Category: mobile

Apple’s New Kingdom: Good for You?

Today, the media and tech worlds (aren’t those the same these days?) are buzzing with the news of Apple’s new content distribution model for publishers through the App Store. In a nutshell, content publishers can sell subscriptions to their digital magazines, newspapers, video, music, and anything else through the App Store; for any new subscribers coming through the App Store Apple takes a 30% cut, for any existing subscribers Apple gets nothing. Sounds great right? Well…that depends.

The App Store is a phenomenal success – hundreds of thousands of apps available to millions of people with iPhones and iPads in almost 100 countries worldwide. It’s an amazing way to access and distribute your goods to an established and growing audience looking for great apps and content. And that’s the kicker…access and distribution. It’s still up to you to create and amazing app or service people want, Apple simply helps you get it to the masses. So, the App Store is perfect if you need a ready to go distribution platform, but if you already have access to millions of users does the App Store make sense?

1. Big Company (Media/Cable/Tech) with Lots of Existing Users:

  • You have: Lots of users so you have a great distribution channel that got you those users (and they’re use to it).
  • What To Do: Keep pushing through that proven access channel and keep your revenues! Don’t ignore the App Store, it’s the first place iPhone/iPad users will look so have your goods there as well don’t treat it as destination #1.
  • Result: Targeting and promoting through your existing distribution channel means you reach your audience and keep your revenue. You also satisfy get the exclusive iPhone/iPad users that flock to the App Store.

2. Big Company (Media/Cable/Tech) without Existing Users (i.e. you’ve never done this before):

  • You have: Lots of users but have never sold and app or digital service before (sorry, but its 2011, wake up!)
  • What To Do: Hit the App Store first; it is the single biggest ready-to-go distribution channel there is with an entrenched audience. BUT also start promoting on your web site, literature, offline…and very quickly make sure you have a non-iOS app (that means an app that runs across other phones and devices not just iPhone/iPad)
  • Result: You get reach and users for your services…as long as its good and people want it. The 70% you get from App Store sales is worth the instant access to millions of users. You amplify this reach with your massive marketing budget and can start driving sales both on and off the App Store. Welcome to the digital world.

3. Small Company without Lots of Users (or any):

  • You have: What you think is a kick ass app that people are going to love. It’s time to sell!
  • What To Do: Hit the App Store first….see #2. You don’t have a huge marketing budget so go guerilla! Tweet, blog, attend events, talk about your app and most importantly listen to users and friends. Also, get on other platforms fast (personally I think it’s better to build cross-platform from the outset and use service to get platform specific).
  • Result: See #2

Packaged Goods, Fast Food, and Digital…You Buy Here

I’ve long-held the notion that for all the amazing devices Apple has given the world, it is a content company first. Devices make millions (ok, billions) but they are a means to an end. That end is having you get all of your goods through one store and the owner makes a killing for life. Can you imagine if absolutely everyone bought everything they needed only from one store? Sure there will be some specialty shops left hanging around for the stuff the store doesn’t want to sell, but for everything else…and I mean EVERYTHING…people went to one store?

Sounds crazy in the real world but consider this:

  • Walmart: You bought everything here (some already do): packaged goods, food, lumber, whatever
  • Taco Bell: You bought all your fast food here (hey they won the fast food wars in Demolition Man!)
  • Disney: if you go on a vacation you’re visiting a Disney property…they own it all
  • Virgin Airlines: they’re the only airline there is. People can sell tickets but they’re all selling through Virgin

Ok, you get the picture and its insane right? I mean that’s why we have monopoly laws. But, let’s add one more to the list…

  • The App Store: you buy all of your digital goods here. Music, Magazines, Movies, Newspapers, Apps, whatever

So, guess it’s not that crazy is it? Sure you can get some stuff other places but it’s just so easy to go to one spot and get everything you want.

This is How You Build a Kingdom

Kudos to Apple. Just putting “fair compete” and any ethical concerns aside for a second (and there are many), they continue to build a phenomenal business:

  1. Release killer devices that people love, building a huge audience and user base
  2. Provide a way for companies to sell their stuff to this hungry huge audience
  3. App Store content becomes a one-stop shop for digital
  4. People buy more devices because they want to shop at the one stop
  5. Companies feed the shop with more apps and services because that’s where everyone is
  6. Set the rules that everyone has to play by..and they will because you’re the best and biggest game in town
  7. Collect all the consumer data you can: credit cards, personal, behaviour, etc.
  8. Launch another killer product and attack a new market (finance industry here we come!)

Power is with the…Publishers…and the People?

It’s truly amazing what Apple keeps accomplishing however, whether the new distribution abilities ultimately succeed for fail depends on how content publishers and service providers react. Many in the music business fought iTunes until succumbing to it as an evil necessity to their bottom line. But before iTunes there was already rampant demand for online music download…and the labels didn’t already have online distribution. This time around its different. People already get their video content from very established and popular players suck as Netflix, Hulu, or their Cable provider’s on-demand service online. Print publishers are just starting to create the market of digital magazines and there’s no telling if people will want this stuff. Apple recognizes this with the provision that they don’t take a cut on any existing subscribers buying through the App Store, but they also restrict any links from apps to purchase stuff outside the App Store. Basically, send your users here and we’ll do what we can to make sure they stay here.

Unlike Google, which will throw great tech out there to see if it sticks, Apple does things deliberately. Not everything succeeds (at least not right away…Apple TV), but everything is meant to change a market. Whether we’re on the cusp of a massive change in publishing remains to be seen.

Web Site vs. Web App: The Difference & Why You Care

Guest post by Jason Miller, my co-founder at Carbyn and an absolute engineering whiz. You can follow Jason at @_developit.

When Jaafer asked me to start pouring my tech savvy into a post I started thinking about what would make a great read; something that sticks to the purpose of this blog which is to provide objective free-wheeling thoughts and knowledge, mixed with some humor and maybe even little controversy (after all not everyone will agree with everything I or Jaafer say (even though everyone should!)). So, I decided to write about something that’s becoming an increasingly hot topic in the web/mobile community and has come to be a part of my everyday work (and thoughts)….and something that is effecting web and mobile users every single day.

What’s the difference between a web app and a web site; what differentiates these two seemingly similar but in realty very different entities?

Is Twitter.com a web app? Yes. Is this website a web app? No. Is Gmail a web app? That one is debatable, but yes. What even defines an online resource as being an “app” instead of a “site”? I think the most definitive answer is that web apps transfer presentation separately from data, and do not employ a strict request-response technique for doing so.

Your users called, they want their time back.

Users care about speed, functionality (therein usefulness) and ease-of use. As developers, we can draw rather direct parallels to the technical aspects of web development from these general requirements. For speed, and since this is the web, we’re talking almost exclusively about speed of data transfer (requests take much longer to transfer than to execute on the server). Functionality is created by selecting the most effective set of features for an application (more is not always better). Ease-of-use is important in web apps because we are still collectively helping computer users to adopt a new way of thinking about applications – if a user’s first web-based application experience is horrible, they will most likely avoid using web-based software in the future.

So.. why classify “apps” and “sites” based on what the data looks like?

Users care about speed, and we know speed is most affected by data transfer time, so that’s where we can draw a clear line between the “old” and “new” approaches. A website transfers data and formatting via a single request, which is optimal when loading new pages is the primary means of retrieving new data. A web app transfers formatting and presentation information as part of an initial download process, much like downloading a desktop application. Once this information has been stored, data is then downloaded in a serialized format – optimized for speed in a situation where page loads don’t occur. Examining the data being transferred makes it easy to determine which paradigm something is optimized for. Simply look to sites like Facebook and Twitter, where you can see an evolution in the direction of “web app” for no reason other than to provide a better experience to users.

Doesn’t that mean everything should be an app?

You’re not getting the point – that would be premature optimization at its finest. If you are establishing a web presence for a business, where your needs are little more than an online business card or simple e-commerce site, don’t build an app. Your time would be better spent working with the client to optimize their site for Search Engines or creating PPC landing pages. However, it would certainly be beneficial to apply lessons learned from the world of web apps to your website – things like HTML5’s ApplicationCache and AJAX history can go a long way to improve user experience. A general rule-of-thumb is this: if your project is web-based, data-driven and is its own product, a web app would be a wise choice.

So, there you have it. Apps, both web and native, have an initial download followed by speedy data transfer. Sites throw everything into a pile and download formatting intermixed with data.

How Apple Turns Customers into Fanatics

Just came across this great article from Neuromarketing that makes a pretty compelling case of the thinking behind Apple’s marketing efforts. Chalked full of insight from Psychologist Henri Tajfel’s seminal experiment on what drives people to commit genocide, to Seth Godin’s Tribes, and overall fostering of the ‘us vs. them’ mentality; it’s a very interesting read, check it out.

Google Instant Changes the Game: Forget SEO?

Google launched a new salvo in the search battle today and it’s a game changer. Say hello to Google Instant.

Basically, your results will change as you type. No more multiple search queries and result pages, just change what you’re typing until you see the results that match. This has huge ramifications for search engine optimization companies; although sites should still be “optimized”, the number of actual full searches and result pages returned just got obliterated.

I’ve never been a fan of SEO practices that rely on words on a page. These type of “SEO consultants” simply destroy great design and conversion rate in order to try to fulfill the promise of getting listed on search engines. What good is it if a consumer comes to your site only to run away quickly when being confronted with ugly, confusion? Concentrate on great content, navigation, and design to keep consumers engaged. Optimize as best you can without destroying experience and value.

The simple truth is that users will now spend less time on irrelevant results and adjust searches and results on the fly. Getting user attention will be more about content authority, not putting a bunch of keywords on your site.

Great job Google, you just made search a whole lot smarter and fun again.

Will Mobile Apps Win The Day? It’s Looking That Way

Image courtesy of ZDNet

Google is working hard on the Chrome Web Store where, if promises are kept, will be an app store filled with amazing web/mobile applications – that’s applications that work in the browser on your computer and mobile device.  Google is planning to launch the Web Store this Fall and looks like they’ll be taking a mere 5% of the revenue from sales of apps (plus $5 just to keep out the crap). That’s right, developers get 95% of the take. After months of deliberating as to whether or not mobile apps will spell the end of native apps long-term I’m starting to be convinced.

My reasons:

1. YouTube proved it to me; showing that their HTML5 mobile web app performed better than the native iPhone app. Wow.

2. Google will make it easy to get apps that work across any smartphone with a browser (HTML5 supported)

3. The mobile web app market is larger than the native app market (i.e. it’s any phone with a supported browser)

4. Developers can make money across all platforms

5. Developing mobile web apps means largely using skills experienced web developers already (CSS, HTML, JavaScript, maybe AS3) vs. learning a new coding set for each platform

6. Developing for the browser is more open, and innovation will continue by the development community not reliant on a company

7. Companies can develop once and hit all smartphones, cutting down the development and support costs associated with multiple native apps

8. Consumers can take their apps with them to any smartphone and tablets

Of course, today mobile web apps might run slower than native apps due to their life in the cloud, and some device capabilities are not available to be applied to the browser but this is changing. Smartphones are increasing in horsepower with dual core smartphones not far off, and new development toolkits are allowing access to device-centric capabilities. Aside from the most ambitious of applications requiring deep device integration, as mobile web apps start to rival the features and functionality of native apps it makes sense that the benefits to developers, companies, and consumers will spell the beginning of the end for mobile walled gardens that we call app stores.