• Follow Curiously Persistent on WordPress.com
  • About the blog

    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
  • Subscribe

  • Meta

New data and trends from the iTunes store

The release of iOS 2.0 in July 2008 is arguably the defining moment of the smartphone era, contributing (along with 3G connectivity) to the iPhone moving from a good if limited device to the archetype that, even 5 years later, all other mobiles are striving to first replicate and then improve upon.

The App store has been a major success for Apple, with Horace Dediu estimating that they produce $1.6bn in revenue per quarter. We are approaching the occasion of the 50 billionth worldwide app download, and to coincide Apple have updated their all-time charts for a number of territories.

They previously did this on the occasion of the 25 billionth app download, in March of last year. 25 billion apps downloaded in 14 months equates to an average of around 60m downloads a day (with Horace Dediu putting the current daily rate at around 70m).

Last time I took a look at some of the trends within the charts. I’ve repeated that here, with ten bullets below. All data correct (apart from any typos that slipped through) as of May 2nd 2013.

  • Stability: The majority of the top apps are holdovers from the previous list – 13 of the 50 paid apps are new, and 20 of the 50 free apps. I’ve counted YouTube and Google Maps as new apps, although different builds did exist previously
  • Games still dominate: 17 of the top 25 paid apps on both iPhone and iPad are games
  • But What’s App stands alone: What’s App is the most popular paid for iPhone app, and is the only paid-for social networking app fits in the list. Although existing downloads won’t be discounted, it will be interesting to see whether the mooted 69p a year fee will deter new users from downloading
  • Franchises have emerged: Although there are exceptions, many of the top apps are from major companies and even those grassroots successes – Angry Birds, Draw Something – have been sucked up into either major merchandising and sequelitis, or bought out. Angry Birds is the poster-child for success, and Angry Birds Rio is the only title of theirs not to make the chart
  • But it is still possible to break through: 4 Pics 1 Word has become this year’s Draw Something, and has made both the top iPad and iPhone free charts despite being out for less than 3 months
  • Price homogeneity: The rise of in-app purchases as a legitimate – if controversial – revenue generator means that prices have dropped to around the 69p mark. Electronic Arts have heavily discounted their titles, including FIFA 13, to raise the user base and drive in-app purchases
  • Few five star games: Inevitably, scale can lead to hype and disappointment and so only 3 of the 100 apps featured have 5 star ratings – Cut the Rope and Plants vs Zombies in iPhone, and The Room on iPad
  • Free entertainment apps lag in score: Free music and entertainment apps score relatively lowly – with the exception of TV Catchup, the highest score is 3.5. YouTube trails with a score of 2, presumably due to complaints that the previous pre-installed app was removed (at Apple’s behest)
  • Device differences remain: 12 free apps and 9 paid apps appear in both iPad and iPhone lists, but the differences point to how the devices remain distinct. The iPhone is a personal device used on the go for timely information; the iPad is a lean-back device, that can also be used for creation
  • The future: How will the list differ when the next milestone (100 billion?) is reached? Will we see Vine or Snapchat enter the free charts? Will the next wave of franchise games prove more popular than the last? Will the TV companion app to beat all other companion apps truly emerge? I’m going to chicken out of making any predictions, but any or all of the above could happen

Pictures of the charts are below, and can be clicked on to expand into a more readable version.

iphone paid ipad free ipad paid iphone free

sk

Data and trends from the iTunes store

To tie in with their 25 billionth app download (made by Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China), Apple have released the top 25 rankings for their paid and free apps within the UK iTunes App Store. Some interesting (and in some cases unexpected) things have emerged.

Data below is correct as of March 6th. Where apps are universal (ie they can be downloaded on both iPhones/iPods and iPads), I have included their reviews and rating within the iPhone charts as iPad cannot be split out (and the disparity in installed bases means it is safe to assume that the majority of actions relate to iPhones). Apple don’t release download figures, but news stories such as this one can help establish some benchmarks for estimates.

Click the images or open them in a new tab in order to make them more legible.

So what can we tell from these charts?

  • Games dominate the paid-for charts: 42 of the 50 paid apps are games, but it doesn’t dominate the free charts to the same extent – although people pay for games, they are transitory and can be superseded by sequels or alternatives – unlike information-based apps
  • Games are much better at encouraging ratings/reviews: Games have three times as many reviews/ratings as non-games: Demographics might play a factor (younger game players being more likely to rate) but many games also prompt people within apps to give reviews or ratings, as positive reviews are a major factor in deciding which app to download
  • It helps to be early: Despite ever-increasing user bases, only 4 of the top 50 iPhone apps were released after 2010. Getting in early, and reaping the benefits of large numbers of reviews and ratings, provides a strong profile even among newer users
  • Time sensitivity on iPhone is key: Nearly all of the top iPhone apps (outside of games/entertainment) are either time sensitive or impulse – social networks, news, weather, search etc.
  • Three of the top 4 iPad apps are TV catch-up services, and another four of the top apps are news services. The tablet is living up to its reputation for lean-back media consumption
  • But can the iPad also cater to business needs?  A quarter of the top Paid apps (including the number one app) are productivity or education based. This suggests the affluent, business-orientated user base are experimenting with using their iPads to replace other devices. Will this experimentation turn into habit?

sk

My MRG Conference 2011 speech

At the MRG Conference 2011 (pdf link to programme here) I was given a three-minute slot to talk about anything I wanted under the banner “Six industry speakers share the good, the bad and the ugly from our industry”.

This is (roughly) what I said:

Good afternoon everyone. As Research Manager for Mobile, Social and Syndication at the BBC I’m understandably enthusiastic about these areas. So today I’m going to take the first area I mentioned – mobile – and explain how its characteristics make it appropriate as a research platform.

The first is universality – mobile has more coverage than any other research method. A big claim maybe, but Ofcom stats say that

  •  77% of households have PC-based internet
  • 85% of adults have a landline
  •  91% of adults have a mobile, and this rises to 98% among 16-54 year olds

More than 91% of the UK might have a home and can be reached by door to door, but realistically, once you factor in accessibility and interviewer safety, mobile will have the largest potential audience for research – though the key word there is potential; there is still the small hurdle of getting the audience’s contact details.
The second characteristic I want to mention is relating to proximity. More than any other platform, mobile is our go-to device. It is nearly always turned on, it is nearly always on our person and thus it is when we have some free time or are bored it is the first thing we turn – in fact I can see a few phones in the audience now. This captive audience on mobile has massive potential for research purposes, though we need to ensure what we ask them to do is both interesting and relevant. Easier said than done, perhaps.

But, this is predicated on the notion that we need our respondent to interact. We can do many great things on mobile – video diaries, photos, status updates etc and in real-time. But one of the real strengths of mobile is its latency. Why ask people what media they are consuming when mobile sensors can match sound to TV and radio; record web browsing, use GPS to plot outdoor reach and time spent; and soon use near field communication to record sales of newspapers and magazines. Admittedly, not all phones can do this just yet, and privacy is obviously an issue, but again, there is big potential.

The young will drive this, for mobile is a youthful medium – 16-24s say they would miss mobile the most if they had to give up media. These behaviours might not be mainstream yet, but a dozen years ago owning a mobile wasn’t mainstream, and look where we are now. But there is also a second aspect to this point around youth, and that is that the medium is nascent. We’re still learning all the time – no one can say they’ve cracked mobile in terms of capturing and utilising. This is a huge opportunity for research agencies both big and small to move into.

This is an opportunity because it doesn’t yet exist. There is plenty of innovation at the edges, but the market isn’t yet mature. So while I’ve identified several benefits to mobile research, they come with caveats and are more theoretical than practical. So as much as I want to say mobile is good, I can’t really. I’ve talked about the universality, the go-to nature, the latency and the youthfulness. That’s U.G.L.Y and it ain’t got no alibi, it’s ugly.

sk

Some things I’ve learned about tablet computers

The shorter version:

Some things I’ve learned about tablet computers include:

  • Penetration remains small but is growing
  • iPads are the only tablet in town
  • They have their own niche in the media landscape
  • Tablet use is largely additive to other forms of media
  • They aren’t mainstream yet – but could be

The longer version:

Some facts and data about tablet computers that I’ve sourced (from publicly accessible information) include

  • 3.62m people in the UK now own a tablet computer, equivalent to 7.6% of the population and up from 2.8% in November 2010 (equivalent US figures put penetration at 11%)
  • The iPad represents 73% of UK sales, and 97.2% of all US tablet traffic
  • Tablets combine mobile’s portability and flexibility with computer’s power and screen real estate. However, they are most likely to be used in the living room, with 62% of iPad owners never or rarely take their devices out of home. Although they are owned by the individual, 7 in 10 owners share their device with others – most likely a partner or spouse
  • With the exception of desktop computers – at least two thirds of US tablet owners said their usage of other devices (ranging across all four screens) was either the same or had actually increased
  •  326m tablets are forecast to be sold worldwide in 2015 – more than five times the figure estimated for 2011 (63.6m)

Sources:

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/2800841720/

Mediatel Media Playground 2011

My previous blog post covered my notes on Broadcast in a Multi-Platform World, which I felt was the best session of the day. Below are my notes from the other 3 sessions (I didn’t take any notes during the bonus Olympics session)

The data debate

Chaired by Torin Douglas, Media Correspondent for the BBC

Speakers:
Andrew Bradford, VP, Client Consulting, Media at Nielsen
Sam Mikkelsen, Business Development Manager at Adalyser

Panellists:
David Brennan, Research & Strategy Director at Thinkbox
Kurt Edwards, Digital Commercial Director at Future
Nick Suckley, Managing Director at Agenda21
Bjarne Thelin, Chief Executive at BARB

Some of the issues touched upon in this debate were interesting but I felt they were dealt with too superficially (but as a researcher, I guess it is inevitably I’d say that).

David Brennan thinks we need to take more control over data and how we apply it. There is a dumb acceptance that anything created by a machine must be true and we’ve lost the ability to interrogate the data

Nick Suckley thinks the main issue is the huge productivity problem with manual manipulation of data from different sources (Google has been joined by Facebook, Twitter and the mobile platforms), but this also represents a huge opportunity. He thinks the fight is not about who owns the data, but who puts it together

Torin Douglas posited whether our history of currencies meant that we weren’t so concerned with data accuracy, since everyone had access to the same information. Bjarne Thelin unsurprisingly disagreed with this, pointing out the large investment in BARB shows the need for a credible source.

David Brennan said his 3 Es of data are exposure (buying), engagement (planning) and effectiveness (accountability)

Nick Suckley thinks people would be willing to give up information for clear benefits but most don’t realise what already is being collected on them

Kurt Edwards thinks social media is a game-changer from a planning point of view as it sends the power back to the client. There is real-time visibility, but the challenge is to not react to a few negative comments

David Brennan concurred and worried about the possibility of social media data conclusions not being supported by other channels. You need to go out of your way to augment social media data with other sources to get the fuller picture

Bjarne Thelin gave the example of BBC’s +7 viewing figures to show that not all companies are focusing purely on real-time. He also underlines the fact that inputs determine outputs and so you need to know what goes in

David Brennan concluded by saying that in the old days you knew what you were getting. Now it is overblown, with journalists confused as to what is newsworthy or significant

Social media and gaming

Chaired by Andrew Walmsley, ex i-Level

Speakers:
Adele Gritten, Head of Media Consulting at YouGov
Mark Lenel, Director and senior analyst at Gamesvison

Panellists:
Henry Arkell, Business Development Manager at Techlightenment
Pilar Barrio, Head of Social at MPG
Toby Beresford, Chair, DMA Social Media Council at DMA
Sam Stokes, Social Media Director at Punktilio

The two speakers gave a lot of statistics on gaming and social gaming, whereas the panel focused upon social media. This was a shame, as the panel could have used more variety. All panel members were extolling the benefits of social media, and so there was little to no debate.

There was discussion about the difficulty in determining the value of a fan, the privacy implications, Facebook’s domination across the web and the different ways in which social media can assist an organisation in marketing and other business functions.

Mobile advertising

Chaired by Simon Andrews, Founder of addictive!

Speaker:
Ross Williams, Associate Director at Ipsos MediaCT

Panellists:
Gary Cole, Commercial Director at O2
Tamsin Hussey, Group Account Director at Joule
Shaun Jordan, Sales Director at Blyk
Will King, Head of Product Development at Unanimis
Will Smyth, Head of Digital at OMD

Ross Williams gave an interesting case study on Ipsos’ mobi app, which tracked viewer opinion during the Oscars.

Simon Andrews’ approach to chairing the debate was in marked contrast to the previous sessions. He was less a bystander and more a provocateur – he clearly stated his opinions and asked the panel to follow-up. He was less tolerant of bland sales-speak than the previous chairs, but was also more biased in approaching the panel with the majority of panel time filled with Simon speaking to Will Smyth.

Will King things m-commerce will boost mobile like e-commerce did with digital. Near field communication will move mobile into the real world.

Gary Cole pointed out that mobile advertising is only a quarter of a percent of ad spend but that clients should think less about display advertising and of mobile as a distinct channel. Instead, mobile can amplify other platforms in a variety of ways.

Tamsin Hussey said that as there isn’t much money in mobile, there is no finance to develop a system for measuring clicks and effectiveness of all channels. Currently, it has to be done manually.

Will Smyth said the app store is the first meaningful internet experience on the mobile. The mobile is still young and there is a fundamental lack of expertise at the middle management level across the industry. Social is currently getting all the attention (“Chairman’s wife syndrome”) but mobile has plenty to offer.

sk

Predictions for 2011

In the grand tradition of December blog posts, here are seven predictions for 2011:

<sarcasm filter>

  • A niche technology will grow
  • Businesses to focus less on the short-term bottom line and more on consumer needs for a long-term sustainable relationship
  • Traditional media/methods will take several more steps closer to its death
  • Social media will become more important within organisations
  • Companies will banish silo thinking and restructure around a holistic vision with multi-skilled visionaries at the helm
  • The product will be the only marketing needed
  • A company will launch a new product with these precise specifications…

</sarcasm filter>

1999 A.D. / Predictions From 1967

I think the tone and style of my predictions are about right. They run the spectrum from bland tautology to wild guesswork with plenty of jargon and generalisation thrown in.

Given how utterly useless predictions are, why do people persist? I presume they pander to people’s love of lists while gambling on their inherent laziness in not checking accuracy of previous predictions and hoping that, as with horoscopes, people read their own truths into open statements.

I’ve had the displeasure of running across numerous offenders in the past month. I won’t name check them all but, unsurprisingly perhaps, the tech blogs are the worst offenders. This example from Read Write Web and these two examples from Mashable are particularly mind-numbing in both their blandness and unlikeliness.

Living on the bleeding edge can massively skew perspective. I’m sure Cuil (remember them?), Bebo and Minidiscs have all featured in predictions of game-changing technology. In other past predictions, you can probably swap “virtual reality” for “augmented reality” or “geo-location”, or Google for Facebook or Twitter, and recycle old predictions for different time periods.

The basic truth is that the future is unpredictable. We are micro participants trying to define macro trends. A reliance on logical step-progression completely overlooks the serendipity and unanticipated innovation that characterises long-term trends, which constantly ebb and flow as tastes change and rebound against the status quo.

Take popular music as an illustration. The most popular acts of one year don’t predict the most popular acts of the following year. Tastes evolve (and revolve) with pop, rock, urban (I intensely dislike that word but can’t think of a better one), electronic and dance being in the ascendency at different points in the past twenty years.

With honourable exceptions, business and technological breakthroughs are revolutionary rather than evolutionary (note I have quite a wide definition of revolutionary). To give some examples

  • 2 years ago how many people would have predicted that an online coupon site would be one of the fast growing companies of all time
  • 5 years ago how many people would have predicted that a social network would be the most visited website in the UK
  • 7 years ago how many people would have predicted that company firewalls would be rendered obsolete by internet-enabled phones
  • 10 years ago how many people would have predicted that Apple would change the way mobile phones are perceived
  • 15 years ago how many people would have predicted that a search engine dominated advertising revenues
  • 20 years ago how many people would have predicted that every business would need a presence on the internet

Undoubtedly, some people would have made these predictions. But to use the well-worn cliché, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Despite my negativity, I recognise that there are some benefits to offering predictions. It opens up debate around nascent movements and trends and adds to their momentum, and provides a forum for authors to say where they’d like things to be in addition to where they think things will be.

If only so many weren’t so badly written.

(NB: I recognise by saying that I open myself up to accusations of poor writing, to which I fully admit)

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blile59/4707767185/

Download the award-winning Brandheld presentation

As mentioned in my previous post, I had quite a successful experience at the Media Research Group conference in Malta.

My presentation on Brandheld: Unlocking the potential value* of the mobile internet, which won the IPA/Simon Broadbent award for Best Paper can now be viewed and downloaded on Slideshare. I’ve even included an amended version of my speaker notes, although due to the terms and conditions our research participants agreed to I am unable to show the three (frankly awesome) videos we produced.

The presentation is embedded below (RSS readers might need to click through to see it)

Additionally, most of the other presentations from the conference can be downloaded from the MRG website. It’s definitely worth checking out, though the presentations that were speech accompaniments rather than slides/handouts don’t make a lot of sense without the accompanying notes.

Any feedback or (constructive) criticism would be appreciated. My contact details are on the final slide, or on the “About the blog” page if you don’t want to do so publicly.

sk

* The title occasionally switches between “potential value” and “value potential” – the former comes to me more naturally but the latter is probably better

MRG Malta 2010 Conference

The IPA/Simon Broadbent Award for Best PaperI now have my first conference presentation behind me. And my first (I’m hoping there will be more) conference win.

The event was the Media Research Group 2010 conference, held in Malta.

The presentation was on Brandheld: Unlocking the Potential Value of the Mobile Internet (go here and here for more information on the project).

And the win was the IPA/Simon Broadbent Award for the best conference paper. The award is pictured to the right (photographed under a light – it is actually silver) – I get to parade it around for a couple of days before sending it back to Lynne Robinson at the IPA to have it engraved.

Winning this award was particularly satisfying as it was voted for by the conference delegates. I’m very appreciative of all of the nice comments I’ve received over the past couple of days.

On reflection, I think there were three key reasons behind Brandheld winning:

  1. Flattery – I started my presentation by taking a photo of the audience, and called them beautiful (they were, and still are)
  2. Subconscious Suggestion – I spoke to a fair number of people in a restaurant and bar the night before the voting. Since no-one can really say anything bad to my face, I received a lot of nice compliments. As the night wore on, memories of the conversation, and indeed my presentation, would become fuzzier, with people only remembering that they mentioned that the presentation was good.
  3. A fantastic project – the award is for best paper, not presentation. Brandheld is unquestionably the most interesting, challenging and rewarding project I’ve worked on. As such, it is a team award with Alex, Kat, Daniel, Carolina, Rebecca and Lee-Ann all deserving of recognition for their massive contribution

As for the conference itself, I had a good time and met some really interesting, friendly people – some of whom I knew already, some who I knew “virtually” and some I didn’t.

I’d never been to a foreign conference before. Prior to attending, I was quite against the idea, since the cost makes it more difficult for smaller companies such as Essential to attend. After attending, I’m more ambivalent, if not totally sold on the idea, as there are clearly some advantages to holding the conference abroad

  • Few people had any reason to do any socialising outside of the conference group. Even if the event were held in Cornwall, the Highlands or another far-flung UK location, there would be more excuses to temporarily leave
  • A totally new city/resort encourages exploration and additional socialising among attendees
  • Continental bars are open later than British pubs during the week (and the warm weather means everyone can stand outside)

While I felt I got involved in the networking with vim and gusto, I didn’t make many notes for the sessions I attended. The reasons being

  • Prior to my presentation, I was making last-minute amendments in my head. As much as I tried paying attention to the speakers, I ended up getting distracted
  • Immediately after my presentation, I was primarily relieved but also going through things I should have said, particularly with the Q&A
  • My subconscious suggesting went on for longer than it probably should have done, which meant I missed the early speakers on Friday

Some of the things I did jot down include

  • Nigel Walley from Decipher made some interesting references to issues with the continuing convergence of the web and TV. The first was that device manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung are generally terrible at services, since their business models are based around replacement devices. Without things such as backwards compatibility, their web TVs become obsolete very quickly. And secondly, the fragmentation of innovation in this area is making it hard for media agencies to plan campaigns – for instance, should they go for a platform campaign (all of the different ad formats on Virgin) or a channel campaign (VOD formats on all platforms)
  • Guy Holcroft from GfK NOP (disclosure: a former line manager of mine) said that we are spending roughly half of our waking hours (7 hours and 5 minutes actual but 8 hours 48 minutes when deduplicating simultaneous consumption) per day on media or communications
  • Richard Maryniak from the Conspiracy Group channeled David Ogilvy to say that the pirate is not a thief; she is your girlfriend and that, ultimately, piracy is about sharing
  • James Myring of BDRC Continental drew the distinction between primary (using p2p or streaming sites) pirates and secondary pirates (via mixtapes/shared drives) and said that ethics weren’t really a barrier to people pirating. Instead it is IT issues – concerns over viruses or a lack of knowledge on how to find the relevant materials. It was probably missing because it is too hard to find people who admit to it, but it would have been good to have seen primary pirates split out into uploaders, seeders and downloaders.
  • There was supposed to be a big debate on piracy but sadly, there wasn’t much heated discussion as researchers at media owners were either unwilling to go on the record or unsure of their company’s position with regards to piracy, and so the conversation remained polite
  • Charlie Gordon from TNS Kantar Media said that the most tweeted game of the World Cup was Japan-Denmark, but that he has been unable to rationalise the reason why
  • David Hulbert of Ravensbeck said that researchers shouldn’t look to explain the past but to predict the future. Researchers should seek to redefine the problems businesses face, and position themselves as people able to provide decision-making under uncertainty
  • Paul Goode from Comscore advocated panels over site metrics, since cookie deletion meant that site metrics are too over-inflated. He said site metrics can be fine for single day campaigns, but unfortunately there aren’t many single day campaigns

For more details, go to Robert Bain‘s updates on the Research website

In sum, it was an enjoyable couple of days and it will probably take me an equal amount of time to fully recover. The conference programme ran without a (noticeable) hitch so big congratulations to Stuart McDonald and Neil Mortensen for an event that clearly required a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put on.

Thank you once again to the people who voted for me. And congratulations to the other award winners – MediaCom for Best Media Agency, BSkyB for Best Media Owner, Ipsos MediaCT for Best Research Supplier and The Guardian for best research initiative.

I hope to upload a “Director’s Cut” of the presentation within the next week (without the 20 minute restriction, I can expand on a few areas I had to gloss over, and I should also remove some of my bad jokes).

I’m not yet sure what is happening with the videos of the event, but if they are put online I will link to them.

sk

The future of mobile at the RSA

I’m a big fan of the RSA, and should really attend their excellent events more often than I do. However, I did attend the Future of Mobile event last night.

Sadly, it was the least interesting event I’ve attended (though the standard is exceptionally high). The keynote – billed as an insight into what the next few years may bring in terms of new products and practices, new opportunities for creativity, collaboration and economic growth, the role of new communications in shaping social norms and behaviours, and the effect this will have on individuals, organisations and societies was little more than a corporate sales pitch. However, I did make some notes and the event was, on balance, worth attending.

The Keynote

The keynote speaker was Lee Epting (Director of Content Services at Vodafone). In her talk she referenced three Vodafone initiatives in the developing world, namely

  • M-Pesa – the mobile banking/money transfer service set up in Kenya
  • An M-Health initiative
  • Future Agenda – driving towards sustainability, such as machine to machine communications around load capacities or metering of utilities

Each initiative had its own uplifting video. Perhaps I’m being an overly sensitive Western liberal apologist, but I found the tone of the videos quite patronising and demeaning. The African people in the video may well have independently said things like “I feel like a real businessman now” or “And now I even know the real medical terms”, but they didn’t need to be included. If the video were on Western initiatives, they would have focused on the tangible benefits, not on trying to give us a warm fuzzy feeling about helping those less fortunate.

The majority of the talk was based upon initiatives in the developing world (which makes sense, since Vodafone and mobiles can bypass computers there, while in the developed nations they run the risk of commodisation into “dumb pipes”), but Lee Epting did finish on a few trends visible in our society

  • People tracking – she claimed that acceptance of this is accelerating. This may be true, but accelerating from a very small base. A minority may opt into location-based services, and ticketless transport may prove popular, but I’d say it would infiltrate by stealth. She also mentioned vehicle tracking and how it will help pricing for toll roads
  • Choice editors – we are becoming reliable news sources, so it is about curation as much as consumption

The responses

The speech was followed by two responses. The second was from Ralph Simon (CEO of The Mobilium International Advisory Group), who I’d previously criticised when he chaired the Harold Evans lecture on innovation. He’s much better as a panelist, since he basically just tells loosely connected anecdotes. He also has excellent enunciation. In his brief response he talked about Couch Surfing and how communications can amplify lives, but also shared clutter and how we need curators to navigate it.

A longer response was from Christian Lindholm, (Partner and Director at the convergence design agency Fjord) who made some fascinating provocations and was by far the best thing about the event.

  • Choice quotes include “The future is always here and now but someone we ignore it” and how “Humans are obsessed with objects”
  • He believes the Nokia 2110 simplified the phone and became the first hit phone, and that the iPad is the Nokia 2110 of computing. The iPad gives a power of mobility that the IT department can’t control. There is also a significant difference between the Wifi and 3G models. The Wifi comes from the pc industry and drains the battery. The 3G is energy-efficient and gives ubiquitous communications
  • A big thing in future will be the digitisation of the wallet. It needs a big disruption as elastic process innovation – adding chips to everything – won’t work since proper digitisation requires screens, profiles etc. The current “two-handed” analogue wallet is “retarded” but it makes sense for incumbent companies who are invested in producing cheap thin strips of plastic. In the question and answer session, he speculated Amazon might make a play in this area
  • He sees the next megabrand as Foursquare, what with every classroom at Harvard Business School already mapped onto it.
  • We need a new vocabulary for next generation communications. It is not multimedia, video, smart or other industry jargon but come from the users. This seems to be “facebooking”, which is aggregating all forms of content and creating an internet of people.
  • An internet of people means everyone will be on Facebook, since everyone will want to communicate. He sees Facebook negotiating privacy in the same way Google negotiates copyright – move the boundaries two steps forward, apologise and take one step back and gradually monetise it. He sees the openness of the web as the counterweight to Facebook or Google dominance and should be preserved.

Due to a late start, there was little time for questions. In the introduction to the questions, the chair Luke Johnson made a barbed comment about people playing on their mobile devices rather than listening to the speakers, and rather unfairly picked out one person in the front row. Personally, I was on Twitter throughout (don’t RSA hashtags encourage this sort of thing?) and the general tone of chat was similar to my thoughts – mild disappointment.

Final thoughts

Christian Lindholm and Ralph Simon both seemed to disagree with Luke Johnson’s contention about split attention being a bad thing. Simon quoted Brian Eno by saying the genius is being replaced by scenius. Though as Steven Johnson has recently written, perhaps the idea of a lone genius is a myth.

We may end up doing things less well than if we concentrated solely, but split attention and mass collaboration provide other benefits such as broader scope and more rounded influences. Technological advancement has got to the point where it is almost impossible for a single person to know everything about a particular topic – we need specialists and teams working together. I’m in favour of our new hyperlinked working practices – those arguing against are analogous to Socrates hating the written word, since he thought it reduced quality of discourse and dialogue.

So, in summary, it wasn’t an unmissable event and there wasn’t a whole lot on the future of mobile and its effects on society (at least in areas directly relevant to my job or my interests), but there were a couple of interesting nuggets I took away.

However, if you are interested in hearing more, an audio recording of the event is available here.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gibbons/343384475

Mobile internet adoption isn’t an inevitability

To tie in with the MRG conference, Mediatel is running a series of opinion pieces from the speakers.

Mine is on the diffusion of innovation with regard to the mobile internet (I’ll be speaking about Essential’s Brandheld mobile internet project at the conference). I’m not sure if it will eventually go behind a paywall or not, but the article can be found here.

In it, I say that the majority of people will eventually have powerful internet-enabled phones, but that adoption of the mobile internet isn’t guaranteed as

  • Ownership doesn’t equate to usage
  • The mobile shouldn’t seek to replicate the computer
  • Needs and behaviours vary across the adoption curve
  • Usage does not always correspond to value
  • Seek to surprise

Each of these points are explained within the article, which even has a photo of me adorning the page.

sk

Enhanced by Zemanta