VisionMobile's top 10+1 blog articles for 2010

[As 2010 draws to a close, Marketing Manager Matos Kapetanakis reveals the 10 most influential articles in the VisionMobile blog for 2010, plus best quotes and reader comments. We also showcase our very best blog article for 2010, “Is Android Evil”, discussing Google’s control points and dispersing the illusion of the platform’s much vaunted openness].

VisionMobile's top 10+1 blog articles for 2010

During 2010, we have seen our blog reach new heights, having quadrupled our reader base over 2009, with more than 220 thousand unique visits, 4.4 thousand Tweets and 660 likes on Facebook. Moreover, our readers joined the conversation with over 550 comments across the 49 articles published this year. Another interesting factoid is that Twitter became the no 1 referring site for our blog during the past 12 months. So, a big thank you to our readers and all of you who helped spread the word!

[poll id=”10″]

Also, a big thanks to all 23 of our guest authors, whose contribution to the blog was paramount to its success. Some of our most successful articles this year, including “The Android UI dilemma: Unify or Differentiate”, “The Flash vs. HTML5 endgame” or “Waking the Dragon: The Rise of Android in China” were contributed by guest authors. The guest authors whose articles made it to the top 10 are Ben Hookway, Guilhem Ensuque, Dave Neary, Hong Wu and Thucydides Sigs.

Trends
Our blog hosted articles across a vast range of topics, from virtualization to app development and from the Cloud phone to Android. However, our readers’ interest was piqued by articles on Android and everything app-related.

The Top 10+1: Best articles and quotes
Here they are; this year’s 10 best articles, plus the undisputed champion. Apart from a brief description of each article, we’ve included the best quote by the author, but also one comment from the readers. In most cases, we’ve chosen to quote those readers whose viewpoints differed from our own, providing a more neutral perspective.

Although our blog had over 20 thousand visits, a sizable chunk of these went to a single article; our clear winner for 2010,Is Android Evil?

Our article on Android and the debate on its openness, was read by more than 45 thousand people, tweeted almost 950 times and generated an intense debate, with over 55 comments. This article sparked a heated debate, with readers’ reactions ranging from vehement agreement to zealous flaming and even name-calling.

Is Android Evil?

by Andreas Constantinou

Is Android Evil?Inspired by Google’s motto of “don’t be evil”, Andreas examines Android’s openness as a platform and identifies Google’s control points. The main argument of this article is that Android is the most closed system in the history of open source. And no, we’re not suggesting Google’s turned to the ‘dark side’.

What we said
“Android is the best example of how a company can use open source to build up interest and community participation, while running a very tight commercial model.”
What you said
“…Android may not be fully open like Linux. But it is dramatically more open than any other major cell phone OS…” (comment by Jim Philips)

So, without further ado, here are our top 10 articles for 2010.

No 10 – The many faces of Android fragmentation

by Andreas Constantinou
(5 thousand views, 105+ tweets)

The many faces of Android fragmentation,

It’s common knowledge that Google and Android users alike have suffered from the platform’s version fragmentation. But did you know about the codebase and profile fragmentation? Andreas breaks down the three major fragmentation dimensions and discusses their impact on the platform’s success.

What we said
“For Google’s Android team, fragmentation is what keeps them up at night. Fragmentation reduces the addressable market of applications, increases the cost of development and could ultimately break the developer story around Android as we ‘ll see.”
What you said
“…Unless an OEM puts their hands around Android and creates their own software platform structured and controlled the way Apple controls iOS, the Android world will look exactly like the J2ME world in two years time…” (comment by Mike Grant)

No 9 – How to save Nokia (from itself)

by Thucydides Sigs
(5 thousand views, 85+ tweets)

How to save Nokia (from itself)

For many years now, Nokia has been sitting comfortably in the no1 position of both the feature and smart phone markets. But times are changing and Nokia’s share is shrinking. Thucydides examines Nokia’s position and raises the issue of business culture.

Also, don’t miss our readers’ weeklong debate on Nokia’s future, in the article’s comment section.

What we said
“Nokia has known where it wanted and needed to go. But the problem has been and still is the execution. The Finnish giant just fails to move and adapt fast enough to the chaotic, rapidly evolving software and internet market.What is holding the execution back? More than anything, it’s the company’s culture”
What you said
“…The new key to market share is the couple Platform-Ecosystem, not the handset portfolio diversity, the design or the platform quality by itself (WebOs is here to demonstrate). The Nokia mobile application/developer ecosystem is suffering (on one hand is too tricky to develop on Symbian, and the OVI store is not as good and commercially mature as Android and IPhone Markets)…” (comment by Simone Cicero)

No 8 – Apps is the new Web: sowing the seeds for Web 3.0

by Andreas Constantinou
(6 thousand views, 280 tweets)

VisionMobile - Apps is the new web

With the phenomenal success of mobile apps, the world of content is migrating from web 2.0 to apps as the new format for creating, packaging, discovering, paying and interacting with information. Andreas analyses how apps are the evolution of Web 2.0 and where this phenomenon will lead us next.

What we said
“Once web technologies are consistently adopted in 3-5 years we should see web move from today’s lowest common denominator to powering the next-generation of apps across connected devices, from toys to TVs and from web pages to apps – and the browsing (exploratory, lowest-common-denominator) experience moving to resemble an app (getting things done, immersive) experience.”
What you said
“..The web is accessible from any internet-connected device, regardless of brand of the device, of opinion the app-store owner has of you and your app, and of the device and (mostly) location of the device.
The web would never be what is is today if it was controlled by one company or government (like apps are in the apple app store)…” (comment by Yves)

No 7 – Windows Phone 7: Tipping the Scales of the Smartphone Market

by Michael Vakulenko
(6.5 thousand views, 130 tweets)

Windows Phone 7: Tipping the scales of the smartphone market

Although Symbian still has the biggest market share in the smartphone market, it’s being pressed hard by Android and iPhone. Windows Mobile had all but faded into irrelevance, but it’s back with an all-new platform. Is it enough to tip the scales and claim its piece of the pie?

What we said
“If successful, Windows Phone 7 will catalyze further shifts in the mobile industry bringing PC-style commoditization and increasing distance between operators and their subscribers. Microsoft and low-cost, PC style ‘assemblers’ will be the main winners driving smartphone price declines.”
What you said
“…This is a chicken-and-egg scenario, since the success of WP7 actually depends on being able to commoditize the market. Microsoft’s strength really lies in coming from behind and comoditizing somebody else’s innovation…” (comment by Jay)

No 6 – Waking the Dragon: The Rise of Android in China

by Hong Wu
(8 thousand views, 155+ tweets)

The Rise of Android in China

There’s no question that Android has a stellar rise in shipments and developer mindshare. But what about China, the country with the biggest mobile user base?

What we said
“The Android ecosystem in China is still a sleeping dragon, but is waking up day by day. There will be more ad networks, more app stores, and more payment gateways coming out in the foreseeable future before consolidation moves in.”
What you said
“…I do believe strongly that if you’re right in terms of the way Android is picking up in China, there would be no reason for them
to expand out to other markets at all, even India and other developing countries…” (comment by Krshna)

No 5 – [Infographic] The Mobile Developer Journey

by Matos Kapetanakis
(9 thousand views, 260 tweets)

[Infographic] - The Mobile Developer Journey

Although not an article, we’ve included our infographic, as it’s become a reader favorite. The “Mobile Developer Journey” infographic is based on our Developer Economics report, tracking the developer experience, from app design and platform selection to market delivery and monetization.

What you said
“Nice representation of some of the key points for mobile dev>”
Tweet by @DavidBod

“Awesome infografic on mobile platforms & development”
Tweet by @Marcovena

“If you want to see what it takes to build a mobile app”
Tweet by @MarksPhone

“Great new infographic from VisionMobile for mobile app development”
Tweet by @AppsArabia

No 4 – The MeeGo Progress Report: A+ or D-?

by Dave Neary
(9.5 thousand views, 85+ tweets)

VisionMobile - The MeeGo progress report

MeeGo has been in the pipeline for quite some time now, but we’ve yet to see any devices. Dave takes a look at the project’s progress and reports on MeeGo’s chances against smartphone OS giants, like iPhone and Android.

What we said
“…to succeed as a platform, the application developer story and the user experience are vital. There is a lot of work to be done in these areas for MeeGo to gain serious traction outside of the small community of Finnish handset designers. Nokia still has a long way to go”
What you said
“…MeeGo looks like a fig leaf for failed software strategy of two hardware giants – Nokia and Intel. Moreover, it was conceived to solve yesterday problems. By the time it will reach consumers, the market will advance two phases and pose very different challenges…” (comment by Michael Vakulenko)

No 3 – The Flash vs. HTML5 endgame

by Guilhem Ensuque
(11 thousand views, 170+ tweets)

The Flash vs. HTML5 Endgame

Adobe’s Flash platform is feeling the pressure, as more vendors choose HTML5 over it. But is there really a war going on? Guilhem makes an in-depth analysis into the history of each contender to the throne and looks at the pros and cons of each.

What we said
“Flash is far from dead today. There are many cases in which Flash will continue to offer a better alternative (worst case a very useful fallback) to “HTML5” technologies due to the fragmentation in new web standards browser support.”
What you said
“…I think both technologies can coexist. And more than that, they should join, mix. Why not integrate Flash into the HTML5 specification? I’ve always thought that the best way is to add a tag called ‘flash’ or ‘ria’ where there is SWF content. It would be like the canvas tag, but would also be able to resize…” (comment by Manuel Ignacio López Quintero)

No 2 – The Android UI dilemma: Unify or Differentiate?

by Ben Hookway
(12 thousand views, 230+ tweets)

The Android UI dilemma - unify or differentiate?

Android’s fast becoming a handset manufacturer and operator/carrier favorite, largely due to its custom ROMs and customised UI. But Google is sure to pay a price, as user experience becomes more and more fragmented. What should Google do?

What we said
“The economic model of handset OEMs necessitates UI differentiation and Google is taking that away. For Google to expect Apple-like control on a fundamentally different business model is just unrealistic”
What you said
“…I think Android should remain open, let OEM customize whatever they want, as long as there is a Vanilla Home Replacement available for free in the Google Marketplace, all users should easily be able to remove the custom UI on any Gingerbread phone and “reset” it exactly to the default Android UI designs.” (comment by Charbax)

No 1 – Developer Economics 2010: The migration of developer mindshare

by Andreas Constantinou
(19 thousand views, 320+ Tweets)

Developer Economics - Migration of mindshare

This article is the first of a 4-part series, analyzing the findings of our global research report, Developer Economics 2010 (free copy here), on all aspects of mobile development. The article examines the recent migration of developer mindshare from the ‘old guard’ platforms (Java and Symbian) to the ‘new guard’ (iPhone and Android.

What we said
“In terms of developer mindshare, our research shows that Symbian and Java ME, which dominated the developer mindshare pool until 2008, have been superceded by the Android and iPhone platforms.”
What you said
“…I don’t think any more proprietary platforms will be successful. Apple has taken that mantle. I think only open platforms have any chance of competing. MeeGo, for example, is starting to get a good amount of momentum…” (comment by Francis Sepparton)

Happy Holiday Season!
There you have it, these were the top articles in the VisionMobile blog for 2010, as determined by our readers. I hope you enjoyed this collection of articles.

Is there an article you particularly enjoyed and feel should have been included? What would you like to see next?

Leave a comment and let us know. You can also follow us on Twitter (@visionmobile) or send me an email directly (matos at visionmobile.com).

Happy Holidays to all! Don’t forget to tune in on January 3, for the first article of 2011.


Connect, Interact, Transact: How mobile operators can bridge the communications gap

[As mobile operators compete with the over the top players (Skype, Google and Facebook), many question whether operators have a real value to add besides a pipe. This is the playbook of Martin Geddes, a recognized thought leader who has held positions at companies including U.S. mobile operator Sprint and UK incumbent operator BT. As Strategy Director at BT Innovate & Design Martin was influential in shaping the carrier’s view on Cloud Computing. Peggy Anne Salz caught up with Martin to discuss how mobile operators can prepare themselves to compete in this new world.]

Philosopher and poet George Santayana tells us that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The history of telecommunications shows us that the evolution of communications systems is inextricably linked with the needs of commerce and enterprise. As requirements change, systems evolve. They ultimately disappear altogether when they cease to be useful.

The telefax and the telegram, which triggered a revolution in communications, have long been replaced by email and text messages. Now new players and approaches – such as Skype, Facebook and FourSquare – have stepped up to take their place. As telecoms providers prepare to do battle against these over-the-top (OTT) players, Martin argues that the real power lies in neither scale nor scope. In his view the answer is innovation that allows telcos to solve ordinary, everyday interaction problems between businesses and their customers.

The money is in the space between the enterprise and the consumer – a space I call the ‘conversation gap.’” Martin explains. “Take a company that delivers white goods like fridges. You make outbound calls to your consumer customers to schedule deliveries as part of your service. If that customer happens to be roaming abroad in an inappropriate time zone, then you certainly won’t get the result you want.  Same is true if the customer is on the middle of an important call. Or if the customer is on a smartphone, they might just want the company to send them a link to a web page where they can set up an appointment for the delivery on their terms.”

Martin’s point: no service provider does a good job of thinking about the needs of the enterprise and ways to help them connect, interact and transact with their customers. “There is a void and we’re starting to see companies like Facebook rise up to take that space – or at least try.” As he sees it: “The fear that the Facebooks of the world are displacing the telecom industry’s core products — is real. But we shouldn’t overestimate it since Facebook are showing they are pretty inept at business model design.

Connect, Interact, Transact
After thinking this through carefully – and for nearly a decade — Martin has developed a new business model for telecom service providers determined to defend their turf from OTT players. He calls this approach, aimed squarely at enabling commerce and connecting enterprises with their customers, Connect, Interact, Transact.

So where will the Connect, Interact, Transact companies come from? Don’t limit your view to developed countries. To the contrary, Martin is convinced this new breed of company will rise from the emerging markets. A good bet is Africa. “That’s where we’ll see clever cloud communications companies that build products that target what’s known as ‘bottom of the pyramid’ consumers,” Martin says. “Not those living at subsistence level, but those who have a small disposable income. New business models evolve fastest where enterprises, NGOs and governments want to interact with these people – who are tomorrow’s consumers.”

Whether from developed or emerging markets, companies determined to compete against the likes of Google and Amazon should integrate with platforms these companies already provide.

After all, Google and Amazon have correctly focused their strategies on enabling commerce (Google dominates advertising and Amazon’s sphere of influence covers ecommerce and order fulfilment), and it makes little sense to reinvent the wheel. “If you are a small company, then you have to rethink your business to integrate with these companies and platforms to make communications with customers better and improve commerce. Put simply, you have to think about how to either use their APIs to improve business, or connect with those capabilities in some way to make your business more efficient and effective.”

Communications gap
Martin also urges companies to open up to business models and focus their efforts on bridging ‘gaps’ – places where there is a disconnect or mismatch between how people and enterprises communicate and how processes function.

So who stands to win in this new world where it’s all about closing gaps in communication? Martin in convinced that having the connection to the customer is more important than owning the billing relationship. “It’s whoever holds the final interface to the user that has the power. That’s where we’re seeing a massive battle because the operating system, the browser, the unified communications app — all of these have real estate on your smartphone. So now owning the container in which the final experience is being presented to the customer is where the power is.”

Where does the mobile operator fit in?
While many industry observers staunchly believe telecoms operators are doomed to be dumb-pipes, Martin vehemently disagrees with this blanket assumption. “It’s a gross mistake to underestimate the telcos. There are a lot of dead companies and business models that tried a direct full-on assault against the telecom industry and lost. Telcos also have an extraordinary range of customer data and relationship assets that, in principle, position them well to launch new ubiquitous communication products.”

However, operators also need to understand that competitive advantage does not lie in the offer; it lies in the size and breadth of the audience they can reach. “Telcos need to understand that they need to be able to have relationships with people whether or not they are customers,” Martin explains. “That’s particularly true in cases where telcos are trying to monetise services by offering business process efficiency effectiveness and security to third parties.  You don’t necessarily have to be able to bill the consumer at all; you want to just have millions of consumers who have relationship with you.”

Put another way, operators have a central position – one they can cement if they build an over-the-top experience that serves customers that aren’t necessarily their customers.

One operator that understands this model is France Telecom with its ‘On’ product. As Martin points out: “I can download On for my Android phone the Android marketplace and the mobile operator is in the middle of this experience, trying to capture that container experience for my address book dialler and other functions on my phone.”

Futureshock
Clearly, the operator has the capabilities to compete and win against OTT players. But winning may require them to transform more than their business model. In fact, Martin believes that the words ‘mobile operator’ might not have any meaning by 2015.  “It might be that there is a marketing organisation, that has a relationship with the customer and potentially controls various storefronts. But there will also be an infrastructure company. So, you might buy the Apple iDevice in 2015 and it’s a device that comes with content and connectivity bundled in. You don’t need to go and buy a separate service from somebody else; you just pay your service money to Apple. But, of course, Apple’s buying wholesale data from telcos in vast quantities.”

So where will Apple – today’s OEM role model – be in 2015? “The Apple business has a nasty flaw in it. It targets the top 15 percent of the market to get 50 percent of the profits. Yet in a communications market, the revenues are in selling to the new consumers in emerging markets.”

If Apple’s model isn’t about achieving volume, then can it survive in a market where the winners will likely be a mix of communications giants and companies that make commerce more effective?

It’s a tough one to call but Martin believes Apple’s model has some mileage left. “Let’s say that there is enough life in the model to last until 2015, so Apple does have five years left.  Looking further out, the grand growth opportunities around machine to machine, communications as a service and communication-enabled business processes – everything we’ve been speaking about – are not where Apple is.”

So is the future for mobile operators bright?
“Telcos simply got sidetracked by the media business and mobile advertising, areas outside their main focus, forgetting they’re in the business of communications and making communications simple and effective,” Martin observes. “The first thing telcos have to do is undergo corporate psychotherapy. They have to look at themselves in the mirror and accept that they are a phone company. They sell conveniently packaged communications.  If they do this, then they have a good answer to Facebook and Google.  If they stray from that path, then they deserve the awful fate that will become them.”

– Peggy

Martin Geddes is a thought leader sharply focused on what is right (and wrong) with business models in the telecommunications industry. His most recent white paper, Connect, Interact, Transact: A paradigm shift in the business model of communication service providers (www.martingeddes.com/papers), warns service providers of developments that could potentially wreck their current model and suggests new offerings that could secure them a new and even more lucrative position in the value chain.

Peggy Anne Salz is chief analyst and publisher of MSearchGroove, a top 50 influential technology site providing analysis and commentary on all things mobile.

Bringing the 'social' out of the operator walled gardens

[Mobile services have long been a carefully guarded commodity, kept within the ‘walled gardens’ of network operators. But as innovation moves to the software and social era, operators need to adapt. Guest author Avner Mor discusses how networks are inherently social and why they should open their walled gardens to developers]

Bringing the 'social' out of the operator walled gardens

A ‘walled garden’ is the term aptly applied to the last decade of mobile operator services. And Facebook is the generic name aptly applied to the social network revolution of our times.

Wikipedia defines ‘walled gardens’ as referring “to a carrier’s or service provider’s control over applications, content, and media on platforms … and restriction of convenient access to non-approved applications or content”. This has been the common sense approach to operator strategies; build high walls to protect your revenues – which by now we know is becoming irrelevant. Mobile operators are facing market saturation, declining ARPU, higher subscriber acquisition costs (see iPhone), fierce regional competition and viable threats of being replaced by the over-the-top players. In 2009 alone, global operator ARPU fell by 7.3% year-on-year and is forecasted to further decline around 10% y-o-y  according to Strategy Analytics. How come operators – having a ‘social’ network at their very core – have been steadily declining, whereas Facebook has risen to a 600 million user, $35B valuation business in just 7 years? Let’s take a step back.

[poll id=”9″]

2010 will probably be known as the year where mobile service innovation has moved squarely to the software domain. Think about the 100,000s of applications against the 10s of operator services launched in the last 2 years.

To compete in this software world, operators/carriers need to leverage their network capabilities to compete with the over-the-top players. For example, think of a voice application that automatically switches to taking a text or voicemail if it knows the other user is busy. Or a service provider in the travel business that can target their Java app and SMS campaign to users who travel abroad frequently. Or web pages that feature a 1-click-buy based on keying in your mobile phone number. Or a “where are my friends” service, where you opt-in to a friends location request no matter what phone you ‘re using. Or travel recommendations where a virtual concierge suggests places to visit in your holiday based on where your friends have been.

Such innovation has shunned the mobile world because network operators have adopted the walled garden business model of building a supermarket with their own branded goods – rather than a shelf (a platform) for third party goods that leverages on the social aspects of the platform. To compete in a world where innovation is defined in software and social, operators need to become a platform – and compete over the top, not in the network.

A platform business model is about leveraging operators’ underutilised, walled network assets, taking a cut from the delivery of innovative services, in the same way that Apple takes a cut from the delivery of mobile apps or Facebook takes a cut out of ad delivery. It’s not just operators that are playing in this developer game – it’s handset vendors investing in developer programs and app stores, online brands opening their assets to developers (from the BBC to Facebook) and Digital TV operators exploring methods to open STB, EPG and DVR channels to developers. Yet operators are the most ubiquitous and most social players of them all.

Leveraging the social side of the network

Networks hold lucrative assets within their walls including voice, messaging, location, presence, user authentication, billing – plus social graph, user profile and preferences. Take location for example; despite wide penetration of GPS receivers in handsets, network-based location covers any device, works indoors, and is particularly suited to emerging markets.

More importantly, mobile networks hole a treasure trove of information about its users; based a few key information like age bracket, ARPU bracket, address region, roaming characteristics and device model which are provided in an opt-in model, one can deliver better search results, ads or campaign targeting. Think about how restaurant recommendations can automagically cater to your spending habits, taste for international cuisines and social lifestyle – an app that knows you from day one.

There are tons more of examples where network APIs can enable unique applications. Yet, when developers try to connect their app to an operator network they experience barriers and restrictions, such as technology fragmentation, long and expensive technical integration, tedious commercial engagements, long time to payment, plus distribution challenges. What’s worse, developers need to engage and integrate separately with each operator. All of these factors hinder the vast majority of developer innovation and essentially diminish the operator ability to be the center of innovation gravity.

Many infrastructure vendors have jumped into the opportunity to connect operator networks to developers:

– Alcatel Lucent – A dominant SDP provider, extended a hosted ‘OpenAPI’ service for developers, providing Consent Management and  ‘LBS API’

– Ericsson – through their ‘Ericsson Labs’ initiative, the SDP provider offers a broad ‘Maps & Positioning’ API set: web & mobile maps, 3D maps, Cell-id look-up (with its own worldwide cell-id database) , operator based  cell-id and  consent management . Ericsson is currently working with operators in Sweden and Norway.

– Amdocs –  an OSS/BSS leader moving into positioning as an open mobile service providers network to 3rd parties: “service providers have the opportunity to drive new revenues by monetizing their unique assets – networks, customer information, charging, billing and customer care…”

– Huawei – An emerging market player builds its position by partnering America Movil and Telefonica in LATAM. Telefonica has completed in 2009 the deployment of Huawei’s openness platform across 13 Latin American countries

Social cloud APIs

Yet such efforts are limited to single-operator deployments. In addition, they have limited developer outreach potential as many these infrastructure vendors stem from the network, not the software world.

The logical next step is a single, cloud-based network API platform across multiple operators, spanning not just regions and multiple screens, but the entire application lifecycle: develop – deploy – discover – monetize. This network API cloud paradigm is essentially a 4-sided platform connecting users (who discover and consume services), developers (who innovate and create services), the applications themselves and the developer program partners (with the tools and technology, go-to-market, support and community assets). Naturally, a multi-operator paradigm needs to support variable access policies for operator assets, including access to network assets, charging subscribers and accessing user info.

Such a developer-friendly cross-operator pilot program was announced recently in the form of WAC, the Wholesale Applications Community, a joint effort to create a standards based apps platform that operators can leverage to build their storefronts. Network API’s are also part of WAC, based on OneAPI, a Commercial pilot project aiming to establish a unified, developer-friendly API environment across operators. Aepona is the technology provider for the GSM Association’s “OneAPI” initiative.

So is WAC the answer? Operator alliances are essential to achieve this goal. Yet, historically we have seen internal complexity and operator competing agendas hinder effectiveness of these pilots. The missing piece is an infrastructure player that understands software innovation, developer programs and running telco-grade cloud infrastructure. A Facebook-like (software) player that can bring the Facebook out of the operator walled garden.

– Avner

[This article is dedicated with appreciation to the Telecom team at Microsoft Israel R&D center
Avner Mor has over 25 years of experience in senior management positions with leading Israeli hi-tech telecom companies and start-ups. In his last role, Mor served as the General Manager of Telecom Products at the Microsoft Israel R&D center.]