Distilling market noise into market sense

VisionMobile is the leading research company in the app economy. Our Developer Economics research program tracks developer experiences across platforms, revenues, apps, tools, APIs, segments and regions, via the largest, most global developer surveys.

Are you safe from digital disruption?

Mobile business models are disrupting just about every industry.

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Mobile carriers felt pretty comfortable, but while they were working on next-generation unified communication suites, companies like WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, Line and WeChat bypassed them at full speed, making their investments irrelevant. In a very short time, those messaging apps amassed hundreds of millions of users each and are now eating away substantial chunks of SMS revenues. At the other side of the mobile telephony industry, leading incumbents like Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola or Microsoft got the rug swept from under them by two unlikely newcomers: a computer vendor (Apple) and an online advertising company (Google).

The Android UI Dilemma: Unify or Differentiate?

[The UI of Android mobile devices is at the epicenter of a conflict between Google and the OEM struggle for differentiation. Guest author Ben Hookway analyses why Google's UI strategy will be paramount to its proliferation as Android moves to multiple screens] The topic of User Interfaces always solicits strong views. It’s a bit like…

Why Adobe Should Change its Mobile Strategy (again)

[Where is Adobe really heading with Flash in mobile? Guest blogger Guilhem Ensuque deconstructs Adobe's recent AIR and Flash mobile strategy and argues why Adobe should go back to the drawing board]
The article is also available in Chinese.

Seen from the outside, Adobe’s mobile game plan is an extension of the same strategy that took them to near-ubiquity in the desktop browser. It’s about putting the Flash Player everywhere for free and cashing-in on the designer and developer tools – plus distribution and analytics services (see the Omniture acquisition). Adobe bets its mobile future on taking the Flash runtime to a forecasted 50% of smartphones by 2012, according to the company.

This strategy has worked well in the past for Adobe in the browser and desktop space. The mobile business is however a completely different animal – which is why Adobe’s strategy will fail. Here’s why.

The two iterations of Adobe’s mobile strategy
Adobe’s mobile strategy v1 was Flash Lite. It has enjoyed massive deployments – more than 1.2 billion devices to date according to VisionMobile’s 100 million club. From a financial standpoint however, Flash Lite royalties represent less than 1.5% of Adobe’s overall revenue.

More importantly, based on discussion with people familiar with the matter, I would estimate that only ~3% of Adobe’s 1million+ mainstream Flash developers customers have been creating Flash Lite content (although no public data is available).

What’s the lesson here ? It’s that subsidizing the Flash Lite runtime penetration into 40-50% of devices did not translate automatically in developers adoption. From the developer’s point of view, Flash Lite indeed lacked a direct content/apps distribution channel in the pre-App Store and “walled gardens” era. It also had different APIs compared to the “full” Flash, and integrations in OEMs handsets were fragmented.

Adobe’s Mobile Strategy v2 was announced in May 2008 as a complete reset of their Flash Lite strategy, aiming to address these obstacles. With the Open Screen Project (OSP), the mainstream Flash Player (v10) and its sibling the AIR runtime are now at the center of the Flash Platform “galaxy” across all types of terminals – desktop, smartphones, TVs, and more.

With this strategy reset, Adobe is going back to square zero to infiltrate the mobile device market with a consistent runtime. Adobe pledges to waive royalty fees for partner OEMs who are collaborating in the Flash/AIR integration effort on their platforms, ensuring over-the-air updateability and consistency. In addition, OSP partners allow distribution and monetisation of Flash content and AIR apps through their app stores (and also through Adobe’s own Distribution service).

Adobe v2 strategy is in essence a pledge to its key customers – organisations like digital agencies paying for design tools and media outlets paying for flash video delivery servers. A pledge that the Open Screen Project will extend the reach of their current technology and people skills investments to the mobile masses – and succeed where Flash Lite hadn’t before.

Sounds good on paper, but …

The Wintel future for mobile: a wake up call for network operators

[The PC-esque commodisation of the mobile industry has been prophesied many times before, but never before has it become so lucidly clear. Research Director Andreas Constantinou uncovers the dynamics of the mobile industry that will lead to a Wintel future, and the impending disruption to the network business model] We ‘ve all heard this before….

MeeGo: Two (M)onkeys don’t make a (G)orilla. But they sure make a lot of noise

[What is behind the announcement of Meego operating system by Nokia and Intel? Guest blogger Thucydides Sigs deconstructs what Meego means and its importance to the mobile industry] How much substance is behind the noise of Nokia’s and Intel’s announcement of Meego? A few points to consider. Nokia, who feels threatened by Google’s Android and…