Apr 01

This was the second demo night at MoMoLo I had attended and it was a pleasant surprise. I was disappointed last year at the lack of ideas for monetisation with the fallback being ‘mobile advertising’. Thankfully this year the quality was good and hopefully the business models of these companies actually have some longevity. Sorry if I missed any of you, there were lots of people talking that night, maybe next time. Also I have seen some of these apps demoed before.

Orange – Orange Vallee Team – O(PE)N

A phonebook concept, ON, that enabled functionality for groups of people that you would speak to, think T-Mob’s ‘My Faves’ with social networking and presence thrown in. You can determine how groups can contact you depending on your status etc. How new is this stuff? More of a mash up of things that have been done before unless I missed the point.

Currently on Android with iPhone to follow. Interestingly they said that for them the economics of Android made sense with the number of OEM’s that would be releasing Android handsets in the (near) future.

Interestingly this was aimed at what they termed ‘digital adults’ – mobile centric 19-40 year olds, obviously only those with iPhones and Android handsets for now.

I have tried to look it up on the web since and cannot seem to find a thing?

Future Platforms – Guardian Anywhere

Unofficial Guardian app for Android devices that was born out of a research project. Works with RSS feeds (Guardians is quite rich) and can download content overnight on WiFi if you want to save on your data bill. Has SQL database for local storage. Guardian have written about it so have sort of given their blessing.

They have ported to 12 Android devices. Given all the stories about fragmentation you hear on Android they said it was easier than porting to J2ME devices.

No revenue model but will offer to other publications.

Hiplogic – Snaplife

A virtual runtime for Symbian and Windows Mobile devices that provides widgets, notifications and search. It also provides presence and location integration into the phonebook. It was termed a ‘rich phone top’ that is executed on startup. The application is also useful for application and service discovery. <- are they a bit of a mashup of Mippin and Surfkitchen or am I getting it wrong? Looking at their website they have secured a decent amount of funding so they must be doing something right.

Lastminute Labs – Topsee

This app provided you with info on places to ‘eat, drink, see, do or buy in London zone 1′. This was done with photo’s of said things to do laid out of the screen like Microsoft Surface. Photo’s can float around over and under one another etc. Currently runs on iPhone and Android devices. looking at getting other cities involved built from content provided by the public. Any content contributors would get a 50/50 share of any revenue made (through advertising??)

RIM – eBay Super App

RIM were showing off their eBay super app. What is a super app you say? Well its an app that ins integrated into the other functions of the handset. If you have a watch on an item on eBay it will automatically remind you via the calendar that the item is coming up to be sold etc. Another example was being able to find items within your own Zip/Postcode using location. I like the concept but how many apps is this truly relevant to? Also they have just released their notifications API that should be available to the public soon.This is push notifications done from the Blackberry server for apps not just for mail.

I am sure that someone asked the question of who did the app for the device and it was RIM themselves. Which I though was interesting that they were bothering with this sort of thing and not letting either eBay or a third party develop it for them. Another example is a Facebook app which will be released.

Ocasta Labs – Agora

Agora is a project being run in conjunction with Vodafone R&D. Mashup of mobile eBay, Swap Shop and location. It looked well implemented but I can’t help but think they are just a little bit behind the market leader. Another Android app. And…I learnt something, Agora is the middle eastern word for marketplace.

Qustodian

This was a platform for contextual applications. Context -> Awareness, Engagement, Transaction, Research (their terms). Two models B2B and B2C <- would sell content to advertisers and marketeers. So context could be an app triggered by location, an action (shake the phone), an incoming call etc. Custodian is an application of another technology ‘MoBots‘. When this part was demonstrated everyone ‘got it’. MoBots is the cool bit and has loads of scope.

Toytek – The Ultimate Alphabet

Toytek have produced an iPhone app of Mike Wilks’s ‘The Ultimate Alphabet’. Think intricate picture with lots of words hidden in it, one picture for each letter of the alphabet. The letter ‘A’ was demonstrated, with apparently 360 (I think I heard that right) objects hidden in it starting with the letter ‘A’. This was a gorgeous implementation, it was one of the apps that the iPhone was made for. I will not say any more, check it out when it appears on the app store, ‘A’ is free then you have to pay for the other letters. I will be purchasing.

Another two to mention are Touchnote and their cool postcard app (£1.50 from anywhere in the world!) and UsTwo, and their PositionApp, that lets you know where you are onthe app store (come on there is only one) by country etc.

On show were a group of innovative apps with a strategy and either making money or a realistic plan to do so. Obviously only time will tell. Shouldn’t there be a ‘where are they now?’ MoMo night to see how some of the ex-demoers are getting on? Wouldn’t that be good?

Best MoMo night I have attended.

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Mar 30

“If you have a website you are going to need an apps strategy!!!!”

This event was aimed at people that are either doing apps or want to do apps. It was very well attended (packed even) and held in the Ogilvy building at Canary Wharf <- great venue!

Jon Moore - Mobile PM for the Guardian

Tasked with making an app for the Guardian that made money from the start. Has a P&L for his group. Before you create an app you need KPI’s, understand your audience and develop the business case around said audience. A great app is a thousand times better than a good app and will be remembered. Question when developing the business case – ‘would I use it for the purpose it is designed for?’

Two good quotes:

“top products = blood, sweat and tears”

“test, test, test”

Gerd Leonhard – Media Futurist

“It is not about technology, it is about emerging social practices and behaviour”

“iPad will be successful because it offers a fragmentation of money and existing business models” <- I think that is what he said, anyway I liked it ;-)

Applications and models that change behaviour and make life easier will be successful. Cited Instapaper, used to print out articles to take with him whilst traveling, this was cumbersome and wasteful. Instapaper has solved this issue as only needs a laptop to perform same function.

Lots of money to be made in mobile, mobile + social = collaboration.

Mark Curtis – Flirtomatic CEO

Deeply concerned about fragmentation in mobile. Previous platform used by Flirtomatic was Java “which was horrible”. Mobile Internet is great for Flirtomatic and has less issues with regards platforms and handsets. There is an iPhone app available, next platform likely to be RIM(Blackberry) due to the take up of Blackberry’s by the youth sector.

Later discussion was chaired by Vikki Chowney.

More quotes and comment during this discussion.

Gerd

“free ->paid will be a common model going forward”

“Value will be in aggregation and social/community”

Jon

Guardian strategy is to launch iPhone app, learn, and consider other platforms. Apps provide a route to market but not the only route and not the only market.

Reach – Apps give you reach, Guardian experience is that web has stayed  constant which was not what was expected. Thought that iPhone app would reduce web traffic. <- I am not sure whether he meant mobile web or straight web here.

A person from Ogilvy mentioned in one of the discussions that they would ”always go for web first, apps are a nightmare”.

Unfortunately I could not stay for the demo’s. :-(

Comment

Apps, well people are obviously have their own views and are fairly passionate about what believe. HTML 5.0 was discussed with a view that applications days are numbered. I have since done some research and personally I am not convinced. Native apps with all the problems that come with them like number of platforms and fragmentation still provide the most compelling experience. That is not going to go away any time soon. Web technologies are likely to creep further in into every day development and I suspect a compromise between web and native apps will be the norm (look at WebOS).

I get frustrated at the focus on iPhone and Android but recognise where the developer money or at least buzz currently resides. How many development houses are truly making a living out of iPhone alone? I would like to hear your story if you are (seriously). The problem still lies in fragmentation and ease of deployment on the platforms and app stores. Also are there any truly carrier grade iPhone apps out there? Would they pass Operator/OEM testing especially if they have a connection to the network or are complex.

I was impressed with Jon Moore and his ”test, test, test” mantra. You don’t hear that often and it is key to making a quality app.

Mar 30

M:Football (21/1/10)

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M:Football was a conference based on the idea of bringing mobile to the 2010 South Africa World Cup, who was doing what and how it could be achieved. It was held at the Emirates Stadium (Arsenal’s ground for those not into football) which was a superb location for the event and had good facilities. It was an all day event so I will just mention some of the points that I picked up. The event was an eclectic mix of people which is what I was looking for, made up from developers, operators, retail, design agencies and social media guru’s.

The O2 Litmus guys were there and James Parton did his obligatory run down of what Litmus is. Lots on web about it and you can follow them here @o2_Litmus. I am a fan as I have mentioned before. James highlighted with an example the absurdity of the fragmentation in the industry with this “Glu created 25,000 spins of its Transformers game due to platform and operator related issues”.

Tomi Ahonen was up next, I was not sure whether I had heard Tomi speak before but his reputation had preceded him as there is always a lot of chatter on twitter about his blog etc. Good well balanced presentation from Tomi. Apparently in India 20M people listen to the radio over the mobile network because they are beyond the FM signal. Good stat but seemed a bit odd to me. So its more economically and or commercially viable to build a basestation than it is to put a FM transmitter up?

The Layar guys were there. Is Layar going to be the platform that makes augmented reality mass market? Their strategy is to be a platform and an enabler rather than creating apps. Lots of developers doing good things with it etc. Not enough devices support it at the moment for my liking i.e. you need GPS and a compass on the handset to make it work. Developers website is here if you want more info.

My highlight of the day was Real Madrid (RM) and its mobile case study. RM is a world wide brand. They currently have 3 people working on mobile marketing. Their objectives are:

  • Create services over and above those that than can already be found on the website
  • Provide a direct tool, club to fan
  • A mobile communication channel
  • A new channel for the sponsors

Content includes photos, audio/visual, RSS, licensing (of RM brand), music (including chants) and contests.

The Spanish part of the business is managed locally and the brand is licensed to agency partners globally.

With mobile they have generated 10 times the revenue (in 12 months) than in last 3 seasons via traditional means (I assume this means their web based activities).

They have 100,000 subscribers to their mobile service who pay 12€/mth. 1.5% leave the service monthly however they also have a 6% uptake.

Now that is what I call a mobile success story!

Some key lessons from Sponge Group 1) get budget 2) SMS is still very important(especially if you want to address the masses) 3) Engagement and dialogue. Dialogue is a two way process and should be relevant. Just churning out automated text does not engage the customer. However texts that are relevant to interests and context become more personal. This was iterated more than once during the day.

Andy Goodman from Fjord presented his 6 mobile contexts – cultural, snacking, location, motion, identity and limitations. I found this an interesting discussion on creating a relevant mobile experience. Apparently a great mobile experience can be summed with the following control+utility+bling = great mobile experience ;-)

Being an event that was exploring the South Africa World Cup it was good to have some people from Africa to talk about their experiences and what is going on on the ground. Voice and SMS are obviously still king in the region but mobile Internet is being consumed.  Subscribers are counted in the hundreds of millions. One of the African app developers said that they test on Nokia’s because that is what everyone uses and implied there was no point testing on anything else. Mobile is obviously important for any developing country or outlying region as it can provide an important information channel for many issues and areas that we take for granted in our everyday lives.

A good day.

Mar 30

The was my first ‘mixer’ event, more informal than the usual Mashup events. More emphasis on networking with a short talk on a particular subject, that subject being Augmented Reality. I had been to the full Augmented Reality Mashup in October and there were some great demo’s so I was looking forward to the guys from Total Immersion (TI) blowing my socks off. Unfortunately the guys from TI were held up and so did not make it :-(

We did have an interesting discussion from Nick Brown at Crossplatform (bio here). Nick talked about the practical side of AR, how to pitch it, get customers interested and ultimately pay for it. I did feel like I learnt something. It was a very practical presentation on the business of AR from start to finish, the challenges, implementation, technical hurdles and measurement (customer satisfaction and campaign success).

More cool demo’s please.

Is AR the next big thing – a view.

I like AR because it is cool, it makes me go ‘oo’ and ‘ah’ like I am at a fireworks display. Unfortunately that is not enough to make it a success.

Given what I do and the nature of this blog I am mainly interested in mobile. We shouldn’t forget that AR is not restricted to mobiles with camera’s. Campaigns include use of home computing with webcam’s and bespoke developments for shops, I am sure there are many more examples. Many people use AR everyday in the form of location based services and satellite navigation. Even a lowly cornflake box can be persuaded to be included in the process to trigger an event (Nick used an example of a £10 note to trigger a demo).

Mobile is an obvious choice for AR, mass market, camera on board, location aware and portable. We hear talk of 2010 being the year of mobile (when have we heard that before ;-) ) but could it truly be the year of AR as well? I think there is too much stacked against it. People like Layar have had success with their AR browser, this is one application of the technology, but it is likely to be the closest we get to mass market adoption (in the short term). Its the same old problems the industry always faces with a technology that is not standardised, not on all devices out of the box. What manufacturer? What platform? What UI? I could go on. Obviously being a browser Layar is less concerned about the latter and has more control over the application. It is hard enough to get people to think mobile outside of Apple. I think it will be doubly so for AR on a non-Apple device.

I look forward to the Applications @mashupevent on 24th.

Something to look at:

An example from Crossplatform

An example from Total Immersion

Avatar AR

Coke

Cool….

Mar 30

Held at CBI offices in London 12th October 2009.

This event was VERY well attended, people were standing in the aisles which was, I hope, a good sign that a) mobile is getting a lot of attention and b) people may be starting to think about spending money again!

There was a great presentation from Kim Imbach of Skyhook Wireless (which was the highlight of the event for me). Guys at Skyhook are doing some great stuff with location using different sources like WiFi (access points), cell ID, and GPS (they are on the iPhone and provide location in Google maps). They have released an API for developers to integrate Skyhook into their apps.

The Vodafone 360 guys were there, did a demo one the location features in 360, as was Flook and Shazam to name a few.

LBS is one of those technologies that we all know (feel?) that it is going to be big but no one is sure quite how? I think it is going to be one of those things that creeps into our lives and one day we will wonder how we ever did without it!

As with a lot of mobile events that I attend the conversation turned towards business models and monetisation. Guess what? Mobile advertising is key (yawn – yeah right). This led to some heated conversations about whether the Minority Report type of location advertising would ever exist or ever be accepted by the public. I get the impression that those that know advertising and location get that this is not the way forward but are not quite sure what is. Only time will tell…..but there are some interesting ‘takes’ on location, look at Flook for an example and the new Tweetie app with its ‘nearby’ feature.

Mar 30

This event was held at the BCS offices in London. Overall it was a well attended, positive meeting. There is money out there but you need to get your ducks in a row to be able to get it! Trend in this climate has been to later stage investments in the lifecycle of the startup.

Some of this is obvious but it does not hurt to remind yourself. These people have real world experience so its worth taking note if you are hitting the same obstacles or can empathise.

Usual routes to money are family and friends, Angels and VC’s. Interesting one that I had not heard of before was approaching potential customers for funding. If they are interested in the product/service then they may give you money to develop more towards their needs or take a slice of the action. Governments support businesses with cash in the form of grants when the business relates to particular areas of interest like research. Most companies are over optimistic when giving sales forecasts. Forecast needs to be challenging but realistic. Know your numbers! The best time to raise money is when you do not need it.

VC’s like customers, profitability, user base, something tangible that they can see, demo’s are important when the product is not fully developed. The (VC’s) also need help to determine what the new areas of investment are.

Its all about the network. Are you talking to the right people in the right area. Don’t take on a market that you don’t understand or someone in the company does not understand because you will fail!

A member of the audience asked what they thought VC’s were investing in and key areas going forward, these included:

    • Travel – like TripIt, and mobile
    • Social networking for under 16’s
    • Social healthcare
    • eCommerce in emerging markets
    • mCommerce
    • Broadband and set top boxes (future services associated with them)

The view from the panel was that this really is the year that mobile is growing up and becoming a major opportunity (but they acknowledged that people have been saying that since 2001!). See lots of applications that do ‘stuff’ but can these scale to a user base in the millions? (<- isn’t this one of the reasons why a startup would ask for money?)

Web companies perceive that the return from mobile is low but that view is changing. What developers need to consider is that mobile and mobile applications are used away from your home computer and should not be instead of. Replication of the PC experience does not transcend the leap to mobile (yet or ever?). Mobile needs to be considered as another distribution channel.

Overall I enjoyed this event and I learnt something (I think). Will definitely consider going to another Mashup event.

You can find the full writeup from Mashup Investment Opportunities in Digital.

Nov 24

Over the Air 2009

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The Over The Air 2009 (OTA’09) event at Imperial College was the most fun I have had for ages. Did not know what to expect with ‘lots’ of developers around but it was a very enjoyable event (and it was free! Bonus)

It struck me that this was going to slightly different when on entering the main hall for the keynotes there were a hundred or so bean bags laid out for people to sit on and a Dalek sat in the middle of the room.

There is a Dalek in the room?

Vodafone 360 had been released the day before so Rick Fant from Vodafone was up first to give us the low down. Lots of buzz about Widgets, Web 2.0, web development for mobile etc. Interestingly he did say that any app would be allowed as long as it had no malicious intent or content restrictions. VoIP?

Caroline Lewko from Wireless Industry Partnership was very good with a few good stats and tips for developers:

110M iPods

800M Cars

1B Personal Computers

1.2B Internet connections

3.6B handsets – Opportunity!

Survival tips for app stores :

    • Define own market
    • Choose your region – don’t forget localisation
    • Pick your platform
    • Check out charges and time to launch, payment etc
    • Don’t underestimate effort to submit app
    • Pricing – pay, free now pay later (lite/full), micropayments, in app payments
    • Get noticed, app store placement, optimisation and market
    • Monogamy is overrated – don’t limit to one store
    • Measure and analyse

Next up was Jason Daponte from the BBC, some predictions:

    • Mobile will take centre stage
    • Everything becoming connected
    • Everything filtered by location
    • Mass participation and creatvity will grow – Shoot the summer

Saw some friends that were attending at lunch and then came the sessions.

O2 Litmus

I like these guys. They seem to be really considering what developers want and the support they need. I think it could evolve into something quite compelling. They are already ahead of the competition (IMHO). They also had a Palm Pre to play with which was nice.

Qt

This guy was from Nokia. A very good and well balanced discussion of Nokia developer support and Qt. Some quotes:

“In year 2000 we were doing well. Been on slide for a while now!”

“Been letting down developers”

“Finnish engineers do not know anything about beauty”.

I also attended a session on UI design and one on augmented reality and image recognition. Think Shazam with pictures.

Great day, it was like being back at university would highly recommend.

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