Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The App-Web Struggle on Mobile

It is extremely hard to say anything about the industry which is so dynamic and developing as the mobile internet industry, but here are my two cents on the same written from an Indian product professional’s view-point

Mobile is the new laptop
Mobile apps are the norm these day, every company has launched its apps for the three popular platforms and sometimes more. And why not, the next wave of growth will come via mobile. More people are accessing internet on mobile compared to just a year back, with a 50% growth in Rural mobile Web users. Mobile internet is the best way to reach the tier II and III markets, where dedicated broadband connection are not available.

Recently, my dad was visiting us from my hometown. I was surprised to see his internet usage, he was accessing information on stock market, making plans for our trips reading up on wiki on his phone Internet — the phone being Nokia 6389 and internet being the 2G plan at 96Rs a month. What I m trying to say here is that yes, mobile is the new future, it is the way to crack the next level of markets, but in what form? Indian Industry has taken the route of apps for now following the world trends, while a major portion of the people they are trying to target are not using them. The fabled mobile growth in India is not coming from iPhones and Samsung S5 and S6, it is coming from the Moto E/G, Lava, Karbonn and Micromax. IDC has said that the sub-200 dollar category in smartphones contributed to about 78% growth in mobile devices in 2013-14, strongly pointing that the growth in the Indian smartphone market still remains constrained towards the low-end of the spectrum. A more recent new story reported a drop in the sales in premium smart-phone segments.

Misguided Effort
These low cost smart phones are going to define the market in India. But these phones do not have the capability to install hundreds of apps and function, there is simply not enough internal memory. For example take the example of Moto E, the latest hot-selling phone in Indian market. It has an internal memory of 4GB, of which only about 50% is available for apps. Free internal-memory is also needed for OTA updates and OS updates. With lower memory available, these phones become extremely slow and unresponsive, resulting in mass app uninstalls by the users. Have you ever removed apps from your phones, I bet the criteria is, following are the 5 apps I don’t use much, let me remove the three here which take the maximum memory. The uninstall rates for apps are already upwards of 60%. This is a lot of wastage for marketeers who spend money to get every install.

But the blow to apps does not just come from the constraints in memory, it also comes from the mobile web. The processing power available in phones is constantly increasing and so is the ubiquity of Internet. This, although is a good news for app makers, also levels the field for mobile-web. Most apps need data connection to perform any meaningful work as they access central data-bases for information. If the data-connection is a needed for apps to function, users can just access the same information off the internet.

Prophecies Abound
 India is a different market, it has always needed a bit of imagination to solve the unique issues that come up here. But these problems here can and may come up in any price-sensitive developing market. The companies and App makers will also need a to get more creative to handle these issues. Maybe the apps can evolve as a gateway to the service, a kind of wrapper to the web-app which customizes the experience for each user, and will also give developers the flexibility of an app. It would combine the goodness of a traditional app, with the lightness and speed of mobile web. Going forward, it is not difficult to imagine a single gateway for all apps a person is subscribed to. The gateway which stores users personal settings, which customizes the experience exactly how he wants, while giving access to all the applications he need without consuming memory on his device.

With all this said, there are lot more aspects to this discussion. Things like privacy, software reacting first or hardware become cheaper before that are other.
Moreover, there are use-cases where apps will continue to be more effective such as frequent transaction type interactions. All these will come into play to define where the things finally more.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Evaluation Pains

The Indian Online shopper is an unfortunate one for now.
Poor customer is bombarded with offer, advertisements and choices - of both products and the sellers
He does seem to have a lot of options for "what" to buy and from "where" to buy.

This is where the customer has been abandoned heartlessly by one and all.This is how the marketing God Kotler defined the buying process. Evaluation of alternatives is a precondition too purchase.

Before the customer reaches the buying stage, he needs to decide "what to buy" and "where to buy it from".

He gets no help in evaluating the products. The compare features available on many sites are greek and latin to customers who DO NOt understand the implications of the specifications he is being forced to go through. How many laptop buyers understand the difference between Dual-core, Quad core, Intel Core i3 and how the difference affect them. Or which washing machine buyer knows about what RPM is suitable  or how many wahs programs are more than enough.
They are all defined by the seller, because this is how a seller/ manufacturer looks at his wares, but this is not how the customer sees them. For him, a good computer has good battery backup and a good washing machine, cleans clothes without consuming too much energy or water.

Basically, what is missing is a space where customer needs can be translated into product specifications.So right now the customer has numerous options in front of him, but no way to take a good decision, unless he educates himself on the product category. This in today's scenario is a whole lot of effort with little use, as the knowledge he gains is put to limited use(one product purchase) and is obsolete after a few months as the technology changes so fast that by the time he comes back to buying that product again, he will have to relearn everything. not to mention, its a lot of effort as there are numerous options.

Many such websites/knowledge base exits for more developed countries, like Consumer Reports and consumer search etc. Indian markets are evolving, and I am sure systems and sites will emerge that will do precisely the same. The increased activity on the Indian e-commerce space will trigger these enablers to come in effect, which in turn will boost the space further.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Traversing the choice maze

I needed to buy a laptop, very basic, very functional - something that would just work and work for long. So I need something with good battery backup and good processor. Graphics is not a priority as I am not into gaming nor is the looks. I do not have a brand preference, but of course good service is important.

With this requirement in mind, I set out on my search to find a suitable laptop for myself.
Now there is no single place where I can give these parameters, and someone who would understand what is it that I am looking for and give me a few options from which I can choose from.  In the present scenario, it is up to me to understand what my requirement are. So, I decided to just go to flipkart to see what is available. This is what I found:

509 results are available on Flipkart website, Okay, so I have to find one out of these.
I take a look at the options I could shortlist them on 12 parameters. Great!! This should be good, I thought, until I realized that I do not understand a bit about some of these new options that are available now, and for some I don’t care.

Okay, so first is brand, I am quite neutral about that, I do not want to miss on any good product on this criteria, so let’s skip this one for now.

Next is type- notebook, netbook, ultabook and tablet, now what the heck are these ultra books and netbooks. I know I don’t want tablet, but what do I do next. Well, lets skip this one too for now.
Price, okay this should be easy, I am open to all options below 40K, but I do not have an option of choosing that. I can either look at below 35K options or between 35K and 45K. The system does not let me specify this. Well, I select below 35K.

Usage – home or business? I am a self employed person and I plan to use this laptop for work and for entertainment. Skip this too.

Now, it comes to lifestyle – how am I supposed to distinguish between everyday use and entertainment. What is everyday use when we talk about laptops? Next option is processing – heck! Aren’t all laptops supposed to be processing? Super confused again, skip this one too.
Processor, ha ha, you guessed it, clueless again. Let me leave this step too.

System memory, Okay, I understand this to be the RAM, and programs these days need a lot of RAM. I want to select anything above and including 4 GB. In the price range I specified, 4GB is the max I get, alteast one decision is made simple.

Dedicated memory graphics and dedicated memory, I don’t care.
Screen, well let’s take atleast 15 inches. And OS is not an issue; I think I can handle that.
 Hard disk should be minimum 500 GB, but the site does not give me option to select like this. So I just select 500GB.

Not bad, I have 19 laptops now to select from, even with my minimum knowledge. I wonder who uses all these filter criteria.