If You Aren’t Mobile, You Are Behind The Curve…

mobileapps2…and being behind the curve is not the place to be at the moment. There are new startups every day, each either carving a new place in the market with an interesting new product, or doing being an improved me-too startup.

If you’ve focused on making your web based experience awesome, that great – but you’ve probably not hit the biggest and growing section of the market – mobile users. In fact, a startup (or any business for that matter) without a mobile strategy, or at minimum, a mobile app, is in danger of being left in the dust.

What are you going to do? You can either a) either a kick ass mobile developer who’s probably in high demand at the moment because everyone is moving quickly to build mobile apps b) begin the arduous process of learning to build an app in Objective C for iOS, Java for Android, or one of the many all-in-one SDK’s like Titanium Appcelerator or PhoneGap, all of which really are truly arduous for the non-coder or c) use an app builder software, which will generate and submit apps for you, using a combination of things like CSS3, HTML5 & Javascript (AKA all-the-latest-mobile-tech). For simple apps (and more complex ones if you are willing to do a bit of b) above) there are plenty of great choices which can get you started off for free or a minimal fee.

Take for example one of the easiest to use and fully templated ones called appypie.com (Great name, but makes me hungry every time I hear it) – I personally created an app, a simple one mind you, but I created an app for for Android and iOS in less than 5 minutes. Now, I used the standard template that they gave me (and they have about 30 main templates – for everything from generic business templates, to fitness apps, to with about 27 modules that you can mix and match between them) and it would take longer if you’d like to put in your own custom images and really think about what your mobile app needs to do – but its a great way to get into having a mobile app quickly and for very low cost. I think the top price is about $33 a month for a true white label with no appypie branding and submission to all app stores etc. Good deal when you consider the typical cost of mobile app development.

It’s a great start for most startups who don’t have very complex mobile requirements from the beginning and may be all that you need. I haven’t dug too deep into more complex apps (I’m in the middle of two projects myself that need a mobile version and am considering appypie for one if not both of them) but I’ll likely test both of them through appypie and see if its suitable for either and report back.

I’m curious – what you all all use for you mobile development platform? I’m sure there’s plenty of hard core – native or fuggedaboudit folks out there – but for those others, what have you used successfully..?

Thanks, Google For Bungeeing Us Into The Future

bungy-jumpBack in Canada, there is this yearly fair called the Canadian National Exhibition or CNE (we just used to call it “the Ex”). I think its the longest running yearly fair, its been going since 1879. They have rides and exhibits and stuff: everything from food to international products, to hobbies, flowers, you name it.

One year, they decided to add a bunch of new rides called “The Human Experience” – things like bungee jumping, a couch on bungees (couch on a slingshot), that Superman thing where they pull you up and you swoop on by. Needless to say, this attracted a lot of onlookers, most of them at the bungee jump, which was suspended pretty high up, over a air cushion. I was one of those onlookers. As I stood there, watching jump after jump (one guy was so big that he needed two cables, another girl, obviously not thinking it through, jumped in a skirt, and spent most of the time trying to hold it down) I realized that even though I started off not thinking I was going to try it, the more I say people doing it, the more I thought, yeah, I could do that. I think it was the $95 price tag that stopped me in the end.

Moral: See something crazy or weird being done by enough people, it becomes a lot less crazy and weird.

Google Glass is great. Actually, some people think its not so great, but with all of its faults, its has been great at one thing: making people start to think about wearables in a whole new way. Even though its really early days, if you ask me, Google Glass, in its current incarnation, and probably what its form factor will be when it finally launches to the public, will never be a true mass market device. It’s just a little too geeky and far out.

However, what Glass did really well was to push out the perception and the concept of wearables to the point that people are actually thinking about it. Even if Glass never gets truly popular (and personally, no matter how cool they make the headsets, and how many celebrities they get to wear them) I think that Glass will forever remain a too geeky product. But that’s perfectly fine. What’s more important is that Glass made people think that maybe someday they’d try wearables.

Glass is like a bungee jump by Google. IMHO, I think they purposely pushed the boundaries in order to stretch the imagination on what wearables could do, and help to further fire up up wearable market. IHMO, as I’ve said before, I think 2014 is the year for wearables, so if you are looking to start something, that space is ripe.

Amazon’s Mayday Sets A New Customer Service Standard

One of the coolest things to come out of Amazon in a long time is not a new set of Kindle Fire tablets, although those are cool, its just upping the hardware specs and lowering the price, which if you ask me is not very innovative. Kind of how I feel about the iPhone 5S & C.

What’s really cool about the new Kindle Fire HDX is the new Mayday service, which calls for immediate video help for your tablet. Not only does the service operate 24/7, tapping the Mayday button give you the option to talk to someone who can help you with your device in a small video window. The rep can hear you, see the screen of the device, control the device and draw on the interface, allowing them to virtually assist you with any questions on usage that you might have. It is actually less of a virtual Genius bar than it is remote video help.

One of the privacy features is that while you can see them, they can’t see you. They can however see the screen of your device, so make sure not to have or bring up any, ahem, inappropriate images (or video, I’d guess) while you are talking to them. (I can see issues if you happen to have something like that on the screen and accidentally hit the Mayday button – oops!).

I think this is a very cool and innovative approach – a great way to finally pull together a bunch of preexisting technologies and present/use them in a simple way. Kind of like what Steve Jobs did with the iPod.

I can see beyond the Kindle Fire tablets though – wouldn’t it be cool if Amazon licensed this technology to other tablets vendors as well, or even to other app developers? Imagine getting stuck on any device or app and being able to call up immediate tech support like this for any app on any device. Now that’s interesting, and not out of the question: imagine AWS for customer service….

Mayday is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is accessed by a dedicated button found right in the tablet’s Quick Settings menu. A tap on that button connects the user with a live support representative in 15 seconds or less, no matter what time or day of the year it is. Once connected, the user can see the support representative in a small window on their screen, and the representative can see whatever app or screen is on the user’s tablet (Amazon was sure to point out to us that while you can see the rep, they can’t see you). Support techs can guide users with visual cues and auditory prompts, and if those fail, they can even control the tablet remotely to resolve the issue.

via Amazon launches Mayday, a virtual Genius Bar for the Kindle Fire HDX | The Verge.

Apple Announces iPhone 5S & 5C : Nothing New Here

iphone5sI just finished watching the iPhone 5S and 5C announcements and boy, I didn’t realize that I was going to be so right when I wrote Apple Misses The Innovation Sweet Spot last week – there is literally nothing new – sure its faster and the screen is better but everything else except the for the fingerprint sensor remains the same. How long has the idea of a fingerprint sensor in your phone been around? Forever.

How the mighty have fallen…

I was discussing Apple’s apparent lack of innovation with a friend of mine and we agreed  that Apple will continue to rake in huge money for a while, but they really have lost the ability to innovate – there will likely be nothing new and different from them. Not that they don’t likely have a ton of innovators with great ideas, but I think they have settled into a comfortable position, just like the hard drive companies outlined in The Innovators Dilemma – they are fat and happy and can’t see themselves being upended by anyone.

IMHO, they should really take the threat from Microsoft seriously. If Microsoft decides to ride it out in the same way they did in the video game console space, in 5 years or less, they will be the second place smartphone vendor to Android, and Apple will slide into their natural spot at 10% of the market, unless they do something bold.

My prediction: by 2020, Android 55%, Windows Phone 35%, Apple 10%. Whats’s your take?

 

iOS vs Android vs Windows: It Doesn’t Matter

iospress13-1370892975So the Apple Developers conference was here in San Francisco this week and there of course were thousands upon thousands of Apple fanboys and fangirls thronging the Moscone Center and many surrounding areas. I usually try to stay away from these pure fanatics but I just HAD to say something once I saw the new interface for iOS7.

I’m sorry but unless you are a total tried and true Apple fanatic its obvious that a lot of the design of the new iOS is a complete lift from both Android & Windows phone (also the new Yahoo! Weather app, which is very cool). But as most Apple fanatics can’t see beyond the awesomeness (in their mind) which is Apple, then they can’t see that at all.

I randomly posted that I thought that iOS 7 looked a lot like Android and boy did I ever get spammed. Apple fanatics were basically telling me to GTFO the message board, like it was for Apple ass-kissers only.

Sigh.

We really should be beyond this crap. Personally, I see operating systems, interfaces, etc as tools to get a job done, not something worth having a jihad over. If I need to code for a Mac, I’ll do it on a Mac. If I need to code on Windows, the same. I’m typing this post on a Ubuntu box that I set up for a specific project. All of these interfaces and operating systems look and act similarly, and they are all simply tools. You use the tool which gets the job done most effectively.

It’s kind of like the differences between Democrats and Republicans, there really aren’t any. ;)

When it comes to IP, c’mon people: everyone has always ripped everyone else off: Xerox PARC came up with the genesis of what you see on a desktop, and everything is a distillation of that. Google stole from Apple, Apple stole from Google, Microsoft stole from both, everyone nabs what they feel are the best features from other OSs and puts them in, hoping no one will notice, but of course, unless you are a total fanatic, everyone does.

Personally, I don’t think the latest reveal will save Apple with anything innovative: they’ve been all about incremental innovation since the iPhone.

We’ve read the rumors, we’ve seen the banners, and now its finally here. Live from the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Tim Cook has just taken the wraps off of the latest upgrade to Apples mobile operating system after pumping up the crowd with some shimmering stats for the current OS, naturally, and as expected, the company’s maintained its familiar naming scheme, introducing the world to iOS 7. Cook called it the biggest change to the operating system since the introduction of the iPhone, bold words supported by new features and a new design that managed to get a visible gasp from the room full of developers when shown off in a promo video.

via Apple shows off completely redesigned iOS 7 at WWDC, coming this fall.

Predictive Analysis? May The Best Data Win!

Back when I worked at Yahoo! in ’07, we had some ideas like this, but we didn’t have the data to make it happen. This app seems to closely mimic the functionality in Google Now, which can and does predict things like when I need to leave for appointments, where I’m going next etc.. and give me those push alerts on the phone. The rub is that the app needs to have access to all of the various bits of data required in order to work right: plenty of times Google Now reminds me that it’s time to go, but doesn’t really know where I’m going next.

In the end, this is not an intractable problem, assuming that the app can either a) read your mind or b) you make sure that you record everything somewhere where Google or Sherpa or any app like this can get at that data, and then make the prediction. Short of a) my guess is that if we can truly ease the recording problem so that its effortless, then we may not need to go all the way to  a) – even if it inevitable…a ways out.

It’s a big idea, but here are a few specific examples of what Sherpa says it can do: Using data culled from your typical daily commute, Sherpa can see if there is traffic and suggest an alternate route. Knowing that you’ve got a flight to Boston that’s leaving in 2.5 hours, Sherpa will tell you that it’s time to leave for the airport — and ping you with the email containing your boarding pass while you’re on the way there. While you’re in Boston, Sherpa can keep track of the weather for you, and let you know if it’s about to start raining in 15 minutes so that you can grab your umbrella as you leave the hotel.

via Sherpa Gets $1.1M From Google Ventures, A16Z, & More For Location-Aware Predictive Intelligence iOS App | TechCrunch.

Google AKA Microsoft 1999 AKA Apple With Jobs

Seeing Keep launched from Google yesterday reminded me of Microsoft circa 1999 – they’d already crushed everyone in the big app space – O/S, Desktop Apps (Office), Email (Outlook) and seemed to me were starting to think about picking off smaller players in niches – for example, launching Money to compete with Quicken, etc. Of course, we all know how that worked out – Money’s been dead 4 years and Intuit is still going strong. Actually, come to think of it, Apple with Steve Jobs was like that as well. They didn’t hesitate to crush whole industries – and they were more likely to succeed due to their unwavering fan base  I can see the conversation now: “Apple is doing X now!” “Cool, let me buy X and stop using Y, even though its a better solution!”

So here’s Keep from Google, ala Evernote and Catch.  I prefer Catch myself, but it looks like Google, having captured a big chunk of the mail and desktop, and now making inroads in OS (Soon to be merged Chrome/Android) its only expected that they try to knock out some of the smaller players – fits right in with their strategy to index everything – and eventually run ads against it, I’m guessing.

Will anyone question the idea of having all of your data owned by one company, who’s pledged to “do no evil”? Seems to me if the value prop is there, anyone is willing to give up any and all of their personal information for ease of use and stuff, then why not trust Google with your life’s data?

Google unveiled its rumored Keep service Wednesday, giving users a new way to create and save notes and integrate them with Google Drive.

The service is live both on the Web and in a new app for Android devices running on 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above.

Keep gives Google users a central place to store the information they collect from its various services. People are doing this already in Google Docs — keeping to-do lists, recipes, and other short snippets of text on individual documents.

via Google launches Keep to help you store your notes – CBS News.

Google Glass: Orwellian surveillance with fluffier branding?

Very interesting take which I hadn’t thought of until now but totally true. Of course, this begs the question: will we soon be seeing an open source version of Google Glass, not tied to Google, but providing the same useful features. Sounds like a great startup idea to me: an open source Glass alternative. Who’s with me?

In the online world – for now, at least – it’s the advertisers that make the world go round. If you’re Google, they represent more than 90% of your revenue and without them you would cease to exist.So how do you reconcile the fact that there is a finite amount of data to be gathered online with the need to expand your data collection to keep ahead of your competitors?

via Google Glass: Orwellian surveillance with fluffier branding – Telegraph.

Mobile Outlook 2013: Android Dominates

Yet another indication of where the interesting new stuff and innovation is – I’m going to predict that in the short term (2-3 years) iPhone (yes, even newer versions) is heading to the same range as the Mac is – will likely get down to about 10% of the smartphone market – hardcore Apple fanboys/girls. Android, as it gets easier to use, cheaper and more open will continue to take the share, and possibly Windows phone – assuming that Microsoft is going for the same kind of long term strategy it used to take over the video game market.

At the moment, you can’t beat the iPad experience on tablets, but in the long term, Microsoft might take a bite of that that market if Android tablet versions don’t continue to step up.

The wildcard here is Google Glass and iWatch: look for these platforms to start to hit their strides in late 2014. Also, look for iWatch to grab a hold of the quantified self folks, possibly including sensors which would wipe out the FitBit Flex, Jawbone UP, Nike Fuelband market.

Smartphone owners are expected to download about 56 billion applications this year, reports ABI Research. The lion’s share of those apps will head to Android devices, with Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry trailing Google.

Of the 56 billion app downloads, approximately 32.5 billion, or 58% of them, will go to Android smartphones. Apple iPhone owners will download 18.5 billion apps, representing about 33% of the 56 billion total. That means 88 out of every 100 apps downloaded in 2013 will come from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

The app market for tablets, however, looks a bit different. ABI believes tablet owners will download about 14 billion apps throughout 2013. The Apple iPad will crush every other tablet in terms of app downloads. iPad apps will amount to 75%, or 10.5 billion, of the tablet app downloads this year. Google’s Android tablet share is a distant second, with 17%, or 2.4 billion, of the tablet app downloads this year.

via Android To Dominate 2013 Mobile App Downloadss – Development -.

Augmenting Yourself With Google Glass

Today I posted an entry for the Google Glass contest – strange contest – the rules are that you have to try and explain what you would do with Glass in 50 words or less (I guess squeezing the idea into a tweet) and if you are chosen then you pay them $1500 and get a set of hardware – and I’m assuming SDKs etc. Since I didn’t get to go to Google I/O last year and sign up, I jumped at the chance. Here’s my tweet: (BTW, unlike some others, I didn’t cheat and link to a huge page of reasons why I should win – that’s against the rules ;) )

glass-tweet

 

Yep, thinking big eh? I hope I do get a chance to get a pair, as I feel that Glass and others like it – trust me this will be a huge new industry – will be massive – and right now is the absolute best time to get into it.

A long time ago I read a science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delaney which postulated a giant orbiting AI which read questions in your minds eye and instantly gave you the answers to your questions, thus removing the need to read and learn, and a whole host of other stuff. So why not build that service eventually, and Glass gives us the opportunity to start building the grandfather of that service. The pieces are already starting to come together.