I like a good dichotomy as much as the next person, which is why I decided to compare the shares of Yahoo with that of Apple over the recent time period.
That’s because in what amounts to a trading-places moment, despite their differences in focus, the pair have had almost polar opposite stock performances of late.
Yahoo, of course, is the famous Internet giant that has been trying to turn itself around for a very long time; Apple is the Silicon Valley phenom that has been wowing the sector for just as much time with endless innovative products.
Typically, that state of affairs has meant that Apple has enjoyed a rocket ship of a ride from Wall Street investors, while Yahoo has suffered. That’s certainly been true on a five-year basis, with Apple up 244 percent and Yahoo down 21 percent.
But in the last six months, it has been another story altogether. In that time, Apple has been sliding to its lowest price since September, down 35 percent. Meanwhile, Yahoo has surged nearly 50 percent in the time frame.
It’s the same story for the past three months, with Apple down 27 percent and Yahoo up 17 percent; and, the last month, with the Cupertino, Calif.-based device maker down 5 percent and the nearby Sunnyvale Internet portal up 11 percent.
It’s a classic story of hope, with investors counting on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to turn the tide at the long-suffering company, while they worry about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s ability to keep the hits coming fast and furious.
Perhaps most ironic? That part of Mayer’s appeal is her continued repetition of Yahoo’s mobile aspirations, although the results in that key arena are still negligible and decidedly nascent. Apple, despite the stock fall-off, still handily dominates mobile money-making and on a massive scale, although increasingly competitive Google Android devices continue to gain ground.
For every winner, there has to be a loser. Smartphone sales have defied gravity in recent years, but there’s no defying simple math.
Several major Asia-based smartphone manufacturers are talking up their growth plans. South Korea’s LG Electronics says its smartphone shipments will jump 50% in year-on-year in 2013. China’s expects to post a 50% increase in shipments too. Huawei Technologies says it will ship 60 million smartphones this year, up 88% from 32 million in 2012.
The global market is certainly expanding quickly, but not that fast. Between 2010 and 2011, total global shipments increased 64%, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. In 2012, the pace of shipment growth slowed to 43% year-on-year. In 2013, growth is expected to slow down further to 36%, Strategy Analytics says.
With the overall market growing at a slower pace than what individual manufacturers are forecasting, something’s got to give.
Read the rest of this post on the original site.
The way we view apps has evolved rapidly over the last few years. What started as a convenience item for most companies is now a requirement, often more important than a well built website. A side effect of this rapid evolution is missing some critical steps to avoid abuse, which lead to a settlement Apple just agreed to involving apps targeted at selling to children.
In app purchases are an incredibly powerful tool. In a world where we can impulse buy something small and have it be delivered immediately, making sure there are fewer and fewer steps in the micro transaction will guarantee more sales. Apple’s in-app purchasing system nets them a percentage of every dollar made in every app across their ecosystem, so they have a vested interested in making sure there are very few steps in a given transaction. This works well as long as you are dealing with adults, but when you aim this system at children you are bound to run into problems.
Many games for iOS resorted to using in-game currency to purchase things needed to easily progress in each game. Downloading and playing the game is free, but you can progress much faster if you’re willing to pay for an item or accessory to help out. If you want in-game currency, you pay real money through Apple’s in-app purchasing system.
It’s not a bad idea, especially if you’re up to the challenge of trying to play without the aid of in-game money, but if you’re not careful those in-app purchases can rack up quickly. If you’re a child, and it’s not obvious that you are spending your parents money to get fake money for your game, their bank account can quickly suffer.
Obviously parents were upset about this, and a class action lawsuit was created to try and address the problem with Apple. In-app purchasing systems were quickly adjusted to require a password, and game developers now clearly state when real money is changing hands, but the damage was already done. Many users were out hundreds of dollars as a result of these games, often with no idea that the transactions were taking place until they were long done. There’s no record of how many users were involved in the class action suit, or how Apple plans to handle extreme cases, but if you are able to prove that you were a victim of this system you can get some money back.
GigaOm reports that Apple is expected to send an email to over 23 million iTunes users who may have made purchases that fall under the list of infringing apps. Apple will issue anywhere from $5 to $30 in iTunes credit to anyone able to prove that a minor used their account to buy things with in-app purchasing. For users who have more than $30 in purchases that qualify, a request can be made that the money be returned in cash instead of credit. It’s unclear exactly when this is expected to start, as the settlement has yet to be approved by a federal judge, but once that happens the emails are expected to follow shortly after.
You know this whole idea about smartphones and tablets at the office might be going places when you see IBM showing interest in it.
Big Blue took a serious plunge into the mobile business today by teaming up with AT&T, launching new services for its clients and making it easier for its customers to develop software for mobile platforms. The initiative has been dubbed MobileFirst, and brings what IBM does best, including analytics, application development and cloud services, into a batch of services that make it easier for customers manage and secure the devices that employees use on the job, and to more easily develop applications they use to reach out to their own customers.
It’s a strong signal about IBM’s priorities going forward that, among other things, could indicate a preference for making acquisitions of companies in the mobile space in the future: It has already bought 10 mobile companies in the last four years. Prior strategic bets like this include Web commerce and data analytics. It’s also something IBM has been quietly doing for some time: It said it has already helped 1,000 companies get their mobile act together.
As for AT&T, the two are now partners on the mobile software development front. AT&T uses IBM’s Worklight mobile application development platform — Worklight was one of those 10 mobile acquisitions — to access AT&T APIs in the cloud, speeding up development of apps. Expect IBM to say more about this at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.
ZeptoLab CEO Misha Lyalin doesn’t play cards, except for bridge. His Moscow-based games company, though, is playing a more random card game.
“We’re fortunate enough that we got dealt an amazing card, and it’s called Cut the Rope,” Lyalin said of ZeptoLab’s hit series. “But we still have to build up everything else. With one card, you go into the game, and everybody has a hand, and you have nothing.”
That “everything else” includes two other games, Parachute Ninja and Pudding Monsters, which combined with Cut the Rope’s three titles have generated more than 300 million downloads across all platforms since 2010. The company also licenses enough merchandise to choke even Cut the Rope’s voracious star, Om Nom: Toys, apparel, food, board games, a digital comic book and an ongoing animated Web series.
And that list is growing. In an interview with AllThingsD, Lyalin said ZeptoLab is planning four new games for this year: Two new Cut the Rope games and two completely original titles. The company is also working with Sony Pictures Television to develop a TV show, to start airing in 2014.
(Also coming soon to a TV near you: A half-hour animated TV series based on Zynga’s social game FarmVille, not to mention Rovio’s Angry Birds TV shorts, a few of which have already aired on Nickelodeon. Whether the new generation of videogame-related shows can live up to the artistic excellence of the “Super Mario Bros. Super Show” remains to be seen.)
The CEO declined to go into detail about the TV show, other than to say that it would be Cut the Rope-themed.
Lyalin said these sorts of licensed products are now a part of the expected path for game companies that have a hit on their hands.
And that’s telling. Once, the iconic games that were able to command extensive lines of merchandise were only available on a few devices approved by their publishers (think Mario on Nintendo’s consoles or Sonic on Sega’s). Now, stuffed Om Noms are both an extra revenue stream and a form of advertising for the Cut the Rope brand, which freely follows users across different devices and different operating systems.
However, Lyalin stressed the need to keep releasing new games above all else.
“We’re a gaming company, first and foremost,” he said. “That is where our strength is from.”
So, where are those games headed? With its fans primarily on mobile devices, ZeptoLab hasn’t yet tried to break into the troubled home-console market, but Lyalin said he hasn’t ruled it out. In particular, he said, Android-based game consoles (such as the forthcoming Ouya) are “a given,” since the company’s games are already on the Android OS.
His bigger philosophy, though, is refreshingly frank, if not terribly complex: A lot of platforms where ZeptoLab might go won’t survive. But, Lyalin said, if they can attract an audience in the short term and potentially expand Om Nom’s reach, then that’s enough.
It’s been a long journey for Bubble Motion, one of Singapore’s oldest startups. The company has been around since 2005 and made its name as a voice messenger app, allowing people to send voice clips to each other within text messages.
Unlike with an MMS, the service requires no data. A user dials *7*, follows the phone commands and speaks. The recipient gets a text and “retrieves” the message by dialing another code to listen to the message. It’s a circuit switched call, so it works on feature phones.
According to Bubble Talk’s CEO, Thomas Clayton, this was instrumental in the service taking off in emerging markets in Asia, where smartphones didn’t (and don’t) hold the lion’s share of the mobiles. This allowed it to accumulate 100 million unique users in these markets.
But about two years ago, the company decided to move from the voice messaging model to a service called Bubbly, functioning more as a Twitter for voice, blasting voice messages to subscribers at once.
“It has zero attention from us now,” said Clayton, of the old service. Bubbly, on the other hand, has added a million new users each month to hit 25 million right now.
But Bubble Motion didn’t abandon its old phone-based platform. Bubbly works with feature phones in the same method, where users can record their voice by dialing a code and speaking, and subscribers get a text with a link that will dial Bubble Motion’s servers to have the message play back.
The company has released apps for Android and iOS devices, but it isn’t swayed by the world’s infatuation with smartphone apps yet, said Clayton.
With about 5 percent of its user base on the smartphone app, the rest are busy subscribing to celebrities and broadcasting to friends via their feature phones, he said. “It’s nowhere near plateauing in the sign-ups we’re getting from feature phones, either. Of course I’d like everyone to go to the app because it is easier to engage users, but feature phones remain a huge base for Asia.”
And unlike with smartphones, where users have become accustomed to ads in exchange for using it for free, Bubbly is a paid service to subscribe to celebrities. Feature phone users are charged a fee per celebrity, per month. Smartphone users get it free for the first month, before it becomes an all-you-can-eat plan for $0.99 for six months. The company also sells upgradeable packs for its voice filters.
Bubble Motion also reaches out to users via operator partnerships-necessary because it needs to colocate hardware with the telcos for all the calls, unlike with smartphone apps. The operator partners help to push Bubbly in their markets. The company has tie-ups with most of the big operators in the region, and has focused on India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. It plans to launch with all the telcos in Thailand and Vietnam soon, as well as in Japan.
When I point out that today’s messengers have ironically employed the one-to-one voice texting that Bubble Motion helped pioneer seven years ago, Clayton shrugged it off, saying the decision to move to a broadcast system was made four years ago. “None of the WeChats and KakaoTalks existed then,” he said.
Still, the company’s plans to rope direct messaging into its functions in the near future point to them trying not to exit this scene fully, while the market warms up to voice clips.
Bubble Motion will also add a “visual component” to the service in an upcoming version of its smartphone app, he said.
Last year, the firm raised $5 million from JAFCO Asia and $10 million from SingTel Innov8, Infocomm Investments, Sequoia Capital, Palomar Ventures, and NFC.
Other investors include Comcast, Northgate Capital and Infocomm Investments. The company is headquartered in Singapore with operations in Silicon Valley, India, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Image copyright Gregory James Van Raalte
In 2012, companies like PayPal, Google and Apple made major announcements in the mobile wallets and offers space. Credit card companies were not nearly as noisy, but 2013 could be the year that all changes.
Financial institutions are embracing digital offers out of necessity because revenue from current sources is in decline. The future of the payments industry is shifting quickly to monetizing consumer relationships — particularly through mobile devices — and away from extracting new value from the payments value chain.
What many do not know is that credit card companies have experienced significant pain as a result of the capping of their lucrative interchange fees by the Durbin Amendment, which became effective in 2011. Faced with declines in what had previously been a significant form of revenue, credit card companies know that they need to open new sources of revenue. This need is becoming ever more urgent with companies like Google and Paypal joining the mix and leveraging their unique assets — novelty, retailer relationships, and extensive technology infrastructure.
The opportunity here is massive — total real-world (not online) retail commerce is $4 trillion a year in the U.S., and eMarketer just reported that mobile advertising is expected to increase by 180 percent in the coming year to reach $4 billion. Credit card companies looking to take their fair share of this revenue need to figure out how to leverage their great relationships with consumers to open up new sources of revenue.
Here are my suggestions for strategies that will help credit card companies come out ahead in 2013:
Stop chasing Chase. Instead, start acting like a media company.
To open new sources of revenue through media and technology, banks need to add new DNA that is not focused on traditional banking concerns such as regulatory compliance, security and fraud. Of course, I am not suggesting that they stop complying with regulations, or that they abandon security. But banks must become more nimble at attacking new revenue opportunities — particularly in consumer offers. At Google and other companies in Silicon Valley, teams still pull all-nighters to release alpha versions of products for consumers and partners in a matter of days to test an experience, an approach that is antithetical to the banking world. Yet if banks want to succeed in the media world, they have to figure out how at least part of their organization can play in an API-driven ecosystem that encourages collaboration and rapid product releases. First test for the C-suite at banks: Have you developed and released anything new to consumers in a single quarter?
Play ball with the competitors.
Consider the value of the ecosystem in growing your mobile offers initiative. In order to succeed in delivering a great mobile rewards program, the key is having a rich supply of merchant offers upon which to layer targeting. No one company is going to assemble enough, so think instead about collaborating with all the other players and getting the network effects of a larger audience and a bigger pool of offers. An interesting model for this kind of collaboration is WEVE in the UK, in which three mobile operators — EE, Telefonica UK (O2) and Vodafone UK — have banded together to form a large consortium. The individual companies behind the consortium still compete to acquire subscribers, but they now collaborate with a common platform for monetizing those subscribers through marketing.
Turn that marketing focus inside out.
Now that you have a great offers program, the biggest challenge is getting enough customers into it to move the needle. Each card provider today has marketing teams that focus solely on signing up new customers for their credit cards. Yet somehow, these are not the folks developing new digital offerings. These customer acquisition teams are digital media experts. Imagine focusing that valuable marketing experience on getting consumers to opt into new and sophisticated customer reward programs, and to download their new rewards apps. It is customer acquisition, pure and simple.
Don’t wait for big data.
My last and most controversial suggestion for 2013 is to let go of the obsession with big data! Many banks are building huge databases for micro-targeting customers with niche offers. Microtargeting is cool, but believe me, media is a war of attrition and all of that big data-based targeting will yield a customer segment of just a few people. Brands do not want to target only a select handful of people with their offers; they need to reach a million people in order for their investment in creating and distributing that offer to make economic sense. Silicon Valley has managed to convince enterprises that massive amounts of data will build a program that really performs in terms of offers and sales; but ultimately, microtargeting is not monetizable at scale until there are an equally large set of available offers. The real way to success is to provide a great experience with lots of offers for your entire customer base. Yes, there are a handful of important variables that should be considered, including location, time of day, gender, interests and even retargeting; but other data on top is gravy and too much is at odds with reaching a large enough number of people with relevant offers. The “big picture” is not always based on big data. (Hint: You might derive as much value from customers by asking them what they want instead.)
The Long View
As Bob Dylan said, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Credit card companies can no longer hesitate while other companies race forward to make a profit on this kind of consumer spending. If credit card companies employ the strategies I propose, they will be real contenders against the likes of Paypal, Google, Apple and the mobile operators. The weather forecast is clear for mobile offers: Sunny, with billions of dollars blowing in the wind. It’s up to each financial institution to figure out how to get to market faster and catch some of it.
Alistair Goodman is the CEO of Placecast, where he leads a team of mobile, technology and marketing experts who have created the most scalable, proven, location-based marketing system currently available. Alistair has more than 20 years of experience working in marketing and product development efforts for media and technology companies.
If a Foxconn factory worker decided to start saving up for the latest version of the iPhone or iPad today, by the time he or she had enough money to buy it, it would already be obsolete.
A general statement like that probably comes as no surprise to anyone who is at all familiar with the working conditions at the overseas component manufacturer, but it is interesting to actually crunch the numbers and see just how much of a disparity there is between you and the people who make the products you buy.
That was the subject of a blog post by self-proclaimed nerd Rob Sim. His analysis provides a mathematical value to the irony of laborers in Asia who are surrounded by Apple product components, yet will probably never own an Apple product. According to his calculations, Foxconn workers who save all of their disposable income (a whopping $59.50 per month) would have enough money to buy the latest iPad in about 10 months. Of course by then, the latest iPad would be an entirely different model than when they started saving. For an unlocked iPhone 5, it would take about 14 months of careful saving.
Those numbers are based on a six-day work week at $17 per day and a cost of living amount of $382.50 per month.
So what is the point of these calculations? Sim wrote that even he doesn’t know exactly what to take away from this, other than the fact that it seems pretty unfair. If nothing else, it certainly makes everyone else feel pretty good about their living situation.
Apple has taken big steps to ensure that Foxconn complies with all of the local labor laws, but when it comes to raising the wages, it is deafeningly quiet.
Happy Super Bowl weekend! In case you missed them and are bored waiting for the kickoff, here are the top 10 stories on AllThingsD from the week of 1/28:
1.) Twitter Hacked; 250,000 User Accounts Potentially Compromised
2.) BlackBerry Reinvents Itself to Compete With All-Touch Smartphones
3.) HBO Go Is Coming to Apple TV. Why Isn’t Everything Coming to Apple TV?
4.) PSA: Unlocking Phones Without Carrier Permission Becomes Illegal on Saturday
5.) Time Inc. Braces for Layoffs This Week [Update: They happened -- here's the memo too]
6.) Twitter’s Vine App Doesn’t Have a Porn Problem. It Has a Porn Discovery Problem.
7.) iPhone Users Rack Up the Highest Carrier Bills
8.) Sales Talks Fell Through, So Ad Exchange AdBrite Shuts Down
9.) The Next Step for Computing: The Storage Fabric
10.) Apple Announces iPad Maxi