Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boot up: I/O evaluated, iPhone v Korea?, selling car space

Car parking spaces Car parking spaces. Ooh, you could monetise those. Ignore the silly logo. Photograph: Alamy

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

The overriding theme of the I/O keynote was Google reasserting control over Android. The core objective of Android has always been to provide the widest possible audience for Google's services, but over the last several years Google has seen a variety of device vendors customize, tweak and fork Android in ways that either submerge Google's services beneath their own or strip them out entirely. Google has achieved its objective of creating a very widely used mobile operating system, but it's a very Google-light version of Android which is driving that growth. Android One is ostensibly about expanding the availability of cheap smartphones using Android in emerging markets, but Android is already the default operating system for cheap smartphones. The problem is that it's often a version of Android which has very little to do with Google. Android One will re-enshrine Google's services at the center of these devices, which will run stock Android and be free from the sorts of customizations so popular with the largest Android manufacturers, notably Samsung.

Scans of Electronic Gaming Monthly from the 1990s. HDTV will never happen, apart from anything else. It's there in black and white.

Except it's not so much a "weapon" as an asset.

There are now more apps available in the Play store, 1.5m, than the App Store, 1.2m, according to market researcher App Annie. App downloads from the Play store surpassed those from the App Store for the first time in 2013. The App Store still generated more than twice as much revenue for developers last year, but that was down from six times as much in 2012. Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora told investors in April that Play store payments to developers quadrupled in 2013 from 2012.

"Growth on the [Android] platform has been tremendous," said Eric Feng, chief technology officer at Flipboard, the maker of a popular reading app for smartphones and tablets. Flipboard's first Android app was released 18 months ago, more than two years after it made its debut on iPads and later iPhones. Despite the late start, today more than half of the company's users are on Android devices, Mr. Feng said.

Apple users generate more revenue, in part because the owners of more-expensive iPhones and iPads tend to have higher incomes than Android users. "But Android users are becoming very valuable at this point," said Phil Libin, chief executive of Evernote, the maker of a popular note-taking app.

Android's growing popularity is enabling Google to extract bigger profits from app sales. That is a change from a few years ago, when the company kicked back a hefty share of those sales to wireless carriers.

The first generation Nokia X smartphones which were released in February, will not be getting updated to the Nokia X software featured on the Nokia X2.

In a detailed post about the Nokia X2 smartphone user experience on the Conversations blog, Microsoft's Yannis Paniaras, Head of the Mobile Phones UX Design Studio in Beijing, has revealed that "because of the necessary hardware upgrades, the Nokia X software platform 2.0 won't be available on Nokia X, Nokia X+ or Nokia XL. However, more updates will be coming to further improve the experience of those devices in the coming months."

Will those owners care? Almost certainly not.

Apple's hotly anticipated iPhone 6 could be helping to break up one of Asia's most dependable economic relationships.

Factory output from South Korea and Taiwan long has moved almost in lockstep as both helped meet global technology demand. But Apple is trying to reduce its reliance for parts on smartphone rival Samsung Electronics, and the iPhone 6 could pull Taiwan more firmly into a production orbit independent of Korea's.

Taiwan's industrial production index rose 5.2% on-year in May, beating economists' forecasts, after rising 5.29% in April and 3.2% in March. Korea won't report May industrial production until Friday, but its April production slowed to 2.4% on-year, from 2.6% in March.

It seems incredibly unlikely that one company's parts-buying from one other company could drive industrial indexes for two entire countries. There's a correlation there (it's in the article), but the real causation might be trickier to unpick.

Interview with Don Harrison, vp of corporate development at Google:

Q: Over the past year, a lot of deals are for companies that have ended up over at Google X, the semi-secret lab were Google cooks up its most advanced projects. What kind of mandate has Larry given you?

A: They are not so much Google X as new product areas within Google. At its highest level the mandate is to find interesting companies that are moving things forward that are solving big problems.

Our acquisitions generally fall into three rough buckets. We look for smaller deals that are focused on talent and technology. We also focus on areas where we identified a core functionality that we are we are trying to implement across a product, and we can fill out that offering as a result of buying companies. There's a third area, which is still core, where we recognize that we need to be in an area, but we need to get to scale quickly.

Nathaniel Mott:

Paolo Dobrowolny, the company's chief executive and co-founder, previously defended its plan to the San Francisco Chronicle by claiming that the service is a "fair business for anybody" and that anyone worried about spending $20 on a public parking spot can just make that money back later. That means that everyone comes out ahead… except the poor sap who gets to the parking spot later in the day — you know, when people are just getting out of work — and can't find any takers for the $20 parking spot in front of their friendly neighborhood Chipotle.

…MonkeyParking's users aren't renting out their spare room or driving people around in a car they paid for, they're auctioning off a public good that they have no right to sell in the first place.

Carolina Milanesi:

At the end of Q1 2014, Android owned 50% of the US smartphones installed base (smartphones in use), one percentage point up from Q4 2013.  While penetration grew, net promoter score (NPS: a measure of loyalty based on the question, "How likely are you to recommend your XXX phone?") among smartphone buyers of Android-based phones (this does not include first-time buyers) dropped from 55 points in Q4 2013 to 48 points in Q1 2014. This compares to a score for iOS based iPhones that went from 55 in Q4 2013 to 63 in Q1 2014.

User satisfaction is driven by several factors that relate to three main areas: hardware design and specs, price point, and ecosystem:

For most consumers, ecosystem today translates to availability of applications. In a not too distant future, ecosystem will translate more and more to interoperability of products and seamlessness of experience across those products.

The real key value here, Smith says, is ease of setup: Sign in to the Chromebooks with a company-activated Google Apps account, plug in the headset, open the browser, and you're officially online and able to take calls. All the communication magic happens behind the scenes in Twilio's cloud. 

This is in stark contrast to unified communications solutions from telecommunications vendors like Cisco or Microsoft, which tend to be more complicated to set up and run. The simplicity and low cost of the Chromebook is quite a different approach than Cisco's latest device, a desktop communications terminal with high-end audio and video that will cost around $1,500, and is more in line with a cost-based approach toward customer service.

This is a real disruptive opportunity for Chromebooks - low-end, simple, cheap, functional, rolls in computer functionality. (Updated with correct link - apologies for earlier error.)

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