App developers targeting the U.S. market have high hopes for mobile gaming, which is gaining substantial traction in some overseas regions. But plenty of legislative and logistical challenges remain before on-the-go wagering is really available for U.S. consumers.
For iOS, anyway. So much for its HTML5 strategy? Not quite. Some elements – news feed features that will change the most frequently, for instance – still depend on HTML5. But Facebook has finally caved, and admitted that, for speed and user experience, it needed make a real app, re-architected and written in Objective-C. Ah well, Facebook didn’t have a mobile games/payments platform strategy in place yet anyway. (One excuse for non-native apps is to end-run Apple’s App Store rules and fees.) The new version is getting good early reviews. Meanwhile, Facebook says it gets more traffic to its mobile web site than from apps, but that’ll likely change instantly. Perhaps not instantly – its Android app, also updated today, is still old school.
Some pundits never met a provocative quote they didn’t like. Forrester CEO George Colony thinks Facebook is toast because it hasn’t figured out mobile or apps yet. (Yet he loves Google, which is also struggling a bit with the thought of dramatic usage shifts to lower-ad-converting mobile platforms.) So far, mobile usage appears to be incremental to web usage, but if it starts to be a replacement, that does have some serious implications for companies whose cash cows include traditional online display ads. I suspect both Facebook and Google will have to do more than fine-tune their ad platforms to exploit mobile, but I also don’t see web usage going away anytime soon. Facebook has its share of challenges, but it’s well-positioned to ride cheap online ads, could easily beef up that business with flashier formats, and always hints at building an ad network. As for Colony, well, before he said Apple was in good shape this week, he said in April it was headed for a Sony-style decline. And apparently he’s not too bullish on cloud computing either.
At its Worldwide Developer Conference yesterday, Apple announced it would integrate Facebook features into the next versions of its mobile and desktop operating systems. Users will be able to Like apps, post photos more easily, activate Facebook with Siri, and send updates and Notifications more easily. Apple will enable Facebook single sign-on across Facebook apps; it’s not clear to me how far that extends, but Om is bugged by potential privacy issues. Apple promised a Facebook integration API, with no detail. When Apple announced a similar Twitter integration, I thought it offered an opportunity shift social media platform market positions. It hasn’t really, though Apple says Twitter usage has gone up. I was so positive on that potential because both companies needed each other. But Facebook doesn’t really need Apple. The most I can see is that this initiative might be the start of eased relationships that pay off long-term in a bigger way with APIs, Credits, and payments future offerings.
Yesterday, Facebook released apps for the iPad and iPhone that blend HTML5 with native app functions. This is a step towards the HTML5-driven approach I predicted, although Facebook is compromising a bit more on delivering a unified experience across platforms than I expected. It uses a clever new bookmarking technique for viral app promotion within and outside of Apple’s App Store, and it does not try to overlay Facebook Credits onto the Apple payment system. Observers say Facebook’s approach is Apple-friendly, or a complete capitulation. It’s more the former, and we’ll see Facebook use HTML5 more and more to deliver work-arounds to Apple’s ecosystem rules. Facebook’s iPhone app adopts the bookmarking convention, but misses a chance to apply Facebook’s new group-based feed-filtering techniques. That’s a mistake I expect Facebook will fix soon.
Did you think Facebook was conspicuously absent from last week’s iPhone event? Prior to the introduction of the iPhone 4S and Siri voice-powered concierge, rumors had swirled. What actually happened? Nothing. Here’s how Facebook’s mobile strategy might really play out.
Facebook skipped the big Apple mobile event today. Robert Scoble thought Facebook and Apple would do an integration deal along the lines of how Apple is integrating Twitter, but, as I predicted yesterday, no such thing happened. Others (that would include me) thought we’d finally see a Facebook iPad app. Nothing on that front yet, either. And certainly no splashy HTML5-driven end-run around Apple’s app store. That kind of “Project Spartan” would let Facebook charge paid apps or virtual goods via Credits without cutting in Apple. An Apple-Facebook hookup would help guarantee Apple social relevance and help Facebook lock in users, but even though some of their ambitions could be mutually supportive, they don’t seem to be getting any friendlier.
Will Facebook be at Apple’s big iPhone announcement tomorrow? Robert Scoble thinks so. And Scoble thinks Facebook and Apple are doing an integration deal along the lines of how Apple is integrating Twitter, but more so. He doesn’t have any scoop, just a logical argument. While an Apple-Facebook hookup would help guarantee Apple social relevance and help Facebook lock in users, the two haven’t been friendly for some time. Their ambitions could be mutually supportive, but tricky things like app stores and who gets a commission on transactions might be hard to work out. I expect to see a Facebook iPad app, but would be surprised to see deep integration. We’ll see soon enough.
LinkedIn released new versions of its mobile apps for iPhones and Android, along with a slightly de-featured version in HTML5 for other smartphones. The apps are slick looking and simplified, and added Groups access. LinkedIn says its mobile use has been growing rapidly and the new apps seem to be aimed, like its news feed, at increasing regular usage by existing members, rather than gaining new subscribers or really establishing itself in identity management. The company said it designed around user/usage types: networkers, someone headed to a meeting and general information/update addicts. Those seem like smart use cases, even if the new features don’t address some of things Colin Gibbs thought LinkedIn needed to do to in mobile. He’d like to see Skype integration, distribution deals, and an app store, not to mention mobile advertising. One step at a time.
Last week, market researcher comScore released its U.S. Digital Year in Review report that’s chock full of useful data. It’s definitely worth downloading. Ryan Kim wrote up a good, quick summary. NewNet industry implications arising from the numbers include Facebook’s ad value problems, communications platform evolution, and potential social commerce growth barriers.