The Real Customer

I enjoyed reading Steve Johnson’s post on who the real customer is over on his Product Marketing blog. I’m not sure if Steve has a Telco background or not, but his comment regarding the person who uses your device being your customer, is spot on for this industry. The  manufacturers who maintain direct contact with their end users tend to be the most successful. There are some who attempt to make their living catering to operator (distributor) wishes like LG and ZTE, but none ever seem to really garner significant mindshare.

Let’s review those that do.


I think we all know this story already. They are the poster child for making operators look like “dumb pipes”. Having completely flanked operators with their retail stores, music and app business, and line of personal devices, they’ve been able over the years to develop strong ties with their consumers. Globally, they’ve never been market share leaders, but those they served were passionate users. Their message rarely has been distorted by middle-men. What is the result? Operators bending over backwards to access that user base, breaking their internal rules and giving up revenue streams.


For years has been the de-facto choice for business users, offering services that other manufacturers either avoided or refused to compete on. So while they are struggling now, they built their success around “Crackberry” addicts. Operators couldn’t help but stock their products for fear of user revolts at their enterprise accounts. Even in the midst of their current troubles, the press and consumers still follow them without fail.


Obviously this story has not finished, but they do seem to be gaining traction at a rapid pace. Whether they continue to do that is still up for debate, however, their recent success is built once again on having a dedicated user base dependent on services that were not developed on the operator level. A “semi-open”approach  versus the walled gardens that operators are famous for have served them well recently.


I hesitate to put them here due to their recent issues with delivering a compelling smartphone. However, they still command close to 40% of the global market. And in markets with less operator control, Nokia is still the standard. Their broad portfolio, targeted to multiple income levels and consumer segments, still has them as a force to be recognized. While not obvious in the US, there are still Nokia fanatics in plenty of other countries.

Manufacturer success is never guaranteed, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that devotion to end-users will be any less successful in the future. It’s sad to think how many operators consider themselves the most important person in the value chain. Obviously they have their own roadmaps to manage, but more often than not, it appears as though they forget who they actually while frustrating their manufacturing partners in the process.

Will Mobile App Subscriptions Affect App Revenues?

I was reading a Wall Street Journal article last night about how the New Yorker is attempting to publish paid apps on Apple’s app store. In it’s current form, visitors to the store must download each issue separately, incurring a $4.95 charge each time. Obviously this will be annoying to many consumers, especially in this age of content delivery. As such, the New Yorker is pressuring Apple to create a subscription like feature. And at that point, a really weird thought popped into my head.

Would the introduction of subscription apps affect the ability for single-pay applications?

Give me a second, let me walk through my thinking:

  1. Consumer “Joe” is an active iPad user and spends about $10/month on applications, music, etc. He’s grown accustomed to seeing bills of this size from Apple.
  2. Joe now sees two of his favorite magazines are now offered via a subscription online for $4.95/month and decides to sign-up thinking, “This is great, more stuff for my iPad. And it’s such a great deal, as this is usually too expensive in print.”
  3. Now, his monthly spending at the iTunes store has doubled, making Joe worry he’s spending too much for this device. He now thinks he should cut back a bit.
  4. Not wanting to give up his magazines, Joe cuts back on other “silly” or “frivolous” games for his iPad, bringing his monthly spend back to it’s pre-subscription norm.

So I guess my question is this? Do users who fit under this or similar scenarios already unofficially pre-budget how much they’ll spend on downloads per month? And if so, will subscriptions quickly eat into the share of pocket that consumers like Joe would be willing to spend?

Obviously the content would have to be compelling enough, but subscription-based content has a long history and may seem “easy” for some consumers to quickly sign-up for on some platforms. Whether  these subscriptions will make it just as easy to opt-out remains to be seen.  If consumers get locked into long-term commitments like we see today in print versions, we might see an interesting blip on the radar of other application providers.

Reading Now: iPhone Human Interface Guidelines

I don’t know about you, but I still have that dream of creating the mobile app that allows me to retire. I know it has the same odds as a lottery ticket, but let me dream…

So while doing a search on user-interface guidelines  for mobile applications, I discovered Apple has a 150 page document explaining their approach to iOS. Considering they are the perceived leader of easy-to-use applications, it’s probably worth a few hours of time. As such, I’m now reading iPhone Human Interface Guidelines.

It’s possible I may be consuming more indirect Apple propaganda, but I did glance at a similar document from Microsoft. As soon as I saw them write “stick to standards”, I couldn’t stop laughing and moved on. But anyway, if anyone has any suggestions on user-interface design around small applications, please let me know.

Is Apple Letting Android Live?

In short, no. Android lives on regardless of Apple.

Earlier today, I actually deleted a potential post about what would have happened if there been a CDMA version of the iPhone. After messing around with it for a while I came to the conclusion it doesn’t really matter, the past is past and who knows what would have really happened.

And then TechCrunch runs the article, “Is Android Only Surging Because Apple Is Letting It?

Head-smacking ensued.

They don’t take the revisionist history approach I was going for, but they did lightly touch upon some of the areas I wanted to cover. Namely, why do people choose Android and what would have happened had Verizon been able to get their own iPhone? There were more areas for sure, but since I couldn’t get the post to be anywhere near coherent, I gave it a swift death. In retrospect, maybe I should have just slimmed it down like TechCrunch did.

But if you enjoy thinking about these things, here are some of the areas I was thinking about:

  1. How does one explain the growth of Android in non-U.S. markets like China?
  2. Also, if Apple really wanted to win China, should they do a TD-SCDMA version?
  3. Did people really choose Apple over Android or did the strength of each operator’s channel determine the majority of the choices?
  4. If a CDMA version had existed and therefore no exclusivity with ATT, would Android have been used as a pawn by both ATT and Verizon to gain concessions from Apple? You have to admit, their hardware IS expensive. And I’m sure they’ve been eye-balling the App store of Apple for some time…
  5. Apple famously attempts to defend it’s consumer experience, so could they have effectively supported both a VZW and ATT platform? And if not, how would they prioritize without aggravating the other partner?
  6. With CDMA typically being a more expensive technology, would Apple have accepted the margin hit on their hardware?
  7. Is Apple just sticking around at ATT until LTE comes to Verizon?

Obviously, I have my opinion on these questions, but there is no point in going through them. In the end of my now-deleted piece, I couldn’t think of a compelling reason for why Apple would have ever gone to (or will go to) Verizon before LTE. I just wasn’t comfortable enough to say it with confidence. So what am I getting at with all this? Basically…there is a lot at play, especially in the U.S. market and it wouldn’t be wise to try and simplify Android’s growth around only one or two factors.

Apple Hello! Nokia Good-Bye!

Wow, two of the world’s most important manufacturer’s of mobile phones and services made their own set of announcements today. It should be interesting to see what each of them had to say.

Let’s start with Apple.

Apple Introduces New iPod touch

Apple today announced the new iPod touch, packed with incredible new features including Apple’s stunning Retina display, FaceTime video calling, HD video recording, Apple’s A4 chip, 3-axis gyro, iOS 4.1, and Game Center — all combined in the thinnest and lightest iPod touch ever. The new iPod touch features up to 40 hours of music playback and seven hours of video playback on a single battery charge.

Apple Reinvents iPod nano with Multi-Touch

iPod nano has been completely redesigned with Multi-Touch, which lets you navigate your music collection by simply tapping or swiping a finger on the display. Nearly half the size and weight of the previous generation, the new iPod nano features a polished aluminum and glass enclosure with a built-in clip, making it instantly wearable.

Apple Unveils New iPod shuffle

The redesigned iPod shuffle features both clickable buttons and Apple’s innovative VoiceOver technology, enabling you to easily navigate your music and playlists without ever looking at your iPod shuffle. The wearable iPod shuffle has an all-aluminum enclosure with a built-in clip and comes in five brilliant colors — silver, blue, green, orange, and pink.

Apple Introduces iTunes 10 with Ping

iTunes 10 features Ping, a new social network for music that lets you follow your favorite artists and friends to discover what music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading. With Ping you can post your thoughts and opinions, your favorite albums and songs, and the music you’ve downloaded from iTunes — plus view concert listings and tell your friends which concerts you plan to attend.

Apple Premieres New Apple TV

The new Apple TV offers the simplest way to watch your favorite HD movies and TV shows on your HD TV for the breakthrough price of just $99. With Apple TV, you can choose from the largest online selection of HD movies to rent, including first-run movies for just $4.99, and the largest online selection of HD TV show episodes to rent — from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel, and BBC America — for just 99 cents.

Wow, that was pretty impressive. It wasn’t revolutionary in any regard, but they definitely brought a lot of new updates to the table. I can’t wait to see what Nokia had to announce today.

Oh wait, it looks like they sent me an email with an announcement:

Dear Ovi Files user,

Nokia is discontinuing the Ovi Files service, effective October 1, 2010.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please make sure to uninstall the Ovi Files Connector installed on your personal computer. To do this, execute the standard Windows or Macintosh uninstall procedure that came with your computer. You will not lose any files as a result of this service discontinuation. Ovi Files simply creates an ‘online mirror’ of the files saved on your Windows PC or Mac, so your original files will remain intact. The files on your computer are always treated as the master version, even if some are selected as ‘Anytime Files.’

You will still be able to share content between your phone and PC using another Nokia product, Nokia Ovi Suite. With Nokia Ovi Suite installed on your PC, you can do the following: sync your contacts and messages; transfer videos, photos, and music; back up your Nokia and update your device software. Please note that this is not a direct substitute for Ovi Files as Nokia Ovi Suite requires a wired connection between your PC and mobile device. For more information visit

Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience and hope that you will continue to enjoy our most popular services:

Maps Find your way with free navigation, downloadable maps and easy location sharing.

Store Browse a wide selection of mobile apps, games, ringtones and more.

Music Download albums and individual tracks, share playlists with friends, and much more. »

Thanks Nokia, I will TOTALLY use your existing services knowing that you may discontinue them at any point in the near future. Also, knowing the fact that whatever service I use from you may cause extra work for me (uninstalling) gives me a big, warm fuzzy. I sure am glad I signed up for DropBox instead of Ovi Files, it looks as thought it’s saving me a lot of trouble.

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