show in Las Vegas

After my previous post on hybrids (Netbook + Tablets Hybrids) in early December, the Consumer Electroncs Show occurred in Las Vegas at the start of January.

Below are some machines that caught my eye from explosion of tablet-esque devices announced.

4. Dell XPS 12

Basically an better Duo (ie an ultrabook) with a faster processor and Windows 8. For £999 (ouch!). The Register gives it a favourable review.

What I do like is this feature:
The XPS 12 shares a hardware feature with the Microsoft Surface tablet that really improves the Windows 8 user experience: a recessed Windows home button below the screen. Press it and the display swaps between the traditional desktop and the Modern tile-based UI no matter which way the screen is facing.
Also with SSD memory plus Windows 8 boot time is a mere 14 seconds!! (I wander what is the boot time from hibernation?)

5. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
This Ultrabook whose hinges allow the screen to rotate 180 degrees to make the tablet - ie the keyboard on the bottom - a feature that I don't care for.

The Register review like it too and mentions:
  • Boots in 15 secs
  • 6 hours of battery life in casual use
  • 1.5kg+ in weight
  • Suggested Price: £1000

15 January, 2013

Exuberance about 3D Printing

I have been passively following the 3D Printing excitement. 3D Printing is a a new method of printing a thin layer of plastic onto a surface - if repeated the layers can build up and a finished object can result. The image above came an article in Forbes:  3D-Printing Firm Makerbot Cracks Down On Printable Gun Designs

Enthusiasm abounds for 3D Printing:
  • Here's the story from the Economist of a PhD student at MIT building a grandfather clock. He took it off the printer, hung it on the wall, pulled the weight and it ticked! (The Printed World - Three-dimensional printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing and allow more people to start making things)
  • Here's another from the Daily Telegraph: Make your own: the 3D printing revolution.

I have been less than enthusiastic about its potential to radically reshape manufacturing industries + inject trillions of dollars back into the manufacturing industries of the First World.

This article from the Technology Review,  The Difference Between Makers and Manufacturers, (thanks to Tim Minshall for pointing it out) spells out the reason why this technological innovation requires some product management / marketing acumen to bring this advance to market effectively.

.... truly advanced products more typically come about when designers and inventors understand manufacturing processes. “You can create a CAD design,” he says, “but you need to understand what a production process can and can’t do.”

Many types of manufacturing require a sophisticated series of steps and processes to be done in precise sequence. Selecting the right materials and technologies is key to high-quality, low-cost results. If designers don’t understand the manufacturing processes and materials that are practical, they will never come up with the most advanced and compelling new products. It’s a lesson that has been repeatedly learned over the last decade in the development of new clean-energy technologies. Innovators may create smart designs for technologies such as solar panels, but ignoring the costs and practical details of manufacturing the new products is a sure path to failure.

Real world usage for 3D Printing:
  • Rapid Development
  • Prototyping
  • Rapid Feedback
  • One-off of craftmanship

11 January, 2013

Litmus Test for B2C User Interfaces

A while ago, I was discussing the User Interface (UI) / User Experience (UX) with a friend who was building a B2C internet service. We're discussing the user process flow through the service's most critical feature.

Whilst building a B2C service at Midentity, I was handed some painfully humiliating lessons about the level of (in)competence of my users / what they understood about my product and its features / how much information they retained when they moved from screen to screen.

I emphasised to my good friend the very high standard of the user experience that is required for a B2C service. It has to be crystal clear.

My user experience litmus test

Here's the ideal usage scenario vs the actual scenario
Ideal UsageActual Usage
User is focussed on the task in hand
User is insanely multi-tasking:
  • Intermittent interruptions on the computer - possibly Skype logins popping up or irritating pop-ups due to the number of browser taskbars / browser extensions or adware
  • Fanatical Facebook or Twitter usage: following posts, commenting on pictures, Facebook IM etc
  • Constant text messages interruptions - all of which require immediate response.
  • Emails arrive that need to be responded to
  • Possibly telephone calls as well - these might on a desk phone as well as the mobile phone.
  • Background music - or if the user has headphones on, it might be 'foreground' music
Timely Completion of Task
  • User concentrates on the task in hand without huge gaps between each step
Intermittent Usage
  • Significant breaks in usage
  • User walks away half way through registration. They return 30 mins later (ie their machine requires them to log in again). They look at the screen and wonder, 'What on earth am I trying to achieve from this service again??'
User has clear understanding what the service provides  Very hazy comprehension of the service
  •  User skim read the home page and thought the site looks cool, so ploughed into the user registration
  • If it doesn't follow their preconceived expectations, the user will exit and say that 'the service was confusing to use', when, in truth, the user failed to follow instructions however clear they were. 
Clear understanding of what parts of the user will benefit from User discovers the product's benefits by using it, not be reading about it.
  • Access to help must be very close at hand
  • Service must protect the user from their own silliness (ie lots of defensive logic and error checking)

What's the difference between B2C and B2B UX?

B2B users are paid to use your product or service. They are much more compelled to read the instructions / follow the process / get it right. They may have distractions but, in general, these will be much less than in the B2C environment.


  • Use your product in the Actual Usage mode above - even better get your love one to use your product in the  Actual Usage mode - and prepared to be depressed!
  • Every screen needs to be self supporting ie don't conclude that the user knew what button they pressed to get to the current screen OR why they pressed it originally. 
  • Revisage constant restarts (eg multiple registrations, forgotten password requests half way through registration). 
  • Watch 'virigin' / untouched new users as often as you can.
  • Use focus groups.
    • BUT be wary, users will say they want X functionality, but once produced never use it.
    • Groups are also susceptible to Group Think ie one person makes a suggestion and the group conforms to that opinion, even if all the individuals individually don't profess to have that opinion.
  • Track what users actually do, not what they say they do.
Any suggestions from elsewhere?

08 January, 2013

Trust and Trustworthiness - one begats the other and vice versa

A BBC article poses this question: Which comes first - trust or trustworthiness? It's an excellent article which summarises the major points of the discussion and asks, "How can we restore trust?".

The answer:
  1. Be trustworthy.
  2. Provide others with good evidence that you are trustworthy.

As Abraham Lincoln pointed out, "You may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

So how do you build evidence that you are trustworthy?
Things are harder when we have to decide whether to trust experts, or complicated institutional processes. Here we often can't find or judge the evidence by ourselves.
So the argument runs: 
We need more accountability and more transparency. Both can be helpful, but both can also obfuscate rather than make it easier to judge others' likely trustworthiness. 
Systems of accountability won't make trust easier unless people have reason to trust these systems. If they are too complex or designed for other purposes - as they often are - most of us will find it difficult to follow them, and it's hard to know whether they are trustworthy guides. They may damage professional performance - as a midwife commented recently, it takes longer to do the paperwork than to deliver the baby and that's surely the wrong way around.
Transparency is another fashionable remedy, and has become technically easy. It can be achieved merely by pushing information into the public domain. But as lots of people will not find the information, or will find it obscure, or will not be able to work out whether to trust it, transparency is no guarantee that others will be more likely to trust.
Web 2.0 functionality of user ratings (eg ebay ratings) is certainly a great way of demonstrating transparency. These systems work well when trading commodities, when one is assessing the individual trader alone and not the product or service. When the products or services become more complex or more subjective, Web 2.0 opinions can merely muddy the transparency puddle further.

03 January, 2013

Internet Trends from Mary Meeker

Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, published her '2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update'

The full presentation is on Slideshare, first seen on Venturebeat.

Here are some of the figures that caught my eye:
  • 2.4 billion Internet users with 8% year on year growth. 500 million of these (ie 20%) are in China - this only represents 40% of penetration in China.
  • Let's contrast China's figures with the US: 250 million users with only 3% annual growth with a penetration of 78%.
  • 29% of adults in the US now own either a tablet or an e-reader.
  • Mobile devices now account for 13% of worldwide internet traffic - 4% in 2010. In India, mobile Internet traffic now exceeds desktop Internet traffic.
  • The graph above shows the dominance of Windows and Intel in the 90s and early 2000s - and the explosion in Android devices.
  • The number of landlines peaked in 2006 with 1.3 billion.
  • In 2102, it is estimated that 2 billion bluetooth devices were shipped (up 87 times in 10 years); 1.5 billion Wi-fi devices were shipped (up 5 times in 4 years)
  • By Q2 2013 it is esimated that the number of Smartphones + Tablets will exceed the number of PCs in the world.
  • If 2,000 zettabytes was created and shared in 2011 then 8,000 zettabytes are estimated to be shared in 2015. (1 zettabyte = 1 trillion zettabytes).
  • In 2006, Nokia Symbian operating system was shipped on 65% of smartphones (globally). By 2012, 65% of smartphones were shipped on Android and another 20% were shipped on iOS

02 January, 2013

Linux Mint - the best Linux Desktop

My enthusiasm for Linux Mint has many other admirers.
I declared that 2012's Best Linux desktop was Linux Mint 13. I've changed my mind since then. Now, I think the best desktop Linux is Linux Mint 14.1. I'll be telling you more about it in the next few days.
said by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on ZDNET

In their usual style, The Register declared, The year GNOMES, Ubuntu sufferers forked off to Mint Linux.