March 10th, 2010

Announcing New Forrester Blog

Please note that beginning on Monday 9th I will migrate my mobile strategy posts to my new blog.  Please update all of your feed subscriptions and bookmarks to http://blogs.forrester.com/julie_ask

I look forward to continuing the conversations with you at Forrester’s external blogs.

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October 5th, 2009

Amazon Mobile Payments

See Fierce release.

I think this is interesting. Certainly many retailers will use user names/passwords/log-in credentials from their websites. This is an interesting option both for retailers who may not have an online presence today or for consumers who may not have an account with a particular retailer. I’d love to simply use my Amazon sign in to pay at different sites.

This really hit home with an experience I had the other morning. A friend of mine – not super tech-savvy, but reasonable – uses email on her cell phone – walked up to me at the pool. She was really excited. She’d purchased “something” on her phone the day before. She’d used Amazon to do so – she couldn’t get over how easy it was – especially with all the shipping and payment information already “in the system” so to speak.

Convenience, convenience, convenience -

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September 20th, 2009

Wireless Net Neutrality – Does it Make Sense?

US as Traffic Cop in Web Fight (see WSJ article)

Ok, so there is a bit of wait and see until Monday when the FCC Chairman makes the anticipated announcement, but here’s a first take.

Who, I ask, is on the side of the consumer?  This WSJ article discusses how Obama is taking the side of Silicon Valley. Republicans seem to be taking the side of the carriers. WHO is on my side as a consumer?

Consumers are NOT demanding the ability to stream unlimited video to their cell phones. In fact, very few are even looking for video capability in their next handset purchase. If you are a Forrester client, come ask me/us for the data – we can show you.

What consumers WANT from their wireless service providers is high quality, reliable voice services. Really, it is. We ask consumers year in and year out what it is they want in a wireless service provider. Quality of service and value always come out on top.

The carriers … they’ve raised money in the stock and bond markets based on the assumption that they could generate revenue from selling wireless services – voice, SMS, data, etc. Why should Skype be able to undermine their ability to sell voice services? Why? The wireless service providers have taken all of the risks – they’ve raised the capital, they’ve built the networks, they carry the cost of customer service, etc. Wireless VoIP likely makes sense for some international calling given the roaming fees …. doesn’t mean it has to happen on my cell phone over a non-Wi-Fi wireless network. There are probably more consumers who are shareholders in these companie with expectations of strong returns than consumers wanting wireless VoIP … which by the way doesn’t have consistently high QoS.

So, streaming video and other bandwidth hogging applications. Let me say it again … quality of VOICE service. I DON’T WANT to be on a wireless network with a bunch of people trying to stream video. This is for the same reasons I don’t count on using Wi-Fi in a Starbuck’s or Panera Bread shop – I don’t want to be on a congested network with QoS issues. Sometimes it’s great, but you never know. It doesn’t take many consumers streaming video within a cellular network to use up a lot of capacity, create congestion, and compromise the quality of the experience for the rest of us.

Wireless services providers can’t simply flip switches and keep dialing up the capacity. There are backhaul issues from the towers. There are laws of physics. I live in SF. I tried to Tweet from my iPhone at an Apple event just a couple of weeks ago – even that was frustrating given how many of us are on the AT&T network with iPhones out here – and that’s with rules. You want to download a movie or fat file? Guess what, do it over Wi-Fi or your landline.

Video can be a good service on cell phones. MediaFLO has invested hundreds of millions in a broadcast network. There is Wi-Fi … how many places does one go these days where there is no Wi-Fi network available? Don’t get me wrong – I like watching movies and TV shows on my iPhone.  I live watching YouTube clips. That said, the wireless network is a bit of a shared resource. My interest in watching YouTube shouldn’t trump the ability of paying consumers’ ability to make phone calls. The carriers have a right to generate returns on their investment.

Yes, they could raise prices on data services …. but to what point? AT&T and Verizon each have upwards of 70 million or so customers. It’s not clear to me that either one wants to hand over 35 to 40 million of them to Sprint and T-Mobile even if ARPU doubles.

Let’s see what the FCC says on Monday …

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September 11th, 2009

MOTOBLUR delights with social networking features

I had the opportunity to demo MOTOBLUR on the Motorola CLIQ last night. The device will be available later this year with T-Mobile. It’s been a while since I’ve demo’ed a phone and immediately wanted to take one home.

First, let me say, I was really impressed with the look of the UI. The presentation of the widgets and information had a bit of a whimsical feel to them that appealed to me. I didn’ t feel as if I were clicking my way through a grid or file format. The pop-up boxes were cute. The device allows you to put your most frequently contacts on the home screen as an icon with a small photo – I was really drawn to this feature. [Forrester has written some research on dynamic address books and friendly UI's within the context of mobile social networking. ]

Spent most of my time focused on the social networking aspects. There were a number of features I really liked.

- The set up of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Gmail, etc. is really easy. When you are first setting up your phone, you go into a single menu and can set up all of your services. They also have a single account management page where the information is stored. Really easy and doesn’t require the search, find and download of many different applications.

- Feeds into the Contact list from Facebook, etc. The Contacts are “rich” with information from feeds, conversation history, etc.

- Publishing of updates/photos – can post to a single place or to many (yay!) I spent a lot of time flipping between Facebook and Twitter the other day … well done in solving this pain.

- Widgets … and this falls in one of the themes of the services on the device – there was choice – single news feed or a bundle of weather, sports, news, etc. – and the personalization and selection of services was so easy.

They really hit on a lot of the core services used by consumers with what already ships on the device – good messaging interface (history, integrated, linked to contacts, easy to set up), social networking, and information (news, sports – through widgets, feeds).

And, the presentation of the status updates, news feeds, contacts, etc. on the fun, personalizaed home screen. I don’t know that this is the next Razr, but I think it will do well – it’s fun and does so many things well.

Oh, and it’s Motorola’s first Android device. I’ll leave the review and analysis of the device to my colleague Charlie Golvin.

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September 10th, 2009

Using Cell Phones to Collect Data

My colleague and fellow MIT Alum Grey Held reminded me to blog this today – thank you, Grey.

MIT recently released its 2009 list of young innovators under the age of 35 years. One of this year’s winners is Nathan Eagle. He operates a service called Txteagle – a service that lets any company send cell-phone users simple tasks such as text translation. Participants are paid in credits that can be used for cell phone service or redeemed for cash. Very cool. See article.

Nokia also has some projects going on using cell phones to help researchers collect data on the spread of disease, environmental conditions, etc. SMS is a very pervasive, simple and inexpensive means of collecting data from the field.

In more commercial uses, we saw a snack food company in the UK use SMS as part of a sweepstakes. Each time a bag of chips was opened and the buyer/consumer of the chips texted in the code within the chip bag, this company could see who was buying and at what time of the day their product was being consumed.

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September 10th, 2009

Lost Girls Found Via Facebook Status Update

Two girls, aged 10 and 12, got lost walking around drains in Hackham West in Adelaide. (first sign of bad judgment). They had cell phones so updated their status on Facebook … so they were rescued. I first read this in a free Swiss newspaper given out in the train stations. What was better though, was this article. The analyst points out, if they had cell phones, they could have called “000″ (911 equivalent), duh.

Makes one reconsider all the child-tracking mechanisms and applications. If the child doesn’t want to be found, he or she can turn the cell phone off. If the child does want to be found, he or she could call or SMS.

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September 10th, 2009

Apple’s Impact on Mobile Entertainment

Apple’s announcements yesterday were mostly focused on iTunes and adding a video camera to the Nano (beautiful device by the way – shape, colors, form factor, weight (lessness) – blew me away). There were a couple of interesting things that came out about the iPhone platform though.

A few of the facts:

30 million iPhones sold to date

20 million iPod Touch devices with about 225 million iPods sold to date in all with 50% to new customers (wow!)

1.8 billion downloads of more than 75,000 available applications

100 million billing relationships with credit cards … this impresses me the most and is what I consider to be one of their important competitive advantages

In the mobile world …

First, about one third of their applications are games. The mobile games industry was one that wasn’t doing bad (hundreds of millions annually) in the States pre-iPhone (see Forrester’s analysis from Jay Horwitz and myself), but it wasn’t fulfilling the dreams of those inside the industry. Apple has made games on the cell phone platform interesting again. They haven’t release revenue numbers, but their story is good. They have about three times the titles of Nintendo and 30x that of Sony. Many are free. Many if not all are lower priced than those on dedicated consoles. And, the list of benefits of digital distribution are too long to list – immediacy, no inventory outages, etc. Their philosophy of focusing first on the consumer experience and letting revenue follow seems to be serving them well here.

Desktop management – beautiful interface. Really well done – ok, as always from Apple. I’m not one who uses the desktop to manage my iPhone applications, but as I get more, I see the potential. I have a friend with an iPhone who has probably spent $100 to $200 on iPhone applications – all purchased through the desktop. He doesn’t even know where the App store is on the phone  – I showed him about 12 months after he bought the device.

Genius … I have to say, my first reaction was skeptical. Then I had the chance to speak to Phil and the light went on for me. Lots of folks have tried making recommendations on applications before. Qualcomm bought Xiam. Motricity, Amdocs (Qpass), et. al. – they are all working on it.

I’m thinking, ok, so I use E*TRADE, bought Scrabble, and downloaded Facebook … what does Apple know about me that allows them to make recommendations? So, first, they have 1.8 billion downloads to sort through. Then, I thought, wait … they know where I bank, who my insurance provider is, what news I read, what games I play, where I shop … hmmm … ok, it’s starting to add up that they know a lot about me. Hopefully, they stay true to their word that this is for developers, and they don’t start selling advertising.

Lastly … video in the Nano … like it, but will love it when it’s connected and a more seamless play in social media.

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September 3rd, 2009

Mobile Musings from Germany

So, I’ve been in Germany almost a week. I was really looking forward to this trip – I was expecting to see promotions for mobile services everywhere. Was hoping to take home some new case studies for how mobile is being used in services, retail environment, rental bookings, etc. I can’t find them … can anyone help?

I also expected to see a teenagers and young adults obsessed with their cell phones – texting, playing music, watching video, etc. I’m surprised how invisible cell phones are. They aren’t sitting on the dinner tables. They aren’t ringing. People aren’t checking messages constantly.

While refreshing, it does have me wondering where the opportunities will be for mobile marketing and commerce. We may yet not be looking here – at least to Germany for a glimpse of our future.

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September 3rd, 2009

65 Million Mobile Facebook Users!

Wow! They have 250 million users overall. They have 65 million mobile users! Extrapolating from our data, we would say that the majority of these mobile users are also PC-based Facebook users – but not all. (That will be the subject of my next research piece.)

There are a number of reasons in my opinion why Facebook is doing well on mobile. First, there is the demographic factor. Frequent users of Facebook tend to be younger. Younger adults and teenagers are the heaviest users of data services. The more frequently one wants access, the more likely one is to seek access throughout the day … and what better mechanism that a personalized, connected device like the cell phone? Second, I’m more likely to be doing something interesting that I want to tell my friends about while I’m away from the office or the home. How interesting is it to post, “yeah, I’m at home working or watching TV.”

What I would add though is that despite the natural fit, one of the key reasons that I think people use Facebook on their cell phones is because the experience is so good. I just finished a report that uses Facebook as a case study for  those who are building mobile services. People would still use a mobile version of Facebook if it weren’t good (we have many examples of this phenomenon), but Facebook wouldn’t be seeing the growth and level of engagement if they weren’t providing a great experience.

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August 20th, 2009

USAA Mobile Banking Application – Convenience or Cost Savings?

My colleague Seth Fowler showed me one of the more innovative mobile services I’ve seen in a while. (See NY Times article) It’s USAA’s iPhone application that allows qualified customers to photograph both the front and back side of checks and upload the photos to complete a deposit. How cool is that?

[If allowed, cut paste NY Times photo and give them credit]

I want this service through my bank. (Wells Fargo and Schwab – are you listening?) My banking habits most closely resemble those of a 70 year old. I do not do online bill pay. (Had two bad experiences – one in 1994 and one in 2000, and I am scarred) I do not know the codes for my cards to deposit a check into an ATM. I walk into the branch and hand my check to a teller. Seriously, I do. This service would motivate me to go direct to mobile – skip the Internet entirely. There would be no middle step for me as many think will happen with Internet-based services on cell phones.

When we talk to our clients about how mobile services can help them to achieve their business objectives, we put them into three buckets – revenue-generating, cost-savings, and customer convenience. The catch is, customer convenience often doubles as a cost savings initiative. This USAA application does just that. At a high level, the bank processes less paper and already has an image of the check. For the customer, they save a stamp or a trip to the ATM.

In terms of evaluating the services, I use my colleague James McQuivey’s Convenience Quotient framework where I define mobile benefits as consumer value on immediacy and context combined with simplicity. There is context – my phone knows who I am. My phone can save/store account numbers. It’s simple – I can both take and upload the photo with my phone. Immediacy? Deposit checks immediately before lost, stolen or misplaced let alone the trip to the bank.

And then there’s the insurance stuff … what to do in an accident. For next time ….

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