Universal Mobile Interface

Does anyone dare to say no to apps?

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on February 21, 2010

Most consumer brands are in the process of experimenting how to utilize the mobile channel in the best possible way. Many have a quite limited experience of the mobile and the obvious answer seems to be app stores and apps. Even being the phenomena driving the development and being the by far most massive mobile success story in years, investing in apps may turn out to be quite a disappointment. The issues are that the space is quite crowded, you have to invest over and over again to cover all different operating systems and most importantly the majority of the apps generate a rather limited usage. Most apps are unfortunately a waste of money but do you still dare to say no?

The Canadian newsstand platform service provider and publisher Mygazines announced a few days ago the launch of a Universal Mobile Interface. It may not fully be in line with the general UMI definition, nevertheless the basic thinking is the same. “We want to allow our publisher’s content to be accessible anywhere and everywhere,” says Yoav Schwartz, CEO of Mygazines, Toronto, in an interview by Chris Harnick in the Mobile Marketer. Yoav Schwartz continues: “If a person receives an email with a link to the latest issue of Relevant, then he or she can click on that link and open the magazine on whatever device they want – you can’t do that with an app.” “If I’m a publisher and sending out e-delivery to my subscribers, I want them to start engaging right away. With a traditional app, it’s up to the user to then either download or install an app or visit the app to access the content.” “Apps are great, don’t get me wrong, but they’re a closed environment.” Mygazines dares to say no.

Mygazines clearly supports the basic thinking behind the UMI concept. We can expect their approach to become quite successful within the online publishing arena and to be followed by others. This in not a battle between apps and UMIs, both will become successful on their own merits. For those that want a very efficient way to reach all mobile phone users not bothering about different mobile operating systems and high development costs the UMI approach should be carefully considered as an alternative to apps.

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Why companies should do mobile versions of their web sites

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on April 14, 2009

Many times I find myself taking for granted that all organisations and companies understand the importance of having their web content and services accessible through the mobile phone. All don’t, and many seem not even to have reflected over the need. Others have, but show a reluctance to create a mobile version of there web site. Indeed, there are a number of very good reasons why they should be sceptical, such as: cost, limited penetration, immature technology etc.

 

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But what can they then gain by doing a specific mobile version of their site/service? This depends on the explicit requirements and environment. The needs the PC and the mobile phone meet can be categorised in two dimensions: timing – is the need immediate or can it wait; and complexity – does the service demand a large screen and keyboard to be used in a proper way. The first dimension, timing, is very hard to circumvent while the other, complexity, may be reduced by making the site much simpler and by using a concept such as UMI.

 

A very simple answer to those that wonder if they should do a mobile site is to respond with the following questions: Is it important for those you address to always be able to have immediate access to the site? If yes, is it possible for you to simplify the site so that it is possible to use over the mobile and more or less any mobile? I would argue that the answer to the second question is always yes, but it may demand some additional work to realise. But are then the users as logical as predicted above in terms of when they use one device as an alternative to the other? Do they really use the optimal tool? No, experience has shown that there are many reasons to act less rational.

 

Comparing the PC to the mobile, there are clear differences in how they are used, when they are used, why they are used, why they are not used, differences in screen size etc. The table highlight the limitations of a PC compared to a mobile phone and vice versa. Special attention is given to why the devices are used despite not being an obvious choice.

 

new-picture-5Reasons not to use the mobile when it still would be the best choice are mainly due to lack of experience and knowledge about the mobile. There are still limited possibilities for cost control, the settings may not be correct and the user may not even know how to use additional features and clients on the phone. These barriers are all expected to gradually decrease in importance as the maturity improves over time. Reasons to use the mobile when the PC would be a better choice are different in nature and can be expected to remain. The most significant one is of course that there is a quite limited penetration of PCs in many regions. But there are also less logical reasons such as laziness, similar to why many of us have made more expensive calls from a mobile as we don’t have the energy to look up the phone number and then make a cheap call from a fixed line phone when in reach.

In conclusion, you do not need to do a mobile version of your web content if: there’s no need for your users to access your site when only having a mobile phone available; and if the web site is so simple and with so limited functionality that it can be used directly on any mobile. I guess however that most will conclude that they need good, ubiquitous and user-friendly mobile presence and that the present web site is unable to deliver a good enough user experience. In addition, please keep in mind that the mobile will also be used in situations where you would expect the user to prefer the PC.

 

Viral distribution of mobile services

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on March 26, 2009

Within the Internet world we see one example after the other of successful services that manage to utilise viral marketing and distribution, and many times in combination with a sophisticated PR strategy. We also see examples of services that seem to take off by themselves mainly due to accidentally good timing and due to that the service gives an exceptionally good user experience or something unique. Working in the mobile space I have long been quite envious of the speed by which new services can reach new users within the PC-environment. We have struggled so hard trying to get a decent take up of new mobile services, but to be honest with limited success.

Viral marketing is in essence quite simple in theory, but in reality not that easy to achieve. The key is that there has to be a value for the individual to give and for the receiving party to receive. It also has to be easy and possible to give and receive. Regarding distribution of services that are expected to be used frequently, then the efficiency in distribution becomes even stronger when there is a mutual value for both parties that the services are used. This leads to limited churn as individuals then encourage each other to continue using the services. One example of this is the area of communication services, such as the IP-telephony service Skype.

Looking at barriers to viral marketing and distribution, comparing the mobile environment with ordinary Internet services, huge differences can be seen. The value for giving and receiving services may not be so different, but when it comes if it’s easy or even possible to share digital content mobile to mobile is quite a different story. On the PC sharing a link, a program, a movie etc is more or less just a few clicks away. On the mobile you need to take many other considerations into account. Does the receiver have a device that can use the service, do I even know what device she has, does she have the same operator, does she have the correct settings etc. Even if the answers to all these questions are positive, which may happen in some rare cases, just needing to even being worried about them have most probably discouraged the giver enough not to even try.

46936_communicationBut do not let the present situation stop us from further exploring the opportunities. To distribute content freely mobile to mobile does hold one of the most interesting potentials and new forces of the Internet. Once the barriers to sharing content freely mobile to mobile an even faster viral distribution can expected compared to the present PC experience, as: there are about four times as many mobile phones as PCs; the phones are always on and they are personal and the phone is always accompanying the user. The UMI concept holds the potential to overcome the barriers to mobile viral distribution and doing so before any standardised and universal mobile operating system is agreed upon. Some basic success factors for mobile viral distribution are:

  • Creating value for the giver
  • Creating value for the receiver
  • Additional value for the giver if the services is used by the receiver
  • Notification to giver that the service given is used
  • Distribution independent of what device the receiver has
  • Distribution independent of what operator the receiver has
  • Services are easy to down load, install, find and use
  • That content and services are free or initially for free