Square Centimeters of Real Estate worth $17.5 Billion

Flash back four years, to January 9th, 2007. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., is standing before an audience at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, and unveiling the original iPhone to public eyes for the first time. There has been months of wide speculation and rumors, but nobody in the room has any idea that in just a few years’ time, the little device in Jobs’ hand will enable a wave of mobile applications that revolutionize the way consumers access and interact with content, and more importantly, from where they can do it.

Today, getting into the small squares of real estate on the home screen of a smartphone has become a primary objective of businesses and advertisers, creating a boom in terms of innovation and investment. Mobile applications (apps) allow users to access utilities, services, visual content, and entertainment, all from handheld, portable devices that aren’t limited by tether to a home or business internet connection.

The mobile app marketplace has become a crowded bazaar of competing vendors, all vying for one of the dozen or so square centimeters of space that a smartphone owner sees 200 times per day. A study commissioned by mobile app store operator GetJar reveals that the market will reach $17.5 billion by 2012, with up to 50 billion unique application downloads.

Realistically, the allure of the mobile app isn’t about the actual product or the service, – anyone can turn on their television or log onto the internet and experience the same content – but instead the ability to be accessible to the user from anywhere, anytime.  Naturally, with improved accessibility come increased visibility and credibility, two things that every business desires. Mobile apps have become a powerful tool for keeping in step with the increasingly tech-savvy consumer.

The way we consume content has changed yet again, and as businesses feel the pressure to keep up with consumer behavior in order to stay relevant, we are experiencing the birth of an exciting new economy. As the app market floods with thousands of options for which icons may occupy those tiny squares, staying connected to consumers has never been easier, but neither has it ever been more competitive.

The Rise of Outsourcing in China?

Suzhou, the second city on our tour, is considered one of the best tourist cities in China.  Aside from cultural and historical relevance, Suzhou’s economic development recorded the highest rate of growth since 2003.  We visited the Suzhou Industrial Park which is an important cooperative between the Chinese and Singaporean governments which is responsible for generating 15% of the city’s GDP.  Although manufacturing is still a prominent industry, so is the rise of services more so outsourced services.

The Suzhou Industrial Park Institute of Services and Outsourcing is the 1st of it’s kind in China. The campus resembles that of the research triangle and yet the talent base reminds me of SCAD.  The institute positions it’s talent in the areas of Digital Media, Animation Design and Production, Information Technology Development, Finance, and Business.  Seemingly they will become a leader in outsourcing talent in these areas.

It’s clear Suzhou is growing and innovating. Despite the massive buildings, manicured lawns, and sprawling technology parks, I sense that it’s a work in progress.  Will Suzhou become the leader in outsourced services or will it become a pre-fecture city that fades over the next 10 years? Only time will tell.

The Tsunami Effect on Technology

While it may seem a distant tragedy, the global nature of contemporary business means that the earthquake off the coast of Japan and its attendant destruction very much impact us as consumers of technology that is manufactured in Japan. Believe it or not, that list is considerable. Endgaget’s intriguing post “Japanese quake will likely affect the global supply of gadgets” explores this topic. Reuters and The Wall Street Journal weigh in similarly.

It’s not merely the manufacture of components that is to be interrupted, but the supply of electricity to major markets in the country will be rationed; dramatic reduction in electricity production is a result of the explosions and attendant nuclear contamination of the Fukushima power plant. Gizmodo provides a synopsis of developments on this topic.

Consider how Libya, which ships just 3% of its oil to the United States, stands at the center of a crisis that we consumers can witness at the pump. Prices seem to increase daily.

And how about the crisis of faith with the safety of nuclear power? While the United States relies on nuclear for about a fifth of its own power production, countries like France and South Korea are more highly invested than even Japan. The manufacture and distribution of much more than technology is at risk.

We can minimize the inconvenience of a more expensive or even unavailable iPad 2, but the tumult of recent events – from freedom fighting to natural disasters – brings these issues to life.

While our access to technology may be highly interwoven with global issues, technology may also help connect uswith solutions. Telecom companies are offering free calls and texts to Japan from the United States. Even online gamers are joining in the effort.

Today, our thoughts and concerns are focused on Japan and the people suffering as a result of natural devastation. As was shown effective with Haiti, consider using your everyday technology to make a donation to organizations aiding in the recovery effort. Just be careful when you do so.

Four Good UX Reasons for HTML5

HTML5 is the next major revision of the HTML spec. The following four elements / attributes can be considered the most important additions to HTML5.
Canvas Element
Graphics, visuals, or animations can be rendered in real time without relying on plug-ins. Rich interactive sites or games can now be created without Flash. This opens up the possibility of having really complex experiences and interactions in a light footprint.
Video Element
Users will no longer need to install Flash, QuickTime or another plug-in to view videos, which means all platforms are supported. In addition the video can be transformed using Javascript. Imagine being able to project a video on any surface or play a video within any shape.
Geolocation
Geolocation can determine the user’s physical location and share with trusted web sites. Users will need to opt-in before this information can be shared. It is more accurate than current methods. We can now display relevant local information (weather, restaurants, businesses, etc…) to the user. Or even track a user’s progress on a cross country drive.
Local Storage
Storage enables web pages to store data within the client’s browser. What does this mean? For example if the user is in the process of searching for a product, filling out a really long form, or in the middle of a TV show on Hulu and closes the browser window by accident, the user would lose their progress. But with HTML5 Storage, progress can be saved locally, and we can offer the user the ability to go back to where they were.When can we start using HTML5?
See which browsers support them now:  http://html5readiness.com

Using Twitter to Market Your Wares

Twitter, despite it’s popularity, can be overwhelming to small business owners unfamiliar with the benefits of social media.

Small businesses by nature focus on word-of-mouth marketing to attract new clients as 50% of new customers for small business come through referrals.  The breadth of the network is usually based on geographic location.  No matter how technology advances, businesses will continue to get referrals through their loyal customers.

Now, imagine being able to reach a vast network of potential customers to sell your products to in 140 characters or less, at no cost other than the time spent to write and post the content.  It’s still word-of-mouth only with a larger network.  If you are a business located in a small town, what better way to drive people to your online store or even visit your store as they are passing through.

We would like to hear from our small business readers…Let us know how you are using Twitter.

Besting Twitter

Well, Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare (a mobile check-in service), is on the venture circuit traveling to the Silicon Valley and Boston. Foursquare is poised to reach more than 1 milllion users faster than Twitter. With the recent news of tool designed to provide real-time data to businesses, Mark Zuckerberg beware.

What does this mean? It could potentially mean a valuation of $80-$100 million.

http://www.businessinsider.com/foursquare-dennis-crowley-2010-04

Foursquare Helping Businesses?

Fourquare, a location-based social network, provides new tools for businesses to better track customers.   So far 30 businesses are testing the real-time data and will quickly be rolled out to 900 businesses.  The data will provide businesses with an opportunity to customize customer promotions.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/foursquare-introduces-new-tools-for-businesses/?ref=smallbusiness

Foursquare users have the option to keep their information private.  Will you opt-in or opt-out?

Great Development Shop

Congratulations to Jason Tye and his team at Doublejump Interactive for the launch of their new site. www.doublejumpinteractive.com