Sep 092015
 

Times are getting even tougher for Apple’s competitors with Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC falling out of Taiwan’s main stock market index after their share price fell 66% over the last year.

Coupled with reports that Korea’s Samsung is laying off ten percent of their workforce, it’s clear the smartphone industry is by no means a license to print money.

Making matters worse for the sector, Apple will be announcing a refresh tomorrow morning which will almost certainly hurt the competition further.

For the marketplace, particularly as one as important as the smartphone market, having only one profitable supplier is not a good thing. The challenge though is for Apple’s competitors to find a way to make a profit.

Sep 042015
 

South Korean industrial giant Samsung is struggling, in the last year its smartphone division reported a 75% drop in revenues while their handsets, while still the world’s most popular, lost ten percentage points of market share.

The company’s smartphone division is stuck because mobile carriers in the western world are abandoning subsidies for handsets, with most developed markets now at saturation point for cellphone adoption there’s little point in chasing market growth for all but the most desperate telco.

For Samsung that’s been a problem as their premium model strategy has been based upon western consumers ordering a new phone every 18 to 24 months as their mobile contracts were renewed, now those deals are not so common a key sales channel for the Korean conglomerate has been lost.

This leaves Samsung looking for the next market and at this week’s IFA consumer technology event in Berlin, the company unveiled its Smart Things hub, a cylindrical device that connects with your TV, air conditioning, music system, and other home appliances.

Smart Things was an acquisition Samsung made last year to improve its IoT product line and the company has an open platform for connecting household devices with over 200 already certified.

For Samsung with its range of domestic equipment this may well mark the future for the business. The interesting thing though is the smartphone is still integral in today’s vision of the connected home, so we won’t see Samsung leaving the handset market soon.

Aug 152015
 

Two years ago this site interviewed New Deal Design’s Gadi Amit about Google’s Project Ara.

Project Ara is an experiment in creating a modular phone where users can customise their devices by adding or removing components.

PC World now reports the mooted soft launch for the Project Ara phone in Puerto Rico has been cancelled.

While Google aren’t saying the project has been shut down, the sporadic and cryptic messages around Ara don’t bode well given the way the company loses interest in and then abandons products.

If it is being abandoned, it will be interesting to see where the intellectual property from the project ends up.

Aug 102015
 

As regular security problems are being exposed in the Android operating system, Google and Samsung have announced regular updates to their devices and software.

For long timers in the IT industry this is a return to the Microsoft days of Patch Tuesdays, the monthly bundle of updates for Windows and Office the company used to issue on the first Tuesday of each month.

While Android has nothing the like the problems Microsoft did in the early 2000s with the explosion of malware that crippled millions of users, the risks to the Google system are real with some predicting a security armageddon.

For users, there’s a serious question in the problems facing Android system in that unlike the Windows systems the rollout of updates is controlled by the telcos or handset vendors rather than the software developers.

As a consequence many older devices simply aren’t being updated leaving millions of smartphone users exposed to malware and having no way of fixing known security problems.

The problems facing Android are common across the entire Internet of Things, how Google respond the current smartphone security problems is going to be a pointer for the rest of the IoT sector.

Jul 292015
 

“There is no perfect product,” says Jim Fish, “but the Internet of Things makes it possible to deliver a close to perfect message.”

Fish, the Chief Innovation Officer & VP Global Automotive Diagnostics at Bosch North America, was speaking to Decoding the New Economy ahead of his visit to Sydney to speak at the 2015 ADMA Global Forum.

For marketers, the connected car and the Internet of Things presents a unique set of opportunities, particularly when overlaid with today’s social media tools.

“If you think about your ability to message with today’s Facebook and the ability for marketers to micro-target messages so you could push a message to people according to things they’ve shown preference for or things that they have liked.”

“The next leap frog ahead from an automotive perspective is in vehicle advertising specific to vehicle and location,” says Fish. “There is a battle for the real estate in vehicle’s infotainment systems. The automakers are placing a lot of effort in delivering the experience the mobile user desires.”

In the auto industry this has seen a battle between software vendors to stake a position on the smartcar’s dashboard. Fish sees Google with its mapping, search and advertising technologies as being the best placed in that field but doesn’t think there will be one single winner in the automobile space.

Smart Connected Living

One of the biggest opportunities beyond marketi Fish sees is in combining the smarthome with the connected car. “We see this exploding,” he says of Bosch’s future plans. “We see it as perfectly integrating,”

Fish sees how the connected home integrates with other technologies to provide seamless connectivity for people. Even if people lose their smartphones the smart house will be able to inform and communicate with them.

Again, combining the information gathered by social media and other services presents opportunities for businesses and governments.

Networking the smart city

For the smart city, Fish sees connected cars providing a key part in managing and planning the towns of the future citing how the Michigan Department of Transportation sees how equipping vehicles with road monitoring sensors could save the state 11 million dollars a year in inspection costs.

Fish also cites how cities are experimenting with monitoring how taxis and public vehicles are using their windshield wipers to determine weather conditions. The US Department of Transportation flags the smartcar as the mobile weather station.

Again Fish sees Google as having an advantage in applying these technologies with their acquisition of Israeli traffic crowdsourcing service Wayze.

“Crowdsourcing is in its infancy. There are many things computers can do but there are some things they will never be able to do. There are some human elements still required.”

Fish sees much of our understanding of what we can do with the internet of things and the data we generate from it as being in its infancy. The real value lies in extracting the value from it. For marketers the journey is only just beginning.

 

Apr 302015
 

A billion devices running Windows 10 was the promise made by Microsoft at the company’s Build Conference in San Francisco yesterday.

The ambition is based upon delivering the system on devices ranging from desktop computers down to the embedded systems on Internet of Things devices.

 

As part of the drive to get onto the IoT, Microsoft also announced Windows 10 initiatives for the makers’ community with various programs for Arduino, Raspberry Pi and Intel’s Minnowboard.

At the same time the company announced how some software will soon be able to run on iPhones and Android devices with an extended Software Developers Kit.

While this makes Windows more attractive for developers who no longer have to develop different versions for the Microsoft product, it’s also an admission the company’s phone strategy has failed.

For Microsoft yesterday’s Build Conference was the opportunity for the company to show their vision of the market’s future that involves computers, mobile devices, the cloud and the Internet of Things.

Whether Microsoft is part of that future is the main concern of CEO Satya Nadella.

Apr 222015
 

Over the last few weeks much has been written about Google’s mobile search update that went live on Wednesday, some said it would be the death of small business on the internet while others claimed it would be the end of corporates online.

While all the focus has been on Google’s search changes Facebook quietly made a change that will probably be more vexing for many businesses.

Both Facebook and Google are struggling with making their services more useful for users, with the Google changes the intention is to make search on mobile devices more useful in giving preference to websites that work on smaller screens.

In a post on Google’s webmaster blog, Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye answered the basic questions about the search engine changes which dispelled much of the hysteria and myths about the update. The main point of Ohye’s post is that Google want to show users useful information.

Facebook have a similar problem, they have to balance the often competing interests of their users and advertisers with the main aim being keeping visitors on their site for as long as possible.

The objective of keeping users engaged is the reason for a series of tweaks Facebook announced this week that change the newsfeed visitors see.

The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you. This means we need to give you the right mix of updates from friends and public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations you are connected to. This balance is different for everyone depending on what people are most interested in learning about every day. As more people and pages are sharing more content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right.

Facebook are putting their users priorities first in making sure the news feed is interesting and relevant, which the company believes will entice visitors to spend longer on the site and make advertising more attractive.

If it works then it’s a win for Facebook, their users and those who pay to advertise on the site. Again though, the losers are the companies and brands not advertising who thought they could get views by the quality of their content.

Unless the content is very good, those companies not paying Facebook are in for more disappointment as their reach collapses even further than its current pathetic rates.

Google’s change too is something that puts users first; rather than dumping mobile web surfers onto an unreadable page, they are making sure people get to sites that are useful.

In many ways Google is only encouraging what has been best practice for at least five years, that every site should work equally well on mobile devices as they do on desktop computers.

What Facebook and Google are showing us is the value of putting users’ needs first. If your guests are happy then your business model has a much better chance of succeeding, regardless of who the eventual customer is.

Making business more user friendly should be a priority for all companies in a competitive world.