Openness – The Key to Monetizing Mobile

(Or Why I think 3P-Based Infrastructure and Value-Add Channels are Sexy)

Over the past decade, rapid advancements in mobile technology and mobility in general, have changed how we live and how we do business.  It has changed us from an “on-demand” world to an “always connected” world.  No doubt, mobile is here to stay and it is big business; but it’s just getting started.  We are just approaching the point where open standards and open channels can deliver the real benefit of a business ecosystem.

Modern mobility started as a walled garden.  The carriers and handset companies controlled everything due to very real bandwidth constraints, network limitations and industry knowledge.  Voice improved, but data experiences were still lacking.  Good money was made on mostly disconnected enterprise app development for Palm, Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices. Over time, control shifted to the OS companies, where vertically integrated handsets and operating systems were designed to support better consistency in the user experience. Unfortunately, controlling the user experience has lead to more restrictive monetization models, locking out most developers from making meaningful money.  Effectively, we shifted the gatekeepers from the carriers to companies like Apple – but at the expense of the channels that provide value-add functionality and content.  One step forward.  One step backward.

Users appreciated the improved experience, so brought their devices to work.  BYOD was born, and with it, arose app development, security and curation platforms.  Emerging leaders in this space include Adobe, Antenna, Good and Appcelerator, to name a few.  In an effort to simplify and improve profitability, market consolidation is underway. While this may simplify things in the future, it is currently wreaking havoc on IT.  Platforms have added complexity without improving the user experience.

The answer to many of these problems is staring us in the face.  Apple had the original right idea – “the real Web on your mobile phone.”  The infrastructure just wasn’t quite ready back then and the user experience was limited to the user interface – which is a naïve view of modern mobility.  An “app for that” was born and now we are living with the fallout.

Improved bandwidth, ubiquitous connectivity, attention to user experience and now, an emphasis on simplifying security, management and app access are all here – everything needed to lay the groundwork for an incredibly rich mobile ecosystem.  It’s an ecosystem, which can be monetized by the greatest number of development, product and service delivery channels.  We’ve made great strides forward, but in order to realize the monetary benefit throughout the entire ecosystem, a new openness must ensue; the kind of openness that is exemplified by the Web economy.

Just as Microsoft created an open and engaging development community that fueled the PC economy, one, or more of these infrastructure leaders must apply the same model to mobility.  How?

  1. Deliver an exceptional user experience.  Include optimal performance, privacy and security management, and the ability to personalize the experience by device, location and personal preferences.
  2. Include meaningful channel monetization opportunities.  Offer standards-based tools, support and best practice advice for developers, integrators and service providers that can be put to use with existing skills and expertise.
  3. Provide a platform that supports choice.  Choice for both app and Web-based solutions.  Choice that supports both free and paid content.  Choice that supports both consumer and enterprise needs.

Once these three criteria are met, as in industry we no longer have to build walls in the name of bandwidth, user experience, or preserving the “free Web” business model.  With the openness of Web standards, we can increase user choice and satisfaction, while unlocking mobile monetization for the entire ecosystem.  (Although the thoughtful few that move first will reap the biggest benefits).

While most people don’t view infrastructure as sexy, I believe that adding the 3Ps to mobility not only makes infrastructure cool, but also enables new channels and all classes of business to fully monetize mobility.   Now, who in business doesn’t think making money is sexy?!

Privacy: Does it Scale

 

Well it sure has been a busy day on the Privacy front. However as I watch all of this, I can’t help but ponder if people really understand the magnitude of the problem the Web faces. Lets talk about “Scaling”.

On a thermometer today would have Privacy scaling above boiling point. Something is going to happen for sure. Browser companies will have to make changes, Web services will have to make changes – but does it scale?

 

scale

 

Let’s think about it for a moment in the context of the “Do Not Track” header which is proposed standard to help curb the Privacy problem. If the Do Not Track header is on then Web services “MUST” observe the customers requests and not track them. There is no ambiguity in the word MUST. It’s a have to do vs. a should or may do.

But what are the implications? Well no one really knows, but Web servers, ISP, all tiers of the Internet will be affected. They will have to add code, a lot of code, to accurately support this measure. We’re talking years of coding efforts in some cases.

Up until now we’ve been living in a free for all world. Then Mobile came along and the world changed. Now Privacy is Personal and that means everybody is going to have to honor my request to not be tracked.

And lets not forget “location”. What if I get on a plane and access a Web site from a foreign country. Before they can really service my request there’s a lot of context they have to determine. And that translates into code, which translates into bandwidth and processor issues.

People want a Choice – because without it there is no Privacy. Today was just a glimpse at what is coming down the pike. The temperature is rising, and it’s rising fast.

 

Privacy is a Balance

 

As I watch the news unfolding about Path (link) and the controversy over accessing my address book, I can’t but shake my head in amazement that people are still missing the point. It’s not that they accessed my data without my permission that’s the problem – it’s that I have no choice in what I choose to share that’s at the heart of the matter.

Think about it for a moment, Michael Arrington is an investor in Path. Now Michael probably has an address book only second to Ron Conway’s. Can you just imagine the number of aspiring entrepreneurs who would love to access that database. And it’s probably all sitting up on someone’s servers somewhere.

Now to their credit Path immediately issued an apology and deleted everyone’s data from their servers. So far so good. Now comes the problem – they then updated their app so that it asked “permission” to access your address book. As someone would tweet – #fail.

They are still missing the core problem – I want to allow Path access to “some of the people in my address book” – but only those who Path turn into something of value for me. And therein (as the Bard says) lies the problem. Privacy is NOT binary, it’s contextual. Not only do I want a choice in what I share, I want to ensure that sharing the data results in a better outcome for both parties.

What the current approach to Privacy has #failed to do is deliver not only a choice, but it has failed to make it contextually aware of not only Who I am, but Where I am. My Privacy has value – it must have because at the moment this topic is becoming radioactive – and yet my only “Choice” is binary. Either share it or not. Well how about offering me something in return? Why do you get to keep the value and I don’t. Seems like an unfair choice to me.

Ultimately Privacy is a balance between ensuring Privacy and allowing information to be shared for a better outcome.

 

Choice

 

And that’s why we invented the new Choice™ browser. It gives you a choice in what and to whom, you want to share your personal data with.

Simplifying BYOD Support for Mobile Web Access

Every business is different and for most, their mobile strategies are still being formed. The BYOD phenomenon is forcing IT and Compliance organizations to move quickly.  They must backfill the gaps associated with both cross-platform and personal vs. business mobile Web performance, privacy and personalization needs.

 

Typically, the first step to mobile enterprise support is Mobile Web Access – regardless of whether or not the content has been optimized for mobile users (that browser Zoom feature comes in really handy).  Based on Aberdeen Group research in 1H11, the only 100% adopted mobile technology across the enterprises that they interviewed in 2011 is the Mobile Web.  Source:  Riding the Tiger of Mobility and BYOD for Better Enterprise Security webinar, January 26, 2012.

 

The Choice™ Browser is designed to let each business determine the best way to manage privacy, performance and personalization.  If you are formulating or evolving your mobile strategy or are just trying to play BYOD catchup, I encourage you to subscribe to the 3PMobile® YouTube channel to learn how enterprise browsing can help your business manage its 3Ps in today’s BYOD environment.   If access and policy management is your first priority, keep watching for some great ideas on how to extend your rules engine to support mobile Web users.

Why is Privacy such a hard problem to solve?

 

Back in October I wrote a blog post titled “Privacy on the Internet is NOT “binary” Since then i’ve been giving Privacy a lot more thought. And so it seems has the IETF (The Internet Engineering Task Force)

From the IETF draft document published, November 14, 2011… (link)

[snip]

The goal ( of this protocol ) is to allow a user to express their personal preference regarding cross-site tracking ( using an HTTP X request header ) to each server and web application that they communicate with via HTTP, thereby allowing each server to either adjust their behavior to meet the user’s expectations or reach a separate agreement with the userto satisfy both parties. Key to that notion of expression is that it MUST reflect the user’s preference, not the preference of some institutional or network-imposed mechanism outside the user’s control.

[/snip]

In short they want the browser to send a message to the server that says don’t track me. So I thought I would check back in to see how much progress they are making? It’s a little techie but worth a read.

Privacy is a really tough problem to solve. My personal opinion is that the W3C is on the right track, however without the ability to influence to the Browser manufacturers there is little chance for implementation. It’s going to require changes to the browser and to the Web server. Changing the HTTP protocol doesn’t solve anything – as it’s just a communication mechanism. What you have to change is both end of the pipe – and that is going to take some real innovation. (hint www.3pmobile.com)


Here’s the closed issues with some notes to follow along with.

B. Closed Issues

ISSUE-2: What is the meaning of DNT (Do Not Track) header?
[CLOSED] “Does the presence of a DNT header field on requests always indicate an explicit choice”. 
The answer we agreed upon is “yes”.

[Peter notes]… means that if the Web server sees this header in the browser requesting the page then the user has said explicitly that they do not wished to be tracked.

ISSUE-50: Are DNT headers sent to first parties? Yes

ISSUE-70: Does a past HTTP request with DNT set affect future HTTP requests? No

ISSUE-40: Enable Do Not Track just for a session, rather than being stored
[CLOSED] Resolved in DNT Call 2011-10-26: The user agents are free to send different DNT values for different sessions. We agreed that this is a user-interface issue and out of scope on its own.

[Peter notes…] this means that the browser can send a do not track header for one session but then change to another value in another session – obviously the hard part is figuring out how to implement this. Think of a whitelist (which would need to be added to the browser) so that the user can select which Web sites that can track them. This is beyond the scope of the W3C to implement – the browser OEM’s will have to do it.

ISSUE-68: Should there be functionality for syncing preferences about tracking across different browsers?
[CLOSED] Resolved in DNT Call 2011-10-26: The user agents may or may not sync. However, this is out of scope for this spec.

[Peter notes…] this is a big problem – what happens if I switch browsers? How does it remember my privacy settings?

ISSUE-42: Feedback to the user from the browser when Do Not Track is turned on

C. Postponed Issues

ISSUE-44: Ability to measure/detect who is honoring Do Not Track at a technical level
[POSTPONED] The info at the well-known URI declares whether a server promises to follow DNT. Whether it actually does (or just pretends to do so) is hard to determine and should be addressed later.

[Peter notes…] This one is really difficult. How do you know at the technical level if some is really honoring your request for privacy or is just pretending?

ISSUE-64: How does site preference management work with DNT
[POSTPONED] To what extent cookies can be used for preference management (such as storing a language preference) will be resolved later.

[Peter notes…] This is another tough one. On Mobile cookies do not work very well. And the problem then becomes how do it store privacy data in them for a later use?

Why Mobile apps don’t matter anymore – Part II

In my previous post “Why Mobile apps don’t matter anymore” I talked about why the number of Mobile apps doesn’t mean anything anymore.

This blog adds one more item – Money

Go to a VC today with a Mobile app and see if they’ll fund it? It better be one incredible CROSS platform Mobile app before they’ll even consider it.

Why?

Because it’s all about the money. The distribution method (choke point) is the app store. A NO from Apple means that market is closed to you. Ok, now all you have left is Android and Windows Mobile. Still not bad – but is it enough that people will flock to your app and download it in the numbers that eventually makes money for the VC.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

And that’s really all it boils down to in the end. It’s not whether or not a customer feels safe about buying a phone, it’s nothing to do with the number of apps – that’s so 2011.

No in the future – 2012 and beyond, it’s going to be how you monetize that app. And there’s only one truly cross platform app out there today which fulfills that promise and that’s the browser. And that’s the place where the next round of innovation is going to take place.

Stay tuned for my upcoming blog – “In the future – the ONLY Mobile app you’ll need will be the Browser”

Why Mobile apps don’t matter anymore

We all remember that famous quote “if you need a stylus for your tablet you’ve failed”. Well “if you need 500,000 apps for your phone you’ve failed”.

Seriously think about it. People cannot deal with 100 apps let alone 500,000. 99% of the apps are merely features not apps. For example how many features are there in Microsoft office – probably over a thousand (but not 500,000). How many API’s are there in Apple’s iOS? No idea – but it’s not 500,000

Do you see the point here – the number of apps doesn’t count. What counts is the apps that I really need. And for us mere mortals that usually no more than 10, maybe 25 and never exceeds 50

There’s big debates going on about why Windows Phone 7 hasn’t take off – link and Scoble responds that it’s about the apps and customers wanting to feel “safe” – link

I don’t think so. Windows Phone 7 has a superior user interface to both iPhone and Android – it has 40,000 apps (if you feel the need) and what it really has (and no one is paying attention to) is seamless integration into the Enterprise. Microsoft owns the Enterprise – what it was missing was a real phone OS that played nicely with IIS and their cloud solution. Now it has one. No other phone OS comes close to that level of integration.

So what if Round 1 went to iPhone and Android. In a few years no one will care. What they will care about is integration into the one thing that really counts – the Web. And nobody will do it as well as Microsoft.

We’re now coming to the end of the first innings – App fatigue is setting in, I don’t need more features in my phone, what I need is better battery life, better connectivity to where the real content is – the Web.

And my next post will be about just that – Why the only app you’ll ever need is a browser.

Trends in Enterprise Mobility & The Cloud

Here is a quick slide show from Channel Insider which highlights how technologies are changing the way we work.  Mobile and cloud technologies lead the charge in things to come – whether designed to reduce costs, attract new employees or solve specific business problems. Key stats from the presentation:

  • 90% of surveyed enterprises will invest in productivty-boosting technologies
  • 88% will make avialable to employees “smart” personal devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.)
  • 46% of companies are already utlizing cloud-based services and that number is growing
  • 30% annual savings- what you can expect to save on occupancy expenses with a well-designed workforce mobility program

Enterprises who strategically update their current Web strategies and infrastructure will have a much easier time adapting to new device support, location-based service and policy management, and the privacy  and productivity issues associated with remote and mobile workforce support.  There is no silver bullet to addressing all the IT and management issues associated with these changes, but Planning and Preparation in support of performance, privacy and personalization issues is a very good way to start.