Posts filed under 'UK'

Facebook not quite “Home” yet on mobile phones

Apparently, Facebook “Home” is not to be, not yet at least.

The Android application launched by Facebook to create an FB overlay on the Home screen of the phone was supposed to be the big bet by FB to control the first touchpoint screen for a smartphone user. But due to poor reviews by initial analysts, Facebook is said to be revamping the FB Home application. The device which was supposed to launch this was HTC One and in US, AT&T was to be the exclusive carrier for this. In UK, operator EE and Orange were planning to launch it. The social network is said to be encouraging the carriers to delay the launch to give the firm more time to create a more palatable user experience.

The battle for the phone user is becoming more intense as time goes by. With smartphones overtaking web users globally, it is of paramount importance for tech firms to own the phone customer and drive more and more smartphone traffic to these firms’ offerings, in order to attract ad revenue and other commerce monetizations.

Without a doubt, Facebook social network application remains one of the top apps on all mobile systems including Apple iOS and Android. But Google, Facebook, wireless carriers and other media are jostling for more and more of user attention on phones as well as real estate on the limited phone screen, which are the next evolution of internet cycle.

Facebook released the following statement on Thursday evening via Engadget: “Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customization features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision. Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.”

htc-first-2

HTC First aka “Facebook Phone”  (Photo: Courtesy / HTC)

After extremely disappointing sales of the HTC First, Facebook will reexamine the Facebook Home before expanding its operating system to more phones in more countries.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he would’ve rebuilt Facebook as a mobile exclusive app if he had the chance, so clearly offering a solid mobile experience means a great deal to Facebook. In this regard, the Facebook phone was a brilliant idea and makes a great deal of sense — like Google and Android, a true Facebook phone would allow Zuckerberg & Co. to have complete control over the user experience and ad strategy. The HTC First was the company’s first attempt at such a device — Facebook would focus on software while HTC would focus on hardware — but with the phone failing so soon after its initial release, Facebook will need to take a long look in the mirror. 

Failure of the HTC First may be blamed on Facebook’s decision to make Facebook Home features too accessible to other mobile users on Android and iOS, or maybe Facebook will realize that the Facebook Home features were not that stellar to begin with.

Facebook has fumbled on mobile before, when it launched it’s first mobile site using the mobile browser channel – with poor user feedback on that approach, Facebook later changed course and focused on more cleaner mobile apps, but this was much later in it’s lifecycle; Facebook mobile has a history of bouncing back. The early years of Facebook mobile efforts were limited to working on a common mobile website version of it’s platform addressing multiple platforms like iOS and Android with one approach. It later realized that that approach did not augur well and got into building platform specific Facebook apps, which have been superb hits since.

The last note above take one back to mobile site vs mobile app debate, which continues to simmer in the mobile development world. So far, it seems, the Apps are winning with many firms (eg Financial Times) having switched from a common http://m.xyz-firm.com approach to custom mobile apps for each mobile platform. More on this later in this space.

(with extracts and ideas from International Business Times article dated May 24 by Dave Smith)

May 26th, 2013

The Internet – still an Equalizer ?

Today there is a post in the Wall Street Journal as to how the websites are tracking all user activities, right from location, personal profile, profession, hobbies, likes and dislikes.

Today’s internet is perhaps “too open”, where users information is freely available to retailers, analysts, marketers alike. While this may serve the purpose of “personalizing” offers and deals to consumers, it risks being labeled discriminatory if such information is used to offer different product pricing or search results to consumers. Not to mention the bigger risk of spammers and ID thieves catching hold of such information and launching malicious campaigns against consumers.

A WSJ investigation found that the office products retailer Staples is offering different prices on the same stapler to two different consumers who were just a few miles away.

Retailers are justified in offering different prices to different customers – this is what happens in stores too especially in different stores of the same chain. Retailers argue that local operating costs, real estate pricing, manpower costs and other logistics etc influence local pricing. In that sense, the online differential in pricing is no different than it’s offline cousin.

“But the idea of an unbiased, impersonal Internet is fast giving way to an online world that, in reality, is increasingly tailored and targeted. Websites are adopting techniques to glean information about visitors to their sites, in real time, and then deliver different versions of the Web to different people. Prices change, products get swapped out, wording is modified, and there is little way for the typical website user to spot it when it happens”, says the Journal.

WSJ said that many firms resorted to such price tactics, including Discover Financial, Rosetta Stone, Home Depot etc. Office Depot told WSJ team that they use customers browsing history and geolocation to offer tailored product offers and pricing for online shopping.

Technically, this is all legal, but the boundary line to ethical or discriminatory behaviour is not far. Eg certain racial groups may claim discrimination or local governments may cry foul. It seems that 76% of Americans are opposed to this kind of differential pricing.

But there are advantages too for differential pricing. Eg certain services like movie theatres offer senior citizen and student discounts.

The key takeaways are :

  • the fundamental premise of internet being an unbiased and same-for-all internet is bring eroded now as personalization increases and website behave differently for different people. The INTERNET IS NO LONGER AN EQUALIZER.
  • while differential pricing is normal and legal, it can raise ethical and discriminatory haggles across sections of the society. So retailers need to tread carefully.

What is CellStrat view : Retailers and web commerce firms need to abide by laws and be careful in offering personalized offers and pricing. Tailoring offers based on user information or their location has to be considered in view of the prevailing laws and user acceptance. Otherwise, the online commerce firms risk alienating the consumers who took to the internet to find an equal society, in the first place.

(Excerpted from WSJ article titled “Websites Vary Prices, Deals, Based on Users’ Information” dated 23 Dec 2012)

December 24th, 2012

Numbered Rating System to power Foursquare now

Foursquare unveiled a new numbers-based ratings system for locations within the mobile app. When users look for locations to visit using the “Explore” feature, places are ranked on a 10-point scale, taking into account signals like tips, loyalty and popularity from over 25 million people worldwide. Instead of other sites like Yelp, where every place gets 3.5 stars, Foursquare comes up with its cores using the same Foursquare magic that powers Explore.  And, with every check-in and Explore search, it’s scores will get smarter and better.

November 6th, 2012

Positive Impact From Social Customer Service

Off the 71% of businesses that claim to use social media for customer service, 87.5% (and 62.1% of businesses overall) have realized a positive impact, according to October 2012 findings by Social Media Today, in cooperation with SAP and the Pivot Conference. About 3 in 10 of those companies using social for customer service claim a very positive impact, while only about 1 in 10 report no noticeable impact at all. However positive the returns, though, less than 1 in 5 handle 25% or more of customer service issues via social media.

(via MarketingCharts)

October 23rd, 2012

Mobile-only gamers now comprise 23% of the gaming market

Almost 1 in 4 gamers say they only play on mobile devices, which account for 59% of all game play, according to an NPD survey. “Many mobile gaming consumers have grown accustomed to gaming for free, making it essential to find the sweet spot for pricing that encourages purchasing by as many consumers as possible,” NPD Group analyst Liam Callahan says. Gamers on average said $3 was a good price for a purchase or an upgrade, according to NPD.

(via Smartbrief of Apps)

October 20th, 2012

Mojiva launches an ad network geared to tablets

An affluent global market of more than 40 million tablet owners is the target for Mojiva’s new mobile ad network. Mojiva Tab is “a specific ad network with dedicated resources and dedicated packaging,” said Mojiva CEO David Gwozdz. The idea is to take advantage of the wider mobile canvas afforded by tablet screens, compared with the tinier screens of smartphones.

(via MMA Smartbrief)

October 19th, 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

Location-based services to generate $4 billion in revenue this year

Even though location-based services still rely heavily on a freemium model, the sector is expected to generate $4 billion in revenues worldwide this year and achieve strong growth moving forward, according to ABI Research. The firm points to the health and fitness sector as an area to watch, given that application downloads in that market are projected to top $100 million this year.

(via Smartbrief for Apps)

October 18th, 2012

Promoted Posts – Commercial Opportunity for Facebook not so much for users…Why?

An overwhelming 83.6% of users are unwilling to pay to use Facebook’s promoted posts feature that guarantees an important post is seen by friends,according to Sterne Agee in October 2012 survey results. Another 11.5% would pay $1 or less, and only 1.2% would pay more than $5, suggesting that Facebook faces an uphill battle in getting any traction from promoted posts, and that this feature might be more of a commercial opportunity for Facebook among brands and advertisers than among users.

6 in 10 Believe Ads No More Or Less Relevant

Fully 54.1% of Facebook users report seeing more ads on the social network than they did 6 months ago, including 15.1% who have noticed much more ads. Still, about 4 in 10 report seeing the same amount of ads, while just 4.2% report seeing fewer ads on Facebook.

How relevant are those ads? Only 1 out of every 6 Facebook users surveyed believes the relevance of ads shown has increased over the last six months. While the majority of those respondents claim the ads are only slightly more relevant, an opposing 14.8% believe that the ads are less relevant, and 60.7% are neutral. Interestingly, 77% of mobile Facebook users in the survey indicate that they have not noticed ads. Because on mobile, Sponsored Stories (a recent addition) is Facebook’s primary advertising vehicle, this suggests that mobile users do not consider Sponsored Stories to be ads.

(via Marketing Charts)

October 17th, 2012

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