The smartphone death march - Part 2

December 14, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

Last week, I was discussing the role of smartphones in emerging markets like Africa and parts of India with a group of analysts and colleagues. A debate ensued about the falling prices of competent smartphones. The group concluded that while the prices were low for someone in the US or Europe, there is a still a question of affordability for the masses in emerging markets. A majority of the internet users in these markets are those who have skipped the desktop/tethered internet phase and their use of the internet started with mobile internet. So, the compelling question in these markets becomes: “Can the smartphone in its future form be the one and only device you might need for both work and play? In other words, can a laptop/PC/Mac workspace be brought to the mobile in a seamless manner?”

Mobile-only internet use is not limited to emerging markets. Desktop internet usage has been seeing significant year-over-year drops. More than 20% of millennials have gone mobile only and >75% of adults use both desktop and mobile internet. (source: ComScore)

The desktop is dead! Long live the desktop…

To use a smartphone as the only computing device, the main limiting factors for an average professional (someone who does email, browses the internet, writes/reviews documents and spreadsheets, and uses built for purpose enterprise apps) are the following: Screen size, keyboard and capability to use an external display like a TV or a monitor. Sure, there are plenty of options for screen mirroring and media streaming available but those don’t cut it for day to day productive use in any workplace.

We have seen a few solutions emerge in the recent past. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all tried to woo enterprise / professional users to their platforms. Currently Google leads the smartphone market by a wide margin with Microsoft being a rounding error in overall numbers.

Regardless of large or small market shares, the current smartphone platforms do little to make the expensive smartphone the single compute device you will need.

Apple has Continuity – It is a useful tool provided you are exclusively in the Apple ecosystem – iOS and Mac. Continuity offers a bridge called “Handoff” to pass app activities back and forth between iOS and Mac devices. While, taking a call or texting from my MacBook may be useful at times when the iPhone is not nearby, there is limited value in using iOS apps on a Mac. It is far from the one compute device paradigm. Instead, it increases device sales and banks users ‘tied’ into the Apple ecosystem.

Google’s Android and its partners are not new players here. Back in 2011, Motorola came up with a revolutionary device called the Atrix – A 4in. Android phone which could be used somewhat like a laptop with a ‘lapdock’ accessory. This wasn’t a success given the cumbersome setup and still no access to popular office platforms / apps. Since then, things have changed for the better. You can now install Android apps on your Chromebook. However, the app installations will be different from that on your Android device and will need to ‘synced’ across the two devices. This has promise but still not an ideal solution to the single compute device. Google has a history of making quick decisions with product direction and it remains to be seen how mainstream this gets. As per some reports, Google is working on an Andromeda (Chrome and Android) hybrid which should hit the market sometime in 2017.

Continuum from Microsoft is a promising solution but alas for the Windows Mobile market share! The approach to Continuum is the Windows 10 everywhere vision which hopes to leverage what is called Universal Windows Platform based apps across a myriad of devices – PC, Windows Mobile, XBoX and Hololens. The feature is available on a handful of phones running windows 10 mobile. The phone plugs into a continuum dock – a 2in X 2in X 1in accessory that sports HDMI, USB and USB C ports. Once plugged in, the device can be used pretty much like a laptop. Native Microsoft apps like Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. work beautifully and orient themselves to take advantage of the external display. Furthermore, apps designed using the UWP work on a larger screen with layouts that enable use of more real estate. Some apps designed using UWP are Bank of America, UBER, Expedia, Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook, Flipkart and many others. While Continuum works, there are some serious limitations – the biggest one being the ability to run apps in a ‘Windowed’ environment. Apparently, Microsoft is working on this and will release this with an update to Window 10.

Time will tell how these platforms succeed and whether the average consumer spending between INR52,580.00 – INR78,870.00 on a smartphone will continue to be enamored with his/her ecosystem of choice or will they demand better bang for their buck and refuse to get sucked into buying a shiny new tablet, hybrid or a laptop. The demand is certainly there but thus far, none of the tech giants have enabled a vision.

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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The smartphone death march - Part 1

Enterprise Mobility

The Smartphone death march – Part 1 – Where is the innovation?

The current smartphone battles are leading to a dead end or at least a major intersection – one where innovation takes a pause and waits for the ‘experience’ to catch up with all the firepower the hardware offers. The pace of change and the market expectations of new and improved versions will only lead to more ‘Note 7’ type debacles. After all, with all the features are gimmicks being packed in, the speed of change can only lead to mistakes or a disastrous quality oversight.

The latest iPhone clearly lacks any major innovative features and Apple’s statement that it “courage” to remove the headphone jack is ludicrous! Apple – Courage is what a soldier demonstrates at the battle front! A person who is defusing a live bomb is courageous – not your decision to replace the 3.5mm jack with the lighting port. It is a brilliant business move to sell more accessories and that is it!

With Google’s release of the Pixel duo, the tech giant is taking a fresh (to Google) “Apple-like” approach to devices – they own the hardware and the software on a Google branded device – sure the Nexus line was close but the Pixel line is different. The feature set, the hardware and the pricing is all premium and meant to compete with the iPhone and partners like Samsung, LG, Lenovo amongst others. While Android 7 does have some neat stuff to offer, I was disappointed to see that there was no originality in styling – it looks like an iPhone – perhaps like a future iPhone 8 – missing home button from current iPhone 7 line J. Furthermore, some of the features seem to be borrowed from other platforms. And how can it not be waterproof? Alas, the psychology of expectations – as a consumer, I have come to expect more!

It is about time that we call a smartphone just a phone (after all in major markets, the sale of feature phones is down to a trickle). Better yet, we could call it a mobile computing device. But that is a mouthful.

In 2015, a little over 2 Billion mobile phones were sold and about 65% of these devices were smartphones from manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Vivo, Huawei and others. China and India remain strong growth markets with Africa following a similar growth trajectory.

Per Gartner, in 2016, 82% of mobile phones will be smartphones – this is hefty increase over 2015!

Android and iOS together cover over ~99% of the global smartphone market. iOS remains solely in the premium category while Android has been embraced by manufacturers aiming to bring smartphones to the masses in emerging markets. The devices get more compute power year after year but premium devices on average cost about INR52,580.00 . The average price of an Android phone globally being approximately INR15,774.00 , largely due to several manufactures in India and China producing affordable devices. It is interesting to note that Gartner predicts users in China and other emerging markets will opt to replace within the basic smartphone category without necessary moving to the premium category. In my view, the “basic” smartphone category comprises of hundreds of competent Android devices that can run all popular consumer and business applications.

With the prices soaring for premium devices, the consumer is expecting more – something more than glossy screen, water proof hardware, mind numbing CPU stats, more disk space, blazing data speeds etc.

What “more” may vary from person to person but with the growing number of devices an average professional is carrying – the laptop, a tablet, a phone, a smartwatch, a fitness tracker; one must wonder about the effective utilization of all that compute power

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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QSR industry turning to Technology to deal with CA $15 minimum wage hike

October 13, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

On April 4th, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed a INR983.85 minimum wage in California. California and New York have the distinction of having the highest minimum wage in the country. As union labor leaders rejoiced on this historic signing, most small restaurant owners did not take this lightly. Over the past few years small restaurant owners in California have been struggling with the increase of commercial property value and rent, but they will now have to plan for a 50% increase in their labor costs that will occur in the next 5 years or face having to close down their business. With rising health care costs and the need to pay sick and maternity leave for all employees, this has definitely put a strain on the small restaurant owner’s bottom line.

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are now turning to technology to see how they can reduce their labor costs, cut down on long customer wait time, and help improve their bottom line numbers. Large fast-casual chains have been investing in technology by adding online ordering, a mobile app, and ordering kiosks in their stores as a way to improve operations. By doing this, they would be able to cut down on labor costs as well as improving and expediting the ordering process for their guests. Their online and mobile ordering encompasses 16.4% of their overall sales, while the average ticket per mobile app ordering is INR1,359.68 versus their in-store ticket of INR1,096.01 . Customers who order through the online/mobile app essentially spend 24% more than customers who walk-in to order. The ultimate goal is to have 25% of their sales come through their online and mobile ordering app.

Average Ticket Per Transaction

In essence the mobile app has to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Most customers are always on the go and have a limited time to eat lunch; as a result their mobile device is often used as a wallet replacement. Customers like the fact that the mobile app is extremely convenient when it comes to the personalization of their orders. The app makes it very simple to order and reorder from their online menu. Customers can simply log into the app and click on their previous order and press the submit tab. In the time it takes them to drive to the store their meal will be prepared and upon their arrival, they just simply have to pick up their order. No waiting in line or being put on hold when calling into the store. It is that simple and it simply works.

While some QSRs don’t currently have an in-store kiosk, other QSR chains such as Panera Bread have jumped to the forefront in providing this technology in their establishments. The diagram below shows how having an ordering kiosk in the store can greatly improve operations and cut on labors costs.

However, adding a kiosk doesn’t replace the entire customer service experience. You will still need to have a small amount of employees to bus tables and clean the dining/bathroom areas, which an ordering kiosk cannot do. Moreover, having an ordering kiosk would be ideal for some smaller restaurants where seating is limited, for guest who have limited time to eat (on average lunch time is about 30 minutes), and restaurants that have mostly Togo orders; having an ordering kiosk may be the perfect solution for them.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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Enterprise Mobility - Embrace it or lose out!

September 12, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

Not too long ago, I was a road warrior – on the road about 15 days a month – traveling domestically and internationally to sell software and solutions to clients and prospects. Traveling for work can be painful – travel requisition, booking through corporate travel desk, hotel stays, trip reports, and handling expenses can all be frustrating and time-consuming processes.

I remember (maybe I am dating myself) keeping a ragged manila envelope where I would stuff receipts from meals, miscellaneous expenses, hotel stays etc. Once back at the home office, I needed to take time out of my crazy schedule to create expense reports and go through the painful process of matching every receipt to an expense item and tagging each expense item to a project code. Every once in a while, I could get assistance from an administrative assistance – Although the assistance was usually reluctantly provided, I appreciated it nonetheless.

Things have changed and changed a great deal – with tools like Amex Receipt match, Apps like Concur, Expensify, and many others, doing expense reports has become far easier but can still be a frustrating experience depending on how much your organization embraces employee productivity.

Employees of all ages are consumers first and as consumers, they have embraced the use of a smartphone for just about everything they do in their day to day life – shopping, social engagement, banking, personal fitness, home automation etc.

At work, however, it is a different story. Organizations are adopting the use of mobile technology to provide a true ‘on-the-go’ experience to their employees. However, this adoption is slow and often times plagued by questions like – Is the organization ready for mobile?, Is there ROI in building mobile apps for corporate functions?, How should I handle security? What about BYOD and MDM? Many of these questions are valid but more often than not organizations are taking way too long to figure out the answers.

Answers do exist and in fact, there are organizations that have gone beyond these questions and are enjoying a truly mobile enabled workforce – from corporate functions to salesforce automation to field force work. The benefits are staggering – from tangible items like productivity enhancement, cost savings, revenue &profitability increases to intangibles like employee morale and satisfaction – eventually all this leads to a more satisfied customer base of these organizations.

Today for many organizations, the employee facing killer app is mobile email – Period!

In my view, if an organization is not embracing mobility enablement for its employees, partners, and customers, it is not only missing out an opportunity but heading towards obsolescence.

Over the years, functions like the ones I mentioned above – travel related functions, HR functions like leave requests and appraisals, Corporate communications, IT helpdesk have been automated through the use of enterprise software. However, this automation has seen process and policy changes over the years and often times has been implemented using complicated customization and cumbersome processes. Mobilizing these processes is the answer to getting away from this complex legacy and possibly ‘escape’ upgrade costs for your enterprise software.

Enterprises should build employee-facing, customer facing and partner facing apps – all integrated to various internal and external systems; thereby providing comprehensive functionality. Every enterprise has their own way of working and even though they may use commonly sourced enterprise software, there are always specificities driven by process nuances, industry regulation and organization culture. This is normal and every business has or claims to have its own complexities.

The trick is to look beyond the minutia and work towards harnessing new technology and adapt to the changing user behavior. Don’t lose out on the ultimate workplace productivity tool – your employees’ smartphones.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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Don’t reach out for your wallet – How mobile has forever changed the way we spend our money.

February 3, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

I still remember being amazed at an Apple store where the point of sale (POS) came to me, the consumer, for payment rather than standing in a queue to complete my purchase. Later, on a business trip in Atlanta a couple of years ago, I found myself paying a taxi driver by swiping my card on his iPhone (he was using a Square dongle). In the past 12 – 18 months, both these experiences have become the accepted norm. An increasing number of retailers are embracing the Apple model for credit card transactions. Square on the other hand are seeing competition from the likes of PayPal; and now payment dongles are being used as mobile POS by everybody from large retailers to coffee shops and small merchants and every day service providers like barbers, electricians, and plumbers.

The future of payment is mobile

It’s just a matter of time before mobile payment gains traction with all brick and mortar stores; and mobile payment options see mainstream adoption. This adoption will be driven by demand from the consumers. I believe the horizon is the next 12 months. According to Statista (see graph below), mobile payments will almost double to INR47,387.73 B by 2017.

click for larger image

What we will see is a move from Bluetooth or NFC based payment terminals accepting smartphone wallets to a myriad of devices being able to perform the payment function. Wearable devices, connected devices with microchips will become the new norm for payment devices. The industry and consumer are both convinced about mitigating security risks by using PINs, biometrics and facial recognition as authentication methods for payment. Reaching for your wallet – no longer required!

New e-commerce enabled payment channels with digital wallets, peer-to-peer transfers and new age currencies like Bitcoin. However, it is the contact-less payments in physical stores that will increase the adoption of new technologies and payment methods. With all the major mobile operating systems and smartphone devices equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC), more and more customers are tapping their phones to pay at the cash register for now, and at the aisles in future – instant gratification!

More than just payments

The move towards mobility is not just seen in payment transactions. It is the ecosystem which is being transformed by the growth in mobile transactions.

An industry traditionally served by banks with local, national and international presence is now creating new financial institutions. Mobile operators, Retailers, software developers and mobile app developers are all part of this new financial market. We have seen FDIC insured virtual banks providing internet only banking and operating with no branches. But now, we are seeing a whole new way of banking – using nothing else but your smartphone.

Moven, a mobile-only bank provides FDIC insured accounts and passes on some of the operational savings (through branchless operations) to their customers. Moven customers can use 40,000+ ATMs across the US with no fees.

click for larger image

It is understandable that even with this growth, people are not ready to leave their wallets at home. There are new disruptive players who are introducing more ways to reduce the size of your wallet.

click for larger image

Most recently Coin and Plastc have come up with innovative products which clone multiple credit cards into one piece of smart card hardware – it looks like a card – can be used in an ATM machine and traditional POS terminals. Great innovation! However, to the technophobe, it is yet another ‘device’ to charge.

Closer to a cashless society

I’ll stay away from the debate of the merits and de-merits of a cashless society, but it is clear it has massive, even life changing, social implications. However, the fact of the matter is that we are moving ever closer to one.

Banking and payment methods around are different around the world with varying levels of maturity and acceptance for new technology. While Europe is more advanced in contactless payments, Asia and Africa have more mobile payment transactions. However, the trend globally is driven by consumer behavior and as smartphone penetration grows exponentially, consumers will move towards speed and convenience of a transaction.

Although no single method of payment will solve all security, simplicity and dependability concerns, the evidence of dynamic and drastic change is abundant for the financial services industry. It remains to be seen what percentage will be a cashless society in coming years. For now, it is the mobile payment industry which is moving the needle of disruption.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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Enterprise mobility: What would you spend to prove viability?

November 26, 2015
Enterprise Mobility

Technology evolution in the mobility space is happening at an unprecedented pace. Enterprises by gain in productivity, top line and bottom line growth through enablement of day-to-day functions on mobile devices, Enterprises can gain productivity benefits, top line and bottom line growth; the potential is immense.
An enterprise embracing the mobile channel as a core mode of engagement for its customers, employees and partners will realize these benefits effectively.
While the above rhetoric has been prevalent for some time now, the market still lags mainstream adoption of enterprise mobility solutions.
For example, the primary tools for most field workers remain the trusty clipboard, pen, phone and point-and-shoot camera. I find that odd; surely, with the technology at our disposal today, field workers should be using mobile devices that are fully integrated into business operations.

The answer isn’t simple – many reasons like business complexity, unclear ROI, business priority, inadequate IT, security, and training overheads hinder adoption of mobility solutions. This means that many businesses, despite being aware of the potential, continue to dabble with mobility initiatives without a clear strategy. Even more alarming is that businesses are investing more than ever before, but not realizing benefits as anticipated; leading to excessive caution in allocating additional spending to mobility initiatives.

In conversations with many businesses we find there is a desire to test waters before taking the big plunge. This is good. Businesses find it hard to quantify the value from enterprise mobility proposals, and often the budgetary estimations for enterprise mobility rollouts are intimidating. As a result; plans are shelved, de-scoped heavily or prioritized only for certain functions or tasks, and therein lies the problem.
A mobility initiative should never be only about giving an employee a tool or a digitized workflow to make them more productive.

Mobility should be about transforming an end-to-end business or operational process so that it adds customer value, improves bottom line efficiencies and helps top line growth.
The question we like to ask is “What would you be willing to spend per user to establish the viability of a mobility initiative?”

A CASE IN POINT

When appointed with the task of assessing the cost for building a complex multi tiered mobile app to aid an automotive auction company, Popcornapps took the judicious decision to roll out a pilot that catered to a small but entire end-to-end business process so that the scale of the project and its impact on the entire business could be understood with minimal investment earlier on
Already a billion-dollar business and selling over 1 million units annually, they stock, assess and process inventory in 200 facilities; employing over 3000 field workers. Popcornapps developed a proof of concept solution for 50 field workers in 3 of the facilities. Field staff could perform ALL their tasks across the end-to end-process- from inventory intake, condition assessment, report submission, inventory valuation and approval to auction. The results in these ‘pilot’ yards were mind blowing;

  • Average inventory processing times down from 1 week to 2 days
  • Worker error rates down from 2.1% to 0.3%
  • Administrative and coordination overheads down by over 50%
  • A huge increase in the granularity of management visibility into every part of the field operations process
  • An almost total elimination of paper (a lot of ballpoint pens made redundant)

The cost of deploying the solution across 200 facilities, including apps, server software, mobile devices, integration, network, and contracted support fees came to INR144,595,000.00 across a 3 year period. That is INR18,994.53 per field worker a year. In the same period the said client will realise a saving of INR525,800,000.00 in existing and budgeted spend through savings in human effort, admin costs, and improved efficiencies.

The same client witnessed the rise of non-traditional browsers hitting its website – A dramatic rise in number of tablets and smartphones accessing a transactional website led to one conclusion – their customers wanted to transact over the mobile channel – that meant browse, select, bid and win auctions. To provide a rich user experience, enable location based services, real-time bidding, maintain and manage watch lists, a decision to develop iOS and Android based mobile apps was taken. Today, about half of the INR65.73 B+ revenue can be attributed to the mobile channel.

As we move along our journey in assisting various clients with their mobility initiatives, we look forward to utilizing technology advancements, craft creative solutions but never fail to learn from our experiences. These learnings help us get better at servicing our customers with a holistic approach to implementing mobility solutions.

To summarize, here are the lessons we have learnt along the way:

Pilot roll-out without compromising the end to end process
By limiting the extent of the pilot roll-out, you can get an accurate estimation of the gains through full rollout

 

Mobility as a part of the whole
The incremental cost of scaling the solution to the whole organization can be managed by deploying only when efficiency gains are measured

 

Re-use existing systems for now
Replacing or upgrading backend systems may not always be necessary. Evaluate investments carefully and provide simplicity to the app users and mask the backend complexity

 

Aggregate efficiency across the value stream
Integration to backend and 3rd party systems through existing or new APIs is key to have the productivity enhancements flow through the business

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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Desperate for differentiation. Competitiveness in the market place is an age old phenomenon and mobile is no different.

September 4, 2015
Enterprise Mobility

Competitiveness in the market place is an ages old phenomenon (well maybe not ages – Webster says the first known use of the word ‘Competitive’ was in 1829) – anyway in my book that is ages old!

Competition has been a factor for individuals (in sports, studies, debate, politics etc.), for countries (Super power, leading economy etc.), for service providers (Hotels, Airlines, Telecom operators, IT companies etc.) and for products.  It is a phenomenon that gets sparked when an innovator brings an idea to fruition and others try to ‘ape’ the idea or ‘better’ it.

As competitors compete, it becomes important for them to differentiate and highlight how their product, service or solution is better (or different) than their competition.

A company that has managed to differentiate its products and services is Apple.  Apple has been at the forefront of innovation to the extent that many a strategy session have asked the question: “What is your ‘iPhone’?”.  Well the iPhone, iTunes, iPad have truly been game changing products and services and have been aped by Apple’s competitors.

Apple has an integrated model of product development with a closely managed supply chain and a marketing machine which keeps the products ‘edgy’ and consumer oriented with a great deal of geeky stuff (like processor speed, chipset jargon) purposely kept out of the ‘spec’ sheet for the most part.  Apple also closely controls things like the Operating System, hardware and related third party software used by its products.

But I submit to you that in this fiercely competitive and fast moving world of Telecom, the differentiation between players is fast eroding and while there have been several products touted as ‘iPhone killers’, some of products on the market today may come close in form and function.

The iPhone has created competition in the handset/mobile device space and players like HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung have partnered with Google and Microsoft to provide choice to folks who are not squarely in Mr. Job’s camp.

However, if you take a quick minute to assess Apple’s competition, you will find some striking similarities:

  1. Most of them use chipsets, display, memory etc. from a handful of suppliers – Qualcomm, nVidia, Sony, Toshiba etc.
  2. All devices have relatively similar pricing and depend on the telecom operators to decide on price in markets that support handset subsidies
  3. Some of these devices bear the striking resemblance to the iPhone
  4. As the technology evolution continues, the top spot is enjoyed by a ‘super’ smartphone for 2 -3 months at a time

So where is the differentiation? It is in the industrial design of the product and a thin veneer of usability related ‘value-add’ software, which can be provided over the Operating Systems like Android and Windows Phone 7.  Such usability software like HTC’s Sense UI and Motorola’s Motoblur seem competent additions.

Advancements in technology bring about reduction in component pricing.  Paired with availability of global resources, this has made the mobile device industry look like the computer manufacturing industry of the late nineties – largely involved in assembly work from a myriad of hard-drive, memory, graphics and motherboard manufacturers. Packaging, industrial design and pricing are the only differentiators.  Product refresh cycles have been more accelerated than ever before and consumers have become ever more demanding.

In this industry, the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered. Big names like Dell, Sony-Ericsson, Lenovo have entered the market place with their offerings – some better than others.  With little-known Indian manufacturers like Micromax coming out of INR6,572.50 android-based smartphones, are Apple and other ‘Tier-1’ manufacturers desperate for differentiation?  Damn right they are!

Vaibhav Sharma
Vaibhav Sharma
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Who needs the Web? Enable your enterprise on mobile.

Enterprise Mobility

Over the last few years, that smartphone in your pocket has become an extremely useful device – to the “Don’t leave home without it” point.  The advancement in mobile technology, networks and the availability of applications has enabled a progressive on the go behavior.

But I submit to you that mobility and its uses have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to enterprise applications, the ones that fulfill a set of useful business functions.

Enterprise Mobility

There are organizations emerging as leaders in early adoption with innovative set of features – for example: Chase Bank has an application which allows customers to take a picture of a check using their iPhone’s camera and have it deposited to their account.  There are several other applications, which blend in enterprise application functions with mobile device features quite nicely.  To me the whole idea of writing a check is obsolete but  I am sure Chase and other banks will do a lot more to change consumer behavior over the next few years.

Over the next several years, mobility will change drastically – the technology evolution in smart devices, the growth of tablets and increased affordability will allow user adoption of smart devices to exceed feature phones globally…. But the main advancement will be in usability and availability of applications, which enable end-to-end business processes on the go!

Mobility and everything to do with mobile devices has been a passion of mine for years.  I have always believed that success comes in loving what you do for a living.

Focusing on my passion for innovative technology and love for mobile devices, my venture PopcornApps provides Enterprise Mobility as a core service offering.

PopcornApps is on a mission to help clients enable a rich experience for B2B or B2C users of smart devices; providing functionally relevant business processes optimized over the mobile device channel.  Integration to existing applications for functions like Product & Service catalog, Billing & Payments, Order Management, Shopping Cart, Work Orders, Trouble Tickets etc. is the real key to delivering a good enterprise mobile application.

My team and I are working hard to bring meaningful solutions to a myriad of industry segments and geographies.  I look forward to the support of my personal and professional circle for guidance, advice and enabling business growth for PopcornApps.

This infographic, a first of many provides a view into the core service offering from PopcornApps.

Vaibhav Sharma
Vaibhav Sharma
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Mobile OS Platforms rule – Apps must allow deeper OS Integration

Enterprise Mobility

In the recent past, we have seen mobile OS announcements on version upgrades/updates from Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Apple announced iOS 6 at their World Wide Developers Conference (Jun 11 – 15, 2012)

Microsoft announced Windows 8 Phone and Windows Phone 7.8 (to support current devices) at their Windows Phone Summit on June 20, 2012…

…and today, June 27, 2012, Google announced Jelly Bean (Android 4.1).  All these OS have new features – some which will be considered innovative and others incremental improvements.

I skimmed through most of these announcements and later went back to look at the details on a few features of each OS.  Each OS update has enhancements specific to their “own” offerings; Apple has new Maps, Microsoft has deeper Skype integration, Google has Advanced Search.  However, my observations lead me to the conclusion that all OS platforms want to become a one stop shop for consumers:  Not only when it comes to content consumption but also to useful, transactional functionality for every day use.  Let me elaborate by highlighting a few features…

Wallet Features:

Passbook in iOS / Wallet Hub in Windows Phone / Google Wallet

The similarities in Passbook and Wallet Hub are stunning and since both are yet to be released, we will have to wait and see which is more elegant and provides ease of use.  While all 3 can take advantage of technology like Near Field Communications (NFC), Google Wallet seems to be more aligned to it and is banking on new payment peripherals at retailers.

Microsoft and Apple are hoping to leverage updated barcode scanners, which can read smartphone screens.  A lot of retailers are already deploying these scanners.

What does this mean to businesses? 

As an example, Starbucks has already deployed smartphone apps to manage their loyalty card; well it is more than just a loyalty card – it is a mobile wallet that supports Starbucks as a retailer. Users can “load” their Starbucks card into their phone and the app takes care of account management, payments, loyalty points and promotions. The app has been hugely successful and since Starbucks was unwilling to wait for NFC to mature, it has created a new standard of sorts for mobile barcode integration. 

Starbucks may be considered a leader here, other retailers who are still contemplating deploying mobile apps (or upgrades to existing ones) may be able to save time and money by leveraging features like Passbook and Wallet Hub and integrating them into their mobile apps.

Please note that in addition to account management functions, these features can used for other transactional integration – a mobile boarding pass your airline, a movie ticket, a promotion coupon – you get the gist…

Social Media Feature:

iOS 6 Facebook integration, Windows Phone People Hub (Currently available)

iOS 6 will bring functionality that has been already present to a large extent on the Windows Phone platform.  Once your Facebook account credentials are made available to the OS, default OS applications like Calendar, Contacts and activity feeds will be seamlessly integrated.

Windows Phone takes a different route to social media integration. The “Emails and Accounts” menu under Settings of the Windows Phone allows you to specify account details for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Windows Live in addition to your Exchange, POP or Google Mail.

Once these accounts are set up, a swipe to the right in the People Hub (aka Contacts) will provide a news-feed which allows for viewing “What’s new” in all accounts or can be filtered by Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.   Additionally, upon selecting a particular person (contact), a user can view updates, pictures, posts, tweets and their own interaction (phonecalls, emails, sms messages) with that person.

 

 

With this deep integration provided by these OS features, the need for a native Facebook app is in some ways eliminated – 

Good news from a users’ perspective but bad for Facebook because it loses the opportunity to present ads.

 

 

Real Time Feature:

Google NOW / Windows Phone Live Tiles

Google NOW is going to be a feature in the new Android 4.1 OS dubbed Jellybean.   This feature gathers information from the phone and users’ previous behavior related to search, calendar, travel plans, likes and dislikes.

An example provided is a user’s commute pattern – any possible disruption to it would be highlighted in a “card”  – such cards can be resident and updated live on the home screen.

Windows Phone Live Tiles work in a similar manner but rely on the underlying app to support the ‘update’ aspect.  For example, a user can have an American Airlines app pinned to their home screen.  Based on the travel schedule, this ‘tile’ will have flight information like Terminal, Gate, or delay in departure or arrival of the flight.

With these enhancements, the OS platforms will continue to become more real time and integrated to provide everyday features for users.  I don’t think the app marketplaces will see any downturn in the near future but apps will provide a rich integration APIs to ‘blend in’ with the OS.   As far as ad related revenue, there may be a shift coming in how these apps promote products and services.

Vaibhav Sharma
Vaibhav Sharma
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Enterprise Mobility: The Whole 9 Yards

Enterprise Mobility

Enterprise Mobility is a sexy term these days – Technology analysts, software companies, service providers and cloud providers are all using this term. It is rare to see the hype not living up to the reality but, in this space reality is far exceeding the hype.

While there are a lot of people talking about Enterprise Mobility, views on what this space stands for are in silos; Some think Enterprise Mobility to be overly relevant to BYOD, others feel it has a lot to do with security on mobile devices used within the enterprise, and yet some others feel it relates to employee access to enterprise applications through their smartphone or tablet. At PopcornApps, we believe Enterprise Mobility is all of this and then some!

Our definition of mobility in the enterprise

Deploying enterprise process(es) on a secure and reliable mobile channel accessible to employees, customers and/or partners, enabled through a app or browser without the need for the user to use anything else but their smartphone or a tablet device.

Based on this definition, we believe the enterprise mobility space encompasses Mobile App development, Security, Business process enablement, role based access, integration to enterprise and 3rd party applications, User Interface design, User Experience design, Analytics & Insights, integration to Device and App Management platforms, testing, and application deployment to public and private app stores.

Many aspects of what is considered traditional IT – enterprise software development, hardware/cloud infrastructure, APIs, integration buses, user security, SSO, load balancing, testing should be elements of a well thought through Enterprise Mobility initiative.

As might be evident, the mobility journey within an organization is not about one app, it is about a portfolio of applications which cater to various constituents and stakeholders. Following the key considerations listed above will help you realize the following:

Effective ROI Tracking

ROI for a mobility project should be looked at with the following criteria in mind:

  • Cost savings through use of the mobile app
  • Employee productivity enhancements through reduction in paper based processes, reduction in input errors and time savings on employee actions
  • Improved business metrics – sales conversions on campaigns, increase in revenue/profit, higher customer satisfaction

Analytics & Insights

We recommend building analytics into the apps – not only to track app usage and in-app user behavior but also capture business metrics. For e.g. time to complete a workflow/function, app function usage categorized by user/function. Analytics will provide you insights on improving key business metrics.

Not just one app

Mobility is here to stay and the change organizations have to embrace is ‘Think Mobile First’ and remember this is not about one app but likely an app portfolio.

Here is our holistic approach on deploying mobility solutions in your enterprise

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Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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