As the use of mobile devices continues to climb, the use of dedicated apps is also increasing — but is this a natural evolution, or should we be worried about apps winning and the open web losing? Chris Dixon, a partner with venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, argues in a recent blog post that we should be concerned, because it is creating a future in which the web becomes a “niche product,” and the dominant environment is one of proprietary walled gardens run by a couple of web giants — and that this is bad for innovation.
Dixon’s evidence consists in part of two recent charts: one is from the web analytics company comScore, and shows that mobile usage has overtaken desktop usage — an event that occurred in January of this year. The second chart is from Flurry, which tracks app usage, and it shows that apps account for the vast majority of time spent vs. the mobile web, an amount that Flurry says is still growing. I’ve combined the two charts into one (somewhat ugly) graphic below:
If apps are winning, is the web losing?
The implication of all this is obvious, says Dixon. Mobile is the future, and what wins on mobile will win the internet — and “right now, apps are winning and the web is losing.” Not only that, but Dixon argues that the problem is likely to get worse, as more companies realize that an app gives them much more control over the user experience than a website. And with less and less investment in making the web experience better on mobile, it will continue to deteriorate, which in turn will push users even further towards the use of apps.
We talk a lot about the platform game in mobile: Is Android winning? Is iOS losing? Does Windows Phone have a chance?
There’s a problem with most of these debates. They mostly focus on the rich world, and that’s increasingly not where the action is.
The smartphone market in the rich world is maturing. The growth is in the emerging markets and, increasingly, as hardware prices go down and connectivity goes up, the growth will be coming from poor countries. Cell phone ownership (albeit of the dumbphone kind) is already very high in sub-Saharan Africa; if Google’s Project Loon doesn’t make cheap wireless high-speed internet ubiquitous some other technology will; and some time soon the equivalent of a second-generation iPhone will be as cheap in poor-country-salary hours as a cell phone is today.
As I argued in a previous column, this actually creates an opportunity for a new platform to emerge. Today, the cheapest smartphones still have limited chip and memory capacity and battery life, which means that a software platform tuned to those limitations is attractive. OEMs like China’s ZTE who are comfortable working at very tight margins and have astonishing expertise making really cheap devices have made a big priority of winning this market, while Samsung and iPhone battle it out for the high-margin segment.
All of this points to an opportunity in the way of the classic disruptive innovation model: Attack an underserved segment of the market with a cheaper, lower-featured product, and gradually eat your way up the value chain as the incumbents spend their time focusing on the premium side of the market.
After last week’s launch of Office for iPad, the announcement of the Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite, and the news from the company’s BUILD conference this week, it seems that Microsoft has finally gotten to the enterprise mobility party in terms of devices and in terms of infrastructure.
With Windows Phone 8.1, the company is finally building a range of enterprise security and management capabilities into its mobile platform. Microsoft is also making it easier for developers to write code that crosses all of its platforms, something that’s useful for consumer, business, and enterprise app development.
While most of the focus this week has been on devices and developer resources, Microsoft is also making some powerful plays in terms of enterprise mobility infrastructure. When I spoke with Microsoft vice president Brad Anderson back in January, it was clear that Microsoft had high aspirations in terms of entering the enterprise mobility space. At the time, Intune’s mobile management capabilities were far from complete – and, for iOS and Android, they still are below the benchmarks of many EMM vendors at this point. But it was clear that Microsoft was going to be making rapid improvements and expanding the scope of its capabilities.
The scale of that strategy came into focus as Satya Nadella announced Office for iPad alongside a new vision of Microsoft as a “mobile-first and cloud-first company.”
The Enterprise Mobility Suite builds together a range of technologies that are likely to add up to being more than the sum of their parts.
The suite builds on the multi-platform mobile management capabilities that Microsoft began implementing last year and advanced in January. Those capabilities, part of the company’s Intune cloud-based device management solution, included support for managing iOS and Android devices in addition to devices running various flavors of Windows.
Wearables are the next big thing, analysts and industry watchers say. But are they right?
Take your pick of hyperbolic predictions: BCC Research forecasts that the wearables sector will grow to $30.2 billion by 2018; ABI Research anticipates that 485 million wearables will be sold annually by 2018.
That sounds incredibly positive, but BCC analyst Adam Weigold warns that in order for the industry to hit his firm’s prediction, customers will have to feel that wearable devices offer “distinct advantages.”
There’s the rub. Wearables must be innately useful. They must deliver essential functions. Their existence needs to make sense. They have to supplant alternatives. In other words, these things can’t be gimmicks.
At the same time, they have to work as fashion, something the tech industry has no experience in.Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell told Stuff thatexisting wearables are “terribly literal” and lack “symbolic meaning.” That’s important, she said, since in general the things people wear “do symbolic work.”
And while wearable computing devices must function as fashion accessories, it’s a mistake to make them technology accessories. Not a fatal mistake — there’s a strong accessories market. But to really snag mass-market adoption, wearables need to be essential and work as stand-alones.
In the last year or so, there has been a noticeable slowdown in innovations in new smartphones — with both hardware and software.
In a five-year smartphone forecast through 2018 released last week, research firm IDC noted: “It has been widely acknowledged that the pace of innovation on smartphones has slowed down, even reached a plateau. Indeed, many of the new innovations launched in 2013 appeared to be incremental improvements on a theme, and it was questionable whether many of them would have lasting value.”
With smartphone innovation flattening, the next direction seems to be making the smartphone the hub — connected via Bluetooth, primarily — to emerging technologies. These systems include smartwatches, other wearable devices and everything in the much larger ecosystem of home appliances, cars and other products that, when connected, would comprise what’s being called the Internet of Things.
While this slowdown in innovation has been widely recognized, marketers for smartphone vendors still trumpet their devices’ new features at large-scale events where the latest products are unveiled amid hype that overstates the new capabilities. Samsung, for example, hired a live orchestra to play on an elaborate stage for the launch of its Galaxy S5 smartphone at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona in late February. The event was attended by thousands. The Galaxy S5 will ship April 11.
Tuesday’s launch of the expected HTC One M8 has been preceded by online videos and plenty of hype touting a phone that has a 5-in. full HD screen (larger than the one on last year’s HTC One), two rear camera sensors for taking better photos, a Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM for greater speed.
So you want to be a mobile editor?
Or maybe you just got the gig. Congratulations! Now what?
I’ve heard that question a lot lately from newly minted mobile editors at organizations big and small. It’s not that surprising. Mobile has been the coming future of news and information for a long time, but many news outlets only woke up to its importance in the last year.
Why? That’s easy: 50 percent. Last year, many news organizations either hit or approached the 50 percent mark in digital traffic coming from mobile. That opened many eyes. It became very clear that mobile isn’t coming — it’s here. It’s been here. Mobile is now. And news organizations need mobile editors more than ever (read on for Six Ways To Be A Good Mobile Editor).
I became The Wall Street Journal’s first — and, at the time, only — mobile editor in 2009. Mobile was different then. Legions of BlackBerries with trackballs still strode the Earth. A new book-sized gadget promised to revolutionize the news business: the black and white eReader. The shockwaves from the iOS asteroid impact had only begun to spread.
The years since have seen remarkable change. Android’s rise. The iPad. HTML5. 4G. Mini tablets. Giant phones. Google Glass. Smart watches. Mobile and tablets overtaking desktops and laptops. Even improved auto-correct that — mostly — doesn’t turn my last name into “Honda.”
The mobile editor job has evolved, too. It’s a job that must be as nimble as the changing technology, adapting as people interact with news in new ways.
It’s finally here: Office for iPad.
Starting this morning, Office for iPad will be available for download in the App Store. It will include Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The app will be available at 11 a.m. PDT, Microsoft said.
The company made the announcement during an event in San Francisco.
In a demo, Microsoft executive Julia White showed off the new app offering a glimpse at the work Microsoft has done to make its Office apps touch friendly. “It’s unmistakably Word but it’s natural on the iPad,” she said.
The apps will be free for anyone to use to read and “present” Office content, she said. Users who have an Office 365 subscription will be able to create and edit Office files on their iPads, she said.
In an interesting twist, this touch friendly version of Office comes to iPad before Microsoft’s own products. White said that a touch-friendly version of Office would come to Windows next.
In one of his first big public appearances since taking over the helm, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company’s goal is to be mobile first and cloud first, and to offer apps that people can use no matter what device they’re using.