30 Nov 2012

7th Birthday unPanel & Annual Round Up

We held our 7th Anniversary Event on Monday this week, and in the tradition of moving things along we decided that it was time to try something new, this time by running an unPanel. A step into the unknown, for us, but something we really wanted to try out.

Massive thanks to Tes Macpherson, @ptasocial, Founder of ptasocial.com for taking great photos and Viji Pathy, inde­pendent soft­ware con­sultant at MoKaadu for her account of the proceedings, below - both long time much appreciated volunteers and supporters of Mobile Monday London.

Jo Rabin opened 2012’s 7th anniversary event looking back at 7 years of Momolo and all the topics covered just in the last year...including data driven apps, mobile games, demo nights, tablets and e-books, accessible design, mobile payments, mobile marketing and the annual HTML5 vs Native debate.  2012 also saw the launch of The Mobile Academy which was hosted in conjunction with UCL.

After thanking the night’s (and annual) sponsors RIM and also annual sponsors Samsung, Jo and the team launched in to the unknown territory of the “unPanel”   The idea came in as a member suggestion from the May survey and the Momolo team had felt it was a great way not only to review the year but also to give the stage over to the many interesting and expert audience members that attend the events.  Momolo events are a place that members "get a voice" so they wanted to push that to the extreme.

So the night started with suggestions of topics from the audience.  Then, as each topic was chosen, the audience was asked to identify the questions that should be asked. Finally, who wanted to be on the panel.

The first topic was 2013 Operating System Launches. Suggestions of areas of discussion around this topic included:-

  • BB10 market penetration
  • Firefox OS
  • Android Sales
  • Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Surface Pro tablet
  • OS Fragmentation
  • Jolla’s Sailfish mobile OS (successor to Nokia’s MeeGo)
  • Open Source Development 

Don Turner, Developer Consultant at RIM
The first set of panellists were Don Turner (@donturner) Developer Consultant at RIM, Desigan Chinniah (@cyberdees)  Firestarter for Firefox OS at Mozilla, Simon Judge (@SimonJudge) a mobile consultant since 1996, now focusing on Android and mobile strategy, and David Wood (@dw2), a self-confessed OS-aholic with a background in Psion and Symbian, now looking at all areas of smart technology and mobile platforms.

Don kicked off with news of the launch of the new Blackberry platform BB10, devices are due to ship by January 2013 and RIM are keen on maximising the apps available on App World by that time, so developers are encouraged to work with RIM.  Desigan also had news of the Firefox OS Marketplace which was designed, like other app stores, to be a great place for search, discovery and download of apps for the new platform.  The key difference being that this was a marketplace for HTML5 apps and the OS had the advantages of an open platform based on web technologies as well as being open source.  They also have partnerships with OEMs, carriers and chipset manufacturers, aiming to launch the first device in H1 2013 with Telefonica in Brazil, then going global with other devices.

Desigan Chinniah, Firestarter for Firefox OS, Mozilla
Questions for RIM included whether with Blackberry’s history of succeeding at enterprise apps, they should be looking to expand out of mobile into the enterprise space? Don confirmed however that the focus for RIM is still on mobile, they would continue to work closely with enterprise providers to enable close integration for enterprise software on mobile.

Are more mobile platforms a good idea given current app development is very focused around just 2 platforms, iOS and Android?  David thought we needed more than 2 significant platforms but there were too many platforms currently being launched, for instance what does Firefox OS offer over other open source web platforms such as Tizen? Windows however looks strong as a contender during the next year. David also said a more secure platform for apps might be key. Simon agreed there are too many platforms but said was room for more genuine differentiation between platforms, for example, using new input mechanisms.

Simon  Judge, Mobile Consultant
Don thought BB10 would be that secure platform but App developers in the audience had questions on how hard developing on BB10 would be?  The answer was it should be easy with just a single SDK with a Simulator environment, and single BB developer account.

What were the favourites for different HTML5 OS’s? David’s bet was on Firefox OS because of its open credentials, Tizen although also open source may have the disadvantage now of now being closely tied with Samsung.  How would Firefox OS handle secure storing of data?  There are packaged application approaches in order to create secure apps, with certification possible within 2 days ideally.  Could the platform remain independent while being closely aligned with network operators? Desigan thought this wouldn’t be an issue as operators had started to shift their approach looking to the future and see the benefits of having business models built on open web platforms.

David Wood , Accenture Mobility
What were the panel’s hopes for the next year in mobile?  David hoped that BB10 would be successful as another key mobile platform even though RIM had a lot of work to do catching up from their current market share.  Don obviously agreed with this hope, though noted that they envisaged BB10 as a viable No 3 platform alongside iOS and Android rather than trying to usurp their position, their direct competition for the next year was probably more likely to be Microsoft.  Simon hoped companies developing for mobile would start to take Android more seriously rather than as a secondary platform to iOS and invest in making good quality apps, as his opinion was that although the quantities were there on Google Play, Android apps were often poor quality compared with their iOS counterparts.  Desigan wanted more flexibility across platforms and devices, so that users were less tied into a single platform or device in the future, and could use content and services important to them everywhere and anywhere they wanted.

The second topic chosen was Most Hyped Areas in Mobile. Suggestions for this topic included:-

  • 4G
  • Augmented Reality
  • NFC
  • Cloud Services
  • Mobile Payments
  • QR Codes
  • HTML5
  • Publishing
  • Responsive Design
  • Performance
  • Location Based Advertising
  • Apple 

This time the set of panellists from the audience were Yvonne Biggins (@yvonne78), Business development Manager at Movellas (@movellas) a self-publishing community site,  Calypso Harland (@calypsoharland),  Marketing Consultant at Marmalade, Karen Barber (@KLBarber, Mobile Consultant and Alexis Dormandy (@adormandy) who has a background at Virgin Mobile and Orange and is currently a mobile investor and CEO of LoveThis.
Alexis Dormandy, Investor & CEO of LoveThis 
Alexis thought all of the above were examples of over-hyped technologies, for most users cost is a factor and they wanted to do a few things very well without the constraints that often came into play now. Karen was not sure whether 4G would revolutionise the mobile experience as a lot users currently found it hard to even access 3G everywhere.

There was some discussion around QR codes.  They were often used in instances where they don’t really add any genuine value to the user, examples being tube or TV adverts - how many users had actually opted to scan the QR codes and make a purchase from this interaction?  Although others thought they could be useful for enabling smaller merchants to accept payments through a very low cost mechanism without the need for infrastructure such as terminals and readers, for example a mobile application based secure mechanism such as MPayMe.  They could however be an example of many mobile technologies which were too far removed from normal user interaction, and were more about showcasing clever technologies than making the experience simple for users to take advantage of - this could be argued by stats showing of around 6M browser sessions per month, the number of QR code generated sessions were a tiny.

Yvonne Biggins (left) & Karen Barber (right)
Though the panel had come across some innovative uses of QR codes, including Airdroid (device management) login via QR code scan to pair a browser session with the mobile app, retailers enabling direct product lookup, QRpedia which uses QR codes to deliver Wikipedia articles to users, codes in museums and galleries which allow contextual information to be delivered to  users, codes on the back of business cards, and in retailers for shopping selection where combined with NFC mobile payments, enabled the entire shopping experience to be completed via mobile.

NFC itself could be seen as an over-hyped technology currently of limited use, maybe not down to the technology itself but that the primary uses of mobile devices did not at the moment integrate NFC channels in the same way that successful use of the technology for  uses such as travel.  The NFC infrastructure on which mobile apps depended was variable, for example limited PoS readers in major retailers.
Calypso Harland, Marketing Consultant
What about HTML5 which has been hyped for the last few years? The general consensus was there was genuine potential underlying the hype, but a lot of device functionality was not yet accessible so it remained a better bet for limited use cases.  Always choose the technology for the particular product requirements using hybrid solutions if necessary, for example native for high performance device API intensive apps and HTML5 for web server based publishing apps, although with the advent Firefox OS the panel saw potential for expanded use.  It’s been documented that every emerging technology appears to undergo a “Hype Cycle” but less so if the technologies are matched to suitable use cases rather than casting them as all-round solutions. Another factor was the tools to build native apps were far better than HTML5 tools at the moment.

And this panel’s hopes for 2013?  Alexis would like to see the disaggregation of apps with the device and billing dependencies.  Calypso would like to see easier app submission and tools and a more focused plea for help with BB app development, and Karen would like an improvement in the showcasing of mobile technologies, for instance mobile events such as MWC of all places should integrate technologies such as NFC and mobile networking into the event organisation.

The final topic for a panel discussion was Mobile Advertising. Areas of interest included:-

  • Why advertise on mobile?
  • Click fraud
  • Ad blocking Apps
  • Push Advertising
  • Virtual Goods
  • Weve (operator mobile payments and advertising venture)
  • Better Targeting Opportunities
  • Opt Out Globally 
  • Does Mobile Advertising work?
  • Economics of Mobile Advertising
  • Data & Privacy
  • Relevance

And the final set of panellists were John Roberts (@johnmroberts), MD of digital media company Qustodian, with a background in mobile marketing and advertising, Shafiq Mumani (@smumani), VP at Terra Advisors with an interest in all things related to mobile marketing and advertising, (@nishul1), background in finance investment and founder member at Markit and Angel Investor branching out of finance into technology and Steven Wright, previously responsible for strategy at T-Mobile and Everything Everywhere now Strategy Development Manager at RBS,

John Roberts, Qustodian
The panel were asked why advertise on mobile? Well, the click-through rate was higher on mobile, mobiles are more personal devices and there was an increased retention rate when marketing through mobile. Providing useful services to users along with the ads was the key, most famously illustrated through the success of Google’s search-based advertising.  Increasing use of the context of the mobile customer will produce less quantity of more relevant ads, targeting users based on their preferences and location etc.  The other consideration was that more and more users expected services for free, including free apps!

Additionally the cost to create and maintain relevant ads is lower for mobile and other digital media than for traditional print, and measuring consumption was much easier, including contextual consumption on mobile.
Shafiq Mumami, Terra Advisors
However although the click-through may be high because users were tempted into following a link, did it necessarily translate into increased sales of the product ultimately?  But maybe it wasn’t as simple as directly mapping this relationship, as it may eventually facilitate purchases down the line.  Additionally there were other factors such as the whole branding journey with new customers and CRM with existing customers to buy more from your brand.  Ads which used personalisation via embedded cookies etc enhanced this.
Another area of interest was using advertising to subsidise mobile services to users, especially young users who may be tempted by free voice, data and texts for instance. Companies like Blyk had found it hard to get the business model right in the past, though they were now part of Orange.

Nishul Saperia, Founder & Investor 
It was pointed out that the current model of advertising does not always specifically make use of the advantages of the mobile medium, maybe it should be re-conceived to better utilise mobile personalisation available to the apps from the device, as the availability of these APIs increased this would be even more important.  In much the same way that TV advertising has changed from reading radio ads in front of the camera to the emotionally engaging TVs ads of today, mobile will eventually grow from small versions of web banners to using innovative mobile accessibility.

Normal users wanted ads which gave them value, they preferred choices delivered to them and have more control, smart companies will use VRM rather than CRM (where the brands own the relationship) so that users were at the centre of the relationship and could control their own identity and privacy settings.

Stephen Wright - on the right side of the panel
The panel summarised their hopes for the next year in this area – the importance of VRM to address privacy and personalisation issues, contextual product placement which was of benefit to the user (though with small screen sizes push advertising could be too intrusive), more innovative ways of delivering ads, young creative people joining media agencies(!), better education for the industry on how users interact with their mobiles and better integrated payments options.

We asked attendees for their written feedback after the session and we were very pleased to hear that people enjoyed it and found it informative - quite a few people mentioned enjoying the dynamism and pace.

We were thrilled with how many people got involved - and think that it really validated our view that some of the most informed and interesting viewpoints are to be found within the community itself.

One to repeat we think!