iPhone

India announces $35 tablet and the iPhone 4S

$35 tablet

Manufacturers in India have announced a $35 tablet, designed to get computing power to the masses.

The developer of the world’s cheapest tablet, Datawind, is reportedly selling the tablets to the government for roughly $45 per unit, and $35 for students and teachers. Regular readers will know from my previous post, that I thought India would be the obvious growth path of the future for tablet growth. I also  mentioned that I believed that  Apple may not be successful with it’s higher price points, but cheaper rivals like Android may be more successful as they have cheaper price points.

By comparison the cheapest iPad is $499, or  14 times more expensive than Datawind’s tablet, and the cheapest Android tablet the KindleFire at $199 is nearly six times more expensive.

Will Datawind’s tablet have all of the features of the iPad? No, not by a long shot, but the question has to be asked “Will the majority of the (impoverished) Indian public really care?” Will they lament the fact they can’t play Angry Birds, or Fruit Ninja? Almost definitely not, although that doesn’t mean that developers like Rovio (the makers of Angry Birds) may develop for the tablet anyway.

From the Washington Post:

Datawind says it can make about 100,000 units a month at the moment, not nearly enough to meet India’s hope of getting its 220 million children online.

Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal called the announcement a message to all children of the world.

“This is not just for us. This is for all of you who are disempowered,” he said. “This is for all those who live on the fringes of society.”

Despite a burgeoning tech industry and decades of robust economic growth, there are still hundreds of thousands of Indians with no electricity, let alone access to computers and information that could help farmers improve yields, business startups reach clients, or students qualify for university.

The launch — attended by hundreds of students, some selected to help train others across the country in the tablet’s use — followed five years of efforts to design a $10 computer that could bridge the country’s vast digital divide.

“People laughed, people called us lunatics,” ministry official N.K. Sinha said. “They said we are taking the nation for a ride.”

Although the $10 goal wasn’t achieved, the Aakash has a color screen and provides word processing, Web browsing and video conferencing. The Android 2.2-based device has two USB ports and 256 megabytes of RAM. Despite hopes for a solar-powered version — important for India’s energy-starved hinterlands — no such option is currently available.

iPhone 4S

Most of what needs to be said about the iPhone 4S has been said by technology bloggers and writers around the world already. The only thing I’d like to add is that Apple no longer looks like it’s leading the innovation it kick started. With more agile competitors, and more competitors in general, Apple’s once a year, or longer, release cycle doesn’t seem like innovation and leadership so much as it looks like it’s playing catch-up.  Of course, this isn’t writing Apple off – not by a long shot – but it’s interesting to note that there wasn’t nearly as much fan-fare and media attention in general about Apple’s latest release once the details had actually been released. There was more hype and build up, than reality. Interesting times for Apple.

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“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas” – Steve Jobs

The biggest news of this week so far is that Apple is suing Samsung for ‘copying’ and ‘stealing’ from them regarding their mobile iOS. Wow.

apple logo

Well that’s going to take a while, a case that big isn’t going to be settled overnight, that’s for sure.

 

We should probably watch some youtube until it goes to court… like this interview from 1994…with Steve Jobs… talking about how Apple has been “shameless” when it comes to stealing great ideas.

Yeah, that court case is going to work out just great.

5 great infographics about digital issues

More and more infographics are becoming the norm to explain complex issues in fun and design rich ways. Today I present you with 5 great infographics that have recently been produced.

How content farms work

PCMag, has put together a stunning inforgraphic on the topic of content farms. Content farms, for those who don’t know, are companies that specifically produce content to appeal to search engines and closely match high frequency search terms. They work, essentially, on the basis that enough pages on one topic – each one slightly different of course – which has a high enough search string will deliver enough pages to make viable amounts of money from advertising revenues.

Highlighting Demand Media, one of the world’s most prolific spam content farms, their business model is actually quite ingenious, as they only produce pages which they estimate will yield positive advertising revenue over a five year period. How many pages could they possibly be creating? According to the infographic, their goal is to produce up to 30,000 per day. Regular readers of this blog will know that Google has changed its algorithms recently to try and bring ‘genuine’ information to the forefront, and lessen the impact of these content farms. But it’s going to be tough. At 1 million articles per year, that’s rough 18 years of New York Times articles.

Get the full size infographic here.

Noob guide to online marketing

Unbounce is helping all prospective online marketers (including those who want to become a little more offait with it) by producing a stunning infographic. Titled “The Noob guide to Online Marketing”, and resembling a dart board with scoring slate undearneath, it truly is a sight to behold. The guide is more detailed than many might have hoped – lest their bosses wonder why they haven’t implemented whole sections of it – but it is a striking piece of graphic design, with the holy-grail of online marketing – the landing page – smack-bang in the middle as it should be. Below, I’ve included the top half of the infographic, for the full version, visit Unbounce’s website, link below.

The full inforgraphic can be seen and downloaded here.

History of Social Media

In November, 2010, Skloog released what many regard to be the quintessential infographic of the year. It was an infographic displaying the history of Social Media. Social Media is being embraced more and more by companies ranging from those who you would expect to be involved – teen and youth focused brands, right through to more ‘suits an’ boots’ organisations such as banks and insurers.

I’ve highlighted, what I consider to be the ‘best’ growth time for social media – 2004 to 2010, however the full infographic is too large to put on this blog. Click on the image below to see it’s full size, or go here for the original which spans from 550BC to 2010. It’s worth noting also that despite this being produced just four months ago – the latest entrant, Google Buzz, has already been withdrawn from the market.

Australian mobile phone usage

One of the hardest things, as an Australian marketer is to find decent, and up-to-date information about Australian mobile phone usage trends. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I found the gem below, which has been cropped, (posted in full here) from mobicity.com.au.

Top mobile trends of 2010

Perhaps a little late to the party, the inforgaphic below highlights some of the ‘big stats’ from 2010. Nothing too surprising here, except perhaps the rise and rise of mobile spending – that is, the actual dollar amount spent through mobile devices. That section of the infographic is below, the full infographic is available here.

The future of marketing is platform agnostic

More than ever, with the constant development of new digital products, marketing and consumerism is increasingly divsersified and companies face a platform agnostic future.

It doesn’t matter how someone gets to your business, what is important is facilitating the opportunity for them to do so. Businesses can’t afford to not be where their current and future customers are. Businesses that aren’t able to convince themselves to open up to as many platforms and access points as is reasonable are doing themselves more harm than good.

Oils ain’t oils

Think about the petroleum industry, particularly petrol stations. Petrol Stations are one of the oldest living examples of a platform agnostic business model. Petrol station owners don’t care what vehicle you turn up in. They don’t care if you have a 30 year old 100cc scooter, a family sedan, a brand new Ferrari or a 10 tonne truck. It simply doesn’t matter to them, as long as you buy fuel (and some snacks) you’re the right customer. To them, the ‘vessel’ in which you’re going to consume the petrol isn’t their concern – they accept you’ve bought the vehicle you’ve chosen for your own reasons.

Carrying this example over, think about the ‘vehicles’ that consumers might use to research, evaluate and consume your company’s products. Consumers might use everything from various mobile phone platforms, the emerging tablet market, social networks and social media, websites, online forms, and all of the other various push and pull channels, such as EDM’s, PPC, outdoor advertising, newspapers, magazines, and retail stores etc. There are more channels than any one business can possibly be constantly across – but that’s OK.

Thankfully, fewer businesses each day are seeing digital, mobile and tablet marketing, as a way to dictate how people engage with them. Sticking exclusively with one or two technologies and expecting consumers to follow suit has all the classic trappings of losing market share and alienating whole market segments. Businesses that see the opportunity to engage with customers no matter what platform choice that customer independently made, will reap more benefits in the short and long term. Few, if any, consumers would purchase their smartphone with all of the companies they use at the moment in mind, while also making sure they’re all compatible, for example.

If your website, or app, is great on an iPhone, but not on Android, or Windows mobile, or iPad, or the Samsung tablet, or the RIM technologies tablet, that needs to be fixed, and quickly. Why? Because if your current, or potential consumers are having a poor experience trying to access you they’re less likely to try again in the future. Worse, they may just switch to a competitor offering a similar product with a more user friendly interface.  Even worse, if they can’t access your business on any of the platforms they’re using, few will bother to tell you – especially if they’re not a loyal customer – and if they are they may well be more critical in their feedback, and may well do it in a public arena, like twitter.

Being across every platform is impossible

Coming back to the example above – petrol stations don’t open up everywhere, they open up in strategically useful places. And the same sort of thinking can be applied to other businesses too.

Businesses don’t have to be across every social network, or every new technology that comes along. But they do need to have individuals that are given the time, and the explicit remit, to explore beyond ‘what’s cool’ and progress to what’s useful and what can be tangibly beneficial to both the company and the consumer. If a large percentage of your current core customer segment are Nokia’s, one might argue that there’s no need to optimise for Smartphones like iPhone or Android. But that ignores the growth potential laying behind your next generation of consumer.

This can be scary, no doubt about it. The leap of faith required to get new social, digital, mobile and tablet initiatives off the ground, where no solid figures exist, can be a hurdle which may be difficult for some to jump over.

After all, if no one else in the industry is doing it, and no one is making money from the social/app/other access product being suggested, how does anyone know it’s going to work? Well sometimes you just have to try these things – toe in the water approach if necessary – to see what happens next.

Smartphone’s – who’s winning, and who’s using what

 

Own the hardware or own the software, or own both? Tough choices.Tthe battle-lines have been drawn and the three major players, Apple, Android and RIM Blackberry are optimizing their paths.

In the top graphic we can see nearly even market share between Android, Apple and RIM, but despite being even at the moment there are different growth and threat opportunities for each company.

 

For Android:

– Their growth may well take chunks out of RIM and Apple as more people embrace more open networks and devices, and it also allows them to tap into Motorola’s, Samsung’s and HTC’s individual marketing, distribution and other distribution networks. But,

– Android’s growth depends on its supply networks of hardware manufacturers. While this is good as it allows Android to get across more markets quicker and appeal to a wider audience it does mean that other competitors such as Microsoft, or new OS competitors could cut into the volume of units available. It also means that Android’s growth is tied to hardware popularity, which they don’t control.

 

Apple:

– Strong loyalty and market leadership make it the natural leader. ‘iPhone’ is practically synonymous with ‘smartphone’. The moderated app-store and consumer lethargy which are tied to iTunes music and app purchases, will ensure a heavy-user core-database now and in the future. But,

– The closed off nature of Apple products, and Apple’s unwillingness to license their software to non-apple hardware-units means that Apple will face increased pressure from dozens of competitors as smartphones gradually take over the mobile industry.

As Apple’s competitors are adopted by new consumers to the market, Apple’s natural front-of-mind dominance becomes less pronounced, as a whole new generation of smartphone consumers first experience isn’t an iPhone. They are able to make a broader and more informed choices when choosing which hardware they’re going to, and, in fact, Apple units require greater consumer dedication, as Apple works in a more closed environment than their main rivals – switching to a rival in the future could be seen as unnecessarily challenging. For those unwilling to commit, there are easier, and cheaper, alternatives.

 

RIM Blackberry:

– Instant and unlimited email and internet with no data fees is an appealing prospect for many consumers and businesses. Coupled with Blackberry’s perception in the marketplace as a ‘serious business phone for serious business people’, Blackberry’s are still seen by many as a convenient ‘no nonsense’ communication device.

– One of the last dominant bastions of smartphones with actual keys to press, Blackberry will face challenges on a few fronts:

* More open networks will challenge its proprietary systems,
* Data will become cheaper making their unlimited email and browsing less of a draw card,
* As more people, especially those in business and leadership roles, adopt Apple and Android smartphones the ‘serious business phone for serious people’ perception will change. Why can’t ‘serious business’ be done on a device that it functional as well as fun to use?

– As adoption rates slow in younger generations, so to will their growth in future years and, as older mobile users want to keep up with what the young are doing, they will no doubt embrace those platforms too.

– As more OS competitors enter the market with newer OS options, slippage may occur, as RIM Blackberry faces the same situation as Apple: an unwillingness to license out their platform to non-proprietary Blackberry hardware.

 

All this leads us to the following question:

Who is using which device right now, and to what degree?

Nielsen research has produced this outstanding graphic (below) which demonstrates the breakdown of users by 10-year age bracket.

What we can see is that younger users, those between 18-24 and 25-34 are indeed shifting to Android and Apple, over RIM Blackberry and other OS providers, such as Symbian.

In fact in those crucial two bands, Android leads both Apple and RIM Blackberry. Android only just leads Apple, 14% to 12%, but crushes RIM Blackberry, which holds 11%.

Apple, Android and Blackberry are all holding steady at 6% each in the 34-44 age group, and Blackberry leads by 1% over Android and Apple in the 45-54 age bracket.

Note also that these numbers don’t indicate which generation of any of the systems the individuals are using, so aberrations about the roll-out of individual products like the  iPhone 4, or HTC Desire, or Blackberry Torch are minimised, as it takes into account current users, not users upgrading individual units..

There aren’t any firm conclusions to draw in this ever-moving battleground, what can be said is that all three dominant providers have their own challenges and opportunities to remain competitive and draw in more customers. Open networks v Closed networks, Hardware Agnostic v Proprietary Hardware and the threat of new and seriously innovative entrants could still see a dominant player quickly go from market leader to playing catchup.

It’s hip to be Square

In 2011, it is once again hip to be square. Not in the 1980’s hit song Huey Lewis and The News sense, more’s the pity, but in the mobile banking payments sense, where a 2009 startup, Square, is leading the charge into the mobile payments space. But they don’t have the market to themselves and both proprietary credit card systems and other platform agnostic competitors are ramping up their efforts and their dislike for the company they see as the market leader.

A bit of background about Square. Square is a fantastic little company making waves in mobile banking and the US financials space as the builders of, what effectively amounts to a mobile credit-card payment dongle. The dongle, pictured below, plugs right into any audio socket on any iPhone, iPad and Android device, allowing the user to take payments quickly and easily, anywhere any time.

Square’s website says “Square enables people from all walks of life to accept credit and debit cards. Taxi drivers can get paid quickly without dealing with the headache of printers, pens and paper; a pastry chef that only sells at seasonal farmer’s markets now can accept payments without getting charged a monthly fee; food trucks now have a simple and mobile way to migrate from being limited to cash. You can even have your friend that owes you $20 pay you with their card since their wallet always seems to be empty when you remind them about it.”

Open to the major smartphone operating systems, Square is poised for growth unlike most other companies in its space. And its the ease-of-adoption factor which makes Square in particular so appealing. Anyone carrying an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet product can use Square.

And, importantly for both the money taker and the money payee, Square’s platform is credit-card agnostic. Square is as open as it can be, accepting payments from anyone, anytime, anywhere (in the US).

With any successful rise in an industry, particularly one as hot as mobile payments, there will be detractors. Overnight, Verifone’s CEO, Doug Bergeron wrote an “open letter” to the US finance industry claiming that Square’s services have serious security holes.

“Bergeron claims that anyone can “skim” or steal personal information off of a credit card’s magnetic strip using the Square card reader with a hacked app and to illustrate the vulnerability, VeriFone wrote a test app that can “skim” to prove their assertions.

VeriFone says the flaw is in Square’s hardware, which the company says lacks the ability to encrypt credit card data. It’s unclear if VeriFone’s claims have grounds, but it is a serious move on VeriFone’s part to call out a competitor publicly.” writes, Leena Rao for Techcrunch.

The letter, posted in full at the bottom of this post, says in part : In less than an hour, any reasonably skilled programmer can write an application that will “skim” – or steal – a consumer’s financial and personal information right off the card utilizing an easily obtained Square card reader. How do we know? We did it. Tested on sample Square card readers with our own personal credit cards, we wrote an application in less than an hour that did exactly this.

That may well be true but what the letter doesn’t say is that Verifone just happens to have its own competing product to Square’s and virtually the same thing can be said about its product offering. There’s nothing to suggest that an app couldn’t be written to mimic Verifone’s too. Verifone’s open letter also completely ignores the fact that a consumers money is protected by the credit card companies where fraud is reported.

Square hasn’t yet made a formal response, they seem, at least for the moment, to be waiting to see what the industry’s and media’s response is. And if that really is their tactic they might do well to wait it out as many social, tech, gadget and mobile media organisations are all highlighting that the ‘Square flaws’ are equally applicable to the company bringing them to light.

There isn’t a scheduled release plan for Square or Verifone to make their appearance in international markets – at least none that have been made public, but one can only assume and hope its a matter of time. With a smartphone market is set to double in size in the next two to three years in the US alone, not to mention global expansion possibilities to high-smartphone adopting nations such as the UK, Japan, China and Australia the mobile payments space is set to only get more fierce and competitive. If the big US players don’t arrive on Aussie shores soon, we may well see a local startup version in the mobile payment space.

Domestically, Australian banks and other financial institutions would do well to be early adopters of this technology. The appeal of doing business with upwardly mobile businesses, being seen as a progressive organisation while appealing to the broadest possible market through platform agnostic mobile delivery is a potential gold mine for growth.

Doing so would dovetail nicely into operational, product and marketing strategies that involve adoption of tangible value-add mobile products and mobile+social marketing integration – as well as creating a new market place with tens of thousands of small and micro-SME’s. And who knows where today’s SME’s will be in ten or fifteen years time. With the right growth strategies and wholesale funding products, the sky’s the limit.

—————-

The open letter to the industry from Verifone is below:

An Open Letter to the Industry and Consumers

Today is a wake-up call to consumers and the payments industry. Last year, a start-up named Square introduced a credit card reader for smartphones with the goal of making it very easy for anyone to accept credit cards through a mobile device. Seems like a great idea, but there is a serious security flaw that Square has overlooked that places consumers in dire risk.

In less than an hour, any reasonably skilled programmer can write an application that will “skim” – or steal – a consumer’s financial and personal information right off the card utilizing an easily obtained Square card reader. How do we know? We did it. Tested on sample Square card readers with our own personal credit cards, we wrote an application in less than an hour that did exactly this.

Let me explain how easy it is to exploit the vulnerability.

A criminal signs up with Square, obtains the dongle for free and creates a fake Square app on his smartphone. Insert the dongle into the audio jack of a smartphone or iPad, and you’ve got a mobile skimming device that fits in your pocket and that can be used to illegally collect personal and financial data from the magnetic stripe of a payment card. It’s shockingly simple.

The issue is that Square’s hardware is poorly constructed and lacks all ability to encrypt consumers’ data, creating a window for criminals to turn the device into a skimming machine in a matter of minutes.

There are hundreds of thousands of these unsecure devices already floating out there and more are given away for free every day. And because anyone can get their hands on these Square readers, anyone can masquerade as a legitimate business or vendor and swipe your payment card. Your card data is then instantly and illegally captured in the smartphone, un-encrypted – and voila, you’re a fraud victim.

Consumers who hand over their plastic to merchants using Square devices are unwittingly putting themselves in danger.

Don’t take our word for it. See for yourself at http://www.sq-skim.com where you can download the sample skimming application and view a video of this type of fraud in action.

Today we are handing a copy of the application over to Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and JP Morgan Chase (Square’s credit card processor), and we invite their comments.

Consumer trust is what’s really at stake. If the industry allows Square and other similar attempts to short-circuit security best practices, it will seriously jeopardize the integrity and security of the payment infrastructure and financial systems developed over the last three decades.

Secure payment systems, like those provided by VeriFone and other credible providers which adhere to the highest level of security practices, are critical in protecting consumers, merchants and banks. Without this protection, all commerce – conducted with plastic or mobile devices – is a catalyst for massive personal and institutional financial loss.

There is great promise in the future of mobile payments and our innovations will help drive the industry forward. It is our hope that both consumers and merchants will take it upon themselves to become educated on the security risks involved with some of these experimental payment acceptance methods, like Square, and make informed decisions to protect themselves and their customers.

We take security very seriously. Securing payment transactions is what we do, and yes – calling attention to and protecting against these types of security threats to consumers, merchants and banks is our responsibility.

We call on Square to do the responsible thing and recall these card skimming devices from the market.

Doug Bergeron
CEO, VeriFone

Mobile gaming chart of the now

It may be a flooded market place, and yes there are other markets out there, but Apple’s iphone, iPod and iPad markets are alive and well, and by far and away offer the most potential for great profit and distribution opportunity for gaming app producers.

Distimo’s September report provides insights into the seemingly ever growing gaming side of its ‘i’ gadgets.