11 Mar 2011

Should we keep taking the tablets? A round-up of this week’s event

MoMoLo regular, Lauren McGregor from We Are Social, took some notes for us from Monday evening’s event sponsored by the lovely folks at BSkyB (who are on a recruitment drive in case you hadn’t heard already http://workforsky.com). [Image courtesy of Lisa Devaney, Hai Media Group]

Chair - Leila Makki, Video Journalist and presenter on Telecom TV

David Gibbs, director of mobile applications and services at BSkyB – including tablet editions publications

David Roth-Ey – Harper Collins – looking after the transition to digital (additional screen)

Mark Payton, Haymarket consumer media

Rimma Perelmuter, MEF – business models, regulation, best-practice

Matt Pollitt, Account Director, Us Two – building and promoting mobile apps on iPhone and Android

There were many themes covered in the event so we’ll go through the topics or questions individually to give it some coherence in case you weren’t there. As much as possible was noted, but inevitably, not everything was captured.

Is there a change in emphasis with the advent of iPad 2 from content consumption to content creation?

Mark from Haymarket stated that forums have been a big avenue for content and is seeing this in tablets and sees it as a huge opportunity. David from Sky told the audience that by allowing customers to consume content QoE is of huge importance – you can recreate experiences on smaller devices like tablets. These are companion experiences such as interactive TV and how you can control your TV.

Apple vs. the world

Matt from UsTwo claims that it’s not just the hardware that gives Apple the edge. UsTwo has looked at Android and other platforms but the great thing about Apple is the instant plug in to users bank accounts via iTunes. This gives the immediate opportunity of getting things paid for easily and without disruption.

Rimma believes that the introduction of tablets has enhanced the smartphone offering as we are now seeing mass market appeal but, importantly, we are only at the start of this. We’re definitely seeing more interest in tablets and there is targeting via mobile devices – especially for the apps market. Content discovery and monetisation is still required and we need to marry up the original content distribution mechanisms with a smart business model behind it. Rimma’s looking forward to other tablet offerings beyond Apple which will create some competition and bring down price points.

David from Harper Collins is particularly excited to see that books are such a significant part of the iPad 2 and that it stretches the book experience beyond the flat page.

Content discovery

David Roth-Ey shared that discovery is terrible in the digital world. Even shopping on a kindle or iPad is terrible unless you know exactly what you are looking for. There’s an opportunity here for developers to create something to help consumers to discover new content.


We’re also seeing that authors are bypassing publishers like Harper Collins and self-publishing with the new digital tools available. And this is always a threat. Publishers need to show their worth to writers. We often fund authors while they are writing their books. We are not seeing this as a huge issue at the moment. We offer the full suite of options, including digital – not just the books themselves, also creating applications for books e.g. SAS survival app at £3.99 included videos, quizzes and social features. This is a major benefit to authors who may not be able to achieve this by themselves. And we sold 100,000 of those apps.

Subscription models

Mark comments on the Apple announcement of taking 30% of subscription revenues. This has made it (as in the subscription model with apps) more attractive to us. Autosport has a loyal online subscriber base already, these customers value a very good service. The subscription model now makes it viable for us to look at this.

Matt from UsTwo reckons that subscribers pay. Certainly that’s the case for the services they’ve built as they give value to the subscribers. Knowing when to charge and when not to is a trial and error process. UsTwo at first failed with a lite version of an app and saw a huge tail off after initial height of downloads but now seeing more with the MouthOff app. As for Android vs. Apple, we see that Apple provides a good way of being able to make your money back. The (Android) marketplace is too fragmented at the moment and is not built into the core UI of the handset. This will change of course, but currently it is so much easier on Apple. Honeycomb is on its way for Android and that should make a difference.

Android and other operating systems

Haymarket has seen mobile booming in growth (11% year on year) and a good chunk of which is iOS still.

David Gibbs from Sky tells us they have 10 million customers and they don’t all have iPhones – Sky has a mobile website that allows reach to many other platforms and mobile devices. BlackBerry has been an encouraging platform for us and is often forgotten. Nokia and Windows? BB Playbook? Each of these offer something different from its users than the iPad. We’re looking at all of them.

Rimma from the MEF is seeing a lot of hype around the apps market, and that it’s possible this won’t be around in the next few years. We need to look at the long term game too. MEF has an initiative called Enablers which is about operators and manufacturers working together to offer a good user experience. This initiative shares behavioural information, e.g. how consumers are engaging, and this helps you to develop relevant mobile services and adapt existing ones. We are not just inhabiting an Apple world – it is about delivering what the consumer wants in the long run.

David from Harper Collins said that an international standard for e-readers was agreed at epub which is a great step forward.This means that you don’t need to rebuild for other platforms as they share the common industry standard and allows for the full range of content to be available to all.

Web apps and HTML5

David Gibbs explained that at Sky, they haven’t really exploited HTML5 as yet because the tech team believe it is not ready yet. Currently, a mobile website is not enough to deliver the highest quality of experience compared with native apps. Sky does a lot of work in mobile web, e.g. checking your account online so it’s not a question of ignoring it. Their services are defined by the customer and currently they are using apps. It’s important to follow the customer.

Mark from Haymarket believes that apps are the way to go for the best magazine design as the tools are not available as yet to deliver what you can currently via an application.

David from Harper Collins say that they know what their customers want and they want to buy content they can use across multiple devices – hence the international standard is very useful.

Business model for tablets

The panel felt that this was not a mature enough market yet to get any real numbers and that the subscription model needs to mature. It’s a time to experiment. Sky certainly wants to extend subscriptions and target new customers. Rimma from MEF agreed that a lot of experimentation is going on and that existing newspaper publishing models were being used – pay per use, subscriptions (monthly, yearly) etc. She noted that we almost saw the mobile games industry die a few years ago and apps and app stores are giving them a new lease of life.

Matt from UsTwo added that it’s not just the business model that’s important but also the move to digital for publications in general and it’s still early days for that. I have bought a subscription and enjoy it, but from a publishers point of view, they are still lost as to what to do. As an example, The Daily has just come out to mixed reviews and lots of budget spent. No one really ‘gets’ what to do with it, just chuck video etc. on there without any real intelligence.

Mark from Haymarket talked about PDF formats. And he’s not a fan of them by any means. But Haymarket recently went with Zinio with a few of their titles and the numbers have been astonishing and it turns out that the PDF format works pretty well on tablet devices. The panel also told us that you’d be amazed at how people will scan in reams and reams of pages and produce PDFs of books and magazines – they have literally spent their free time painstakingly scanning each page individually.

Matt from UsTwo stressed that it is about the content, the drives to purchase and the implementation that is required. Make it more social, think about the environment, where are they (customers) consuming the content, who do I want to target. Rimma also noted that social platforms like Facebook are influencing consumer behaviour.

David Roth-Ey also felt we needed to be aware of content overload and that the majority of revenue will come from just plain text.

What would you pay for and how do you want your content delivered to you?

David Roth-Ey wants multiple books access, similar to how it is with music, before we see the piracy that we’ve seen in the music industry. This is something that Harper Collins thinks about a lot. A Spotify equivalent if you like. We need to find a business model to fit and it needs to be an aggregated service and probably not from a publisher. The question is whether or not e-books will flatten sales of print.


It’s been in the press lately that advertisers aren’t interested in iPad advertising but Mark from Haymarket felt it was too early to draw that conclusion. The inventory isn’t there yet, but when it is, it’s very successful. Sky has also found that multiplatform sales and sponsorship has been successful. It’s a growing business but perhaps a little below forecasts.

What else for tablets?

Customer service is a strong contender, with the likes of Burberry using iPads for staff. Medical is another important sector for tablet devices, especially in the US. Rimma added that they’re great devices for consumer engagement and not just consumption of content. The healthcare sector have really wanted to take advantage of  the mobile device to engage and inform the consumer. The tablet can do this.

What about Android?

Android is growing in importance and has had fast growth and shipped more devices than Apple in the last quarter. David Gibbs told us that the big sticking point for Android is security. It’s a big issue for a business like Sky but that there should be a solution around September time. There was general agreement on this point. There is more piracy on Android with something like a third of some of UsTwo apps on Android being pirated copies.

Question: Hybrid Ink and LCD screens are already available in the US – anyone looking into this?

David from Harper Collins: A colour screen is better for content but it looks to be quite expensive.

Question: Can’t we do more with these devices? Tablets are more then just a mobile PC. We need to incentivise and create ideas from the developers for books, for example

David from Harper Collins agreed. The Heart and the Bottle is an app for children and was iPad app of the week. It is stretching what a picture book can be and not just at the digital level but also at the editorial level too (suggesting that it’s more than the developers who need to be thinking about this).

Mark from Haymarket commented on the front and rear facing camera of the iPad 2 which means you can now use for home entertainment systems and incorporate room backgrounds.

Question: What about security from a consumer perspective?

There are concern across the board and is something everyone on the panel were thinking about. Rimma from MEF felt we needed more consumer education as there’s growing concern over consumer privacy and a growing number of consumers signing T&Cs without a thought.

Question: Using the cloud model to share content between devices, as a content provider, is this a threat?

The living-room is still the main place of engagement for Sky consumers. We (Sky) will provide more content live and on-demand. There is still demand for branded and well written and produced content

Question: Business orientated apps for bank traders and the like, are there issues in development?

Matt from UsTwo agreed that it is very different with lots of challenges. You try to create the best user experience, but not many will actually end up using it compared with consumer facing applications. Rimma continued that mobile enterprise is getting a growing focus e.g. banking and retail.

Where does HTML5 have a role? For example the Yahoo! HTML5 service is very good and you can disconnect from the web through an app.

Mark from Haymarket would like to explore this more and make stand alone product. HTML5 is certainly on the radar. Matt from UsTwo added that HTML5 needs connectivity in a lot of cases and clearly not everywhere has access. This is the main reason not to develop with it yet. Also the development team feedback has been that it is not as good and that you don’t have as much information on the device such as location.


Further links

Check out these other links from people who attended and participated in the event…

Telecom TV's Leila Makki has done a video summing up Monday's event and speaks to the panellists and some of the audience with their take on it. http://www.telecomtv.com/comspace_videoDetail.aspx?v=5319&id=a05a0fb0-e29f-44a7-bc7f-99a3293bdde9

Empirical Creative aka John Mildinhall comments http://www.empiricalcreative.co.uk/?p=25

Hotwire PR’s Annette Leach @01leachy came along and gives us her view of the evening http://interactive.hotwirepr.com/uk/762/

MoMoLo regular, Simon Judge, @simonjudge gives his round-up and some of his own takeaways on the topic, particularly around tools and authoring http://mobilephonedevelopment.com/archives/1222

Sam Walmsley @sammielw points us to some interesting articles as reference for mhealth usage of tablet devices and how marketers can take advantage of HTML5 http://www.fiercemobilehealthcare.com/story/survey-us-docs-favor-ipad-over-other-tablets/2011-03-04?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal  and http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/software-technology/9314.html and shares her thoughts on the event including the healthcare angle http://www.bluelightpartners.com/?p=932

Journalist, Stuart Dredge, writing for his apps column at the Guardian gives us three stonkingly good articles:

The MoMoLo Chronicles are back with another lovely round-up of Monday’s event from Mobile Monday London regular, Belen Barros Pena, http://belenpena.posterous.com/momolo-chronicles-a-tablet-is-well-a-tablet

Dharmesh Suraj Bali has some thoughts on the topic, especially around iOS dominance in the space http://dharmeshsurajbali.com/2011/03/07/takings-from-mobile-monday-keep-taking-the-tablets/

Ian Thain from Sybase points us to some interesting resources for tablet apps used in enterprise (including their own guide to enterprise apps) http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/2011/03/sap-cio-oliver-bussman-on-tablets.html?spref=tw&m=1 and http://ianthain.ulitzer.com/node/1732445

Thin Martian interviews Andy Tipton from RIM as he demonstrates the BlackBerry Playbook (audio) http://audioboo.fm/boos/296116-andy-tipton-from-blackberry-demonstrates-the-playbook-momolo and talks to Matt Pollitt about the HMTL5 vs. Native OS debate http://audioboo.fm/boos/296125 and then writes about it all too http://www.thinmartian.com/2011/03/keep-taking-the-tablets-at-mobile-monday/

Meanwhile Lisa Devaney from Hai Media interviews BSkyB’s David Gibbs http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1jgjFj/audioboo.fm/boos/296119-talking-tablets-with-bskyb-at-mobile-monday-london

Ged Carroll, aka Renaissance Chambara, gives us his view and shares his mind map http://renaissancechambara.jp/2011/03/08/mobile-monday-london-keep-taking-the-tablets/

Farhan Rehan @farhan has done a great job of collecting all the tweets from the evening. Comments and backchat during the panel session are on about page 5 onwards. Some good snippets in there. http://www.tweetdoc.org/View/9943/MobileMondayLondon as well as some comments on the heat in the room – yes, the aircon was on, no, it wasn’t effective – I guess there were just too many of us in the room!

And there’s a few photos on facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6251174813&v=photos 

And finally, we trended in London on Foursquare on the evening (although it wasn’t that hard if we’re completely honest!).

Our next events are pencilled in for Monday 4 April and Monday 16 May. Watch this space for details.