android

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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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.

How Google will win everything (and why Facebook and Twitter still need it).

“One search engine to rule them all, one search engine to bind them”.

It doesn’t quite have the elegance of the original line from The Lord of The Rings, but it neatly encompasses the battleground that is based upon precious and profitable percentages of your time and your online usage habits, Dear Reader.

Google is still the dominant player in the Google>Twitter>Facebook tryst and try as they might to fight it, and claim independence, Google is the binding party to Twitter and Facebook’s success to date and for, possibly, some time to come.

Taking a look at compete.com you’ll see that not only is Google and gmail’s traffic so much higher than Twitter and Facebook, Google is also one of, if not, the major traffic referrer’s for both the social networks as shown in the graph below.

Google's dominance with gmail and Google buzz as seen compared to Twitter and Facebook

Google's dominance of Facebook and Twitter (click to see full size)

 

There’s no doubt that Facebook and Twitter have their own momentum but there are some key things worth noting about the information and the companies behind them.

First is that Google isn’t primarily a social media company. It’s primary purpose is as a search engine. It’s not relying on people wanting to connect, it relies on curiosity, learning and intrigue. Google search also compliments Twitter and Facebook users’ experience – if you want to know what’s so great about that band/article/topic you’re friends and contacts are tweeting and updating about, no problem, go Google it.

Second is that Twitter is the odd one out here. It’s neither a deep search engine with millions of informative articles and research nor is it about, necessarily, connecting to your friends. It’s primary purpose as the company founder Biz Stone said is to become the “pulse of the planet“. Many users start following celebrities, academics, companies and other people that they don’t know but like and respect. That’s great, but companies and people you’ve never met aren’t friends necessarily, thereby making Twitter potentially more dispensable if users start running short on time.

Third is that Facebook has some thinking to do. It’s not often you can say this about the world’s largest social network, especially when according to research they’re driving 44% of the social sharing on the web, but with Google Buzz’s launch it’s time for Facebook to clarify it’s intentions. With Buzz pumping out 9 million buzz’s in just a week or two of being launched and twitter only slowing down a little, it’s time for them to clearly communicate where Facebook is headed, to the users. At the moment Facebook is a very easy and familiar communication tool to keep in touch with friends across neighbourhoods and nations, as well as a great way for companies to do very well with addicting games like Farmville. But is it much more than that to the majority of users?

While most users may give up their grandma quicker than they would their Facebook account the question is now, ‘where is Facebook headed?’ And with a user license agreement that states Facebook is entitled to sell, use and distrbute anything you put on there at their discretion how much information will people be comfortable putting on there anyway?

Fourth, Google Buzz. A brilliant move by Google, the rumblings of those upset with the development will forget about it and move on or not use the service, but everyone new that signs up to gmail will have it upon starting and it won’t be a foreign intrusion to their usual email habits. Problem solved.

While much of the talk since it’s launch has been ‘Will Google Buzz threaten Twitter?’ perhaps the more pertinent question is ‘How will Google Buzz threaten Facebook?’

Google Buzz just isn’t so much taking aim Twitter as it is for Facebook. In a nut shell Google Buzz connects you with people you know, via a common and comfortable platform and lets you update, share and discuss anything from simple conversations to videos, images, retaurant reviews, articles and more. Sound familiar?

Further to this, people already trust Google and Gmail so it’s not such a leap-of-faith moment to get people using Google Buzz, you’re already connected to these people so there’s no ‘upload your address book and find people you know’ when you sign up like other social networks and, as a major bonus, it’s the same login as your email. So you don’t have to go to yet another site and remember yet another login.

So where to next? Well, with Google’s Android being an arguably better mobile platform than Apple’s locked down proprietary system, already being the biggest search engine and still growing, as well as having one of the largest free public email services on the planet and connecting it with a new social network with people you know it’s hard to see anyone chipping away at their dominance.

Google have more fingers in more pies and are a more diverse company than any of their competitors. Facebook and Twitter undoubtedly have their own strengths and will continue to develop their platforms. But the one thing that no company can do is provide the user with more time in a day, it’s just not possible, so the fight is on for your mind, your heart and your time Dear Reader.

So if you had to cut time from one of these which is it going to be? And if Facebook, Twitter and Apple get together we may just have a game on our hands.