Mindtrek continued (mobile session)

Mobile tech at MindtrekThe last post is a bit long now so I’m liveblogging in a separate post for the afternoon session on mobile. Keep refreshing this page for updates!

Fedora hats are popular in this room and apparently in Finland generally ūüôā

Julien Fourgeaud introduces an interactive session with some exercises by asking us about our phone and broadband choices. ¬†Lots of Nokia users, unsurprisingly, although few Symbian users than Nokia users ūüôā

Paul Houghton from Futurice Ltd is here to talk about the Android Ecosystem.

12:39 Paul begins with discussing the reason why Google has made Android available for free to the hardware developers. ¬†HTC’s G1 was the first of the Android systems. ¬†It was a T-Mobile (branded) phone. ¬†The thing of it is that as ugly as it is, it worked from day 1.

Paul demonstrates the Archos Chinese Pad, saying “no, Apple didn’t invent the iPad”. [JJ’s comment: already love this guy!] Then he shows a few more models of Androids phones, saying that Samsung is “evil under the covers”, noting that Android apps can function differently on a Samsung. ¬†HTC gets stuff from Google before anyone else. ¬†So there are Tier 1 developers in Android market who get ‘advanced knowledge’ of what’s coming. ¬†So ‘open’ means different things to different companies.

Paul says if you are designing a new cool app, you need to be on Android because the market will continue to grow. ¬†However there’s a lot of junk on the Android market, so you need also to market your app. ¬†That’s less of an issue in other markets. ¬†The opportunity for Android may not be in paid apps, but in marketing and servicing of Android phones.

Paul says Android phones are not great but ‘good enough’. [JJ’s comment: this goes back to what Gartner were saying at Orange Business Live last June, that in growth markets such as the BRICI nations, Android may be the best option for app development and hardware].

App stores 6 months ago were 150K apps in Apple versus 20K apps in Android market.  Now its 250K apps in Apple versus 120K apps in Android. Ovi market (Nokia) only has 7K apps.  But Ovi has 190 countries where android has 57 countries.

To get an app on android you digitally sign (costs US$25), testing is done by the author, and when you publish you get 70% of the payment for apps.  But the business price comparison is interesting.  Blackberry makes the most from apps, comparatively speaking because business apps cost more.  Consumer market is next.

Basic facts on Android are:

  • 20+ Mb usable RAM
  • Based on Linux

If you go to deep in app dev because it is such a fast-moving scape, it may break on later editions of Android.  Only native things you can do in C are video.

The later phones are buggy – Paul’s phone randomly plays music. Loudly. But it is really truly, powerfully open. ¬†Well mostly anyway. ¬†Rapid application switching is a clear benefit of the platform. No big perceptable difference between app starting for the first time or if it’s already in memory. ¬†That activity lifecycle is different from PC based software.

Google linked services are, of course, deeply embedded. They tend to work better than alternatives – except with browsers. ¬†Opera is still better there. ¬†There’s no reason why a manufacturer can’t use alternative mail, and other services from (say) Yahoo or Microsoft. ¬†But it’s just easier for many hardware developers not to do so.

At the moment Google is giving Android away for free is to make these embedded services crucial.  The next stage is to develop an advertising service for Google.

Android developers edit XML code defining a UI. UI is ‘inflated’ at runtime from this package. They then add java code snippets, link web services, etc. ¬†and then you ‘make it cool’ using flash etc. ¬†(Which you can’t do on the iPhone).

The whole reason to build an application is to access the content quickly. ¬†Building a Web UI into Android is always possible, but it’s not as fast. ¬†So it’s always 2nd best. ¬†That’s the key difference between desktop and mobile. ¬†Desktop it’s better to do everything by the web. ¬†On mobile it’s always better to use a dedicated app because people want their apps to be effective and cool.

Google is evil but Apple is even more evil. ¬†Paul notes that he doesn’t think Nokia is evil – yet. But essentially, the embedding of Google apps and the lock-in to Google is possibly better than going down the iTunes route.

When building for Android, avoid traditional monolithic apps, scale the UI, keep the APIs at high level and respect design conventions of each platform. ¬†(Ie: don’t use an iphone to demo the app). ¬†But you can do anything you want, there are no police in the Android market. ¬†but be aware if your app sucks, then ratings and comments will destroy your app. ¬†[JJ’s comment: this seems like a weakness to me. ¬†It means that ratings can be ‘gamed’, by sending low ratings to competitors in the marketplace.]

Paul concludes by talking about Android 3.0 requires a much higher processor – 1Ghz, 3.5″ display and 512Mb RAM. ¬†But there will be better HTML5 and video services i browsers, and the VP8 codec will be embedded. ¬†There will be a higher resolution tablet support and a new UI.

He notes that Java is the most common language, and the time to productivity in Java programming is significantly shorter than other codecs. ¬†So if you want to get apps out there it’s the easiest one to get in to. ¬†But if you haven’t got a marketing budget, don’t bother. ¬†You need to have the marketing to push it.

1:15pm Rafe Blandford from the publication All About Symbian is now up to discuss the opportunities with Symbian.

Rafe starts with an overview of Symbian Рsaying it has been around for 10 years, and gave birth to smart phones.  Now facing significant competition from iPhone and Android.   Most recently moved to open source. 10-20% of all Symbian devices are in Japan.

Symbian ^3 platform, on devices such as N8, E7, C7, etc, is direct response to iPhone and Android competition. rafe says he thinks Symbian ^3 is a big improvement, with reduced fragmentation, and low cost development options are clear.

Opportunities for Symbian then, are on numbers. ¬†Canalys figures from Q2 in worldwide sales still show huge numbers of Symbian machines on world market. ¬†The number of Symbian units sold daily is equal in weight to 2 huge blue whales. ¬†As a market there are more smartphone sold than laptops and next year there will be more smartphones than pcs sold. ¬†But the market is not equal. ¬†certainly not grwoing in the US market. ¬†But in the BRICI nations it is experiencing the highest growth. But even given Gartner and IDC research on reduced dominance of Symbian, it’s still predicted to be ahead of all competitors by 2014.

Of course predicting the future is hard. ¬†Not many people thought Apple and Android were going to emerge 5 years ago. ¬†No doubt there will be other new entrants over the next 5 years. ¬†But it’s useful to grow with the numbers of devices, not just the new competitors.

In terms of developed opportunities, the emergent tools of Nokia Web SDK and Nokia Qt SDK are key to the development of apps and web services. ¬†It’s important to realise the consumer will feel that these feel like apps, but will in fact be web driven. Anything built on Qt will run on Symbian ^3. ¬†And Qt will be on MeeGo. ¬†While there are now only hundreds of apps built in Qt, it will be hundreds of thousands of apps available. ¬†Ovi had a difficult birth as an apps store, but things have improved dramatically. ¬†App registration has doubled in the past 3 months. ¬†You don’t need 125,000 apps, you need 1000 *good* apps. ¬†What makes money is what developers are interested in. ¬†What makes money is something that is available to the widest possible market. ¬†Ovi is accessible in far more countries than any other app store. ¬†Operator billing is the future for app sales.

Prediction is that Ovi will become the biggest app store within next 2 years. ¬†By far the biggest opportunity is in Symbian and Android, but because Symbian is still the biggest shipped platform in smartphone market, it is the ‘sleeping giant’ of application development. ¬†Biggest potential market is almost certainly outside your market (geographically) but not necessarily outside your culture. ¬†Ex-pat communities are often the channel for app adoption. ¬†Seen that with UK communities based in Morocco. ¬†Also there’s an opportunity to create addictive but positive apps. ¬†(Ie: useful.)

Rafe concludes that application uptake has so far been restricted to the high end market. ¬†But mass market is where growth is likely. ¬†Dangers are that Symbian’s development is very dependent on Nokia. However, he feels that consumer apps are the things that are truly going to change their lives. ¬†Opportunities are unparalleled. ¬†In the future we may see a situation where people will be able to build their own ‘open source’ hardware phones, and that the apps and platform and service oriented infrastructure in Symbian may be a strong potential in the hacker community.

1:45pm Tomi Ahonen is up now to discuss the ‘Jesus phone’ – the iOS (iPhone operating system). ¬†Tomi says that when today’s 20 year olds are grandparents they will be talking about these wonderful rectangular, fragile, mystical things, and these were banknotes and coins. ¬†There will be a time when money ceases to exist.

Last week Tomi was in Australia, supposed to be talking at the Mint Directors Conference. ¬†But the Directors of the conference censored him and he was not allowed to speak. ¬†He feels this was because there were two slides the bankers didn’t want to see. So here are the slides:

1.  In 2007, Estonia because the 1st country in the world to stop coin operated parking ticket generation methods in favour of m-commerce.

2. In Sweden, a wave of robberies of bus drivers for coins.  As a result, m-commerce was implemented to reduce bus crime.  In 2010 in August, Sweden began discussions to eliminate cash altogether from day to day payment systems in favour of m-commerce.

— These are the slides the bankers didn’t want to see.

[JJ’s comment: if this is true, shame on you Aussie bankers. You deserve the world’s contempt.]

Tomi goes on to say that the first battle for convergence Рin cameras, watches, telcos, games, etc Рoccurred over the past 10 years.  The next battle for convergence is in banking, credit, print, broadcast and advertising Рthese are the areas for massive growth in mobile.

Tomi said in 2007 that the biggest effect of the release of the 3G phone – specifically the iPhone – is the energizing of Silicon Valley into mobile. ¬†We now think of mobile history as the time “before the iPhone” and “after the iPhone”. ¬†If you look at media coverage of Apple products it looks like Mac has 10% of Mac market, 60% of iPod market, and 40% of the phone market. Reality is that Mac is worth 3% of the market. ¬†Global market share of iPods on MP3s is 14%. ¬†And as a mobile phone, Apple has 14% of the smartphone market but only 2% of the total phone market. ¬†Apple loves its perception as being stronger than it is, but it’s simply not true.

[JJ’s comment: Have to say that Tomi is true to his word: he is platform agnostic ūüôā ]

Tomi goes to reveal a few more home truths. ¬†Apple’s stats about 100million cumulative shipments is ALL iPhones. ¬†As a basis for comparison in the US Blackberry have shipped 100M Blackberry smartphones alone.

Fab slide about the market share of Android over 1 year. ¬†But what’s happening from here. ¬†Samsung has 18% of dumbphone vendors market, and they won’t stay with Android. ¬†They will have their own platform. ¬†Clear that Nokia’s Symbian, Android and Samsung will be the market leaders. ¬†Microsoft and Apple will be struggling to stay in the phone market.

[JJ’s comment: any Apple fans will have to be crying in this audience by now.]

Tomi says that the reality of the smartphone market will be that the telco carrier relationships will be the key to continuing smart phone. ¬†Nokia will be biggest. ¬†Android will be second biggest. ¬†iPhone will *lose* market share. ¬†It’s a luxury product and they are far too expensive to do that. ¬†Microsoft won’t do well either. Others such as the new Samsung platform and Palm will actually grow. ¬†RIM’s Blackberry is highly popular now – it will decline, but not by much as it will develop strong comfort ratio among young people due to B-messenger.

[JJ’s comment: Gotta get this presentation. ¬†Tomi is awesome. ¬†A realist in the Apple market is a rare and beautiful thing!]

Total value added service revenue from smart phones is in MMS SMS and other telco services, not in app market. Not saying don’t make apps, just keep in mind that fact. ¬†At the moment, Apple’s iPhone App store is by far the most successful app store. ¬†Only 27% of apps are free. ¬†However, the median app earns just $686 per *year*. ¬†For half of apps available on iPhone app store, it takes 11 years to pay back the development cost, without making any updates.

[JJ’s comment – scary stuff hey?]

The reality though, is that media and advertising sector all love iPhones.  So if you want to sell something to advertisers and media people, you probably should make an app from them. Tomi says make a prototype on the iPhone.

[JJ’s comment: this is about the only thing I disagree with in Tomi’s presentation. ¬†I agree you need to build for the iPhone, just not first.]

Tomi concludes saying that today’s superphone – a better phone than the iPhone, the Nokia N8, and the Samsung Galaxy S – will cost US$10. ¬†The poorest countries in the world will have a smart phone by the end of the decade. ¬†Plan carefully for these markets.

[JJ’s comment: Great preso. Great speaker. ¬†Thanks Tomi.]

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