Stepping out of the App economy

Sometime late 2010 we started working on 2 rather big mobile projects and they made me think a lot more about apps and how our thinking for mobile is all about apps. Today mobile equals apps, and we are being dictated by the likes of Apple how we have to deal with that. So how big of an improvement the introduction of apps on mobile has been, I believe we limit our thinking by that same evolution, while it shouldn’t end there.

There’s no better way to experience the hassles one has to overcome when developing apps, then to develop your own (especially when the app is for the iPhone). And it was an article on TC about Disney that acquired an HTML5 game engine that got me thinking about this whole app approach. Smart move from Disney by the way. Bye bye appstores, let’s develop game experiences the way we like and let people pay what we think is right. And for multiple OS’s at the same time, all in one take. With Android gaining market share and also WM7 that will take it’s part of the cake at some point, HTML5 mobile web apps make it a lot easier to build experiences across OS’s and devices compared to today, and without all the appstore hassle. And if you go further, when you think about developing for mobile first instead of web and then mobile, I believe there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

But the Disney acquisition isn’t having any live results yet. I think the FT was the first really big one to have made a move to go for HTML5 and the last few days or weeks a few others seem to have followed. LinkedIn just released a pretty nice HTML5 experience for mobile and earlier this week Amazon launched a similar experience for their Kindle:

“It can do everything that a normal Kindle app can do, such as synchronize your library, your last page read and bookmarks. Yet, the Kindle Cloud Reader is more of a reaction to the draconian app store rules instituted by the Cupertino giant than it is a dynamic new version of Kindle.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before those brand start pulling their apps from the appstore, or at least stop actively updating those in favor of native mobile web apps. I’m with Gigaom on this one when they say that Amazon might as well be showing media companies the future of the web with this one. Also sites as Twitter offer a rich and very nice mobile web experience, nothing like it used to be anymore.

I can only applaud brands moving in this direction and I believe that although the idea of apps on your mobile were a great innovation, they´re only a step towards a very rich mobile web experience. What´s your take?

Bonus link: HTML5 apps that are scaring the pants off Apple

Watch out Instagram?

I must admit, I’m a fan of Instagram since day 1. I love the simplicity, how it deals with cross-posting but most importantly I love the way it makes me feel I’m actually not half as bad as a photographer.

So when I read that Mobli one-upped Instragram (and Color) I’m all ears (and yes I know those headlines are kind of a trap). Downloaded Mobli right away. Created a profile, took a picture, posted it… and will never do it again.

The point that Business Insider seems to miss is that it’s not about community channels based around tags or location. Nor is it about improving search for content or richer interaction. What makes Instagram so cool is that it creates ‘an illusion of creativity’ as Edward Boches so rightfully wrote:

“It strikes me that the real reason Instagram has taken off is that it provides us with the illusion of creativity. The brilliance of Instagram is that it lets us snap a most ordinary photograph and instantly “art it up” with one of 15 filters. It gives us the sense that we are better photographers than we actually are. We don’t have to do anything other than point our iPhone at the most mundane of subjects. Early Bird, Hefe, Sutor, Toaster and their fellow filters do the rest. We think that we are creating, expressing, being clever. But as Douglas Rushkoff might remind us, we’re simply being programmed. Told by this app what constitutes an image.  Just as we’ve been told by Facebook what defines an online profile, a digital friend, or an endorsement. Just as we’ve been told by Tumblr the new format for a blog post.”

The fact that it’s easy to share cross-channel and that it’s doing all of this in the simplest way, focusing well on it’s core make it superb at what it does. But what made people love it in the first place was that it made you feel good about your photography, made you feel like your photography is also worth looking at, worth sharing. It makes me feel better about myself basically.  And that’s a whole different ballgame.

Another week, another tablet

For about 10 days now I switched my iPad for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to see how they compare – thanks to Belgacom. First things first, this is the first version of the 10.1 (now renamed to 10.1v), there’s a newer one coming on the market that has the same name but is slightly thinner than this one.

The hardware specs on this tablet are quite impressive. It has a 1280×800 screen resolution, runs Android Honeycomb 3.0, has an 8 megapixel camera (that doubles as 1080p HD video recorder), Wifi and 3G and a 1 GHz dual-core processor. That all weighs just under 600 g making it a bit lighter than the original iPad (it’s also a bit smaller).

What do I like about it?

First of all – nice screen, solid battery, powerful, … everything you expect from a tablet that wants to be a serious competitor to the iPad. Getting the basics right is obviously crucial in this game so no remarks there.

It’s my first real experience with Honecomb and I must say that I was rather pleased with the result. It’s an intuitive experience and something I like about Android in general is that you can add more than just app icons to your screen. The widgets for recent browser history for instance is one that I use quite often and.

The tablet came with a data subscription and I was surprised by the loading speed in both browser as well as with downloads from the Android Market place when on 3G. It’s definitely faster then the data connection Mobistar currently offers on my iPhone.

Flash. You sort of learn to navigate around Flash enabled websites when you’re surfing on the iPad but it’s still annoying when trying to consult a webpage that cannot be displayed due to the no-Flash policy of Apple when it comes to mobile. The Samsung’s browser displays Flash just like you’re used to and that still is a nice surplus.

Last but not least

What can be improved?

I like the more solid, the more polished feel of the iPad. The Galaxy Tab feels a bit more plastic but as mentioned before it’s probably the reason why it weighs less as well.

What needs most improvement in my opinion has more to do with Android Honeycomb than with the device itself. Unlike with the iPad you cannot see which apps on the Android Market are built for tablets, meaning that most apps you download are regular Android apps. Those are decent apps – nothing against that – but they don’t use the screen estate like they should. Similar with the browser as most websites detect your device as a mobile device, defaulting to the mobile phone experience. You will have to switch to desktop version to get the full advantage of the tablet. Since that is a change you can make it’s just a little annoyance, the differentiation for Android and Android Honeycomb in the Android Market is something I would like to see changed soon though.

Overall pretty decent result and definitely worth checking out in my opinion.

[Disclaimer: Belgacom provided the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v to me including SIM with data subscription]

Is ‘good enough’ the new black?

During the presentations of last night’s Mobile Monday in Brussels (#momobxl – tablet edition) it struck me how often businesses’ seem to work with a ‘good enough’ strategy. It came up during Corelio’s presentation on their mobile approach as well as during SBS’s presentation on the 2nd Screen (Tweede Scherm). The basic idea to create something fast and put it in users hands as soon as possible. Now I’m a big fan of an agile and iterative development approach, I don’t like ‘good enough’ though. Good enough means ‘almost good’ as in ‘mediocre’. How can that ever be a strategy?

‘Good enough’ is also not very inspirational, it’s not very ambitious. A point I wanted to convey during the Q&A session of the event but without success. The response was that (especially the Belgian market) is still very small when it comes to tablets and that we need to be careful with the investments we make. We also need to be careful with what we wish for, since the general public is trailing us geeks and therefore obviously not into digital like we are. Fair enough, but why is that an explanation of ‘good enough’?  The following analogy was made: “ we want to drive 300mph with a car and we’re only just figuring out what a car is, these things need time”. My take on that is that businesses (again especially in Belgium) are not dreaming of driving 300mph at all, they’re trying to drive a car the way they learned to ride a horse. In this case that means merely duplicating experiences on new platforms. And again, that’s still no reason for ‘good enough’.

It might be a Belgian thing, but I just don’t get it. I know, it’s a small country with limited reach and thus limited budget. But that’s no explanation on why things can’t be ambitious. What they can’t be great… instead of good enough. Dream big for god’s sake – “The bigger the statement, the bigger the idea, the bigger your brand will become” dixit Hugh MacLeod (‘the hughtrain’).

Launching a unique duo iPhone app

Yesterday we launched a new iPhone app for Nutricia.  In a new approach to support moms even more we’ve created with Nutricia this new app that helps to get dads more involved in addition of moms tracking their pregnancy.

Another pregnancy iPhone app you say? That’s what we though as well and therefore we’ve taken the new approach to involve dads because ‘Baby Connection’ works best when you use it as a couple. There’s a mum version and a dad version – and everything each parent adds is automatically synced with their partners’ phones. The app can also transform the two iPhones into one big screen. More about that in the video below:

To launch Baby Connection, we came up with an idea to make men pregnant… well kinda. You can see what we did below:

Where are the case studies that matter?

Or at least, where are the social media case studies that matter to me. The reason I’m calling for this is that most of the cases I see or hear about aren’t always that usable to me. There are learnings in every case, but most of the time those examples have one or a few things in common that make them difficult for me to use. I need other cases, other than the ones people keep sharing at the moment, so where are those cases that are:

  • NOT from an online business: Zappos is the first that comes to mind. If you’re in e-business it’s also easier to create and measure a valid social online presence. There’s an immediate link with your business to be made online, there’s an immediate link to be made with sales online, that’s not the case for everyone.
  • NOT from a tech company: Microsoft, DELL, … I’ve worked for Microsoft myself and even 4-5 years ago there were about 5.000 bloggers active within the company. The company was actually active in social media before The Company was active in social media (if you know what I mean). You got a whole bunch of tech savvy people together, I can tell you from my experience that is a very different starting point than when you try and set this up with your average FMCG brand for instance
  • NOT from the U.S.: Ford, Starbucks, … great brands moving the needle in social and proving that it makes a difference for the whole business. With someone like Scott Monty at Ford, they are able to test and build social web experiences and applications, monitor etc but don’t forget that most of the learnings from this only work for a market as big as the U.S. The team, the tools, the costs, … for a market in one main language and with something like 300 M people is quite different from any market in Europe for instance. And a Pan-European approach might have the same scale but also that still requires a pretty different approach. There is no Europe basically ;)
  • NOT from a social media company: Social Media Examiner, Hubspot, … their business is in social media, it would be kind of sad if they didn’t know how to make it work for themselves right?
  • NOT from an indivitual or a 2 person company: There are obviously plenty of examples around like this – Choqoa from a friend of mine is a great example of a case like this. But it’s different when the business is basically yours and when you’re passionate about social media and understands how things work versus getting things organized in your regular mid-sized or big companies. You just have to start, you’re convinced and there’s no-one else around, no steering committees or anything like that. And that makes a huge difference.
  • NOT initiated by a negative experience: DELL Hell, Kryptonite, … we’ve all seen and heard of these examples plenty of times. And it’s great to see the turnaround DELL did after all the negative buzz they got at the start. But when I want to show people the opportunity that is social media, not why it’s a good tool to set up your defense systems.
  • NOT just a link or a screenshot: Last but not least, it’s great to get a link of a nice example but I’m really looking for cases so I’d like to see more information, data or at least people’s opinions around why this is a good or a bad case.

So don’t get me wrong. We’ve probably all learned certain lessons from some of the examples mentioned above and we should have. But on a day to day basis I cannot use much of the learnings I ‘ve got from these examples given the nature of those cases versus the situations I think many of us are dealing with on a daily basis.

So if you know a good case that is none of the above, please let me know. And share my request with your friends if that’s not too much to ask ;)

Photo by Andy Ciordia

Why hyperlocal is not yet hyper relevant

Hyperlocal is a hot topic these days. Especially for news media it seems to be where the future lies. You can either try to play a global role like The Guardian or Al Jazeera are doing with success, or find a way to be more locally relevant. And I believe the future of news for most publishers will be more local than it will be global. Because let’s face it, only when you publish in one of the world’s most spoken languages you can make a difference on a global scale. 

The problem with hyperlocal is that most people interpret it wrong. Currently the most common practice is to use geolocation, you either enter your postal code or the application/website defines your location based on GPS or IP settings. So you get news, offers, information related to where you are. Very efficient but when thinking about hyperlocal the opportunities are beyond that. 

The reason why is the following:

  1. I got many localities that are relevant for me.  I think about the place where I live, where I work, where I lived when I was young, … I have a bond with all these locations in a certain way so I’m interested in news from all these places and even other types of information. Today no-one is offering me a way to organize news gathering with this in mind. At best, like I mentioned before, you get that output for one of the chose locations, never for a mix of. Prove me otherwise.
  2. The range of interest centered around me can differ in size depending on the topic and the moment. What I mean with that is that when I’m looking to buy new furniture I’m probably okay with driving a bit further than when I want to get a pack of cigarettes, just to name something. Or when I want to buy a car versus when I’m looking for an accountant. This means for me the range you take into account when talking about hyperlocal needs to be quite a bit more subtle than it is today.
  3. Last but not least, hyperlocal doesn’t mean faits divers by default. The local version of my online newspaper tells me about a selection of the tiniest events I don’t care about in my city, but fails to mention when the Tour de France is passing by. Zooming in on hyperlocal seems to mean the same as zooming in on stuff that nobody cares about happening 2 blocks away. Why is that?

With more and more information, media being geotagged and with technologies that allow geofencing I hope that we’ll see an evolution in the way we deal with hyperlocal that takes the reasoning I wrote down into account.

Some thoughts on Social CRM

Yesterday I did a presentation on Social CRM at Digital Marketing First (and no my thoughts on that event haven’t changed yet). It was our partner Selligent who had asked me to join them for this presentation and the following is what I prepared.

The original call for the presentation was around social media as a direct marketing tool but I found that too limited of scope and also I’m annoyed by the fact that many people just see social crm as a campaigning tool on Facebook and Twitter. But hey, nothing new there – online crm is also mostly translated as being sending emails to a database. While clearly crm is much more than that. And that’s kind of what I wanted to bring in this presentation to begin with.

‘The customer is at the centre of everything we do’. Customer centricity is a hot topic these days, it’s the primary scope for how we manage our business. But is that really so? I’m not too sure about that. From what I see and hear businesses seem to have quite a few other objectives that come first. Do we even know our customers? Because how can we even be real about being customer centric if you have no clue who you’re talking about?

In an age in which consumers constantly re-evaluate brands/products (cfr McKinsey) it’s even more important to put the consumer that the center (and for real) and to start building relationships. So the point in the end is to use a lot more of the tools/channels to get to know your customer a lot better so you can be more personal in the conversation. And luckily there’s an awful lot of automation that can be done to deliver on that promise.

For those that attended the presentation, hope you liked it.

The promise of interactive television (Cont’d)

Via Brandflakes for Breakfast I learned about Yap.tv which seems to be another interesting view on what interactive could be like. Other than the My Generation app from abc which I mentioned earlier this week, the Yap.tv app is useful for all channels and all interactivity is added without collaboration from the channels themselves.

If this is the direction we’re going – and it sure looks like it – interactive tv will be re-invented by people and companies outside the tv business and not by the networks or content owners.  I suppose that’s what happens when you try to protect an outdated business model. That’s kinda sad in a sense but also very exciting. Wanna bet that is exactly what is going to happen? I do ;)

In the meantime check out Yap.tv if you’re living in the US, I can tell you it’s pretty useless in Europe. It’s the idea that counts.

The promise of interactive television (part 2)

There are 3 reasons I once decided to get a digital television at home:

  1. Better quality. Especially with one of those fancy new full HD screens that’s a much better experience.
  2. Comfort features. Think about the EPG, easier recording, movie rental, …
  3. Interactivity. Push the red/blue/whatever-color button and you will get a richer experience

The end score, 2 out of 3. I don’t know how it is in the rest of the world, but in Belgium interactive part is pretty nonexistent. I’ve used the red button less than 5 times in the 3 years I’ve got digital tv at home. It was always a disappointment. Useless information, bad experience, ugly, … Content makers nor advertisers seem to show any interest in it. Too bad because I had really high hopes for this. It’s pretty easy to imagine how this could be used in many really cool ways. Didn’t happen.

When I read about the My Generation iPad app from abc it sounded like they built an app to do what interactive tv couldn’t. The same promise all over again, but you’ll need another device to experience it. And only with My Generation on abc.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these are cool evolutions. I’m just wondering why none of the richer tv experiences have ever really succeeded without the help of peripheral devices. Sounds like a missed opportunity to me for television makers.

Anyway, good stuff from abc. Curious to see how this will evolve further. What do you think?