Posts filed under 'Microsoft'

How to enable SoLoMo for a commerce firm

SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) has become the new fad in town for most commerce firms and retailers, as well as technology providers. This concept refers to the idea of enabling hyper-local retail via mobile convergence and providing a social interaction between users and retailers for engagement, sales growth and loyalty.

What are the technologies which enable SoLoMo ? What products provide best of breed solutions in this space ?

Below is a sample list of some of the leading firms / products which offer solutions in this space :-

a) Digby – Leading Mobile Retail convergence solution. They have potentially the strongest Mobile Retail convergence solution and are considered a SoLoMo specialist – Digby solution provides integration between web store / offline store / mobile commerce / social commerce / QR code solution / real time messaging. Digby Localpoint software enables brands to create geo-fences around their stores and other points of interest and embed those geo-fences into the brand’s app

b) Capillary Tech - leading retail CRM / loyalty solution – one of the hottest startups from India, now a global phenomenon. High quality retail CRM / loyalty / retail analytics solution

c) Facebook Connect and Twitter API – for close Social integration to enable Social commerce

d) Pluck from Demand Media – Pluck is interesting as it allows social engagement, social commerce and social loyalty solutions. Pluck enables these concepts via communities, content generation and gamification.

e) Foursquare Enterprise solutions may offer robust gamification solutions –  Foursquare is considered leading gamification firm around communities.

f) Groupon / LivingSocial / Snapdeal / mydala – these firms are known for the Group shopping experience and offer LBS capabilities. These are not products but full-fledged startups in the area of Social Commerce.

g) Antenna Mobile Platform / IBM Worklight / Sybase 365 - These Enterprise Mobility platforms offer Mobile app development which can enable a retailer to publish engagement and commerce apps for its customers. This includes Mobile POS on smartphones / tablets, mobile wallet and in-store apps.

h) Telibrahma – Telibrahma has solutions in the areas of virtual reality and LBS, which empower the consumer to have a closer interaction with the retailers. Telibrahma LBS relies on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi proximity marketing to allow retailers to engage the audience in the nearby vicinity.

i) ZipDial – ZipDial provides an intuitive missed call voting and feedback system, which allows a retailer to leverage the mobile shoppers in the store to respond to a retailer survey instantaneously. This helps retailer drive business intelligence and customer feedback about the store experience.

Here are some relevant links in this area :
www.digby.com, http://www.capillarytech.com, http://www.pluck.com/, http://www.groupon.com, http://telibrahma.com/, www.zipdial.com

A combination of the above technologies / products will enable the SoLoMo experience for a retailer or service business.

CellStrat’s next conference, the India Digital Forum on 07th Feb in N. Delhi, will address a lot of the SoLoMo topics and technologies outlined above. Be sure to book your seat today and hear from top speakers in the Social Commerce space.

November 27th, 2012

Main Themes from Nasscom Product Conclave (7-8th Nov), Bangalore

(from our Bangalore desk)

I attended this conference in Bangalore earlier this week – it was most interesting with hundreds of company execs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders speaking about product innovation, development strategies and emerging technologies.

I will list some major themes I picked up at this conference:-

  • In India, next decade belongs to Product development and these will have major impact on business and social empowerment.
  • Hiring best practices and product quality differentiate successful organizations and individuals from all others.
  • In the new world, individuals and professionals which take initiative and drive innovation will take their organizations to leadership positions. This applies to large and small firms alike. These individuals will be the ones in most demand going forward.
  • Design and Image is crucial in the new world – this translates to User Experience and Engagement in all we do. Think Apple or Amazon.com
  • The big opportunities are in Smartphones / tablets, Mobile, Cloud, Analytics, Big Data, Social – all usual suspects. These are all big enablers of new innovation and present opportunities for growth. At the same time, these technologies create a level playing field. As a result, larger firms now find that small startups can cause immense disruption in the former’s usual businesses – hence executives in the larger firms must think like entrepreneurs to create new opportunities and ensure customer delight via superb delivery and engagement.
  • India has 900 million feature phones and only 10% of these are smartphones. So Mobile Apps and Enterprise Mobility offer incredible opportunity growing forward – this is true of western markets as well, as Enterprises there adopt mobile in a big way for all their applications. Mobile has truly gone from Mobile Also -> Mobile First – >Mobile Only strategy. Now, major new programs and initiatives in leading firms are planning to do a Mobile only strategy.
  • Cloud Computing is the new way of doing almost everything in IT for end clients – IT investments are shifting to Cloud at an incredible space – so much so that most new projects or initiatives are looking at Cloud as a preferred solution over an in-house hosting strategy.
  • Big Data is not a fad – with all the Social channels and frenetic transaction activity, Big Data is a problem which is growing in size everyday – as such, it offers major opportunities for solution providers and product developers to slice, dice and analyze, in order to achieve actionable intelligence and business decisioning.
  • Open source technologies are now fully mainstream and driving major new development.
  • Collaboration and leadership are key aspects in driving success. Most new innovation requires good collaboration and partnership skills as well as passion to succeed.
  • Naveen Tewari, Founder and CEO of InMobi, said that the three critical factors for success for a startup are :
    • Thing Big – you can do it
    • Hire the best
    • Focus on product quality. Good products sell themselves
  • Naeem Zafar, Founder and CEO of Bitzer Mobile as well as more than a dozen startups earlier, said that for each CEO, the main responsibility is “Don’t run out of money”.
  • IBM-mers Peter Coldicott (Chief Product Architect), Robert High (IBM Fellow in IBM Watson), and Daniel Yellin (Enterprise Mobility Chief Engineer) spoke about IBM’s Smarter cities program, Cloud and the new IBM super-computer Watson which is making waves.
  • Sharad Sharma (ex-MD, Yahoo India), spoke about product entrepreneurs as transformers of the society.
  • Deep Kalra, Founder and CEO of MakeMyTrip, spoke about his entrepreneurial journey and the Indian startup ecosystem.

The event is one power-packed event with almost 1300 delegates which included almost 150+ blue-chip speakers and thought leaders from India and abroad. The presence of so many Silicon Valley luminaries seems to indicate that action in Bangalore is accelerating and many westward folks are now looking east to this part of the world for next revolutions in tech and digital.

Kudos to Nasscom, Nasscom President Mr Som Mittal and all the dedicated NPC volunteers for putting together what we consider is a remarkable show.

For more updates from this event, click here.

November 12th, 2012

PaaS – Platform as a Service

The Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) market is predicted to reach $20.1 billion in 2014. Huge brands occupy this emerging space, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Salesforce.com. Many newer startups enter the market each month, too. The recent trend is that more features and functions win the day, especially those with the ability to instantly provision resources for PaaS-built applications, such as elastic storage, compute, and database services.

(via Giagaom)

October 19th, 2012

Microsoft launches Surface RT tablet for $499

Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet is available for online pre-orders with a starting price of $499 with delivery expected on Oct. 26. The starting price includes a 32 GB tablet running Windows RT, a version specifically made for tablets powered by smartphone chips. Microsoft’s innovative thin Touch Cover keypad option adds another $119 to the price if purchased separately.

The Surface RT is unique in a few respects and represents a new strategy for the company. This is the first Microsoft-designed computer that the company is selling; something that Microsoft’s hardware partners were caught unaware of in advance. This edition of Windows 8, called Windows RT, also runs on ARM-based chips that typically power smartphones and consumer tablets. With Windows RT, as well as the Surface device that it designed, Microsoft hopes to slow down Apple’s iPad momentum, which currently has a majority share of the overall tablet market.

I agree that Surface RT will surely create some dent with it’s price in the overall tablet market (for people who feel more comfortable with MS products or are highly sensitive to prices in developing countries like India) which has been forecasted to hit a whooping 377M units by 2016. But, I also feel, it’s a dead miss from the word YES. Unit sales will be very disappointing considering non-inclusion of the cover (priced at $100 just to say tab costs just $499), the apps just aren’t there – stick with an ecosystem that has the apps you want (Android or iOS). At this price, they will be perceived as an “also-ran” and will not gain the momentum to substantially move people from capable and proven consumer tablet alternatives.

October 18th, 2012

CMO is the new CIO

Recently I am hearing a lot about the fact that the IT budgets are increasing coming from the CMO department. Indeed “CMO is the new CIO”. Why this trend ? Reasons are manifold :

a) Customer touchpoint is the new focus : Customer touchpoint is where the action is now. Whether it is Customer Engagement, Customer Service, Customer Access or anything to do with orchestrating these, these are the hot topics now for enterprises large and small. This essentially means mobile devices, mobile apps, social, local, cloud, analytics etc. To be more specific, the big themes now are Mobile, Social, Cloud and Analytics – all that relate to customer facing technology or orchestrating the customer experience.

Who owns the customer experience – it is the Marketing office and not really the CIO office.

b) Image and Branding : In this world awash with media and content, image is everything. Social and Digital Media are increasingly commanding higher order of CXO focus and budgets. It is now possible for unknown brands and firms to accelerate their visibility overnight via a variety of Social and Digital channels. Traditional firms often find themselves late to this party or reacting to their customers who are already present enmasse on these Digital Channels. Simple 140 character tweets can embarass monstrous corporations in matter of seconds. Image and Branding on new media has become a herculean challenge for large firms and leveled the playing field for consumers, smaller firms and startups.

Who controls a firm’s image and branding, CMO again. So CMO will drive investments in Social and Digital technology which is increasingly important to firms’s reputation and respect in the marketplace.

c) Backend infra is mature : Increasingly, one finds that backend infrastructure in traditional IT departments is mature – the big bang Oracle, SAP and middleware projects are stable and it is increasingly hard to find those big ticket IT projects now. Most of the transformational IT is now happening at customer edge and not in backend tech or networks. Of course, there are exceptions, like 4G and LTE investments by wireless industry and Big Data projects to slice and dice the voluminous data banks that now exist.

However, save for a few big items on backend, backend tech is now mature and even Oracles and SAPs of the world are now developing products for the front-end, where the growth multiples seem better going forward. The customer front-end, of course, is owned by the CMO and not the CIO.

d) Emergence of new tech : Web 2.0 is now being replaced by Web 3.0 – a world of seamless mobility, applications, and front-end use cases. Mobile Payments, Mobile Media, Mobile Devices, SME Cloud Apps, Social Networks, Location Services, hyperlocal marketing are the big glamour areas of tech now where most developers and firms want to focus their energy now. Apple may have started the trend of massive consumer revolution when it created the iPhone, Amazon has brought Web services to SMEs on a massive scale, Google is innovating in search and platforms, Facebook has amassed the largest number of eyeballs around the world. These kind of firms are at the forefront of consumer revolution in tech devices and applications.

Again, tackling this world is in the primary perview of the CMO with it’s mobile strategy, social and digital technology, connected consumer and advertising.

e) Consumerization of IT or COIT : COIT is a popular term now – where consumers walk in into the workplace with their consumer devices and force the CIO to adopt to their devices and apps rather than the other way round. The concept of a Social Enterprise is being adopted by all large firms to drive employee engagement, mindshare and collaboration. Gen Y employees are forcing their employers to change their ways and business practices to make these corporations employee oriented. Talent crunch is forcing firms to adapt to the employees wishes rather than the other way round. Hyper-informed customers are, in turn, pressurizing companies to provide relevant product information and fantastic customer service.

Certainly, CMO is the consumer and people expert and not the CIO. Most of the COIT trends require CMO to play a key role in the tech strategy.

To be sure, the CIO is not going anywhere and remains the bulwark of operational infrastructure and execution framework within the firms. The tech jazz (and related budgets), however, are now owned by the CMO due the macro trends outlined above. Indeed, CMO is the new CIO in the tech world.

September 24th, 2012

Apple iPhone 5 is here : CellStrat opinion

As if you have not heard enough about iPhone 5 already, here is more of it :)

Apple announced iPhone 5 on Sept 12th. The other big thing that happened that day was Quantitative Easing version 3 announcement by US Federal Reserve – one wonders, it was a synchronized announcement – just kidding.. Certainly, some market analysts have said that iPhone 5 may do more for US GDP growth than Fed’s QE3..amazing..

Well, intentional or not, both the announcements have a dramatic impacts – QE3 will accelerate the stock market rise around the world, fuel more inflation etc. Apple announcement will lead to Apple maintaining it’s hegemony in the smartphone ecosystem. I know, I know, some of you are on side of the table which is less than enamoured by the new iPhone 5. However, our take is that the ecosystem of Apple is much too strong and still underestimated by most. The vertical integration of iTunes, Macs, iPhones, iPads, licensed content in there, seamless charging via iTunes, cross-device synch capabilities are so intense and so transformational in the tech world, that few can match up with Apple prowess over the marketplace. Apple ran out of online inventory of iPhone 5 in one hour of opening the sales..validation enough of a huge pent-up demand out there.

Lack of NFC or some other popular features, now commonplace in other smartphones, will not deter iPhone 5 in creating breakthrough success once again for Apple sales. What most people fail to realize about Apple is that it does not usually toe the line created by others – it creates new models which, in many cases, become the benchmark over time. Coming back to NFC, Apple did bundle a feature called Passbook in the new iPhone 5 – a loyalty and coupon management feature – this is not payment enabled but it could evolve into a Digital Wallet. Many leaders like eBay, Square, Paypal are making do without NFC in Mobile Payments and quite successfully at that. It is likely that NFC may never become the mainstream mobile payment tech if Apple and others listed here do not push it.

As to what Apple iPhone 5 does pack, it has a laundry list of neat features :

LTE (4G capable), Thinner, Lighter, bigger screen (4 inch diagonally), all new Apple-designed A6 chip, better retina display, improved camera (although megapixels remain at 8 megs), enhanced HD video recording, 5 rows of icons on the screen, improved Siri assistant, new lightning connector, new Apple mapping app, better iCloud integration, 700,000 apps, new iOS 6 OS, Passbook loyalty feature, the list goes on and on.

To view all iPhone 5 features, click here.

As far as we can visualize, we still feel demand for iPhone 5 will be back-logged and people will go gaga over this device the world over. Apple mobile leadership is far from being threatened, not until they make major blunders or others truly can provide a neat vertically integrated ecosystem. So far, we see only Amazon as being anywhere close to providing the vertical ecosystem with Kindle platform. Samsung tried but it is missing many major components for creating a complete ecosystem, music partnerships to begin with, among other things. Google does not try as their focus is entirely different – to monetize via search engines on Android devices.

So – for now, it is Apple’s world to rule in the mobile arena, until somebody else “does an Apple” on them.

September 17th, 2012

Indian e-commerce market valuations take a dip

(with some ideas from The Wall Street Journal article dated 11 Sept, 2012)

The Wall Street Journal has an article today on how the Indian ecommerce is loosing it’s allure. Flipkart, Myntra and Snapdeal were once being hailed as the next-big-things in the India tech scene but that image is now loosing some shine. It has to do with a variety of factors, the predominant one being the Web bubble burst Phase 2 in the West. As we know, the valuations of Facebook, Zynga and Groupon have been halved or even lower on the western bourses. Indian ecommerce firms, which are considered equivalent in India, are also seeing a declining shareholder and venture capital interest due to this. The valuation of ecommerce firms in India has been chopped into half (roughly) for now.

The Indian economic slowdown and the realization that such models face issues in monetization, has led to further decline in venture capital land grab of Indian ecommerce outfits, a trend widely prevalent last year; it was just last year when the India ecommerce firms like Flipkart and Snapdeal were flying high on the valuation scales. In 2011, VC investing in Indian ecommerce firms rose to $344.4 million from $49.2 million in the prior year.

But, despite the recent downturn, Indian ecommerce market holds stupendous promise. According to Zinnov Management Consultants, India’s e-commerce industry is expected to accelerate from $10 billion in 2011 to $260 billion by 2025, a whopping 26 times growth factor. Only 10% of India’s 1.2 billion people are online so far, as per comScore, which tracks online usage patterns.

Some consolidation is now happening where the big firms are gobbling up some others. Eg Flipkart bought out rival electronics online retailer letsbuy.com while fashionandyou.com bought online rival urbantouch.com in August.

To read the Wall Street Journal article, click here.

What should the Indian ecommerce entrepreneurs do going forward :

a) Market is too big over the long term for entrepreneurs to ignore

b) Entrepreneurs need a viable business model which can sustain over a long period. These startups need to develop brand recognition and sustained marketing over a long term to survive and thrive.

c) Customer service and customer experience is key to customer acquisition and retention.

d) There are a variety of niches which can be targeted eg location-based services, home and lifestyle, kids and women, healthcare services, infrastructure-oriented ventures, education and many others.

e) Offline retail partnerships and arrangements are key to drive down costs and warehousing challenges.

f) A gradual drive for product innovation and clean websites can help entrepreneurs differentiate their offering from the hodge-podge of ecommerce outfits emerging everyday.

g) Mobile, Social and Local convergence (or MoSoLo) can drive a lot of the innovation in ecommerce business model and delivery.

h) Mobile and Tablets are perhaps the most suitable channels for market reach and scalability. PC / laptop penetration may remain low and grow slowly.

i) Tier 2 towns and unexplored markets like rural may offer interesting possibilities for online entrepreneurs.

September 11th, 2012

Mobile Device Parade looms this week

This week, we watch in excitement as a mobile device parade looms from leading device makers. Motorola, Nokia and Amazon are all expected to announce new devices ahead of Apple’s iPhone5 announcement next week.

Motorola is bringing out a Droid Razr smartphone, which amounts to revival of the Razr brand, which Motorola sold successfully for many years before smartphones stormed the markets. Motorola, now owned by Google, has been a struggler in the last few years, and none of its smartphones have caught the fancy of the consumers yet, so far.

Nokia is announcing new Windows 8 phones – Windows 8 phone OS is the prelude to the Windows 8 desktop OS to be announced by Microsoft later this year. Windows 8 is supposed to work seamlessly across PCs, phones and tablets. Nokia’s Windows OS, so far, as been lackluster. Windows Phone OS has only 3% market share in the smartphone market compared to 64% Android share and 18% Apple iOS share.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is set to announce the next version of Kindle Fire at an event on Thursday. Kindle Fire’s last version has reportedly sold out, as per Amazon, one is sure these device makers produce such products in limited quantity to create the marketing effect of a device in short supply. But certainly, after the iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire is the most successful tablet so far.

Then comes the big brother Apple on Sept 12th, with its reported iPhone5 launch.

While we feel that Apple is the mover and shaker of the mobile smartphone business with bulk of app and device profits as well, sometimes one wonders if the Android market share of 64% vs iPhone OS market share of 18% bodes well for Apple or not. No wonder, Apple is spending millions in it’s lawsuits against the Android device makers like Samsung.

Samsung had recently released the Galaxy Note 10 inch version – Galaxy Note has been a runaway success for Samsung as was the case for Galaxy smartphones.

Device wars are heating up and it can only get better for consumers the world over.

September 4th, 2012

Key points from Chetan Sharma update on US and Global Mobile Data Market

Today Chetan Sharma, prominent Wireless Consultant in US and a friend of CellStrat team, released a great summary of Mobile Data market updates from Q2 2012 quarter (some are US specific stats while others are global stats). The key points from Chetan’s note are :

  • US Mobile Data market is $19.3 billion in Q2 2012. Data now accounts for 42% of US mobile industry revenues.
  • In terms of Y/Y growth, Connected Devices segment grew 21%, Prepaid 12%, Wholesale 4%, and Postpaid was flat. AT&T, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon are number one respectively in these categories.
  • Prepaid subscriptions exceeded 100 million for the first time in the US. This is also indicative of US’s downward economics trends. Postpaid growth is slowing in the US.
  • iOS and Android are the two dominant mobile OSes. Windows Mobile may be third but with a very tiny market share.
  • Samsung dominates global device unit shipments – however Apple has 70% of global mobile device profits in spite of just 5% of device market share. Samsung now leads in every major unit sale category both on the world stage as well as in the US. However, profits are a different equation where Apple overshadows its rivals like Gulliver on the Lilliput land.
  • Apple iPad has 97% of global tablet profits with the remaining tablet players fighting for remaining crumbs.
  • Smartphone penetration crossed 50% in the US.
  • Ranking for top mobile data profits globally includes China Mobile, Apple, Verizon, AT&T, and NTT DoCoMo, in that order.
  • AT&T and Verizon have launched shared data plans (a first – where two or more folks share the same data plan on a family account) in the USA.
  • US continues to sell over 40% of the world’s smartphone every quarter thus making it the most attractive market for OEMs.
  • The overall data consumption in the US market in 2012 is expected to exceed 2000 Petabytes or 2 Exabytes. The smartphone data consumption at some operators is averaging close to 850 MB/mo. As we move into 1GB range along with the family data plans kicking in, you can expect the data tiers to get bigger both in GBs and dollar amount.
  • Globally, one sees a Mobile First approach by firms now evolving into Mobile Only approach. Leading apps and services like Facebook, Twitter, Pandora are already operating in the world where mobile is driving majority of their user engagement. Expedia, Fandango and others are seeing the early signs of migration into the mobile dominated world. Very soon, mCommerce revenues will overtake eCommerce revenues.
  • Q2 2012 again saw tremendous activity in the mobile commerce and payments space with a lot of announcements from the operators, Internet players, and startups as well as the retailers and the ecommerce players. All are vying for a piece of the mobile wallet. Much more to come in the next 12 months. On the retail side, Starbucks is a player to watch as it tries to become a more active participant in the digital ecosystem.
  • Race to a billion – China is first nation to cross a billion subscriptions. (I guess India is second, massive population helps of course)

You can refer to this Update from Chetan and the other content on his site at http://www.chetansharma.com/.

Chetan Sharma is also organizing his high-end mobile conference Mobile Future Forward on Sept 10th in Seattle. Highly recommended, with a great set of speakers and topics.

August 13th, 2012

Mobile app advertising significantly drains battery power

It is true that those ads that show up on mobile applications will drain the juice out of a smartphone or other mobile device battery in a big way. Flashy ads that are full of animation and data will also use up a lot of a limited data plan. In addition, those “free” applications are not so free when they are supported by constant, animated and annoying ads.

The surprising news for many applications users is that the visible advertising is not the only thing that eats up the battery. Analytics, user tracking and smartphone data grabbing also goes on. Sometimes the other actions use up more battery power than the application itself.

The alternative should be to pay for the application in exchange for an ad free experience, but some developers are going for more income by selling applications and loading them up with ads, data grabbing or analytic operations, too. 

In one of the most infuriating cases, Rovio has stubbornly refused to charge a fee for an ad free version their insanely popular “Angry Birds” game application. Then Rovio developed a bad habit of placing ads in a way that interfered with playing the game. Worse, the game had differing game “physics” that required a player to try the same moves again and again in order to pass a single level. Each time, a new advertisement loaded up, driving the number of ad loads and other actions up to the stratosphere.

Smart users simply dumped the game from their mobile devices and opted to play it for free and without ads in other venues.

CMS Wire report on a study done at purdue University in Indiana titled, that 65 to 75% of the battery drain associated with certain applications can be caused by third party ads alone.

With Angry Birds as an example, the actual game took only 18% of the battery usage. The ads took a whopping 45% for the ad display, analytics and other ad related tasks. Free Chess, another analyzed game, used 50% of the apps energy drain to service the ads.

Of the power that ads use, the “3G Tail” is the main culprit. The 3G Tail involves,

Communication done between the app and the ad server in refreshing the ad and targeting the ad based on demographic and location, among other things.

Using eprof to monitor app power use on an HTC Passion running Android 2.3, the researchers made a few discoveries. In a study of the data aggregator Flurry consumes 45 percent of the app’s energy tracking the user’s location and serving ads to the app. But of that 45 percent, uploading the information and downloading the ads over 3G was only a 2KB transaction, taking 1 percent of the app’s energy.

(Source: http://arstechnica.com)

March 29th, 2012

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