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Posts from December 2, 2012 - December 8, 2012

The App Store Onslaught

English: A black version of an emblem used by ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you noticed at which the number of apps being updated in the Apple App Store has increased lately? Between new apps being launched along with updates and bug fixes for iOS 6 as well as to work more and better with the iPad Mini, the volume of updates since Thanksgiving has accelerated.

This is because of one reason. It's called the holiday break before CES. Taken seperately, there's no issue with Apple's super staff who manage app submissions and approvals from taking a well deserved holiday break, espeically for new apps going into the store. But with CES starting on January 5 (well AT&T's Developer Summit is then at the Palms) and as apps are the new products for many, getting into the App Store is equivilant to landing a slot in every Wal*Mart or being found on the shelves at Costco to a brand.

That's why you are seeing so many apps being pushed out now.

Miss the window that reportedly closes the week of December 17 and it likely will be when CES starts before new apps appear. 


Hotel Broadband At What Cost To Hoteliers and Brands

Courtyard LogoCourtyard Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was a few stays away from getting back my gold status with Marriott so over the past month I put some seven nights in at the Courtyard by Marriott in Seattle, just off of Pioneer Square. It's clean, convenient and had great broadband when I stayed there when my favorite Seattle hotel, the Hotel 1000 was booked solid. The difference in price between the uber fast broadbanded Hotel 1000 (built out by pal Chris McKewon and Xceptional Networks under their former brand name) though was staggering this year, a credit to how great the Hotel 1000's marketing is. So, since the broadband was fairly similar in experience I chose to save what would be almost $1000 in less than a month, and enjoy the Courtyard by Marriott's location, get my Gold Elite status back and still get business done.


It seems one of two things has happened since a springtime stay there. Either they went all free on Internet access, or have put controls in place to limit downloading and uploading speeds. Either that, or some of their neighbors have done a very good job of latching on to the FREE Wi-Fi.

Sadly, this is a trend I am seeing in hotels, where previously paid for, and welcomed by me, Internet access is going the direction of free as an amenity.

While I'm all for that in leisure hotels, when it comes to a hotel designed and built by business travelers, for the business traveler market (the Courtyard's original target audience USP) giving us a less than desired experience means one thing. I'll be staying elsewhere on my next trip to Seattle.

All this got me thinking. At what cost to the Marriott brand does the sub-par broadband experience have? Plenty.

As a now Gold guest, it means I have to really think about where I stay. It means that I have to start calling hotels and asking upfront, do you have the infrastructure to really be a business person's hotel or, are you really just a place for the business person to sleep, shave and shower.

Think of it this way. If the hotel couldn't provide hot water in the morning, or heat at night, the room stay would be free. Well, if they can't provide essential Internet connectivity, capable of supporting business grade communications, which today is more than web browsing and email, then the same rules will have to start applying.

Back in the day when hotel broadband first arrived, even before Wi-Fi, when the take rate for Internet that you paid for was under 10 percent my chats with the PR folks from Hilton, Marriott and Starwood were pointless. They didn't then, and still don't understand what the connected traveler needs today. Add in that most properties are franchised, and that the level of consistency varies from property to property, even on the same block by brand group or franchisee, and you quickly realize what your up against.

The solution is simple. Monitor your network. Watch your speeds and latency, jitter and buffering. Report those in some way, and in a transparent manner, so your loyal guests stay where they need to. Charge guest who need it, for faster and better connectivity to offset the extra bandwidth, hardware and software needed.

Give your guests the experience they want, that's not always limited to a good night's sleep.

T-Mobile Discontinues Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Service

There weren't many left, but those that were worked really well. I'm referring to the T-Mobile Hotspots that once dotted the USA inside hotels, Starbucks coffee shops and airline clubs. The speeds were awesome and other than some initial early day access issues, connectivity was a snap to get on the network.

In many cases, the T-Mobile Wi-Fi network was the start of wireless access for many of us who desired a place to work away from the office. Dubbed conference room "S" in some places, the Starbucks' locations became extensions of many offices across the country.

Well, in a few weeks, they're all gone as T-Mobile has announced the shutdown of the service.

State of The Internet from Mary Meeker

Image representing Mary Meeker as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBase

For many years Mary Meeker has been considered the doyan of the invesment community from her days on Wall Street to today with Kliner Perkins, the most venerable of VC's nestled in Silicon Valley. Mary's annual "Internet Trends" report is a must read as it shapes the opinions of where money goes and people follow, based on facts and insight that she draws upon to form her opinions.

I quickly zipped through the report this morning when it came accross Business Insider and was pleased wih some of her observations as those tied into either clients or companies which I have an interest in so in many ways her report is validation of some gut level calls we've made on who we work with and why.

Slide 23 - Natural Language Understanding-this ties directly to OneTok, serial startup and exit guru Ben Lilienthal (HiDef Conferencing) launched earlier this year, including an appearance at GigaOm's Mobilize Launchpad. (watch the video)

Slide 9, 13 and a few others about iPad and tablets. As a member of CounterPath's advisory board, their Todd Carothers and I have been bullish on the iPad as a communications device since it started. The same with HookFlash which works with LinkedIn to enable their members to be more switched on and connected. I can add to this and also point to 8x8 and their Mobile Virtual Office effort recently announced for iPad as well. Clearly those telecom sector companies that already realize that the iPad and Android tablets are replacing the previously purchased hardware from the likes of Polycom and Cisco.

Slide ten talks about Android, a market that KeyPoint Technologies with their Adpatxt soft keyboards that use focused dictionary based on audiences, languages and industries.

Slide 47 talks about the changing picture of health awareness. We're working with Endomondo, the leading social fitness app that is hooked up with Facebook, Coke, Microsoft and of course found on iPhones and Androids. Their growth has been steady over the past year and as mobile, LBS and fitness all meld into mHealth darlings, they're well positioned.

Slide 67 puts upcoming UK based MPme squarely in the sweetspot of asset light music delivery. With MPme users search for music they want to hear and find professionally curated music that's being picked and played by real DJs on real radio stations, not simply music from friends that may or may not change over time (like my Spotify lists that rarely change ever.)

Slide 78 talks about Healthcare. That's a market we're deep in with Independa (I'm a shareholder), Diversinet which provides mobile health security as well as with the San Diego based Wireless Life Sciences Alliance.

Make it required reading for you and your teams.


Video Conferencing Apps and Services Rated and Ranked

PC World has taken a look at 2012's top video conferencing services that are both app and cloud oriented in their most recent issue. Back in the day, SightSpeed, now owned by Logitech, used to win this award, but it seems Logitech has stopped pursuing accolades for the once dominant service. (Note my agency, Comunicano, represented SightSpeed in those days.)

Each of these are what I would put in the pro-sumer category of applications/services that have lots of marketing muscle behind them. And, ironically, with WebRTC happening, any or all of them could be displaced very quickly with even more complete and wider ranging capabilities.

Having used some of the services listed what's clearly obvious to me, other than Skype PR Agency lead Chaim Haas being on the other end of tests with PC World's staff, is that no mention was made with regard to price and there wasn't a comparison chart of features included at the end of the feature which would have made it all easier to decide which service is best for who.

My best bets? Join.Me from LogMeIn, Citrix Go To Meeting and WebEx.

The reasons. Each has taken the time to work their app strategy to include mobile devices and on iPads they all are really mobile experiences of the desktop world. (Note: Citrix Go To Meeting has been a client in the past, and the guts of its audio comes from former client HiDef Conferencing that was acquired on our agency's watch just like SightSpeed at about the same time)

Skype Premium is also useful, but the changes being made to Skype's architecture of late have me seriously wondering how soon before it just becomes the next Windows Messenger, and fully incorporated into Lync.

Also, missing from the report. Google Hangouts, which on face, may be better than all of those chosen, but then again, Google isn't exactly, PC.


Guess I Won't Be Flying Quantas Soon

Wi-Fi Signal logoWi-Fi Signal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so looking forward to an Airbus 380 ride on Quantas next year as part of an around the world trip that I've been thinking of doing in the late fall of 2013. But now that Quantas has decided to not move aggressively with Wi-Fi on their overnight long hauls, I'm having to rethink the whole thing.

The news on Skift caught me be surprise, as on every flight I take on Virgin America, Delta or Alaska has Wi-Fi and people use it. The issue is not so much whether or not people want to use Wi-Fi or not, but with consistent availability. Yesterday on my short haul Southwest flight from Las Vegas to San Diego there was Wi-Fi, for $5.00 or free for the A listers, which I'm not any longer. I'm not an A Lister because Virgin has taken me away from Southwest with the consistent Wi-Fi experience, as has Alaska for flights to Seattle or Portland which previously were trips Southwest would have won out on with my travel dollar.

The lack of a consistent experience, meaning Wi-Fi not on ALL planes of an airline is likely more at the root cause of why passengers have apathy towards Wi-Fi. As someone who actually used the old Boeing Connexxion service in its era, I knew the value of being connected in the air first hand, back when we launched the seminal Nokia Blogger Relations Program, as I managed the launch from the air, and was able to make comments, answer questions and most importantly make and communicate decisions while I was flying. And that was by both happenstance and design.

For in-flight Wi-Fi to take off two things need to happen. Consistency and sensible pricing. The technology to make both is not far off, but for Quantas to decide now that broadband in the sky isn't necessary sounds more like an aborted take-off, than a smooth landing.

A few hours later, Ethiad, the "other" airline in the Gulf region who is building a great reputation amongst business travelers announced they are ADDing Wi-Fi to their fleet of jets. 

Princess Cruises Ending Unlimited Internet

Just when i was thinking that connectivity at sea is getting to the point where I could take a cruise and still stay connected, I found out I can't. The first shoe has been dropped by a major cruiseline, Princess, will end unlimited Internet according to Travel Weekly. The problem is the adoption curve has created a new level of connectedness by traveler. It's not just about a laptop any more, or the occassional check of email. 

Today, people carry data hungry smartphones and tablets that are "always on" so consumption is outpacing the amount of bandwidth originally anticipated. This under-projected consumption level is only going to increase, with most studies showing that what we're doing today is only the tip of the iceberg.

Future Growth In Wireless Data-LATAM

Latin America and the CaribbeanLatin America and the Caribbean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing Qualcomm as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

If there's one market that is underdeveloped when it comes to high speed mobile wireless, its Latin America (LATAM.) That's what came out of a report back in November that Qualcomm shared on its November 15th Analyst's Day according to Fortune.


What's Up with What's App and FaceBook?

WhatsAppWhatsApp (Photo credit: abulhussain)

Over the weekend word leaked out in Techcrunch about Facebook having an interest in buying WhatsApp. This is not so far fetched when you think about Skype previously buying GroupMe back in 2011 which gives Skype the ability to send group texts, but also more SMS capabilities than it had previously.

For FaceBook, the ability to have better SMS technology gives it a competitive technology that could be much like iMessage and BBM, both of which provide over the top messaging, but what Facebook really gets is a way to send messages without having to always pay SMS charges through gateway providers, which means that they have more capabilities. WhatsApp also has one or two other features that would place Facebook ahead of Twitter, which uses SMS to send tweets from smartphones, unless a Twitter app is in place.

Having used What's App for more than a year now, the big benefit is in it's being an Over the Top (OTT) messaging where I can send text messages internationally without paying international rates to mobile operators. What's more, WhatsApp also enables MMS-sending photos and voice notes to another WhatsApp user. For Facebook these would be essential complimentary tools to further propel their billion dollar acquisition of Instagram and more.