Archive for the 'technology' Category

Why the Mac App Store Changes Everything

By: Tim Baker

Apple finally launched their much-hyped App Store for Mac today and in one system update instantly revolutionized the software industry forever.

For anyone that doubts that the Mac App Store is a game changer, I implore you to look at the success of the App store on iOS. Developers of all makes and sizes have found a viable way to distribute software and compete against the industry behemoths on an almost-level playing field. (I say “almost” because the Electronic Arts of the world have the money to clout to feature their big name apps on the storefront when launched or discounted.)

When the App store first made it’s debut on the iPhone & iPod Touch, it was a goldmine for developers – many of them earning small fortunes on the success of their apps with relatively limited competition. Fast-forward to 2011 and the App Store is overcrowded with software of all types and quality; it’s  a lot harder for new apps to stand out from all the noise. Still, an entire community of bloggers and other taste makers have made it their goal to find and share new, quality apps with interested readers and with the right amount of promotion, these innovative apps are being consumed by the masses.

When the iPad launched last year, the second gold rush occurred with developers racing to market with iPad-optimized apps, although this time, many wanted to earn more than they were on the iPhone and charged an “iPad premium.” An iPhone app priced at 99¢ would have it’s “HD” iPad-optimized counterpart priced much higher, say $4.99. There was a big backlash by bloggers against this practice with many feeling they were being ripped off; while the practice still goes on today, I personally see it much less, and the price differential between iPhone and iPad app is usually not as enormous a gap.

The Mac App Store will be no different with developers rushing to get their software into this store while the competition relatively low. Today’s launch includes 1,000 apps and will continue to grow every day. That being said, there is a huge difference between the App store on Mac versus the mobile store – one doesn’t have to use the App store to get new software on their machine. On Apple’s mobile devices, unless you jailbreak, the only way to put applications on is through the App store or a closed corporate environment. Mobile developers need to be in the App Store; Mac OS X developers currently don’t.

The reason the Mac App Store changes everything is simple – it’s the best way for developers to monetize their software. Right now, a small developer makes an app, creates a website about it, maybe puts out a press release and hopes for the best. Many of these developers are making little-to-no money off of their apps, causing them to treat it more as a hobby than a job. Too often, great apps fall by the wayside on Mac when developers don’t have time to update or improve them causing a no-win situation for themselves or the user. Having one centralized place to sell their app, push out updates and make money is going to lead to more quality apps and better prices for users. As the App Store on Mac matures and grows, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see it being the only approved way to put new software on one’s machine in the future. Many people are very weary of installing software they find on random websites out of fear of spyware or viruses, so the comfort in knowing that these applications from the Mac App Store are safe will be one of the primary drivers in its success.

The mobile App Store has shown that people will pay for software when they feel it’s priced right. The immense competition has made it pretty much de facto that apps that charge use a 99¢ price point. (Obviously this isn’t the case for all apps, but for the vast majority.) One of my favorite authors, Dan Ariely, writes in his book Predictably Irrational that people’s purchasing habits are conditioned. Kids who grew up in the 90’s and stole all their music off Napster and LimeWire don’t feel like they were committing a crime – they just view music as something that should be free. Breaking this conditioned habit is such a hard task which is why it’s a lot tougher to get people in their teens and early 20’s to buy music than it is for the older population that paid for music their entire life. This younger demographic tends to think that anything over 99¢ is too much for a song, yet spending $4.00 on a coffee is perfectly acceptable. The exact opposite is true for those that grew up never paying more than 75¢ for their coffee. This same philosophy is occuring with the App Store; people are conditioned to pay for quality software, but only at very low prices.

Currently, some of the software prices in the Mac store are very high. Pixelmator, a very worthy Photoshop competitor, is priced at $29.99. I’ve used this program and can say that it’s wonderful. When I saw it priced at around that point on it’s website last year, it seemed like a great deal, but in the App Store setting, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I could be wrong, but I expect Pixelmator to be $9.99 in the App Store by the end of the year. If history is going to repeat itself, these high price points are going to have to come down for the desktop App Store if people are going to buy them en masse. $9.99 seems like a fair price point to me.

There’s no doubt there will be a lot of growing pains from developers who don’t want to be a part of Apple’s walled garden App Store, but at the end of the day, they will have to go where the money is, even if it means they have to lower prices and give up some control.


Three Companies that Apple Could and Should Buy

By: Tim Baker
It’s amazing how a company that went from the brink of bankruptcy 13 years ago now has $51B in cash reserves,  market cap of $275 Billion and a share price of over $300. Last week, CEO Steve Jobs said that Apple plans to hold on to it’s $51B in cash to pursue “strategic opportunities.” As their war with Google continues to grow as does threats from music startups that could potentially dethrone iTunes as the de-facto digital music destination, here’s a list of companies that could be huge acquisitions for the Cupertino giant to buy that could potentially change the shape of the tech industry for decades to come.

Facebook is currently valued at a little over $30B. While it would be an enormous investment for Apple to make, the rewards from purchasing the world’s number one social network could have seismic effects across all of Apple’s verticals. It’s pretty safe to say that Apple will be launching a music subscription service in the future and as physical music formats continue on their death march, streaming music startups such as Spotify, MOG and Rdio are winning people over left and right. As smartphone and home broadband penetration continues to expand, it’s only a matter of time until most music fans are enjoying their music in the cloud. Apple realizes this and it’s most likely why they purchased last year. Should Apple buy Facebook, every user could have access to a streaming iTunes service instantly. Apple’s new music social network Ping would also have a much better home than living in the iTunes desktop & mobile software and Facebook credits could be used to purchase video rentals.

Putting aside the benefits that an embedded iTunes store from within Facebook could have, the most appealing thing that comes with the purchase of Facebook is their data. Apple’s foray into the mobile advertising business with iAd has put them toe-to-toe with Google and owning Facebook would give them ownership of the very lucrative Facebook ad platform to compete on the desktop as well. Facebook ads allow marketers to deliver very hyper-targeted messages based on the data found in a user’s profile and Apple’s merging of that information with the data they receive from their iAds could very well shift the power in online advertising for years to come.

Netflix currently has a market cap of $9B and a subscriber base of over 15 million. While Apple dominates the digital music space, the same can be said for Netflix with regards to digital video. While Netflix started out as a DVD by mail service, their business model has shifted towards streaming video and as they continue to roll out streaming-only plans, their subscriber base is expected to explode. Analysts expect Netflix to have over 19 million subscribers by the end of 2010, which totals about 6% of the US population or 17% of the estimated 116 million US TV households.

An acquisition of Netflix would allow Apple the flexibility to focus on streaming video rather than the pay-per-view rental or pay-to-own model that they’re stuck in now. Streaming video is the way of the future and it’s only a matter of time when Blu-Ray users will see they can get the exact same audio and video experience via the cloud than on an overpriced physical disc that takes up space and is prone to scratching.

Additionally, a purchase of Netflix by Apple would give them enormous market penetration within streaming devices already in-use, such as video game consoles, TiVos, Roku Boxes and Netflix-enabled televisions. While the newest incarnation of the AppleTV is a huge leap forward compared to its predecessor, future success in streaming video will not come from being one of many players in the hardware game – one must control the content.

Last.FM is a popular music social network that founded in the UK and was acquired by CBS Interactive for £140 Million in 2009. While it may not have the cache or price tag as Facebook or Netflix, would give Apple something that it’s failed to crack thus far – success in social media.

It’s pretty safe to say that most diehard music fans are finding Apple’s Ping social network to be a joke. Aside from the very lackluster initial offering of artists involved, it’s pretty much the most anti-social social network of them all. Artists that are on Ping are not interacting with fans like often found on Facebook or Twitter. Ping is basically a glorified RSS feed of artists news and events and feels as warm and welcoming as a hospital waiting room.

I don’t see Ping taking off ever in its current form. There’s no way for artists to create their own accounts; an Apple staff member must create the account on their end. There’s also a ridiculous list of rules for entertainers participating on Ping that is nothing if not laughable.

Music loves have embraced for multiple reasons, but the three that are most popular are 1. scrobbling, 2. streaming radio and 3. social networking. Scrobbling is basically’s way of indexing all the music you listen to on your computer or iPod and keeping a running record of it. It uses that data to show which artists and songs are most popular on the site as well as allows users to meet other music fans based on their compatible music tastes. also leverages their API so other music services can import their data into a user’s account for even more ways to scrobble music. Two great examples of the API use are Spotify and Ping currently only automatically tracks your iTunes purchases. The streaming radio on also allows users to listen to Pandora-like stations built for them based on their actual listening habits.

While a purchase of would be a drop in the bucket for Apple, it would allow them to buy into an established and trusted network of music lovers. They could also leverage all the data they obtain from users on their listening habits to offer a better targeted buying experience within the iTunes music store.

I believe all three of these aforementioned services provide excellent growth opportunities for Apple as they continue into the next decade. I’d love to know what other companies you think Apple could and should realistically buy. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Is Gowalla Dead?

By: Tim Baker

GowallaA little less than six months ago, Gowalla was riding very high. They were the darlings of SXSW, at least in the eyes of the Austin residents, and were in a promising position as they stood toe-to-toe with Foursquare. My, how a lot has changed.

Despite just being named one of Time’s 50 best websites of 2010, Gowalla has lost a lot of steam in the geolocation wars. Foursquare, the New York City-based startup, has been racking up win after win with many high-profile deals including Zagat, TLC, Bravo, VH1 and Starbucks. With Facebook throwing their hat into the ring with “Places,” I believe Gowalla is at a make-or-break point if they hope to survive.

Despite the beautiful aesthetics of their mobile app, Gowalla has been criticized by some as being too confusing or even childish. The feature where random virtual objects are left behind for others is often cited as the most confusing aspect of the service. However, in the world of tech startups, having the prettiest service doesn’t always resonate with consumers.

The data is not on Gowalla’s side. Analyzing their website traffic stats shows a sharp decline after their SXSW peak in March, compared to Foursquare who’s site hit over 1.8 Million unique visitors in July.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare Traffic Statistics

Granted, website usage isn’t the best metric as these services thrive on the mobile app experience. Analysis of the social media data is also very telling. Aside from small spikes for Gowalla when they announced their iPad app and their use of the Foursquare Places API, their mentions throughout the “blogosphere” have remained very flat.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare Popularity In Blogs

If you’ve been following the “checkin wars,” none of what I’m talking about is surprising. Foursquare has been the hottest startup in 2010 and the service to beat. Facebook Places, with an install base of over 500 million, is not as well received initially as some may have thought, but it’s way too early to call it a flop. Facebook has the money and the muscle to compete with anyone on this front and their biggest obstacle is their users who already have trust issues after previous privacy missteps.

Geolocation is a crowded space and is only getting more crowded. With very promising services on the rise such as Shopkick and SCVNGR pushing the checkin experience into valuable consumer rewards, even Foursquare shouldn’t be (and isn’t) resting on their laurels. In the end, Gowalla may end up being the next Pownce – a beautifully designed and well coded service that couldn’t break out of their small core audience and resonate on the big stage.

Apple, Microsoft and the War on Google

By Tim Baker

There’s an all-out war brewing and it’s about to get really nasty. I’m not referring to the situations in Afghanistan, North Korea or Iran; the turf where this war takes place will occur on screens all around the world. Computer screens, mobile phone screens and even television screens. This is a war on Google fought by Apple and Microsoft.

Over the past few years, Apple and Google have had a very publicly rosy relationship. The heavy integration between Google Maps and the iPhone was a mutually benefical win for both companies. Apple was able to bring mobile location services to a level unlike any other handset manufacturer had done prior while Google finally had an outlet to take over the mapping market that was dominated for so long by MapQuest.

The inclusion of a YouTube app on the iPhone and the ability to upload directly to YouTube from within the OS on the iPhone 3GS is just another example in a long history of these two companies working together in a close partnership. Safari’s default search engine has been Google for as long as I can remember while the map data from the most recent version of iPhoto is provided by – you guessed it –Google!

The Cult of Apple has adored Google for quite some time, almost embracing them as an extension of the company they worship in an almost God-like fashion. This outpouring of love and admiration coupled with Google’s “do no evil” attitude and constant innovation had been a match made in Heaven.

That was, until just a short time ago.

The first sign of trouble in paradise was made public when Apple refused to allow the Google Voice app into their app store. Denying apps had been nothing new to Apple and had caused them some bad press throughout the blogosphere, but for the most part those stories fell out the public interest after a day or two. This was different; this was Google. This was like stabbing your brother in the back and running off with his wife. Unlike most rejected apps, this one had a giant behemoth behind it that was refusing to take “no” for an answer. The entire saga turned into a he said/she said pissing match that resulted in an FTC investigation and the eventual departure of Google CEO Eric Schmidt off the Apple board of directors where he served for three years.

Some will claim that the announcement of the Android OS in 2007 was the first sign of bad blood between the two companies, but I don’t see it that way. I would classify it as a tiny little blip on a seismograph. The iPhone was already leaps and bounds ahead of other devices at this point that a little competition in the mobile space was good for everyone. Also, a lot of people in the tech world were very underwhelmed by what Google first showed off with Android, an OS that has come a long way since its first unveiling.

Since Eric Schmidt left the Apple board of directors, the gloves have really come off between the two companies. Apple and Google have both been on buying sprees as of late with Google acquiring AdMob and Apple countering with their acquisition ofQuattro Wireless. Apple also recently purchased the music streaming service LaLa, a company that Google was also attempting to buy, as well as a mapping software company called Placebase.

Yes, it’s getting ugly between the two companies, but what about the 300 lb. gorilla in the room –Microsoft? We all know that Apple and Microsoft are fierce rivals and that will not change any time soon, but this whole situation between Google and Apple allows for some interesting opportunities for Microsoft.

The Zune is a commercial failure, Windows Mobile is bleeding market share to Apple, RIM and now Android, and even Internet Explorer is feeling some heat from Firefox and Chrome in the browser wars. The Xbox 360 aside, things haven’t been as great for Microsoft these past couple of years as they would’ve hoped.

This is where it is going to get really interesting. Can Apple and Microsoft put their proverbial guns down and fight the common enemy? I believe so – at least to some extent. There’s already rumors that Apple may make Bing the new default search engine on the iPhone, but I don’t see it ending there. Google is killing Bing (and everyone else for that matter) in search, their Google Docs are getting closer and closer to Microsoft Office every day and now that Google is entering the OS market with Google Chrome OS, Microsoft is scared, and they have every reason to be.

While I don’t expect Microsoft and Apple to buddy up as close as Google and Apple have in the past, at least this year, I do think we’re going to see some very interesting collaborations between the two rivals. Perhaps we will see an official Microsoft Office suite for the iPhone or Tighter integration between the Mac and Microsoft Exchange. Maybe some of the great things about Bing, including the travel search and maps, will find some integration into Apple’s offerings. These are all small but doable things that I would not be surprised one bit to see occur in 2010.

What the Apple fanboy nation lacks in numbers it makes up with in loyalty. If Steve Jobs convinces his followers in ever-so-subtly ways that Google is not their friend anymore, there is going to be number of people that turn on the company. Will it have a huge effect on their bottom line? No, not at first, but what it will do is legitimize Microsoft as a partner, giving them more ammunition in their never-ending battle with Google.

Microsoft doesn’t have the same stigma with the younger generation of Apple lovers today as it did back in the 90’s. When Apple announced a partnership with Microsoft, which basically kept them from going bankrupt, the entire hall of people booed and hissed. It’s not like that today. iPod and iPhone lovers grew up using Windows machines in school (and still do). They have very little malevolence towards Microsoft, especially when so many of them have an Xbox in their living room. The culture is different now and Apple teaming up with Microsoft has the potential to cause seismic shifts in the technology landscape in the coming years.

Regardless of where you stand, this is going to get very interesting. Lucky for us consumers, there’s a good chance we’ll come out winners of this battle in the end when the dust settles.

If it ever ends, that is.

Kinesis Helps Bring Coldwell Banker Listings to In-Car Navigation

In its latest strategic move on behalf of long-time client Coldwell Banker, Kinesis has partnered the global real estate franchisor with Dash Navigation, Inc. making it the first real estate company to allow drivers to access real-time real estate listings and property details from their vehicle and instantly create a route to them. Consumers can search for homes with the Coldwell Banker “Home Search” button now available on Dash GPS units—the first Web-accessible portable navigation system.

This relationship extends the Coldwell Banker brand’s reach to those who are actively in their cars and on the move searching for new homes, supporting the company’s position as a real estate innovator.

“Identifying, investigating and implementing the most appropriate strategic innovations to help our clients reach their business and marketing goals is what we are passionate and relentless about, “ said Nick Dimitrakiou, Kinesis Partner, Emerging Media. “This latest execution brings our client Coldwell Banker firmly into the Web 2.0 world while providing real value to their Local Sales Offices, Agents and consumers.”

While driving the strategy, Kinesis also worked with Dash Navigation on the user experience of the Home Search capability and managed the project’s process.

The Year That Was: 2007

At Kinesis, we’re all about momentum, moving forward, perpetual motion. But at the end of the year, it’s worth a quick look back to examine what went right and what went not so right in the digital marketing world. And what a year it was.

While many Kinetics met personal milestones like weddings, engagements and babies, (congratulations Paul Sekerka, Kate Rumore, Diane Puma, Katie Babinski and Anthony Vespucci) as a group they lamented the fizzle of Second Life. While we all heralded the release of the iPhone itself, the iPhone campaign left us under whelmed in comparison to the Mac vs. PC ads.

It was the year of Intranets and Web 2.0, as social networking, content-rich, user-driven sites, ajax and flash became tantamount to digital marketing, while mobile marketing still never found its groove.

Windows Vista was perhaps the biggest let down in 2007, although not entirely unexpected, especially to Mac lovers, and re-designs of both and reaffirmed the status of two of the Internet’s mainstays.

Email marketing continued its decline, while search got local and overall ad spending continued its meteoric rise. TV watched both DVRs and the Writer’s Guild strike claim more advertising casualties, even while all the networks fortified their Web presences.

On the home front, the Kinesis Knights softball team went 10 and 2 in its inaugural season, losing in the last round of the playoffs in a game of questionable integrity, and the annual paintball outing once again left no client or staffer MIA.

It was also the year of User Experience, as a reorganization of Kinesis’ IA practice, led by Brian Kempf, began paying dividends, winning two prestigious Nielsen/Norman Group awards, one for the Comcast Store and one for

The circle K saw its creative product jump a few notches with stand-out efforts by newly promoted Design Director Trevor Aldinger for Comcast and Coldwell Banker, Larry Latore for Coldwell Banker and Goodwill and Amanda Thieme on Gain Capital and Coldwell Banker Commercial, and the media team’s Frank Puma made Second Life a real estate reality for client Coldwell Banker as Mike Pierre took the reigns on Web 2.0.

The Program Management team added Katie Babinski and Amanda Sackawicz and also made remarkable strides this year, taking control of the work product and solidifying new relationships, including those with new clients Gain Capital, Equifax, Feedroom, Anbau Enterprises, and Great Freedom, three of which were led by Pam Holland.

On the technical front, it was a very big year. 2007 saw the addition of Derek Grier as a technical lead, the release of the new Comcast Store, the successful integration of Canada into the Coldwell Banker system, and widgets for Siemens, Wyndham and Coldwell Banker, just to name a few.

And with the addition of new clients Deloitte, Rodale and Round Table Brewing, the stage is set for 2008 for Kinesis to continue generating business momentum.

Yes. It was a very good year.

WAP Sites? We don’t need no stinkin’ WAP Sites!

While new technologies are introduced daily, every now and then a technology comes along that truly revolutionizes peoples behaviors, attitudes, decisions and lives. Take a moment to think about how the DVR and HDTV changed the TV experience – I mean come on…who really watched those colorful nature shows on the Discovery Channel before HDTV?

Well, June 29th, 2007 was one of those days, as it marked the change of mobile web forever. What happened on that summer Friday you ask? The iPhone!

NYT WAP The New York TimesWAP site for conventional mobile phones

The New York Times site on the iPhone. NYT iPhone

Put aside the fact that nearly 1.0MM units were sold in the first week. After experiencing the iPhone first hand, (yes some of us were fortunate enough to have recieved ours the first day) we can honestly say mobile web will never be the same. Seeing what this gizmo is capable of, leads us to believe there will no longer be the need for WAP sites to exist (talk about single-handedly changing an entire industry in one fell swoop).

Forget all the hype and buzz about the pros and cons. This topic of this conversation is not even about a phone. It’s about a device that will change consumer behavior and portable content as we know it.

When putting this single thought into context, not only will the implications of this device have a direct impact on mobile web, but consider all the other businesses/models that have or will be affected – Distribution, Marketing, Promotion, and on the list goes.

Consider this – prior to the release of the iPhone, the general consumer experience to purchase a new mobile phone consisted of going to a store, signing over rights to your first born child and literally wasting an entire afternoon – not anymore. The experience in buying the iPhone was seamless from the get-go. you purchase the phone in a store, or now online (literally a :60 sec credit card transaction), and then activate the phone (including the transfer of your phone number from a different carrier) through iTunes in a matter of 3 minutes. This kind of user experience is what is generally forgotten (ignored?) by the wireless companies themselves in their haste to win the battle over 2 percent of the market. Apple’s influence here is evident – the experience of the product begins with the environment in which your purchase it.

Because of the iPhone’s real web browser feature, users can experience web sites the way they would on their computer. That means no longer do marketers need to create promotions that require WAP sites or special mobile elements. what is good for the computer is good for the phone. Now an opportunity exists to create integrated, cross platform, web based, mobile solutions without compromise, a benefit for both marketers and their customers.

Content Portability:
For years publishers have pitched the notion of “portable content” as being able to access digital content anywhere. We create Widgets, Gadgets, and RSS feeds to enable customized information and while some of these technologies offer mobile components, they are clunky and not very user friendly. Now consider a custom widget for your iPhone, which enables a true wireless “always connected”, visually appealing experience which by the way, includes all the most important information relevant to ME! (NOTE: While Apple has yet to announce additional software as of this posting they have distributed the developer’s guide which will allow developers to begin working on new compatible software.)

While most smartphones enable many of these technologies to happen, none have come close to creating an experience such as the iPhone. That’s the best part about this story – its about an innovative company who took technologies that already existed for years, and packaged them in a way for even the most “non-savvy” individual to enjoy, creating an entirely new market opportunity for various industries in the process.

The question now is: as a marketer in the digital world, what marketing innovations can we bring to this environment that will enhance consumer experiences and maximize the value of our brands?

Stay tuned….

About Kinesis Momentum

Want to keep your digital marketing moving forward? Welcome to Momentum, brought to you by the folks at FD kinesis. Whether its online advertising, social media, mobile technology, web design or any other discussion of the digital domain, you'll find it here.

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