Wednesday, 25 January 2012

... old blog archive

As I slowly move all my old blogs over to blogger, I am pasting the old content as a post, giving them a spring clean at the same time, and moving any posts that were visited most on the old blog or simply warrant highlighting getting their own post. At the same time I like to add a bit of recent context, so here goes:

App stores vs. App discovery portal vs On-device portal

Interestingly they all amount to the same thing: a way of engaging customers on a device to induce loyalty, promote data and device usage and generally make the product and service more useful to the user (and more profitable to the operator and manufacturer...)

It all started back in the late nineties / early naughties as an evolution of the then proprietary OS of each handset (adding menu option 7,8,9 on Nokia for example) and as a more flexible answer to SIM toolkit (STK) menus and customisation. Both were more flexible, additionally they could be added and modified closer to or even post launch, whereas the former were developed in handset development phases (then 18 months to 2 years).

So now what do they do and what is the difference. I will put more in the definitions page, but for now there are three distinctions:
  1. Full blown app store: a conduit for the customer to download and access new content, requires usually a lot of back-end (billing, stats, developer portal, repository, versioning, etc) a lot of support (developer support, APIs, evangelising, etc) and front end (as content grows you need a roadmap for discovery alone - one of key mistakes of all new app stores post iPhone who either tried to emulate the iPhone - designed for 1000's times the content, or make their own adaptation with no plans for evolution or even the ability to evolve their chose store within the RFQ for the store provision...) as, most importantly, the leap of faith of your customer to agree to terms and conditions, payment, purchase data specifically for your new toy, etc, etc.... I have now worked two major app stores, and the same issues arise, as the same assumptions are made and the same corners are cut...
  2. Content Discovery Store. I worked on one of the first ones of these for a major handset manufacturer, the goal is different, engage the customer without all the complexity: usually embedded content, focused around the type of person who typically buys the device, and a way of initiating people to content on their device. This is very important, as while the first early adopters of smartphones go straight to the app store, the me-too and mass market adopters need encouragement
  3. On device portal. This can be either a single app, or a collection of content which can either be presented as an app experience or as a web experience. Opera Mini drives this line well, with the native widget and other stores powered by its browser essentially behaving like a front end to an app store, the java version and public opera mini being essentially an on-device portal. other examples have been for example mippin's catalogue and even imode to a certain extent. The key is that you embed an experience on the device outside of the native OS or general WAP functionality

Below text originally posted by Christian Borrman 22:19pm 20/12/06, updated 12:56pm 15/10/07

Why Use On Device Portals?

If the Nokia experience has taught me anything, it is the benefits of On Device Portals in both moving the user forward from basic email and WAP data usage, and in understanding better what users want from mobile value added services. The two go hand-in-hand; WAP and other data services were just pushed at the consumer, with little in the way of feedback, and consequently uptake has been slow. The ODP allows not only for the provision of services via mobile, but also the analysis and feedback of uptake and usage that allows the development of services users actually want to actively use and promote to other users. ODPs allow this for several reasons:
  • A customer actively requests an On Device Portal, at which time they can easily set preferences if it is via a website. From thereon it is a single, branded, forwardable destination for all related information; not a collection of bookmarks.
  • You can see how much and how often a user interacts, and reward them accordingly
  • You can see what phone, network and even tariff your user is on, as well as multiple phones, and analyse usage, user groups...
  • For a handset manufacturer, it gives the manufacturer the ability to obtain and maintain a relationship with other brand users, i.e. Nokia can have a relationship with users on every or a chosen set of handsets, not just Nokias
  • A Network Operator can have a relationship with users on other networks. I.e. if someone moves from Vodafone, they lose Vodafone Live as a WAP portal, but Vodafone could still interact with with other network users via an On Device Portal. If the portal is useful enough, and had more features and perceived value when on that network, the user may return to the network.
  • Similarly, a Network Operator can have Business applications on company phones that have the same user experience over all the phones the company uses, which can also include contractors or employees on other networks, or those using Vodafone SIMs from other territories.
  • ODPs solve the roaming WAP issue. Which portal do you serve to a user abroad? My network operator seems to think I do not want UK train times and weather when I am abroad, which I mostly do not; until its time for my flight home.
  • Content owners can identify the most relevant information for their users. A web user may browse 50 channels on or, and randomly in terms of time. with an associated ODP, the content owner can let the user subscribe to the most important channels and have them update when the user chooses. The content owner immediately knows what content is most relevant to whom and when.
  • Content owners can also tailor their content. with an ODP you can determine screen size, connectivity as well other features such as supported media, and serve users with a more tailored narrow-band/broadband service depending on whether they are on Wi-Fi, 3G or GPRS at the time and only serve media on a compatible player at the right resolution.
Essentially an ODP plugs the gap between service convergence and device convergence, providing user or community convergence: At present a group of individual's ability to use and share information depends on either:
  1. Device Convergence: i.e everybody has a blackberry, Nokia E & N series
  2. Service Convergence, Network Provider WAP portal, or again Blackberry server and client software (could be on smartphones, not just blackberry
The ODP allows for user or community convergence, where a group of employees, a group of friends, a family or even everybody on a social network, can enjoy a converged service that looks, feels and works pretty much the same way; independently the handset manufacturer, Operating System, Bearer technology (GPRS, 3G, Wi-Fi enabled), screen size and even across network operators in the same country and in different countries, even when roaming.
The ODP can also be optimised for the connection speed at that time, or more simply, an ODP portal can be more data efficient full stop, and therefore work equally quickly over GPRS or 3G, which is the case of icom's Search3D On Device Portal technology used for the Nokia Mobile Festival Guides. To know more about this contact me to discuss.

originally posted by Christian Borrman 11:05am 13/10/07, amended 12:47 15/10/07
Nokia Festival Guides

The dust has now settled on the Carling Reading and Leeds music festivals, and the press coverage from Nokia's mobile festival guide is astounding, just by Goggling "mobile festival guide" you can get an idea. Moreover, the intelligence gathered, from what pages people see, where they decided to send to a friend, what handsets and what networks the core audience were on, are all vital Mobile CRM information for Nokia, arguably achieving ROI just on the customer insight alone.

originally posted by Christian Borrman 11:25am 25/09/07


There has been a lot of talk regarding mobile applications that manage web, content or other functions via an application of the phone, or On Device Portals, most notable was a prediction by Arcchart, that the market is to be worth $1.4 Bn by 2009. There are many incarnations of ODPs, from an alternative to a WAP browser like T-Mobile's own Java application, or even Opera Mini, to very interesting tours of events, like the one at the latest london smartphone show. Others include Yell mobile, or Sky Plus Mobile. For me the ODP has two functions:
  • Web to mobile: while the Web enjoys a large screen and input devices like a full keyboard and mouse to enable the generic experience of for example entering the BBC or Google maps, the mobile device is still as limited as ever by the size of the device and a simple numeric keyboard and 5-way nav key at best. It is also limited in power consumption and connectivity. The ODP therefore allows a user to take their localised Google maps optimised for their mobile's screen or even only calling up the area the user is in with devices like the Nokia N95 pictured, with the two or three layers that we have pre-chosen on the web appearing intuitively on one of the soft keys. Via WAP, XHTML or HTML, opening something like Google Maps would be unwieldy and use a lot of unnecessary bandwidth, whilst trying to navigate 20 layers to the one you want on a 2.6" QVGA screen not the best user experience.
  • Mobile VAS to MVNO; the leap from having some form of mobile services or shop, to becoming an MVNO is not an easy one to jump, and in the last few years I have seen many terrible MVNOs ideas, but also many good ones that fell down on the sheer economics or just the size of leap of faith required to become an MVNO or get backing to do so. Many of these pretenders could have, and now are, evaluating or developing an On Device Portal strategy or product to go to market with.
These two functions allow us to take personalised information from very rich sources on a battery, screen and connection constrained device that we always want to be smaller and more frugal (the mobile phone) rather than ever bigger and more powerful (computers).

originally posted by Christian Borrman 19:43pm 12/11/06

What is an On Device Portal?

An On Device Portal or ODP is an application that is user-, function-, or provider-specific and allows users to access, record, send or exchange information more quickly, data efficiently and easily than via multiple WAP pages and WAP portal, moreover it provides a uniform service that looks the same on all levels of compatible device (from 2 year-old low end, to brand new top-end handsets), a service which is uniform across multiple handset manufacturers and underlying OSs, and across all network operators.
Essentially an ODP plugs the gap between service convergence and device convergence, providing user or community convergence (see above in Latest).
originally posted by Christian Borrman 3:12am 01/09/05, last amended 11:15am 13/11/07

WAP and ODP serve different functions, just like the website vs. the portal, ad ODP should be a "route" to obtain info quickly and as effortlessly as possible, whereas a WAP site allows you a gateway to general information. The key difference here is that unlike the web, a phone interface is not the most conducive to personalising, entering information, or choosing info for customising the ODP experience. This is why the better ODPs complement a website, where the user can customise their most commonly used info, or that info most relevant to being on the move and ad it to a mobile "briefcase". A typical website can have dozens of channels or top line navigation buttons, like the BBC for example; It is hard enough sometimes to navigate the even on a large LCD screen, let alone on a mobile screen. This is not a criticism of the BBC, not its site, which is one of the best websites out there, but just the sheer overload of information means that it does not lend itself to a general WAP site or ODP that has not been customised via the web, or entered by people who are familiar with the web. I use the BBC and FT sites constantly, however, an BBC ODP would allow me to take my most used or most useful channels with me on the move, for example: Food/recipes; weather in 3 locations (work, home, other); tech, business and UK news; and TV alerts and schedules for Top Gear, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and that's about it. I could do this in just a few clicks on the web, with a "add to my ODP" button next to all content - setting this up on my mobile would be a unique experience; never to be repeated. So where does WAP figure here? Well it doesn't! WAP is what I use to browse google for the three new bands on Jonathan Ross, and to see if the Hamster has fallen off of another driving seat while doing 300mp/h again. With the FT ODP, I would have their currency converter (which like supermarkets, the FT seem to move the most frequently visited sections around just to annoy me), the only columnists like Lucy Kellaway, and my relevant/most read news channels.
In a sense, ODPs complement and feed WAP, with your info coming to your phone daily, links to relevant info on Vodafone Live or Orange World or whatever WAP portal you operator has will encourage WAP usage. In a few words, WAP is a gateway to general information, and just one is enough, ODPs are portals to specific information, and expect to have a few on your phone in the month's to come. Additionally, unlike WAP, ODPs allow companies to accurately track usage and understand their customers better.

originally posted by Christian Borrman 20:43pm 10/11/06

Mobile Web 2.0 and the ODP

Web 2.0 and even more so Mobile Web 2.0 are the new black of mobile and internet. They are the new "wicked" of the english language, the new "holistic approach" of consulting, and the new "going forward" of financial lingo. In a few words, web 2.0 is the most cringe worthy word of our time, crossing the barriers of sections and sectors, to be coined alike by shameless carpet bombing linkedin and ecademy whores to marketing managers and people who actually are movers and shakers in business and should know better.

So what is its relevance here and to the ODP. Well, in a word, Web 2.0 is AJAX. It is a word that many of the above will have heard of, and may use, but if you ask them what AJAX is and why it defines Web 2.0, well, as we English say - you sort the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys and get to the heart of Web 2.0 - the so what? Well web 2.0 essentially allows you to sort through the masses of dross on the internet more quickly and efficiently and goes to the next natural progression of the web: from"look at all this info out there" to "this is where I get my info on X". The ODP complements this new fangled web perfectly, and lets you take the next logical step from "This is where I get my info on X" and "I take this, that and the other of X with me on my mobile". For me, the best of web 1.0 was probably "The Register"- biting, journalism free of the Rupert Murdoch-esque grip of the publishing world and its online offshoots. Web 2.0 will be when I can log onto the register and have all the key areas of the main channels on the front page, mobile web 2.0; well it is difficult on the phone, if nothing else for its limited processing, connection and screen size, however, an ODP fed from a good web 2.0 website - its the closest thing we have to mobile web 2.0 with a straight face.
originally posted by Christian Borrman 17:52pm 22/12/06

ODP programming language choices

The choices when it comes to what the application is developed in depends on two main and one additional criteria:
  1. Distribution - how many, how few phones it will work on; is it just Nokias, just high-end, as many phones as possible, etc
  2. Functionality - does the application need to access deep functionality of the phone, i.e. GSM codecs, AT Commands, etc.
  3. Funding/politics - basically; you can go for point one or point two, if you want both or there is an agenda (proving a certain technology, DRM, etc.) you need deep pockets, but then if you are playing in the mobile space you should be used to this ;-)
Quick overview of ODP programming language choices... coming soon.

Originally posted by Christian Borrman 18:05pm 22/12/06

ODP Killer apps

I could not throw down the jargon gauntlet above without diving my tongue firmly into cheek and starting the next section with some prime jargon. So what are the key ODP USPs, that will define our KPIs in the future:
  • Personal Information Management (PIM), as we move from a world of "this is my laptop and I cannot work until I have Outlook and Office premium edition installed" to a world of 1gb Gmail and MSN, basically our info has become centralised. trying to access this info via WAP will be, well challenging, and if you do not know your pop3 settings for your PC, why will you for your mobile: the Gmail ODP is clearly the way forward
  • News/RSS/etc. lets face it; news WAP site are terrible, and RSS is that terrible combination of boring and complicated... get with it, I would download an ODP for The Register, the FT and the BBC tomorrow, and in doing so a) visit their site more often, and b) forget their competition forever!
  • Magazines; We all have our favourite magazines, some have tried to become MVNOs, most have email newsletters to capture our imagination mid-print. However, our consumption is changing, we now forgive print for being up to 2 months out of date for a monthly magazine because of all the glossy pictures and the ability to relax on the sofa on a Sunday or on a flight thumbing the pages... but at the moment we go elsewhere for the mid-week fix, in the form of different web-sites, weekly magazines, etc. The sensible magazine would reward and keep our custom with up-to the second info on what of their mag most matters to me, you and the guy in the lounge with the same magazine as me who will be sitting in seat 2C, but needs to know about the latest gadget as or before it hits the press releases.
  • Entertainment: In the UK a major cinema chain has an IVR based cinema ordering system that should work well with mobile. The problem starts with saying your location, lets say for example "Chelsea" and it responds "searching for Heathrow"... at this point you hand up and queue. However, an ODP for cinema, gigs and events and even bars.
  • Communication: Push to Talk over Cellular (PoC), voice search, IM, PIM, Email, etc:
  • Location based information and services (cell, GPS and even wi-fi hotspot)
  • Community based services, from social networking to newspaper services
  • Peer to Peer (P2P): legal swapping and sharing of photos, calendar, videos, etc. without having to post to a central repository, probably done via IM
All these services are essentially what I have heard operators refer to as "blackberry 2.0" or more widely referred to as "mobile web 2.0" applications that take mobile usage and date beyond email and WAP sports, news and weather.

originally posted by Christian Borrman 22:19pm 20/12/06, updated 12:56pm 15/10/07