News

VentureBeat has a good article where Flurry’s CEO highlights statistics that indicate that the mobile industry is continuing to grow extremely rapidly. The quotes that caught my attention:

‘“This industry did not exist in 2008, but in the last year, $18 billion in revenue was generated from mobile apps,” Khalaf said. “It’s taken the web about 16 years to get huge, but mobile is matching that in about four.”’

and especially:

“…mobile app consumption in the U.S. has reach 127 minutes, compared to 168 minutes for TV and 70 minutes for web browsing…”

Mobile app consumption is neary parity with television watching. That is a harbinger of massive social change. And huge commercial opportunities!

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In the midst of map- and scuff-gate, it seems the true advances of iOS 6 are being overlooked. In particular, it seems to us that the update will begin to close the gap between native and mobile web apps.

First impressions of Safari in iOS 6 are promising – better (but not great) developer tools, file upload, the ability to capture photos and video… The combination of more robust client capabilities and consistent, fast and inexpensive wireless data will narrow the gap between native apps and mobile web apps.

In fact, unless mobile devices develop some radical new capabilities that prove difficult for a mobile web app to harness, it’s likely that the gap will be eliminated. It won’t happen overnight, but it will be very interesting to see how Apple in particular manages the transition as the iTunes App Store’s importance as a control point for the iOS market diminishes.

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Every now and then you see people who really “get it.” If you’re interested in learning from people with practical experience making outsourcing work, check out the new report from US marketing consultancy Platzner | brand storytellers. Their report nails some of the key best practices for working with offshore development teams, and they recognize a lot of the unique characteristics of software engineering in Vietnam that make it so special.

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“Ever wondered what it takes to be an entrepreneur?”
- Startup Weekend

Well, we have a little bit of experience there! We’re sponsoring $5,000 in free development for the winner of this year’s Startup Weekend to get them started right. Tech Propulsion Labs CTO Dan Shupp will be there as a mentor, and we’re all looking forward to seeing some great companies emerge.

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It’s a pretty good bet that the iPhone 5 will feature Near Field Communication, or NFC and so will Windows Phone 8 devices. With Google Wallet and Android devices already announced with NFC, this means that 2013 will be the year that the US and European markets finally see mobile commerce come to fruition.

Of course, hype about mobile commerce has been around for a long time, and there are many players already in the market. However, adoption has been very slow, especially when you compare the US with Japan where 70 million phones have NFC (60% of the market base) and “virtually all commuters” pay for their subway rides with the technology.  Since the technology has been proven and available in Asian markets, what has retarded its adoption in the US? The simple answer is that every large market participant finds the notion of mobile commerce irresistibly attractive and has been trying to position themselves in controlling positions. Banks, credit card companies, wireless carriers and tech vendors like Apple, Microsoft and Google have been jostling for that advantageous control point for a decade, with very little value created for the consumer thus far. In many ways this is analogous to the era before independent credit card companies like VISA and Mastercard existed, when every bank and many stores had their own, non-interoperable cards. To accept a payment from bank X’s charge card, a vendor had to have an account with bank X for transaction clearance. VISA was created by a consortium of banks as an independent entity with a common transaction clearing infrastructure, and the consumer credit market was set for explosive growth. Each of the major market players want to create the mobile equivalent of VISA as a proprietary system and force the rest of the market to adopt it, capturing a lion’s share of the massive surge of mobile payments. The competitive gamesmanship has kept the market at a virtual standstill.

However, Apple’s move in particular signals a new stage in the development of mobile commerce. Apple seldom makes a move this strategic without having a robust and powerful playbook in its back pocket. The digital music market was fragmented and stagnant for very similar reasons when iTunes and the iPod closed the loop, the embattled recording labels signed on, and Apple captured credit card information from millions of consumers and enough of the friction was removed for rapid growth to occur. Similarly, the iPhone became the model for what a smartphone experience should be not merely because of its superior technology and design but also because Apple was able to get AT&T to relinquish so much of the control over the customer that carriers had historically enjoyed. No branding on the phone, flat pricing for data, and the Apple-controlled app store were all huge breakthroughs that drove rapid market adoption.

What this means for entrepreneurs looking for opportunities is that mobile commerce will be changing radically and growing rapidly, starting next year. Incumbents like PayPal, 4Square and the like may seem to have an advantage, but experience shows that established firms rarely adopt to significant market changes very quickly. The basic functions of NFC such as paying for mass transit, groceries and food will likely be filled by the entities that already control the context for those use cases. However, any new capability like NFC tends to generate new use cases, often ones that emerge out of the behaviors of the early adopters in the marketplace. These are the niches where mobile payment startups are most likely to identify and capitalize on rather than the larger players. These are the areas where creativity, tenacity, nimbleness, and a little capital can credibly compete and win. These are the areas where entrepreneurs looking for their next startup idea should be looking.

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