AppCarousel attending the SCTE tradeshow October 17 – 19

AppCarousel is in Orlando Florida for the annual SCTE cable industry tradeshow, conference and exhibition. Click the pic on the left to reach the official SCTE expo website.  We are on the ARRIS Whole Home Solution booth, announcing and demonstrating some brand new developments in “apps for TV” and “TV app stores”.  We can’t say too much ahead of the show, but suffice to say that the MSOs (cable operators) will love what we are launching at SCTE.  Here’s a sneak peek;

                           

To meet with us at the show, simply send an email to     info    <at>   appcarousel   .   com

Here’s how the SCTE organizers describe their show;

SCTE Cable-Tec Expo® 2012—the industry’s engineering show of the year—hosts 10,000 attendees annually and provides the opportunity to discover and learn first-hand about the latest in cable telecommunications technology, products and services in one cost-effective setting.

SCTE Cable-Tec Expo® will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, Oct. 17-19, 2012, in Orlando, FL. Pre-conference and preview events will take place on Oct. 16 and technical workshops and sessions are scheduled for Oct. 16-19.

A wide variety of educational sessions, hands-on state-of-the-art exhibits and networking opportunities enable all levels of cable telecommunications technology experts to obtain the resources of technical information crucial to their company goals during Cable-Tec Expo.

Executive and mid-level attendees from the industry’s top operating companies attend Cable-Tec Expo and nearly 400 of the industry’s most prominent technology companies showcase their services and technologies. 80% of operating attendees represent decision makers & key influencers. Nearly 34% of operating attendees comprise of executive-level to director/vice president positions.

Attendees from nearly 55 countries rely on Cable-Tec Expo to experience all engineering, all the time. International presence during Cable-Tec Expo 2011 increased 21% over 2010.

The Expo exhibit hall provides an invaluable learning environment which features “hands-on” instruction from nearly 400 technology companies. Exhibitors and attendees alike will discuss various cable telecommunications applications, products and services that technology delivers.

About the SCTE

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is proud to serve as the technical and applied science leader for the cable telecommunications industry. Since its beginning in 1969, the Society has been dedicated to providing meaningful resources and programs for its members and the industry.

From industry-wide initiatives to create more efficient operations to technical training programs on the latest technologies to job aids to assist field personnel in their everyday responsibilities, SCTE has programs and benefits for every professional level in the industry. The Society’s “Boots to Suits” philosophy is designed to not only enhance the careers of technical employees throughout the network, but also provide operators with a well-trained workforce that, ultimately, means a more efficient system, economic benefits and an improved customer experience.


Second screen, companion apps, companion devices (it’s new and big)

A few weeks ago we attended the CableLabs Summer Conference (read about it here).  The hottest topic there was “second screen”.  What does this mean?

Well, most people with disposable income have several screens these days; they have a smartphone, they may also have a tablet, and they definitely have a TV or two.  At the moment, each of those experiences are isolated, different and unrelated.  What you do on your tablet is in no way related to what you do on your TV (unless of course you are watching a movie and you decide to use your tablet to look up the name of one of the actors, that’s about as far as it goes).  So the concept of;

  • second screen
  • companion apps
  • companion devices

… is all about delivering experiences that are connected and seamless across all the screens and devices that you own.

There’s a great definition at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_screen

A great example is a start-up called Kwarter.

They have identified that one of the biggest opportunities for multiple screen engagement is when you are watching sports on TV.  You want to comment on the game with others, your buddies may be elsewhere in the world, you want to meet other fans of your team, and you want to have friendly wagers on what’s about to happen next on the field of play.  However you don’t want to use the TV screen itself to do all of that because that would mean missing the live action while you switch to other pages.  So Kwarter enables you to pick up your tablet and do all those fun engaging things on your “second screen”.  That’s an example of where a companion app is running on a companion device to deliver a second screen experience – that’s it for the definition and overview!

At AppCarousel we see this second screen movement as one of the most exciting things in the technology space, because it embraces the growing sophistication of users and their devices, and has the potential to turn the last “old school” business – that of linear broadcast mass-blast TV – into something truly interactive, without everyone having to go out and buy a new interactive TV.  Think of the possibility for advertisers and brands;

  • TV ads can become interactive in real time (get more info on your companion device, get a coupon for the product, re-watch an ad that you were interested in, if you like that Ford car you saw in the ad use your tablet to create your own car with the specs and color you want and then check out the exact price and availability etc.)
  • merchandising can become more relevant and personalized; if my smartphone knows what I am watching on TV (e.g. I am a fan of sports stations and car channels), then the ads and apps it recommends can be way more targeted
  • advertisers can finally create a feedback loop; instead of not knowing what someone is watching or whether they care, encouraging them to interact with the brand via their companion device gives them unparalleled visibility

Let’s face it; people are distracted these days.  60% of people watching TV are messing with other devices.  So broadcasters and brands are trying to find ways of distracting them with their own shows, products and services!

To conclude this short look at a new phenomenon – “second screen” – let’s try to boil it all down to a few scenarios.  Can we categorize the use cases?  Here goes …

  1. There are second screen experiences that mirror the one on the big screen.  For example, I can watch MLB games on my TV, then take my tablet up to bed to continue watching the same game
  2. There are companion apps that give me additional / supplementary information and interactivity regarding what I am watching (to continue the MLB example, the MLB app gives the real-time plays, stats and player profiles while the game itself is on the big screen)
  3. There are devices and apps that are effectively remote controls for the big screen.  At the NCTA conference in Boston this year, ARRIS (market leaders in set top boxes), demonstrated an iPad app that not only provided you with a more rich and interactive channel guide so that you could decide what to watch, but was also a full remote control for the set top box so that you didn’t have to look down the back of the sofa for that remote ;-)
  4. There are apps that extend the experience and make it more interactive.  The example I gave earlier where I see an ad on the TV for a Ford car is a good one because in a quick 30 second commercial there is no way I can get enough info or find out more about whether that car has the features I want (or indeed whether it is in my price range or whether Ford Employee Pricing is on right now in my area).  However by scanning a QR code on screen or typing in a short URL I can either get the Ford app or go straight to the web page designed to complement the ad, and I can carry on looking at the car for as long as I like
  5. Did we miss any categories or use cases?  Feel free to comment at the bottom of the article

In summary, I think you can see the enormous opportunities ahead as companion devices interact in real time with that big screen in the corner of the room … but wait, TVs and big screens aren’t just restricted to living rooms.  They are in public places, they are used as billboards, they are on trains and buses, at sporting venues, in malls, and on and on.

The next article in our series will look at some of the biggest names in home entertainment and gaming (Microsoft, Nintento etc.) and how they are starting to embrace the second screen revolution.

Terry

Managing Director, AppCarousel www.appcarousel.tv


AppCarousel interviewed on the subject of app store curation

Click the pic to see the full interview

Today an article by Tim Kridel of Digital Innovation Gazette was published, following an interview with AppCarousel’s Managing Director Terry Hughes a short while ago.

You can access the article by clicking the picture, or here.

A few snippets to get you in the mood for the subject … (all these are quotes from Terry Hughes)

The headline grabber is: too many apps, too hard to find what you need. However, it’s more than that. Today, users have to think about where to look for apps and what keywords to search for. Why should they? Why shouldn’t a baseball fan be presented with a highly relevant and targeted set of apps and associated content related to his beloved sport, without him having to think about what type of app he needs and where that might be located? … That is the essence of curation.

These days, anyone can create a mini store that’s relevant to a particular audience and make money in the process. Some curators use their store as a means to an end — for example, bloggers or journalists who use it to draw more people to their work. Others make money from the established business models…

Curation is all about the human touch. For example, here at AppCarousel, we have teams of people that understand the entire app landscape. For any given store, they research the target demographic and the goals of the store, whether that’s awareness building, brand showcasing, monetizing or complementing an existing service. Then, we work with our clients to hand-select apps and associated content that users will love

Let’s take the fast emerging “apps for TV” market as an example, where TV viewers are able to discover and run apps while sitting on the sofa. TV is ideal for curation because viewers don’t want to browse thousands of apps on a TV. They are in a mode where they want to be informed and shown new things, and there are subsets of apps more relevant to the TV environment (e.g., leanback experiences, entertainment apps, companion apps to shows)

Add your thoughts on curaion and the curated app store experience below.  We would love to hear from you.

The AppCarousel team


AppCarousel exhibits at CableLabs Summer Conference

The busy AppCarousel.tv booth at CableLabs

Hi from Keystone Colorado where the altitude is a breathtaking 9000 feet (literally) and where the attitude is decidedly “innovation in the cable industry”.  It’s CableLabs’ bi-annual conference and expo, and the AppCarousel team is delighted to be one of the exhibitors and vendors at the event.

What fascinates me about the cable industry (of which this event is a microcosm) is that it’s everything from large equipment, switches, head ends, and plant, all the way through to the growing areas of apps and app stores, which we specialize in.  It’s a diverse range of vendors for sure, but judging by the level of interest in our “app stores for TV” proposition [www.appcarousel.tv] it’s clear that apps are front and center in the minds of MSOs and their solutions providers.

The CableLabs event is also good because it’s private; it’s only open to MSO cable operator member companies + vendors to the industry.  So everyone you see in the above picture is a cable industry executive.  Our booth was busy from 9am to 7pm as you can see.  A lot of new friends were made in one day.

Also because it’s a private event I can’t say too much about the inspirational keynote given yesterday by Phil McKinney, the CEO of CableLabs.  However he won’t mind me giving the highlights;

  • he talked about the changes in social dynamics, where the ultimate is true visual collaboration (very relevant for the TV industry)
  • he talked about how the experience is becoming truly personal (what does that mean for TV where in general there is one in every room, the family gather round, and there’s nothing personalized about it today)
  • he discussed how networks are evolving, and “pervasive connectivity” being the ultimate goal, where you don’t have to think about what network you are connected to, or via which device, it becomes seamless to the user
  • he then went on to talk about gadgets, and everyone today having a “family of devices” so while you are watching TV you may also have a tablet next to you for a second screen experience and a smartphone for texting your buddies
  • finally he analyzed the future of content, and the potential role of the MSOs in offering cloud storage that is truly secure (would you rather trust your lifetime of pictures taken, and your bank statements, to Google or Box.net, or to your cable company?)

I will leave you with a quote from Phil:

Ideas without execution is a hobby

As the cable industry evolves very quickly from broadcasting linear channels to a rich media world of streaming, IPTV and apps, execution will be everything … and much of the debate at CableLabs was about exactly that; executing on the promise of a new generation of connected TV and smart TV.

Terry


Olympic rings and venn diagrams: what do they have to do with “apps for TV”?

We were sitting as a team last week watching the Olympics opening ceremony, and – because some bits of the ceremony were boring – we were debating the “apps on TV” sector that we work in.  We were discussing the value chain of how apps get onto TV, and how they get monetized, and we were analyzing where we at AppCarousel fit in.  One of the team started drawing a venn diagram, and then we all suddenly realized that the 5 Olympic Rings would be perfect for our analysis.  So ladies and gentlemen, I hereby present to you …

The AppCarousel “apps for TV” value chain

Let me quickly walk you through it, starting with the 5 main rings, left to right;

Any value chain starts with app developers, and having a large and rich set of people developing content and apps.  Those developers are attracted by the other 4 rings; being associated with quality, and major brands, and getting engaged with users, and making money.  Without the developers, there is no value chain.

The next interlocking ring is quality service.  This is very important in the TV space, where the user experience is everything, and where users don’t want to be looking through thousands of garbage apps on their TV.  The developers have a large part to play, but the quality aspect is also driven by the third ring …

… branding and differentiation, which is driven by the brand, whether that’s a TV manufacturer, or a broadcaster, or some other household name that cares about how they are perceived by TV viewers that are engaging with it via apps.

Which leads us on to the fourth ring, engagement.  Whether you are an app developer or a TV show or a cable company or an advertiser, it’s no longer good enough to get downloads or eyeballs, it’s all about engagement (defined as a user that interacts with the brand or the app on a regular basis, and feels an affinity to the app or brand).

And once you have engagement with users, it’s time to monetize and to create new revenue streams.  That’s hot in the TV space right now; apps are a way of generating more revenue from TV users, whether that’s via premium apps on TV such as Pandora or Netflix, or via advertising (because many brands see apps as the new way to engage and are paying top dollars to get their apps discovered on new platforms).

The diagram then shows some of the areas where AppCarousel adds value into the TV value chain…

Sourcing, curation and testing:  our job is to find the highest quality apps and developers, to understand the needs of the app store owner, and to match them up.  We not only find the right apps, but we test them to ensure they work on all the target devices, and we then curate them into stores.  We make the bridge between the content universe and the quality app store for TV.

The next intersection is between having a quality store, and layering on top of it the unique brand and differentiation of the brand owner such as the TV manufacturer, set top box company, MSO, middleware company, or OTT (over the top) service provider.  That’s where AppCarousel comes in to build those rich storefront and merchandising experiences.

Everyone accepts that these days it’s a multi-screen multi-device world, and here at AppCarousel we not only understand that, but embrace it.  At the intersection of branding and engagement comes the cross-device companion app strategies that put AppCarousel at the forefront of the new app wave for TV.  Brands need to engage via multiple screens and devices, and more importantly TV broadcasters need to engage with their audiences while they are looking at those companion devices, whether they are doing so on the sofa or while out and about.

And how does AppCarousel convert engagement to revenue?  That’s a key focus for App Carousel, because we are experts in billing, payments and monetization tools.  Our parent company Wmode has been making tons of money for companies in the mobile app space for a decade, and we are now applying that expertise to the new and complex world of making money from apps and content on TV.

If you are into “apps for TV”, remember that partnering with someone who understands the whole value chain can get you to win gold.

Enjoy the Olympics.


Has panflation taken over the app economy?

A few weeks ago the Economist wrote a thought-provoking article on “panflation”.  As far as I can see, the Economist made the word up especially for the article.  How cool is that?  You can access the article itself by clicking the picture on the left.

Anyway, the article is all about how inflation is happening in non-money things like clothes sizes, coffee cup sizes, and so on.  Here are a few examples from the article (all rights acknowledged to the Economist for these);

  • Pizzas now come in regular, large and very large
  • Starbucks coffees are Tall, Grande, Venti or (soon) Trenta. “Small” seems to be a forbidden word
  • A five-star hotel used to mean the ultimate in luxury, but now six- and seven-star resorts are popping up
  • “Deluxe” rooms have been devalued, too: many hotels no longer have “standard” rooms, but instead offer a choice of “deluxe” (the new standard), “luxury”, “superior luxury” or “grand superior luxury”
  • it is increasingly hard to book “free” flights; they cost more miles, and redemption fees have increased
  • In Britain the proportion of A-level students given “A” grades has risen from 9% to 27% over the past 25 years. Yet other tests find that children are no cleverer than they were
  • Employers are themselves distorting the jobs market with job-title inflation, which has recently accelerated because a fancier-sounding title is cheaper than a pay rise. Firms are awash with an excess of chiefs and directors, such as Director of First Impressions (receptionist) and Chief Revenue Protection Officer (ticket inspector)
  • the average British size 14 pair of women’s trousers is now more than four inches wider at the waist than it was in the 1970s

You get the idea.

Anyway, it got me thinking … has panflation taken hold in the app world that we live and breathe every day?  Here are a few thoughts;

  • App stores are judged not by the quality of the apps within them, but by the number of apps and the size of the store.  Having a huge store and filling it with garbage apps is preferable to a quality curated approach.  Here at AppCarousel we disagree with where the market is heading
  • Apps that are really small in file size are judged to be poor even before being downloaded.  “That app is only 40KB, it can’t be any good.”  The reality is that well designed apps, that aren’t bloated by bad software code or huge media files within them, are probably better for your device
  • The app market is still being judged on metrics such as the number of downloads rather than usage and engagement.  That is slowly changing but right now, the app developers that get featured and noticed are the ones with the most downloads.  Shame really
  • In the world of TV, “dumb” is now a dirty word, and “Smart” is in.  Every piece of the TV value chain has to be smart.  Your cable company can’t just broadcast any more, they have to have IPTV and video on demand.  Your set top box has to be smart.  So does your TV.  And you have to have multiple devices on the couch while watching the TV, because the good old remote control isn’t enough. And you have to have a bunch of smart apps running on all those devices.  So panflation is taking hold in the TV industry, as smart become normal, and normal becomes smart
  • In the mobile world, your rate plan with your carrier has certainly been the victim of panflation.  The basic plans now offer unlimited calling and unlimited text, and many plans offer unlimited data.  All for the same amount of money that used to buy you 100 minutes per month and 250 texts!

I am sure there are many other examples.  Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

Maybe our new tagline should be “Deflating the panflation in the app economy with our high quality curated app stores“.  Or maybe not ;-)

Terry / Chief Spinning Officer, App Carousel www.appcarousel.com


RIM’s new BB10 predictive text virtual keyboard (a little anecdote)

I was at the annual BlackBerry World conference today in Orlando.  At the keynote, the CEO Thorsten Heins took great pleasure in demonstrating the advanced text input system that the new BB10 (BlackBerry 10) devices will have when they are launched in the latter part of the year.  As you can see if you enlarge the pic, his assistant managed to type Hello World, as if BB 10 was new (oh, wait, it is!)

Anyway, I was busy during the keynote typing key notes … as in key notes from the keynote, if you know what I mean.

When I typed Thorsten on my very own virtual keyboard it auto-corrected and offered me two alternatives to the word Thorsten (which, for obvious reasons, it didn’t know);

  • Shorten (which could have referred to his Germanic height or the length of his speech, or the audience’s desire for RIM to shorten the time before BB 10 devices hit the market)
  • Threaten (which he definitely is not, he’s quite a nice meek man that my mother would like, actually.  But will he threaten Apple’s and Android’s near duopoly of the mobile phone market?)

Then onto the stage came a RIM VP, Martyn Mallick.  As I typed his name, it auto-corrected it to the following;

  • Martyr Malice.  Martyr as in someone who suffers persecution for not renouncing his religion (Martyn certainly seemed like a passionate preacher and total believer on stage today), and Malice as in the desire to inflict harm on others out of deep-seated hatred (couldn’t tell whether he has a downer on Apple and Android but he made a few nice jabs at them).  Martyn did a great job of evangelizing the opportunity ahead.

So, while watching RIM’s new text input system being presented, my very own predictive text was trying to interpret RIM’s keynotes for me.  I wonder if there’s a special hidden meaning in the auto-corrections; hey CEO, shorten and threaten, come on you can do it.  Hey VP, channel any malice into positive outcomes for RIM and I’m sure you won’t end up as a marytr.

And please don’t ask what kind of device I was typing on, because the truth often offends the hosts.


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