Monday 14 June 2010

MomoLondon: Living in a Multi-Platform World

Another Mobile Monday on fragmentation of platforms, but this time hosted by a big company just about to launch yet another platform… The Microsoft reps seemed to come on a little strong tonight. So much so that I started to tune out when it was their turn to talk.

Nick Lansley from was a new face at Mobile Monday — and had some good things to say. He seems to have his head screwed on right about where to take in the face of multiple platforms and a wide spread of consumers (it’s the API, stoopid).

Tom Hume of Future Platforms also gave some interesting insights — I like his idea of using an AdWords campaign to figure out the target platforms for a new product. It’s always better to measure than to guess — and the internet lets you measure everything.

Alex Reeve - Director of Mobile Business Group, MSFT UK

  • it’s fair to say that MS have had their challenges in the mobile industry
  • they’re fully aware of that and they’re aware that “a new dawn is coming”
  • mobile is enormously important to MS
  • Windows 7 coming this side of Xmas
    • integrating contact details & social connections
    • options to show thing separately or together
    • keeping pictures together (including Facebook, etc)
    • “people want Internet Explorer on their phone”
    • do they really? don’t they just want Facebook/Yahoo/BBC, etc
    • fully-editable Word documents
    • email works the same as Outlook
    • I hope not… that would be horrible
    • “Zune is mainly a product in the US only”

Panel session

Panel (and their phones):

  • Chair: Marek Pawlowski
    • this is no longer just about mobile — platforms to support now extend to TVs, games consoles, etc…
    • nearly all devices can do voice
    • most can do SMS, and a lot have browsers and Java
    • Q1 this year about 18% of mobile sales were smartphones
    • 11% of market by end of this year will be smartphones
    • 3/4 of developers use an Android or an iPhone as their primary device…
  • Oded Ran - Windows Phone in the UK
    • Windows Phone - HDT HD2
  • Tom Hume - MD of Future Platforms
    • Nexus One
  • Nick Lansley - Head of R&D at
    • iPhone, Nexus One (which crashes 3 times a day)
  • Jerry Ennis: CEO at Flirtomatic
    • #1 mobile social network in UK, if not in Europe, according to Comscore
    • though I guess it’s dwarfed by Facebook & twitter, which are social networks that people access on mobile…
    • iPhone
  • Ilio Uvarov - lead UX practice at RG/A London
    • clients such as Nike, Nokia
    • iPhone

Which mobile platform would you develop for first and why?

  • NL: probably give a different answer every couple of months
    • would like to choose most common in Tesco customer base, but that would mean a phone that’s incapable
    • started with iPhone “because I had one”
    • iPhone is a “hero device” — you get much more marketing for your buck
    • but need to balance with what devices customers are using
  • JE: started believing they could use downloadable Java apps
    • but wasn’t really possible
    • target market are not using Java apps, even if their phone is capable
    • have instead gone to mobile web
    • also seeing some startling usage growth from iPhone (Flirtomatic have an iPhone app that wraps a browser)
  • TH: would probably cheat and spend £50 on an Adwords marketing campaign to see who was interested…
  • IU: depends on target
    • business people in NYC — Blackberry
    • teenagers in middle east — Blackberry
    • hipsters in London — iPhone

What can platform providers provide to developers to attract them?

  • OR: don’t want to write once, debug across multiple hardware
    • want to make money
    • choose to piggyback on a platform launching (someone else’s marketing muscle)
  • NL: iPhone and Android offer push update notifications
    • really important — bug fixes are v. important to customer experience
    • Ovi falling down massively here
    • Apple also making things difficult by making updates take up to two weeks
  • JE: Flirtomatic app is just a wrapper around mobile web app
    • can’t take advantage of native aspects
    • but changes can be deployed very quickly without going through Apple

Who in the audience had a bad experience of starting out on a mobile platform?

  • TouchNote: went for Nokia 3rd edition (Symbian) & Ovi store
    • just not a lucid, easy experience for customers, even in comparison to Blackberry, let alone iPhone & Android

Who’s had a good experience?

  • No one put up their hands!!

Do customers really take updates?

  • TH: 60-70% take updates for android
    • would imagine iPhones are about the same
    • Java apps are almost impossible to get customers to update
  • NL: always offer new features with bug fixes
    • every time Tesco update the Tesco Finder app, they see 99.9% of new version by the end of that day!
  • IU: have about 100 pending updates on his iPhone
    • end up not using 90% of apps that you’ve downloaded
  • MP: 70% of mobile web users went to 10 major brands

MS have developer lock-in for tools, will they lock-in legally like Apple?

  • Silverlight & XNA plus mobile web are main ways to market on Windows Phone 7
  • Haven’t finished Ts&Cs yet

Is it sustainable to support so many platforms, or will we see consolidation?

  • TH: we are seeing consolidation around the web
    • don’t feel intimidated by number of platforms, as only have to deal with those that provide an audience
    • feel locked in to Apple not by legal language, but by the audience that they provide

What can platform providers do to make a new platform attractive?

  • don’t make us write the app in Silverlight — let us write it in C#
  • reveal the number of apps in the store — no hype
  • charge less than Android & Apple (30%)
  • make it easy for customers to buy cheap things with enough money going to developers

Which platform gives the best ROI? How does mobile web compare?

  • JE: make money with virtual currency (80% revenues), rest from advertising
    • how do we bill people to buy virtual currency?
    • operator billing (reverse SMS), credit card, paypal
    • still 60/40, 70/30 — not so good
    • credit card still cheapest for business
    • Apple don’t let you use in-app purchases for virtual currency…
  • TH: not sure that there’s a link
    • look to introduce customers with operator billing and then convert repeat customers to credit card later
  • JE: operator billing is a terrible UX — sometimes a 12-step process
    • not as bad in UK, but US can be really bad

What about emerging markets? What are platforms doing?

  • OR: active in two sides, services (Hotmail, etc) & devices
    • phone becomes 1st screen
    • exploring new ways of getting hold of the phone, since Windows Phone is not targeted at emerging markets
  • NL: when Tesco arrives in a market, it could be said to have “emerged” already…
    • “Tesco in a box” — all systems for a new country shipped out
  • MP: discussing India with major internet brand, responsible for UX
    • because device is becoming primary, there are increasing number of smartphones
    • also multiple SIM cards for each user (up to 12!!)
    • Italians have 1.77 SIM cards per subscriber, cf. 1.4 UK & 1.3 in US

Multiple platforms outside of mobile

  • IU: depends on the use-case
    • things that work nicely across channels: e.g. instapaper
    • boxee: combining web, mobile & TV (can use mobile as remote)
  • NL: did ethnographic research in people’s homes as to how they shop
    • calling on phones, SMS, writing messages on paper
    • wanting to allow people to add things little and often throughout the week
    • have cheated by building an API to get other people to create apps
    • e.g. Yahoo widgets on TV: watch cooking show, and add ingredients while you watch
  • TH: big fan of opening up API, but how does that work as a provider? are you worried about the customer contact being mediated via a third party?
  • NL: grocery shopping is not really exciting to customers
    • would rather get great ideas in front of customers
    • customers still have to login and checkout on Tesco site

What about voice as a platform?

  • TH: Google introduced voice search and changed his behaviour
  • MP: need to be very careful about experience:
    • experience was significantly enhanced when interacting with an avatar
  • JE: tried out a voice part of app a year or two ago
    • watched my teenage daughter who never talks to people, but uses text & facebook instead
  • MP: is that an opportunity? getting people to use their unused minutes!

How do you handle that your app is living on a phone with others?

  • NL: Nexus One had an app using up all his minutes when in US
    • data hogging apps rapidly become unpopular
  • TH: it’s one of the important things that makes the difference between mobile and desktop
    • number one feature on the iPad is battery life

What about upcoming standards: JIL, BONDI?

  • NL: if you don’t make your app the best it can possibly be for that device then don’t bother
  • MP: customers have one device — they’re not bothered by fragmentation

Brief summary

  • IU: kept going back to UX
    • do you want to be good enough or delightfully different
  • JE: all about UX — the best possible UX is using the latest features of any platform, rather than going cross-platform
    • payment is crucial, runs across different platforms
    • needs to be improved, simplified and cheaper for business
  • NL: has to be relentlessly good design for every make and model of handset
    • gives you brand consistency
  • TH: root causes of fragmentation are a good thing
    • mass market (2/3rds of world’s population) and extremely fast rate of change
    • developers have to get used to it
  • OR: successful developers are embracing the fact that fragmentation is here to stay
  • MP: “can economise on plumbing but make sure your bathroom is pretty bling”


  • Microsoft BizSparkCamp: June 22nd 9.30-5.30
    • “they want to give you things…”
  • July - MomoLondon: Marketing your mobile app
  • August - MomoLondon break
  • September 10th & 11th - OverTheAir 2010