Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

I should have got this posted earlier but life got in the way. Things that made my day this week

I had an amazing opportunity to see the V&A exhibition The Future Starts Here as a preview

faces

The local Unilever business in Hong Kong did their own version of a Dove advertising campaign. What’s interesting is how it differs in tonality from the usual Dove work.

‘Appreciate don’t adjudicate’ is very local as Campaign Asia put it:

The campaign is “by locals, for locals” and because Cantonese is famously colloquial and fond of wordplay, the use of Cantonese lingo is expected to resonate with the audience.

Over 100 sony aibo robot dogs get their own funeral in japan – so much here on human robot interactions and a meditation on the metaphysics of quality. This contrasts with the horror that greeted demos of Google Duplex.

I am a big fan of Eno’s Oblique Strategies so this was right up my street: The Quietus | News | WATCH: Brian Eno Installations Talk

Interview with JJ Connolly, the Author of Layer Cake and Viva La Madness – YouTube – great interview with JJ Connolly of The Layer Cake. I particularly like his description of his creative process

 

App constellations 2018 research

I initially looked at app constellations back in 2014, when Fred Wilson put a name to the the phenomena. And every two years or so I have gone back and looked at a number of major internet companies to see how many different types of apps that they had in play.

I originally selected the companies back in 2014 because I felt that they represented the largest and best of their ilk. It skews Asian because the west can be viewed as one eco-system represented by Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

China is an enclosed eco-system; though Microsoft is actively engaged in the app eco-system there. I chose Tencent and NetEase as being my Chinese bellwethers. DaumKakao and Naver were representative of the Korean eco-system which blends highly-used domestic services with western platforms. Finally LINE of Japan (a subsidiary of Korean company Naver) provided a similar bellwether of the hybrid Japanese eco-system which mirrors Korea.

App constellations survey methodology

For the sake of convenience I have compared the contents of Apple’s mobile app store for each of the companies. While most of the internet companies have some Android-only or iOS-only apps; the iOS app store is still a good indicator of their app activity.

I stayed true to the definition of app constellations in terms of deciding what kind of app should go in.

App constellation definition

I manually assessed each app, rather than relying on the category that the app had been submitted into. Tencent and Netease, had a number of mobile utilities that aided discussion and kept players updated on their favourite game. These didn’t fit within the definition.

Changes in the environment

Since 2016, a couple of things have changed:

  • Apple had a purge of apps that didn’t support 64 bit processing
  • They moved away from supporting the app store within iTunes application and on the web; to within the app store on the device

2018 marks over a decade of mobile apps in the Apple store. Many of the major players have delisted almost as many Android and iOS apps as they currently have in the store. This happens for a number of reasons:

  • The app was serving a purpose for a fixed time
  • It is an application that has fallen so far out of favour that it is no longer worth maintaining
  • The code base no longer meets Apple’s or Google’s minimum standards
Data analysis

I started off by looking at the number of apps. In terms of app constellations:  Tencent, Microsoft and Google were clear winners.

Number of apps

Both Microsoft and Google’s growth has been driven by ‘experimental’ apps that they have put out in the public for their own reasons and enterprise focused apps.

compound annual growth in app number

But it was quickly apparent to me that the number of apps developed were only part of the story. What about the rate of change in numbers of apps developed? This would be indicative of the rate of change in moving to mobile. Here both Facebook and Microsoft’s pivot became immediately apparent. The Asian companies looked less impressive as they had been able to keep steady in their focus on mobile.

All of this growth in the number of apps developed by major internet companies is all the more remarkable when you consider the following:

  • In mature markets consumers are not really downloading new apps
  • They are sticking with a few in terms of regular usage. Many of the apps on their phones don’t get used
Notes on a few of the companies in terms of their app constellations
  • Daum Kakao – notable for being the only company who I looked at who had a decline in the number of applications versus 2016. A lot of this seems to be in service consolidation of both Daum and Kakao to remove duplications or non-core services. It is the Daum brand that has taken the biggest impact. This is understandable, since Daum struggled on the move to smartphones and Kakao is a mobile-first brand.
  • Dropbox – the growth in apps has been down to the larger business acquisition strategy at Dropbox. I don’t expect further growth like what we have seen with  Facebook’s pivot to mobile
  • Facebook – Facebook’s pivot to mobile was one of the reason why I decided to look at compound annual growth rate as well as the size of app constellation in terms of app numbers. In terms of raw app ‘SKUs’ Facebook is dwarfed by most of the other companies that I have looked at. It is only by looking at the growth in apps developed where one can really see their move to mobile
  • Netease – was interesting for its focus in a couple of areas. Like other Asian internet companies, education was a big target area, but Netease went into it with major commitment. Both NetEase and Tencent were big in magazine and book apps as well. I think this is down to the fact that ‘traditional’ web surfing is harder to do with (at the moment) when URLs are written in western script and numbers.
  • Tencent – the raw app numbers beggars belief. There are a number of reasons for this. Like NetEase, Tencent has a lot of apps solely optimised for the iPad and a separate iPhone app. There are free and paid-for product variants. Lastly Tencent will have four or five apps competing in a given category like streaming music which seems insane. Only time will tell if Tencent is spreading itself too thin; like when Yahoo! was described Brad Garlinghouse’s Peanut Butter Manifesto
More information

Jargon watch: app constellation – back in 2014 when I wrote this post, it still took me the best part of a week to research and describe each of the apps in the main eco-systems. It would take me much longer today due to the growth in apps

Peanut Buttergate – analysis of Garlinghouse’s original memo about Yahoo! from back in 2006

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Is Time Running Out for the Swiss Watch Industry? – WSJ – low-end part of the business threatened by digital disruption but not the higher end

Positive acceptance: a reinterpretation of Japanese ‘millennials’ | Analysis | Campaign Asia – 78% are disinclined to save money, meaning big-ticket items like houses, cars or even holidays are low on the agenda. While young people have rarely ever been enthusiastic savers, Harris suggested this could be an unconscious effort to resist “inevitable life changes that they don’t necessarily want”—i.e. responsibilities that make them less flexible.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Siri vs Siri: What Apple’s AI can and can’t do on every Apple device | Macworld – it implies context based on device, but they need to raise the game in particular on the Mac

How Russia’s ‘red tourism’ is luring wealthy Chinese visitors bored with Paris and Milan | South China Morning Post – Russian department stores TSUM and GUM become important for foreign Chinese luxury sales

May braced for Unilever decision on headquarters | FT  – Unilever: ‘stichting’ up a move to the Netherlands, which would make sense. 100VE is a leased building, its overcrowded and a number of the people there were contractors like me. The team that I worked in had already upped sticks to the Netherlands with the roles moving but not many of the people were redeployed, let go or didn’t have their contracts renewed

Millennial insecurity is reshaping the UK economy – interesting impact – not moving out of region to take a job like I did when I had a degree affecting productivity and entrepreneurship. One could see how Brexit will exasperate things further. It doesn’t imply that there will be a corresponding youthquake to overturn it at a later date

The Case Against Google – The New York Times – the problem with Found’em and the way the story was started is that it came off a bit cray cray a decade ago when it first popped up. They weren’t cut from the same cloth as Silicon Valley wunderkinder. That and they looked like Microsoft finger puppets. You had the SCO vs. Novell court case over the future of Linux at the time and there was evidence of Microsoft’s finger prints all over it (via Wikipedia): “On March 4, 2004, a leaked SCO internal e-mail detailed how Microsoft had raised up to $106 million via the BayStar referral and other means. Blake Stowell of SCO confirmed the memo was real. BayStar claimed the deal was suggested by Microsoft, but that no money for it came directly from them. In addition to the Baystar involvement, Microsoft paid SCO $6M (USD) in May 2003 for a license to “Unix and Unix-related patents”, despite the lack of Unix-related patents owned by SCO. This deal was widely seen in the press as a boost to SCO’s finances which would help SCO with its lawsuit against IBM” – And at the time if it had the taint of Microsoft involvement that overwrote any Google wrong. People seem to have forgotten the Judge Jackson trial and what an evil sack of shite Microsoft was shown to be. It would have been really hard sell to the media

NASA Is Bringing Back Cold War-Era Atomic Rockets to Get to Mars – Bloomberg

Amazon is merging Prime Now and AmazonFresh – Business Insider – it should add clarity from a brand point of view as well. Now they just need to get the Prime Now app to work properly

Apple in Talks to Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners – Bloomberg – sounds like a smart use of their capital pile given the rising cost of cobalt due to electric vehicle batteries

Dr. Penelope Boston: “Seeking the Tricorder: The Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life” | Talks at Google – YouTube – interesting challenges in terms of identification, methodology and analysis

APAC Millennials Lead for Sharing Branded Social Content – GlobalWebIndex Blog

George Soros may invest more in fighting Big Tech – Axios – the noose is slowly tightening around big technology

You can call me Al (but you really shouldn’t) – The overclaims of Artificial Intelligence « Comms Planning « Planning Above and Beyond – many technologies take a number of runs to get it right; machine language translation or VoIP being the classic case study. AI takes much more to get it right; this is a timely reminder that we are in an ‘AI summer’ at the moment and may hit an AI winter

“Just an Ass-Backward Tech Company”: How Twitter Lost the Internet War | Vanity Fair – to be fair this is probably a similar situation with Facebook as well

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week

I am currently working my way through Scott Galloway’s The Four which outlines how big technology impacts our lives and what can be done about it

Chinese spoof on Jurassic Park

Anime featuring anthropomorphized blood cells confirmed, actually looks cooler than it sounds | SoraNews24 – this seems mad as a bag of cats

Japanese band Godiego are most famous in the UK for the music to 1970s show Monkey. This rendition of Monkey Magic show that they have the funk

Amazing mix of Japanese funk breaks, spot the film soundtrack bits