Symbian OS – one of the most successful failures in tech history

This post by us originally appeared on Techcrunch in 2010.

Symbian is the biggest smartphone operating system by market share, the oldest smartphone platform still in use, used by almost every major OEM at one time or another. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking Symbian is dead and buried, with news of layoffs at Nokia, management departures at the Symbian Foundation and rough reviews of the latest flagship N8 device. How does a platform powering 9 million new devices every month have almost no credibility with developers, analysts and press alike? This is the story of one of the most successful failures in tech history. Continue reading  

Facebook’s new Reactions are for Wall Street, not advertisers

Reactions: Facebook's updated 'likes' won't be subtle enough to be useful to advertisers
Reactions: Facebook’s updated ‘likes’ won’t be subtle enough to be useful to advertisers

Facebook confirmed this week, alongside strong revenue figures, the expansion of its “Like” button into a new range of “Reactions” that will enable the user to consider new emojis alongside “Like”, writes Tim Ocock, executive technical director, VML London.

This follows Twitter’s recent decision to transform its “Favorite” button to a heart-shaped “Like” button.

Within weeks, Facebook’s users will have the chance to react to a post with “Angry”, “Love”, “Sad” and “Wow”.

If there’s one constructive thing Facebook could do with this new data, it’s applying the mathematics of collaborative filtering to better filter your feed’s content

Now, while I’ve always craved a “Hell no! They’re not good at that!” button for LinkedIn’s incessant endorsement messages, it will be interesting to see what impact the introduction of Facebook Reactions has in terms of targeting and data provision for brands.

My first reaction, given my thoughts on LinkedIn, is that I’m disappointed that the much hoped for “Dislike” button hasn’t made the cut.

Why has Facebook expanded the range of choices, yet added so little variety? While they can be tracked independently and provide social agencies with extra data points to report on, it’s not clear that the distinction between them really matters. The contrast between “Love”, “Wow”, and “Like” is so subtle that, in my view, there isn’t sufficient distinction here for advertisers to do useful things with the resulting data.

The “Sad” and “Angry” buttons make a bit more sense. After all, how often have you felt it to be inappropriate to press a “Like” button to react to news of a friend’s breakup or death in the family?

It’s not clear that using the new options creates opportunities for radically varying the newsfeed experience.

Watching the evening news tells us that things that make us sad or angry constitute prime time viewing, so it’s unlikely you’ll see fewer “Sad” things if you mark them as such.

The thick layer of “sadvertising” at Christmas tells us no one cares what emotion you feel, as long as you feel something. I’m sure Facebook isn’t going to serve users with fewer “Sad” items of content just because they clicked “Sad” a few times.

The cynic in me says, it doesn’t really matter to Facebook and its advertisers which emoji verb you choose. As long as it gets a Reaction(TM), Facebook and its partners can measure it, report on it, charge for it and claim that engagement continues to grow when doing the rounds in Wall Street.

If there’s one constructive thing Facebook could do with this new data, it’s applying the mathematics of collaborative filtering to better filter your feed’s content – in the same way Amazon recommends “people who bought that also bought this”.

But ask yourself – do you really want to see “people who were made sad by that were also sad at this” in your feed? Surely a “Like” button does the job sufficiently well.

All that’s really changing with the launch of Reactions is that users will be able to react to something for which the “Like” reaction might have seemed insensitive. And that simply means more “Likes” – sorry “Reactions” – for Facebook, rather than more useful data for brands.

This post originally appeared at Marketing Magazine

Is the app development services market becoming commoditised?

The mobile app market has been booming for the last two years, but have we seen the last of the app frenzy? And is it time to turn our attention to alternative emerging platforms such as web TV?

Sometimes it seems as if every man and his dog have an app now. What once was the latest must have technology showcase for brands big and small, is now simply another tick box in the digital marketing strategy checklist.

Consumers have seen every game, gimmick and geegaw in app form designed to make jaws drop and mouths chatter, and what was once shiny and new is now quickly dismissed as yet another cheap cash in. It is no longer enough to make your app react to every tilt, swivel and shake, and standing out among the crowded app stores is becoming increasingly difficult.

Our customers are demanding ever more advanced features, but with so much competition, there are now proportionally more app developers than there is demand for their services, we find ourselves asking; “are we witnessing the beginning of the end for app development in what is already a saturated market”? After all, while agencies such as ours can offer the edge when it comes to creating the apps that will not only get high downloads and monetization (through increased sales or app sales) but also get people talking about your company, in tough economic times cash is king and it is hard to compete against the overseas cheap labour market or even two guys above a garage who’ve done one app in college. Clearly the market is becoming commoditised as developers are forced to compete on price rather that quality and reliability.

Mobile apps are no longer shiny and new, and themselves facing increasing competition from pure web solutions and new channels that use similar technological infrastructure but offer different ways of engaging. The last 18 months has seen the introduction of HTML5 and web app capabilities (the hybrid app). This introduction may be set to change the app world completely as it is not realistic in the long term to have an app for every store you visit, every product you own and every website you bookmark. Perhaps the most notable web app to come onto the market in just the last few days is the new BBC news mobile site.

We’re always looking to the future, and so we have to be honest with ourselves and say that app development is now just another tool in the toolbox, but not the ‘be and end all’ by any means. Instead, we’ll continue to concentrate on where we can add the most value, helping our customers’ roadmap the next 2-3 years in digital, not the next 2-3 months.

Only one thing can be certain, while the excitement and interest surrounding apps gets pushed to the side, there is no denying that the future of mobile remains strong. It’s important to react quickly in changing markets and to recognise the need to burn old ships and move forward. As doors close to app development, they open to mobile web.

Why Siri should just be another one of your contacts

Voice and text. The two most commonly used functions on your phone. Blood, sweat and tears have been applied to refine the mic and keypad interface, or touch screen version of it, to a fine point. Most platforms employ some kind of shortcut mechanism to make calling or txting your favourite contacts no more than one or two clicks away.

Enter Siri. Or Evi. Or Jeannie. The incredible intelligent agents that understand natural language and do their very best to understand what you need and fetch it for you in near realtime. You communicate with them by speaking or typing in your question, and they respond likewise.

These agents put a personality, an intelligence, into your phone. And your phone is your best friend! It goes with you everywhere. It knows all about you – where you’ve been, who you talk to, what you read, what music you like and what your highscore is at Angry Birds. You miss it when it’s gone, and it’s the first thing you look at in the morning.

So why can’t we call or message our mobile phone best friend the same way we can our other friends, family and colleagues? Why can’t I make it a favourite contact? Why can’t I add it to my BBM group? And when I switch to my tablet, or Facebook chat, why can’t I ask the same agent, with the same knowledge about me, the same questions and get the same answers? Siri, y u no know who I am?

Sure, the iPhone 4S makes asking Siri questions a breeze, with the lift to your ear detection. But I might be on the bus. In my office. Self conscious about speaking to a computer (especially when repeating oneself for the still not quite perfect voice recognition).

We think the next step for AI personal assistants, will be when they are constrained not to one phone, but to all the channels you use, with their insight into your particular needs moving with you, from your phone, to your tablet, to your desktop, to your TV. Even your clock radio.

How long before you can add Siri to your iMessages, your Google Talk, your Skype contacts? We say, watch this space…