Yesterday Nielsen released data (which has strangely now been pulled from the site) showing that smartphone users were spending about 30 hours per month in Q4 2013 on mobile apps. That was up from just over 23 hours in the previous . . . quarter? year?. The chart below isn't clear on the comparison time frame.
What's most interesting is that while time went up the average number of installed apps did not. Users on average had just under 27 apps on their handsets. That number was basically flat.
Interestingly, in May 2012, Nielsen reported that the average US smartphone owner had 41 apps on his/her phone vs. 32 apps in 2011. So either the calculation above is incorrect or the number of retained/active apps has declined.
The following is comScore's top 15 US apps list for April 2014 (the most recent data available):
The internet -- as represented by apps, which now take up 51% of digital media time -- is shrinking. The list of top mobile ad revenue recipients is even shorter than the top apps list.
Forget the percentage specifics in the chart below; the point is the list itself. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pandora are all "publishers," though in all but Pandora's case they're ad networks too. YP is a publisher but on the list as an ad network. Millennial Media is also a network.
If we look at all these data together what we see is a mobile app universe dominated by a tiny collection of apps vs. the total universe of 1.2 million iPhone apps. An even smaller number of publishers/networks collect the majority of mobile ad revenue.
Project Tango is Google's new 3D mapping technology. It uses the smartphone's camera, gyroscope and accelerometer to do indoor mapping (based on SLAM -- simultaneous localization and mapping).
This approach doesn't require additional hardware installation (even Beacons). It just requires smartphones to do the initial mapping. It's one of three or perhaps four such approaches now emerging. Others include Indoor Atlas and FlyBy Media (a Tango partner).
At Google's developer conference I/O last week the company was showcasing various uses of Tango, one of which was in a retail environment through a partnership with aisle411. The latter implemented Tango in Walgreens to generate in-store augmented reality (AR) shopping experiences (see video below).
Product locations are married to a store map, created using the Tango technology. Using a smartphone or, in the video, a tablet fixed to a shopping cart, the end user can see product locations, map shopping lists to a floor plan and see enhanced product information or coupons "pop up" on the screen.
Aisle411 says the technology allows for accuracy "within centimeters." This is a pretty interesting variation on some of the indoor location scenarios we've been discussing and exploring. However one question is whether stores will equip shopping carts with tablets, which could be expensive and risk theft. On the other hand this AR experience is potentially less satisfying and effective on a smaller screen smartphone -- users are unlikely to hold them out as they walk down store aisles.
Regardless it's a pretty interesting marriage of digital and real-world experiences in a shopping environment. Aisle411 will be speaking on the indoor location technology panel at next month's Place Conference on July 22 in New York.
Earlier this week comScore reported that mobile devices (smartphones + PCs) were responsible for 60 percent of total digital media time in the US (chart at right). Traditional TV is still the king in the US in terms of overall consumer time spent.
More specifically, comScore said that US users spend 51% of all their digital media time in mobile apps. The firm reports roughly 83% of mobile media time is app-based (vs. the mobile web). Nielsen puts the number at 89%.
I spoke to comScore at some length about these numbers. We agreed that ad dollars would eventually follow the consumer traffic migration. The question is how long it might take. For the past few years mobile ad spending in the US has roughly doubled YoY (per the IAB):
Total digital ad revenue in the US for 2014 will probably be around $49 billion. If time spent and ad spend were aligned mobile would capture more than half of that number (and in-app advertising the bulk of that). Accordingly mobile ad revenue would be $29.4 billion and PC ad revenue would be $19.6 billion.
That would be radical.
App retention is getting better, according to Localytics. The company said that only "20% of apps are used only once, an improvement of 6% over four years." The data in the report were collected from 1.5 billion devices and 25,000 apps using the Localytics platform.
Localytics attributes increased retention to better developer-publisher "understanding of and focus on user engagement that has enabled developers to create more useful and personalized apps." Here are the aggregated topline data:
In a worrying development for iOS developers, Localytics says that iOS showed weaker app retention than Android:
In 2013, both Android and iOS had the same percentage of apps (34%) with 11 or more sessions. Now, Android has surpassed iOS in app engagement by increasing to 45%; nearly half of Android apps are opened 11 or more times, whereas only a third (34%) of iOS apps are.
The company speculates that "iOS users may be suffering from app overload. With the relatively larger number of apps installed on iOS devices, competition for an iOs user’s time increases and can weaken retention."
As indicated, weather and social apps showed the highest retention while sports and games had the highest percentage of one-time usage. Localytics observes that social networks are filled with personalized and highly dynamic content.
Yet sports apps have dynamic, changing content (e.g., scores) too. Perhaps personalization is a missing element or, alternatively, sports content may be highly "generic" and widely available, making any individual app less compelling.
Finnish company IndoorAtlas offers something that sounds almost too good to be true: accurate indoor mapping without the installation of hardware. In addition, its approach can be accomplished very quickly -- even crowdsourced.
The company, founded in Finland with offices in Mountain View, has been around for several years but has had some difficulty convincing people that its approach to indoor location and mapping actually works. One reason is that, unlike Bluetooth Beacons, nobody else is promoting this approach to indoor location.
People are thus largely unfamiliar with it and how it works. Some people who learn of IndoorAtlas' "magnetic positioning" argue that all the building materials (i.e., steel, concrete) must distort magnetic fields inside structures. However this is precisely what IndoorAtlas says it relies upon: structural elements that give each building or indoor area a unique "magnetic fingerprint."
This weekend the NY Times offered a brief overview of the company and its approach. We've been writing a report on the company's technology, which will be out shortly. IndoorAtlas will also be attending and presenting at our upcoming Place Conference in New York on July 22.
We are among a small handful of individuals who've actually seen the technology working live in a store environment. About a month ago we got an in-store demonstration in a major retail store. Throughout the demo and our tour of the store the IndoorAtlas app accurately maintained our real-time location (exactly or within a couple of feet) as we moved throughout the store.
It was consistently accurate. While this was an isolated situation -- though it wasn't controlled; it was a real "big box" retailer -- we have no reason to believe that it wouldn't perform the same way in other indoor environments.
As we've argued in the past no single indoor location technology is perfect or complete. Multiple technologies will need to be combined to do the different types of things that retailers and venue owners seek to accomplish with indoor location (analytics, marketing). For example, RetailNext combines video, Wi-Fi and increasingly beacons in its analytics solution.
But the impressive and relatively amazing thing (hence the skepticism) that IndoorAltlas does is deliver indoor-location accuracy without the installation of any hardware whatsoever.
Google is updating its search app for Android devices. As part of that update Google Now, its predictive search/intelligent assistant feature, is offering new content and capabilities. These new features do not yet extend to Google Search/Now on iOS devices.
The feature that got considerable coverage earlier today is a parking-locator card. Google records the location of your vehicle on the street or in a parking lot. It will show you a Google Now card with a map of the vehicle's location and point you in the right direction to get back to your car.
I haven't used it so I don't know if it works at all. But it's potentially very useful.
Google Now will also now work when your wireless network or internet connection doesn't. In other words, the Now cards will remain on the phone and not disappear.
Of particular relevance to our discussion of Place-based marketing, Google Now will also show indoor maps of selected malls. I suspect later it will show indoor maps of stores that it has already captured. Google has maps of roughly 50 malls and a number of retail chains such as Home Dept, Macy's, Sports Authority, Ikea and others. Coverage is uneven however.
Most intriguing of all, Google Now will remind users about products they've searched for previously when those users are near stores that carry the same items. If you've been looking for a particular type of running shoe, for example, and a nearby store typically carries that product Google Now will indicate you're near a store that offers it.
This capability doesn't extend to real-time inventory however. That's up to the user to check or confirm.
In addition, it's not clear how large the geofence is. Will it be a mile, 3, miles, 5 miles? I suspect Google will see how users interact with this feature and adjust the geofence radius accordingly.
In a very obvious way this "product-alert" capability could quickly become a feature of Google's PLAs and a potentially powerful marketing vehicle for retailers and brands. Today users must themselves invoke Google Now (swipe up). To be really effective and helpful, however, Google Needs to turn some of these things into push notifications.
It's very interesting that three out of four of these new features and capabilities pertain to location and two specifically to shopping and indoor location.
Yesterday's Facebook developer conference didn't yield a payments announcement.) It's still a logical move for the company to make.) However it did see the introduction of a new logo/identity and the launch of a new branding campaign for payments incumbent PayPal.
PayPal is probably still the growth engine among a range of decent-performing but somewhat lackluster businesses at eBay. Here's the data from the Q1 earnings release:
PayPal net total payment volume grew 27% with Merchant Services volume up 32% and on-eBay volume up 15%. Revenue grew to $1.8 billion. PayPal gained 5.8 million new active registered accounts to end the quarter at 148 million, up 16%. Global on-eBay penetration increased to 78.9%. PayPal continued to invest in its credit offerings, providing flexibility for consumers and merchants while improving its ability to manage transaction expense and reinvest in the business to accelerate growth.
PayPal may soon face a range of mobile payments competitors in Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Google failed to vanquish the online payments incumbent with Google Wallet but it bet on the wrong strategy (NFC). The PayPal brand is not as strong as some think (perhaps even the company itself). It has name recognition but relatively weak brand affinity among consumers.
There are some surveys that suggest PayPal is a highly trusted consumer brand and in a stronger position vis-a-vis its rivals and potential rivals. I belive that's mostly about name recognition and not actually about trust. I also think that PayPal (on the consumer side) is extremely vulnerable to "disruption" should a well-designed Apple or Amazon (or potentially Facebook) payments product come along.
Below are the installed user-base numbers for the three companies:
Against that backdrop PayPal introduced a new brand identity and is launching a global branding campaign featuring TV and online-video. The theme of the ad below is simplicity and convenience.
The campaign and global push may well shore up PayPal's position by making it the most familiar non-bank/credit card associated with payments. Indeed, there's an opportunity for PayPal to more firmly establish itself as the online and mobile payments product of choice.
It will still need to improve the user experience (e.g., stop defaulting to user bank accounts as the primary payment method), crack down on PayPal related fraud and phishing (if it can) and be generally more consumer-centric and service oriented rather than simply an alternative way to pay to avoid filling out a form.
Two early side-by-side comparisons of Cortana with Siri and Google's Voice Search/Now contend (and demonstrate) that the Microsoft assistant achieved comparable performance:
It thus appears that Microsoft has taken away Siri or Google's assistant capabilities as competitive differentiators vs. Windows Phone. Indeed in the Gizmodo test Siri lagged in a few cases.
Neither review says that Cortana has exceeded the other assistants at this point. But the fact that Microsoft is out of the gate with a comparable capability is impressive. The only major thing that now stands in Windows Phone's way is its more limited app selection.
Let's hope that Cortana now puts pressure on Apple to further upgrade Siri. Since its dramatic introduction nearly four years ago Siri has not lived up to its potential, though it has continued to improve incrementally.
Google Voice Search performs adequately. It's speech recognition for dictation is consistently not as good as Apple's (Nuance's). Google Now's "anticipatory search" and related features are much more interesting. However Google Now also hasn't evolved significantly in the past 12 to 18 months.
This morning I received a message in my in-box with the subject line: "Mobile commerce has really arrived." In the associated article a range of data were cited to argue that consumers were doing more and more e-commerce on their smartphones.
While it's true that e-commerce over tablets and smartphones is growing we should be clear about what's really going on out in the real world. Smartphones are widely used by consumers as part of their shopping and purchase research -- between 60% and 80% (or more) use them in stores for product and price lookups.
Marketers routinely undervalue and misunderstand the now critical role of mobile in consumer purchase activity. Part of the reason is tracking/attribution: smartphone owners overwhelmingly convert offline (or on PCs) and much of that behavior is simply not captured.
New research from comScore, Neustar and 15 Miles reinforces this basic point. The data are based on a December survey and behavioral observation of users. The sample size was just under 5,000 US adults.
Source: comScore, Neustar Localeze, 15 Miles
The study found that 78% of local searches conducted on smartphones resulted in a purchase vs. 64% on tablets and 61% on PCs.
The majority of those purchases (76%) happened the same day and most within "a few hours" of the lookup. This reflects the immediacy of the mobile search user's need. But here's the critical point: Almost 90 percent of those purchases happened offline, in a physical store (73 percent) or on the phone (16 percent). Eleven percent were e-commerce transactions.
Actual transaction data (as opposed to self-reported survey data) from e-commerce software provider ShopVisible found that 85% of e-commerce transactions in 2013 were PC based, only 4% came from smartphones.
Marketers need to recognize that most smartphone users are going to consult their mobile devices throughout the purchase cycle but largely aren't going to complete a transaction on that device. If they don't understand this behavior and account for it they're going to fundamentally misunderstand the role of mobile and undervalue it significantly.
This is partly why online-to-offline analytics/tracking is such an important development -- and one that we'll be exploring in depth at Place 2014.
For a time it was thought that there might be a female Cortana avatar (inspired by the game). However Microsoft (probably wisely) chose not to do that.
Cortana aims to go beyond both Siri and Google Now by being a more comprehensive way to interact with Microsoft devices. It entirely replaces the Bing search button on Windows phones and is powered by Bing and all its back-end capabilities. Users can input queries or questions by voice or through the keyboard (which Siri does not).
I'm not at the developer event and so am only reacting to the announcement and some of the details trickling out. From what I can tell however Cortana combines most of the capabilities of Apple's Siri, Google Voice Search and Google Now.
Previously I asked, will Cortana be a breakthrough or a "me too" product? There doesn't appear (from a distance) to be a "wow" breakthough capability that would immediately differentiate Cortana/Windows Phones and tips the scales in favor of Microsoft. However Cortana might impress with subtle or refined capabilities and functionality. There's a lot going on here.
After I've had a chance to use Cortana I'll be able to render a better judgment about its competitiveness and utility. Basically Microsoft had to offer an assistant on Windows Phones if it hoped to remain competitive with Apple and Google.
Cortana will launch on Windows Phones with 8.1 software in the US. It will expand to other non-US markets later.
According to new data released by Flurry apps have solidified their hold on mobile user behavior, claiming 86% of all time spent on the mobile internet. Early prognosticators believed that mobile apps were a temporary bridge to the mobile web and would eventually give way to the "open internet."
That obviously hasn't happened. Perhaps years from now things will be different.
Earlier this year, consistent with Flurry's report, Nielsen found that about 89% of all time spent in mobile is with apps; 11% on the mobile web. Yet, despite this massive time-spent imbalance, the mobile web still has greater audience reach than mobile apps.
Among mobile apps, gaming is still the single largest category with 32% of time spent according to Flurry. However Facebook (including Instagram) is by far the dominant individual app, accounting for 17% of all time spent. By comparison YouTube captures 4% and Twitter 1.5%. Apple's Safari browser grabs 7% of time spent and Google's browsers 5%.
Ad spending in mobile is growing quickly as brands and marketers race to catch up to consumers. According to the chart below Google claims a disproportionate share of ad spend, while Facebook is more or less in balance. By comparision the long tail of apps fail to capture their share of ad spend -- suggesting significant future growth for in-app advertising.
An app developer and publisher survey conducted this year by App Annie found that only 42% monetized with display advertising.
Yesterday on the conference call discussing the $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also told the audience that it now had one billion mobile users -- quite a milestone. The company previously reported in its Q4 2013 earnings that it had 945 million "monthly active" mobile users, as of December 31, 2013.
Daily mobile users are now probably around 600 million on a global basis.
Ad revenue from mobile devices in Q4 was "approximately 53% of advertising revenue ... up from approximately 23% of advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012." That means the mobile ad-revenue number will likely be 65% or greater by the end of the year. Twitter gets roughly 70% of its ad revenue from mobile, based on its most recent earnings report.
Even though mobile experiences, advertising and marketing are still relatively young (since 2007), Facebook is looking beyond mobile to the "next computing platform." For Zuckerberg that's virtual reality.
He's potentially right.
However much depends on whether and how virtual reality can be translated into a mainstream experience. It's not unlike taking original IMAX and turning it into a smaller but more "accessible" cinematic IMAX for popular film releases.
Beyond gaming, which is Oculus' current pursuit, Zuckerberg articulated the idea of bringing people (virtually) into places, events and experiences in a more immersive and direct way. There are both commercial and non-commercial scenarios. Many of them, however, are straight out of science fiction or dystopian novels and movies (see, e.g., Matrix, Demolition Man, Strange Days).
Paradoxically, the Oculus acquisition brings Facebook more into the "real world" (away from 2D internet) but also offers new potential opportunities to create internet-like experiences for users, into which they can enter. One such example might be strolling down a virtual shopping street, like a character in a 3D game, where people can "touch" and examine products in a holistic 3D experience.
It's fascinating to contemplate an internet of the future that might be radically different than what we know today.
The notion that retail apps or mobile sites should primarily be a shrunken ecommerce experience is misguided. That idea, however, is promoted in February survey results from RSR Research. The survey data reflect how retailers regard the role and value of mobile.
The results divide retailers into "winners" (market leaders) and "all others" (presumably laggards). Among the winners, the top use case for mobile is "an ecommerce site that can extend into mobile." That's followed by "downloadable shopping app, "public WiFi in stores," and "employee assisted selling mobile capability."
It's a bit unclear what these secondary responses mean. However I assume they all pertain to an offline or in-store role for retail apps or sites.
Source: RSR Research
RSR celebrates the notion that the primary role for mobile is to extend ecommerce into mobile: "an eCommerce site that can extend to mobile is the best technology approach for their customer-facing mobile strategies." I disagree with this philosophy.
Although most smartphone users have conducted transactions on their handsets, this is not the primary shopping-related use of smartphones. The overwhelming majority of ecommerce transactions that involve mobile, start on a smartphone and end in stores or on a tablet/laptop later.
A recent ShopVisible survey illustrated that while mobile devices drive 30% of ecommerce/retail traffic, they're only responsible for 15% of purchases. But beyond this the data show that smartphones only generate 4% of "mobile orders."
There are range of surveys with different percentage findings about mobile transactions. But directionally they're virtually all the same: consumers use smartphones as a critical part of the shopping research process but when it comes to buying they do so on PCs, tablets and, overwhelmingly, offline in local stores. (Internet influenced offline spending is probably worth more than $2 trillion annually, many times larger than ecommerce.)
We don't argue with the idea that mobile apps and sites have an important role to play in ecommerce (tablets especially). Despite this, smartphone retail apps should be thought of primarily as a tool to aid the offline shopper. Most of the current deficiencies of the offline retail experience (lack of competent in-store personnel, inability to find products, additional product information) can be mitigated or addressed with a strong in-store app experience.
It's also possible to "have it both ways": to emphasize ecommerce when the user is far from the store but use location detection (and opt-in) to offer a in-store experience that features shopping lists, product information, buying incentives and in-store maps/navigation (where appropriate).
Juxtaposing ecommerce and offline commerce is something of a false dichotomy. Offline shopping support should not be neglected, however, because retailers are focused on trying to drive mobile-commerce transactions (because they misunderstand consumer behavior). Retailers should provide an ecommerce catalog in mobile while still recognizing that there's far more value and opportunity in supporting the real-world shopper.
Last week Google announced Android Wear, its smartwatch platform. Later in the week Nielsen released consumer research asserting that 70% of US consumers are aware of “wearables" and roughly 15% currently own some type of wearable technology today.
Among the 15%, Nielsen found the following breakdown:
The Nielsen survey probably overstates the number of Americans that actually own/use wearables currently; 15% of adults would translate into roughly 36 million people. Nielsen also found (I tend to believe this): "Nearly half of Americans surveyed expressed their interest in purchasing wearable tech in the near future." We found in our own research that roughly 40% of smartphone owners were interested in smartwatches.
An article in Mashable speculates about the role that advertising might play on wearable devices. The article correctly notes that consumers will be far less accepting of "interruptive" ads on wearables. As much as smartphones are perceived to be "personal," this goes 2X for something like a smartwatch.
So-called "native" advertising may have a role to play in the context of a stream of news or other content, delivered on a smartwatch. But most if not all "advertising" on smartwatches will need to be opt-in marketing. These could take the form of location or time-based alerts or notifications (this could extend into indoor location and marketing as well). These types of marketing could prove to be very effective -- emphasis on the word "could."
The bottom line is that all marketing on wearables (mostly smartwatches) will need to be highly sensitive to user privacy and almost entirely permission based.
According to Bloomberg, Burger King is readying an app upgrade that will allow users to pay with their smartphones. Little detail is provided beyond that.
There are already app-based payments using the chain's "Crown Card," a stored value card that can be reloaded and can be presented physically or virtually via mobile phone (like Starbucks). It's not clear if the Bloomberg report is referring to this or a new options to upload and store a credit card in the Burger King mobile app.
Regardless, the move will motivate fast-food rivals to similarly adopt in-app, mobile payments. Mobile ordering for in-store pickup (a la Chipotle) is expected to later roll out. The rationale behind the move is obvious: more efficiency, more customer data and greater overall customer satisfaction.
As I've argued elsewhere mobile transactions and self-service ordering will eventually eliminate many thousands of low-skilled cashier and service worker jobs in places like Burger King.
Finally this is another example of mobile payments being introduced in a very specific context. Broad, horizontal payments tools and platforms such as Google Wallet and Clinkle are struggling while in-app or stored card payments are taking off in more narrow contexts (e.g., Uber, OpenTable).
It's likely that Burger King's mobile payments will be widely adopted by loyal and regular customers. However it's not clear this will improve the company's competitive position vis-a-vis McDonald's. I suspect McDonald's will follow with its own mobile payments functionality in the relatively near future.
Update: QSR chain Wendy's has now also announced that it's rolling out mobile payments.
An article in HBR today discusses what we've known and been writing about for some time now: location analytics is a major "must-do" opportunity for retailers and others (airports, hospitals, casinos, colleges, mall owners, entertainment venues). See also: Report: "Mapping the Indoor Marketing Opportunity."
The HBR piece discusses various provider-vendors (RetailNext, Placed, Euclid) and retail scenarios (operations, staffing, merchandising) that will benefit from indoor and offline analytics. However one of the major issues in the space is privacy and consumer acceptance. The article neglects to discuss privacy at all, although many of the comments raise the issue.
Location analytics can be done in such a way to avoid any PII collection while giving customers the ability to opt out of any indoor tracking (save closed circuit TV). The Future of Privacy Forum has introduced an opt-out (a kind of do not track indoors) website SmartStorePrivacy.org. This is a voluntary thing at the moment, though with many analytics firms signing on. But it will likely become mandatory at some point in the near future.
Despite ominous portrayals of indoor location by some journalists, it's not a very scary thing when you actually see it in action. Surveys conducted by Opus Research and others have found that most consumers will happily opt-in to location tracking when there's a value exchange that they understand.
Affirming this again, Swirl released some new consumer survey data (n=1,000 US adults) that found:
Whether or not these specific findings are replicated at the same levels by other surveys, their general sentiment is: consumers are receptive to in store promotions and content and happy to share location information with a clear value exchange.
Where indoor location and privacy become potential issues is when there is no consumer experience: if retailers or others are simply collecting data without offering value in return to consumers. Under such circumstances (where opt-out is offered or later required) we might see substantial numbers of consumers opting out of indoor location/tracking.
My belief is that ultimately the FTC will compel explicit disclosures and signage where location analytics and tracking are present giving consumers the ability to opt out. Burying a notification such as "by using our WiFi you agree to let us track you" in terms and conditions isn't going to fly for much longer.
Four years after Apple acquired Siri and two years after Google introduced its "predictive search" assistant Google Now (along with its voice interactions), Microsoft is finally bringing an intelligent assistant -- Cortana -- to market.
Gadget site The Verge obtained some leaked screenshots of Cortana (see right), which is supposed to launch on Lumia devices with Windows 8.1. The question is whether Cortana will help Microsoft and Windows Phones differentiate and advance or whether they will simply be a kind of late entrant and "me too" product from Redmond.
Cortana is supposed to operate across platforms and screens, including on the PC and Xbox. Derived from a character in the game Halo, Cortana was at one time going to offer an "embodied" female avatar. While that's still possible the screenshots leaked suggest that Cortana will not have a face or a body (which makes "her" more family friendly). It's also likely now, given the "baggage" associated with the Halo character that "she" won't even be named Cortana when she reaches the market in April.
The Microsoft intelligent assistant will reportedly offer Google Now style anticipatory search and personalization features as well as Siri-like interaction. For Microsoft users (Outlook, Windows OS) Cortana may offer a rich experience but the company lacks some of the personal and search data that enables Google Now to function the way that it does. It has been speculated that for this reason, Microsoft invested $15 million in Foursquare last month in part to gain access to its location data and content to help feed Cortana.
We'll have to wait for the ultimate product to assess whether it offers new depth or a better assistant experience. Siri helped create (or more appropriately name) the market but has since not kept pace with increasing user demands. Google voice search and Google Now are highly useful but not entirely "coherent" as an overall user experience.
If Microsoft can in fact offer a "next generation" intelligent assistant it may have found a tool to drive Windows Phone sales as well re-stake a claim as a technology leader.
Update: According to demo video above from UnleashThePhones Cortana will ask a series of questions to try and develop a personalized user profile to start. The more data that Cortana has over time the more personalized and "predictive" Microsoft can make the system.
In some ways the automobile is the ultimate "mobile device." And pundits, analysts and prognosticators have been anticipating the rise of "telematics" for 20 years. Finally the "connected car" has finally arrived in earnest.
While services like GM's OnStar and several others, including Microsoft Sync and proprietary in-dash navigation systems, have offered a promising glimpse into the future of in-car services, Apple and Google will drive, so to speak, the mainstreaming of these experiences. Apple today formally announced "CarPlay."
Previewed last year at the Apple developer WWDC event, the service is rolling out this week in vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo at the Geneva International Motor Show. A wide range of other automakers are also signed on: Chrysler, BMW, Ford, GM, Honda/Acura, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and a few others.
The CarPlay experience is currently built around calls, messaging, music and maps. Siri is also at the center of CarPlay, offering eyes-free control over apps.
While most iOS apps won't be available through CarPlay it will become a new platform that will undoubtedly see modified versions of existing iOS apps and totally new apps specifically designed for the in-car experience.
Users will need an iOS 7 iPhone to participate. More importantly, they'll also need a new car. Thus it will take several years for CarPlay to take hold as a mainstream phenomenon and reach millions of drivers.
Google has a competing "connected car" initiative modeled on its highly successful Android, "Open Handset Alliance." Called the “Open Automotive Alliance,” it's currently supported by Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai. Others will probably join the list as Google offers incentives to automakers and pushes for greater reach.
The in-car market now becomes like the living room -- another battleground in the war of mobile ecosystems.
Microsoft, which was first of the big internet competitors to market with Sync, is at a disadvantage because of the relatively limited adoption of its mobile devices. The company will now be compelled to step up its investment in and development of Sync, as well as its lobbying of auto OEMs.
These competing efforts are good news for consumers and app developers and bad news for terrestrial radio, which has so far escaped the kinds of major disruption that other traditional media, save TV, have experienced.
Data from e-commerce platform ShopVisible's 2013 year in review report argues that mobile devices (smartphones + tablets) were responsible for 30% of all traffic to its e-commerce clients' last year. Mobile devices, however, drove far fewer e-commerce sales (15%) compared with their traffic percentage.
To determine how representative of the broader market these ShopVisible figures were I consulted StatCounter. That site confirmed that 30% of traffic in the US market is now coming from smartphones and tablets. The percentage is nearly identical globablly. For retailers and those in the "local" segment, the percentages are 10 or more points higher.
Source: StatCounter US platform traffic comparison
Europe's mobile share of traffic is lower, probably because of slower Eastern European smartphone adoption. According to StatCounter below are the relative percentages of internet traffic by platform (rounded):
Yesterday the Pew Research Center put out a survey based report (1,000 US adults) that reflected on the 25 years of the internet since Tim Berners-Lee wrote his seminal paper about a distributed network of computers and documents linked together by “hypertext.”
Here are the high-level US data from that report:
We can anticipate that smartphone ownership will eventually approach 100% of the mobile population. That may take three to five years however. In the near term we'll see 70% smartphone ownership (at least) by the end of 2014.
An increasing number of smartphone and tablet owners prefer or use those devices first vs. PCs. However the majority of e-commerce transactions (not counting things like restaurant reservations and Uber payments) are likely to continue to take place on desktop computers.
The conversation about the role of mobile vs. PCs shouldn't be an "or conversation" it's an "and conversation."
Location technology provider TruePosition has acquired Skyhook Wireless for an undisclosed sum. Skyhook Wireless provides location positioning and gathers contextual data on consumer mobile behavior. The company has also been involved in multiple lawsuits accusing Google of patent infringement and unfair competitive practices.
Skyhook was founded in 2003 by Ted Morgan and Mike Shean to map wireless access points but has since expanded solution offerings focusing on mobile consumer behavior and associated analytics. Recently, Jeff Glass, formerly with mQube and Bain Capital Ventures, was named CEO.
Cellular location company TruePosition, a subsidiary of Liberty Media, is mainly focused on public safety applications for indoor location technologies including locating emergency callers and protecting borders and infrastructure. The acquisition bolsters the product portfolio of both companies by leveraging their complementary technologies, according to the press release about the acquisition.
“Skyhook's commercial focus balances TruePosition's safety and security strengths, and their location technology further strengthens TruePosition's ability to accurately locate mobile phones indoors,” said Steve Stuut, CEO of TruePosition, in the statement.
Skyhook's lawsuits against Google, the first of which was filed in 2010, claims Google interfered with its relationships with two hardware manufacturers, Motorola and “Company X” (Samsung). Google has consistently insisted it has done nothing improper; the legal battle is expected to go to trial sometime this year.