Part 1 of 3: Our review of Vision Mobile’s seminal “Developer Economics 2012″ report

Vision Mobile is simply the industry’s best research, analysis and strategy firm, and their landmark report (which comes out once a year) is “Developer Economics – The New Mobile App Economy”.  It  was issued last week, but it’s so jam-packed with info and insight that it took the AppCarousel team a week to digest it all and boil it down into “what it all means”.

There is simply so much to discuss that we decided to make it a 3-part series of blog articles.

Before diving in, please note;

- the report itself is freely available thanks in part to the lead sponsor of the report BlueVia by Telefonica.  However in these blog articles all rights are acknowledged and credited to Vision Mobile

- get your own copy of the full monster-sized report by clicking the image on the left.

Anyway, here are our conclusions and opinions on this excellent insight into the world of developers and apps.  Part 1 focuses on the platform wars.

Firstly let’s look at where developers are committing their resources (and are planning to over the next 12 months).  It has clearly become a two-horse race, where the only platforms they care about are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.  The report discusses in detail the reasons why, but in summary it’s all about reach.  iOS and Android have the volume of handsets being shipped, the largest addressable market, the most visited app stores, and the most mature ecosystems.  Developers want to spend their time developing on platforms that can reach the eyeballs of their users. Windows Phone can’t deliver that yet, and BlackBerry has a diminishing market share and a weaker ecosystem these days (even though the report states that BlackBerry is easy to develop for and quite lucrative to make money from).

If there is a third platform to watch, it’s mobile web AKA web apps AKA HTML5.  The report nicely analyzes why this is lagging behind native app development, and will continue to lag behind for a long time (it’s because Apple and Google do a better job of supporting native apps than web apps, and because their app stores don’t feature web apps, and because native apps can be much richer thanks to better platform APIs).  Here at AppCarousel we have showcase solutions to help developers of web apps to get noticed, and some big HTML5 app store plans for later in 2012.  But right now we agree that the distribution and discovery options for native apps are superior to those for web-based apps.

The report highlights that revenue generation for developers is highest on Apple because Apple has a higher income demographic, the quality of content is higher (and can therefore attract a premium), and it’s easier to pay via the App Store / iTunes than it is on Google Play.

Facebook

The report then crystallizes what could well be the next big trend; for developers to leverage Facebook.  Yeah yeah yeah, I can hear you say, developers can easily add Like buttons into their apps, share capabilities, and they can promote their apps on Facebook.  Well that’s not what the report focuses on.  Vision Mobile believes that;

  • Facebook is the next web
  • Facebook is the “platform of platforms, atop iOS, Android and mobile web”

Until I read Developer Economics, it hadn’t really dawned on me how significant Facebook has become as an “alternative” to the giant Apple and Android app stores.  Here’s why;

  • The report argues (and we agree) that although the Apple App Store and Google Play have reach, they are very poor at addressing the next four challenges faced by developers; targeting, discovery, adoption, and engagement
  • Facebook recently launched their App Center, we wrote about it here
  • The report states that “Facebook is offering global discovery, distribution and targeting to 900 million active web users, along with direct billing [via Facebook Credits]“
  • Facebook’s userbase is fast approaching 50% of the total internet users worldwide
  • But more importantly, Facebook isn’t a standalone app store, it’s a fully integrated social experience (of which apps are just a part of it), so it’s a more natural way to discover relevant apps alongside the things you do on Facebook, and users discover apps that their friends use and that are recommended to them by their social circle

So from the perspective of developers, they should ignore Facebook at their peril.  It’s no longer about developing an app and throwing it into an app store.  The game has changed, and having a Facebook strategy is suddenly essential.

Today most developers use Facebook as another discovery and promotion point for their Apple and Google apps, but the big question is whether developers will migrate in large numbers to developing native Facebook apps and HTML5 web apps that singularly get promoted via Facebook, such that the existing app stores become redundant.  Our view is that it’s horses for courses; native device apps have very different roles to play compared to Facebook apps, and they will all live happily alongside each other for a long time.

Part 2 looks at the 8 kinds of developers that Vision Mobile have uniquely identified and analyzed; the Hobbyists, the Explorers, the Hunters, and more …

Part 3 looks at what history has taught us (with a liberal dose of hindsight), including Java ME, BREW and BlackBerry, and how those lessons can be applied to app development going forward.

See you soon

The App Carousel team


AppCarousel featured in article on Android distribution strategies

Thanks to Tim Kridel for writing about us as part of his article on whether developers should rely on Google Play (formerly known as Android Market) to get their apps noticed and discovered, or whether they should consider alternative distribution and promotion strategies such as App Carousel.

The full article is available here, http://www.digitalinnovationgazette.com/feature/mobile/android_distribution_strategy.  Here’s the excerpt talking about AppCarousel (all rights acknowledged and credited to the author)

But even large, well-staffed websites don’t always have the time to ferret out cool apps to bring to their audience’s attention. AppCarousel aims to eliminate that hurdle by doing the research and then bundling those apps into a mini app store that websites can embed.

“We offer people with particular verticals the ability to showcase a bunch of apps,” says Terry Hughes, who developed apps such as momentem before becoming AppCarousel’s managing director. “They don’t have to write special app-showcasing code for their website or add deep links to Android Market.”

AppCarousel’s existence is just one more example of how challenging it is for Android apps to stand out from the pack.

“This whole notion of curating is really the buzz for 2012,” says Hughes. “As the market segments itself, that’s a better approach than hoping these great, big app stores do everything for you.”

Read more: What’s Your Android Distribution Strategy? http://www.digitalinnovationgazette.com/feature/mobile/android_distribution_strategy/#ixzz1uNpYKcLy


When is a TV not a TV (Part Two)

For part two of “When is a TV not a TV”, we’ll be looking at what constitutes today nowadays. (Part one here!)

By the time I get home late at night (from working those 20 hour days *cough*), any of the shows I would have wanted to watch are long past their regular broadcast times. That’s the problem the PVR/DVR/TiVo solves, right? Not always. I don’t have every channel, nor am I always near a TV set. What is more conveniently available is WiFi and a supple data plan for when a hotspot isn’t available. I can get a lot of the same content directly from the providers themselves, when and where I want it. Big Bang Theory is only ever a short URL away. What if I want to watch the a live hockey game? NHL Center Ice is available right on my iPad. The point I’m trying to make is that Video on Demand (VOD) is huge, and the universe of connected set box boxes, the rise of Netflix, smart TVs with more Over-The-Top (OTT) content, and again, content providers making their content available in this manner is the proof. Traditional channels will have their place for a long time, supplying timely, pushed content (it’s Cinco de mayo time, right?) and being a great leanback experience for when we don’t want to demand, but rather, unexpectedly delighted.

So when I’m watching the LA Kings wipe the floor with the St. Louis Blues on my tablet, am I watching TV? A whole lot of better knee-jerk descriptions seem to come to mind before “TV”. I’m watching the game, the feed, the show, the video…you get the idea. The same concept follows along if I’m streaming news from YouTube on my phone. Let’s not forget that all these internet “tubes” are in reference to the CRT tube TVs, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who would describe watching mobile YouTube as “watching TV”. Take it from the other way around. Standing at Best Buy, no one has any problem navigating themselves to the TV department. There’s no issue with pointing at a television set and saying “Yeah, that thing there is a TV.” At least, this is at least what I’ve gathered from some informal polling. It’s a sign that there’s some sense of division between what is TV and what isn’t. There’s a growing divide between gathering around a communal television set and individual viewing, which translates into usage of all these similar-but-different screens and services.

This isn’t just in one direction either. TVs are continuously becoming more like tablets or smartphones, with Android and HTML5 playing an increasing role on what shows up on your big screen. Most reports put smart TV growth in the triple digits.

What about the  TV Everywhere initiative, spearheaded by Comcast and Time Warner? The idea here, poorly paraphrased, was to give their customers a way to get their TV service that they subscribed to from whatever screen they wanted. Similarly, Sling Media’s SlingBox allows you to view your TV service from your myriad of different devices. The key words here are “TV Service”. This ideal that there’s a service provider for televisions, that has been around for generations and still exists today, helps to serve as a guideline for what is actually TV. If a device was meant to be primarily served by a television service provider, then the device is TV. If viewing the programming on a device that isn’t primarily served by a television service provider, then you’re viewing the TV service from a non-TV device. If  you’re viewing videos from a content provider on any screen, it may simply be that: watching video.

Does this sound a little tedious and arbitrary to you? I don’t blame you. When the evolution of the connected TV and IPTV is at the pace it’s at, the lines blur. As long as the terms are agreed upon when you’re talking about them, you’re well on your way to clear linguistic bliss.

Let’s end off with this question:  Is TV becoming (dare I say it) a legacy product?

With the TV industry generating at over $350 billion on revenues, this is a probably a stretch. There’s tremendous growth in new technologies, new monetization models, and new players mixing up the TV value chain, so there’s some arguments to be made on either side.

- Colin Chong


Apps apps apps: words of the month on AppCarousel blog

We track the search terms that people use to find our blog and the ones they use once they are at our blog.  They give an interesting insight into what’s trending in our world (and your world, quite probably).

Here are March’s top words or phrases:

  1. Apps (yes, apps are still hot, and we are well indexed in Google because our business is showcasing apps)
  2. App carousel, or carousel apps, or carousel.  The reason is that there is an app or two out there called “carousel”, Apple has a carousel interface, and carousels are quite a generic term for a way of showing content.  While I don’t think people are necessarily looking for us, it’s great that when they do land on our site they like what we can do for them
  3. Apple.  Now there’s a theme appearing – the first three all begin with “app”.  When APple decided on their company name, little did they know that the App in Apple would be so important!
  4. Android.  There’s another one ending in A!  Seriously, what this does tell us is that when people think about app showcasing and app discovery, they think Apple and Android
  5. App economy.  Sorry about this, but we are still stuck on the letter A and the word App.  What’s interesting here is that a lot of people are typing the expression “app economy”.  So I tried to find out why, and here’s the answer

Forbes on the app economy

As you can see above, on 19 March Forbes referred to the app economy in an article.  Click the image above to go to that article (it’s a good read).

The next link that came up on Google in my “app economy” search was …

A great article and infographic on the state of the app economy

Click the image above to check it out.

Anyway, back to the list of the most common search terms this month;

6. tv and smart tv.  2012 is the year of apps in the TV environment, and we have received a lot of exposure thanks to our partner Myriad Group, and our own articles on the TV space.  “Watch” this space, or so they say!

7. html5.  Oh yes, everyone seems to want to understand this new buzzword they are hearing, and the implications for the app industry.  More to the point, developers that are building HTML5 apps are looking for creative ways to showcase them.  Welcome to our world.

8. developer and develop.  Following on from the one above, there is more developer activity than ever, and we are seeing inquiries from developers who want to get above the noise.  This recent article dives deep into the minds and trends affecting developers.

9. app billing.  I am not sure why this is trending, perhaps because the number of billing options for apps has increased exponentially (carrier billing, PayPal, Zong, Boku, Billtomobile, PayOne, Apple, Google Wallet, and on and on).  Are people looking for solutions, particularly for HTML5 web app billing which is a bit more complex than for native apps?

10. Terry Hughes.  Yep, our Managing Director gets his name around the industry a fair bit, and was recently listed on Vision Mobile’s 2012 Atlas as an advisor, so it’s no surprise people searching for that name land on our site.  However there’s a much more famous Terry Hughes, a baseball player, and the one who directed shows like The Golden Girls, and there’s even a park called Terry Hughes Park in Canada (where our very own Terry Hughes can often be found asleep on a park bench with a bottle in his hand) … did I really say that?  Pink slip on the way.

We will do another one of these at the end of April!

AC team

 


4 Ways to Market Apps for Smart TV

More than a month after CES, has the buzz around Smart TVs stopped? Hardly. It may be MWC season for the tech world, but manufacturers are continuing to push their latest and greatest into market with aplomb. Don’t believe me? How about this commercial or this launch? With each new Smart TV platform unveiled, a new app store was demonstrated alongside it as a byproduct of app availability. But as we already know: big app stores are not the solution to the discovery problem. How will the creators of great TV-specific apps reach their new audience?

Here are 4 key methods:

Be the innovative leader - There’s something to be had when you’re first to market, but more when you can drive it through a top notch user experience and consistent innovation. Start setting the standards for what users of Smart TVs should expect for the experience you’re trying to create. Make sure users understand the platform, the benefits and short comings. Are you going to work within Android or in a browser with HTML5? The Smart TV ecosystem is still nascent, so the opportunity to be the de facto name in the space is still very much up for grab.

Be an engaged, branded experience - While consumers warm up to apps being on their TV, make it apparent that your offering is coming from a trust-worthy name. That will help to provide the comfort of knowing that they’ll be engaging in a high quality showcase. Give your users a name to connect to and build a relationship with, and of course, maintain the socialization to build on it.

Be curated – Know what your customers are interested in and bring a concerted focus to it. Just like music and books, everyone has different tastes in apps and programming. The more in tune you are and the better the content you showcase can bring a much higher the level of customer satisfaction. Bringing your apps to the living room also means you might not be able to bring the entire experience over. Take the time to select relevant, form fitting products to show consumers. Just as tablets apps have manifested themselves differently than smartphone apps, the same goes for those on the big screen.

Be on multiple screens  – The lines between the phone, tablet, computer, and TV are blurring and fast. The ability to be available no matter the screen will let your customers decide how, where, and when they’ll interact with you. Following this multi-screen mentality is a helpful way to create a stickier experience and the chances of keeping your customer engaged with your product exponentially increase.


A Christmas anecdote about Santa and Steve Jobs

Last week my 9 year old son Tom told me he wanted a tablet computer for Christmas.

“I am not sure Santa and his elves make tablets in the North Pole”, I stated.

“I am sure they do” replied Tom, “because they are so popular, so Santa wouldn’t miss a trick like that”.  Wow, kids are so commercially minded these days.

We then got into a debate about which tablets Santa makes.  I explained the operating systems, and how Android is open source, and he replied that he felt Santa would choose an open source platform because he had been operating in an “open sleigh” mode for years.  Good point.

As much as we think kids’ minds are weird, here’s an example of how the adult mind can be just as wacky…  I then said to Tom “No, I disagree, I think Santa will focus on iPads this year because Steve Jobs is now up there with him and I am sure they are colluding.”

“What are you talking about?” said Tom. “Why would Steve Jobs be in the North Pole?  He is dead.”

For some bizarre reason I had got heaven confused with the North Pole, and I looked like a bit of an ass when my son called me on it.

I sincerely hope Santa isn’t in heaven because that could cause a few problems on Dec 24th.  But if he was in heaven Steve would be all over him, because Steve never missed an opportunity to lock down a distribution ecosystem and Santa does have the mother of all value chains.

iSleigh anyone?!

Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Terry


Myriad Group announces AppCarousel as app store partner

Big news for us here at App Carousel … Myriad Group today announced the launch of Alien Vue, the Android environment for TV service providers, set-top boxes and the home entertainment market, and AppCarousel is the app store provider!  The complete solution will be demonstrated at CES in early January.  We are delighted to be working with our friends at Myriad to make this a reality.

The official Myriad release is here http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/myriad-brings-android-to-your-tv-135927918.html

A great explanation of AppCarousel’s involvement is at http://www.cedmagazine.com/news/2011/12/myriad-develops-an-app-store-for-msos

What’s cool for us is that the article on TechCrunch at http://techcrunch.com/2011/12/20/myriad-alien-vue-brings-android-apps-to-your-tv-without-the-extra-hardware/ has an embedded YouTube video demo of the solution, and the frame being shown on the TechCrunch page is the part of the video with AppCarousel in it!

Hey, is that an app carousel I see?!

There’s also a really good analysis of the opportunity ahead for Myriad on Rethink Wireless at http://www.rethink-wireless.com/2011/12/20/myriad-brings-android-tv.htm

A further article discussing GoogleTV and how Myriad fits in is at http://www.theverge.com/2011/12/22/2652032/myriad-alien-vue-google-tv-apps-cable-boxes.  In that one they say “Myriad’s also giving service providers the option to run their own, fully skinned app store experience by means of AppCarousel”

Personally we think that the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) market, coupled with Android app players, targeted at the growing number of consumer electronics devices that aren’t Android but want to run Android, and Google’s appetite for home entertainment, is a huge opportunity.  And Myriad are front and center with Alien Dalvik.

Terry Hughes

Chief Spinning Officer

AppCarousel


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