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Picture 4According to a press release from Cupertino yesterday, Apple’s App Store delivers roughly 6.3 million downloads a day or a head spinning seventy-three apps per second.  You can now choose from over 85,000 programs, up over twenty thousand in the last two months alone.  All of this software serves the more than fifty million iPhones and iPod Touches in the market right now.  More importantly, it drives sales and differentiation for this smartphone platform.  The release quotes Steve Jobs as saying “The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.”

While this is clearly a bit of sales-driving commentary, those words rang incredibly true for referring to my iPhone as ‘a mobile handheld device.’  It is mobile, it is handheld, and it is one remarkable device.  Unfortunately, it’s also a lousy phone.  It drops calls, it stumbles for minutes at a time as it searches for a 3G connection…but it does have those wonderful, engaging apps.  I have a modest thirty-five on my phone and use maybe four everyday, the rest very sporadically.  That’s not particularly surprising; it’s not like anyone really needs to constantly check movie times.

Still, there’s undeniable genius in this model; create a platform and open it up so that independent programmers can supply it with an endless variety of new and fascinating content, which insures the platform remains differentiated and vital in the world of smart phones.  Mr. Jobs clearly learned some things by watching how software developers flooded the open PC market with choices that his closed Mac system could never have.  And he leveraged that to insure the iPhone’s long term success.

Now if he will just let us pick our own carrier.  I can’t wait for a Cricket iPhone.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Remember learning that the spaceships on the first Boston album were actually intergalactic guitars?  Did you ever spend hours staring at Shusei Nagaoka and Ria Lewerke’s cover art for ELO’s Out of the Blue double album?

Dig It Man, They're GUITARS!

Dig It Man, They're GUITARS!

You wouldn’t do that with a Greenday CD…

CD’s lack the visual impact of vinyl LP covers. And mp3’s lack any visual impact at all. Musically, these format changes have made the music experience far more convenient, but we’ve lost the visual entirely.  Which as the vinyl set might say, is a bummer.

It’s also why the whole mobile computing revolution leaves me deeply ambivalent.  Yes, the iPhone is an amazing device (though ATT makes it a lousy phone), but the more time I spend staring at it’s bright though diminutive screen, the more I realize aging’s effect on my eyes.  There is only so much information I want presented to me on a 2″x3″ screen because it’s hard to read.  Think about it: most mobile screens are smaller than a business card.

So the mobile revolution scores major points for convenience, but as a longterm platform or even a replacement for larger screens?  I don’t think so.  That makes as much sense as giving up your grocery store to shop exclusively at 7-11.

Or as the vinyl set might say, giving up 33’s for 45’s…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79 

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'His Holiness' Would Make an Epic Twitter Handle

'His Holiness' Would Make an Epic Twitter Handle

 

As reported in various news channels before the recent Holiday weekend, the Vatican launched www.pope2you.net last Thursday to celebrate World Communications Day, or Inter Mirifica: an outcome of the Second Vatican Council.  This year, the Pope’s message directly addresses ‘the digital generation’ through a website, e-mail outreach, and yes, a Facebook app.  No, you won’t be able to poke the pontiff or learn what his Smurf name might be, but this action represents a conscious, if occasionally unwieldy, move by this ancient organization into social media. 

The Pope’s message invites young people to become instruments for peace and promote a culture of respect built on ‘great synergies of friendship.’  Beyond the dismaying fact that the Pope himself resorted to saying ‘synergies,’ this move by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications drills home just how quickly our media environment has evolved over the past five years.  Obviously, technology has changed, but that’s not nearly as remarkable as how human behavior has changed.  The Vatican’s decision to turn to the internet as a means of spreading church gospel shows a practical awareness of where their congregation lives, plays and exchanges ideas.  With this new site, Catholics can now interact in this rich dialogue environment with a limitless supply of e-cards and banners from the Pope.  They can also follow and forward news and updates on YouTube or through a new iPhone app.  

What marketers refer to as viral messaging is merely a 21st century update of missionary work: a central organization creates a strong message, then sends out true believers with an imprimatur to take that message and spread it to people in far off lands.  The big difference is that today, you can do that simply by pressing ‘send.’ 

As Clay Shirky explains in his engaging, imminently readable book “Here Comes Everybody” (You still haven’t read it?  C’mon…), we live in a time where communications technology makes it incredibly easy to organize without organizations.  Because of this, organizations need to think beyond their own walls and self interests to consider outside communities that might share their thinking, values or interests.  These communities are not officially sanctioned extensions of the organization, because they exist solely on the strength of their members’ passion; call them ‘intramural organizations.’

Every large organization with a message to market must become aware of their own ‘intramural organizations’ and find ways to foster and encourage them.  When done deftly, large organizations can extend their marketing almost exponentially because these intramural groups excel at driving recommendation and word of mouth. 

The best way to spread any message—religious or secular—is to define your brand’s mission, and spread that.  The Pope’s doing it, why aren’t you?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Industry visionaries have been touting this for a few years now and while I agree that mobile will be an important platform, I’m hoping it hurries up and gets here before my eyesight starts to really fade and I can no longer read that small screen.  If it does gain critical mass, the Mobilenet will be the second new mass communications medium in twenty years.  That will introduce even more profound platform, behavioral and social changes for us to adjust to in a wickedly short period of time.

Sent from my iPhone

Sent from my iPhone

Stephen Riley, our resident social media power user, monitored the Twitter posts from yesterday’s first day speakers at the Ad Age Digital Conference in New York. Of the long list he forwarded, the ones that really stood out quoted John Stratton, CMO of Verizon.  Among other things, he talked about how 13-19 year olds text eight times more often than they call.  They also average a four minute reply time to an SMS versus two days for an e-mail.  But the most remarkable fact Stratton highlighted was the rate of App Store downloads and how they dwarf the rate of iTune downloads.  In many ways, the rapid adoption of this platform demonstrates that the handheld computer is already here.

To purists of course, the iPhone is merely a really good smartphone, not truly the portable computing device they envision as servicing a mobilenet-enabled future.  And yet, hackers and bloggers have rated this little beauty roughly akin to a PowerBook, circa 2000, with a CPU clocking at 400MHz, bus speed of 100MHz, and 128 MB of RAM. Mobile gaming advocates even claim it has more power than the Nintendo DS and PSP systems combined.  Which means the iPhone has no shortage of app driving power on hand.

And talk about app opportunities.  With more than 25,000 to choose from and more coming on line every week, the App Store stands as a testament to the value of free content and open source.  The iPhone itself will celebrate its second birthday in June; this past February marked the first birthday for the crucial iPhone development kit.

The social impact of relatively young technologies and platforms like the iPhone and YouTube and Facebook blows historical precedent out of the water.  And yet ultimately it reinforces a great truth that many seem resistant to grasp: we are not led into the future on platforms, we are led by ideas.  Platforms enable ideas, but without ideas, you simply have the Newton.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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