Our latest Alternative Report was prompted by a question “How many people would queue for the iPad launch in London?” The answer, as the doors opened, was 451.
As you’ll see below, we also got some 63336 researchers to churn some stats on what people were buying, what clothes they owned, and how they measured up to Steve Jobs. Of course, whilst we were there, we took the opportunity to hand out books, t-shirts and bananas to the people waiting patiently for their latest slice of Apple technology. This resulted in Jake Lee, the first to go through the doors, being photographed for the UK’s newpapers wearing our 63336 t-shirt.
Q. How many people in the queue don’t own a Mac?
A. 25% in the queue just used PCs. 38% owned a Mac and 37% owned both. Everyone owned a computer of some sort. Jake Lee, first in the queue, owns a Dell Vostro 1510 laptop, Mac G4 and eMac.
Q. What is the average age of the iPad customer?
A. 36% were aged 26–39. 18–25s were the next-largest group with 26%. 11% were older than Steve Jobs at 56 or over.
Q. How many people had actually seen or tried out an iPad before buying it?
A. Only 44% in the queue had ever tried an iPad before. The majority – 56% – were buying the product based on reviews, international success and a blind faith in Apple products.
Q. Why did people queue at the Apple Store on Regent St?
A. Most queued for the atmosphere and ‘to be there’ (44%), whilst only 2% admitted to being die-hard Mac fans. Interestingly, 25% wrongly assumed the iPad would only be available from the Apple Store – it is available nationwide in Currys and Dixons today too.
Q. How many women were in the queue?
A. Only 8% of the queue for the iPad were women. Of the 92% of men in the queue, 16% had beards. 5% of everybody in the queue admitted to owning a pair of ‘John Lennon’ circular glasses, made doubly famous by Jobs.
Q. But what is the point of an iPad, according to the first UK queue?
A. 57% said they’d use if for browsing the net as their No.1 purpose. 27% said for them, it was for Apps – with 12% being for games alone. 9% will use it mostly for listening to music and just 4% for reading books. Watching films and TV came in at 3%.
Network operators don’t really want you to run apps.
Apple has created a market for mobile apps that is the envy of the major players in the mobile marketplace. The result is that apps and app stores have become something of a modern day gold rush. Anyone looking at this frantic activity could be forgiven for imagining that mobile apps were a brand new phenomenon. Yet this is not the case - Java ME apps have been around since April 2001, when Motorola launched the i80s and i50sx models.
Java ME (Micro Edition)
Java technology is in not one but several things: a programming language, an execution environment (the Java Virtual Machine or VM) and many, many code libraries including GUI interfaces. Java ME is the combination of the CLDC (Connected Limited Device Configuration) Java VM plus the MIDP mobile device GUI and a number of APIs (application programming interfaces). Together these allow programs written in the Java programming language to run Java ME applications, called Midlets, on a very wide range of mobile phones. The history of Java ME’s evolution is as below:
MIDP 1.0 specification was completed on 1st September 2000.
MIDP 2.0 specification was completed on 27th September 2002.
MIDP 2.1 specification was completed on 26th May 2006.
So the technology has been around for quite some time. It is pretty difficult to get reliable numbers on how many mobile phones in the UK are running MIDP 2.x but it would be surprising if it were not in excess of 50 million phones. In the world market, the figure is in billions.
What went wrong ?
With the mature Java technology, and a substantial market, why did nothing happen until Apple arrived on the scene? Part of the answer lies in the way Java ME apps were marketed – or rather, not marketed, as covered in “Only one App Store can compete with Apple”. More interestingly, though, was the fact that the network operators did not really want to have apps run on their phones.
Network operators considered that apps would pose risks in three major areas:
1. Security – apps could prevent the phone working properly, or access sensitive user data. Worse still, being able to communicate easily meant that virus programs could spread quickly, potentially leading to phones, or even networks, being compromised.
2. Commercial – apps could use the communications facilities of the phone without authorisation, leading to unauthorised costs for users.
3. Support – apps would lead to a flood of support calls that would have to be dealt with by the network operators’ already-costly customer support organisations.
While the security and commercial concerns were and still are very valid, the network operators were overly concerned over the support issues. So much so that they put the cart before the horse and ended up seriously crippling the Java ME platform. There are several dimensions to this crippling of Java ME:
1. From the phone the customer has no idea how to download an application. There is no app store on phones to solve this problem, nor a single market for all Java ME applications across all networks.
2. If a download link is sent via SMS to the phone, there is often no obvious way for the user to know how to open the link and download the program. Often phones don’t have the internet enabled by default, so it could not be downloaded in any case.
3. If the user does manage to download the app, it is then hidden deep in the phone’s menu structure - i.e. it seems just to disappear.
4. If the user does manage to download and run the program, the very first thing the user is confronted with is a series of questions asking for permission for the program to access the internet, with options like “Allow once” and “Allow for this session”. And this happens every time the program is run. Permission needs only really to be asked once.
5. Application signing – this made matters worse, since every operator, handset manufacturer and software platform had their own master certificates, so that the chance of actually running a signed program on a wide range of phones was virtually nil, leaving developers no choice except to ship their applications unsigned which gives the charming message to the user “You are about to install an unsecure application. Continue?” Not likely.
All of which creates a tremendous barrier to adoption of the Java ME technology. These are all small issues that could have been easily resolved. That they have not been resolved in the three and half years since MIDP 2.1 was released is a terrible wasted opportunity.
Where is MIDP 3.0, the next Java ME release?
The MIDP 3.0 specification was started on 25th March 2005, four and half years ago, and is only due to be completed today – 30th November 2009. What has taken so long for the MIDP 3.0 specification to be completed? Clearly, making Java ME applications work properly on mobile phones has not been a priority for the industry. And it remains to be seen whether it will actually fix the problems
Is it now too late for Java ME? I hope not, because Java technology has a very important part to play in the mobile industry. Java technology is more than just a language; while the Java language is effective, it is not the star of the show. The real star is the Java VM and the code libraries.
The Java VM is a technology that allows software programs to run on a huge number of hardware/operating system combinations by providing a Virtual Machine environment. It is a “virtual” machine because it does not exist but is synthesised by the software using resources available to it through the various hardware/operating system combinations that it executes on. The same Java VM is powering the majority of the server applications on the internet. This is important because the Java VM provides a heterogeneous environment across servers and clients for software and data. As the internet grows and mobiles phones get more powerful, software becomes more and more interconnected, and so the advantage provided by the Java VM grows.
There are new and exciting languages such as Scala and Closure that offer the promise of easing the burden of software development in massively distributed and concurrent environments such as the mobile phone marketplace that will lead to new and interesting applications. But none of this will happen if a fragmented and dysfunctional marketplace is allowed to continue to exist in its current state.
Many of the issues holding back Java ME are easy to fix but it depends on the will of the mobile industry leaders to work together to solve these problems. This has happened in the past to the great benefit of everyone involved in the mobile phone marketplace. Chief amongst these are the roaming agreements hammered out in the early days of GSM to allow handsets to roam from one network to another.
Mobile apps can be the next gold rush, but only if the industry leaders, working together, deal with the few remaining problems of the Java ME platform. If they do so then they will create a mobile marketplace that is as significant as the internet itself.
Here it is, the first TV advert from 63336, which was first shown on British TV this morning at 6.15am. This was created through 2 hectic months of work, which we reckon is some kind of record (you can read more about the process of coming up with the advert here). Do let us know what you think about the ad.
Other videos from 63336 can be found here. But of course, what you should really do now is ask us a question. Apart from texting it as normal to 63336, you can also ask your first for free here. Alternatively, why not text APP to 63336? You’ll get the 63336 application and we won’t charge you for the first 3 answers, plus you can also view your question history and get updated items about what other people are asking.
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene ii)
There’s swathes of literature, and significant sections of the marketing industry, devoted to coming up with brand names, registering them, communicating them, and protecting them.
Why does it matter? Essentially it is the first point of contact for your customers. Interbrand and the like would advise you to consider carefully your name, to look at the qualities and meanings it conveys to your customers, employees, partners, media and even competitors.
Get it right, so the theory goes, and you have a valuable asset. Get it wrong, and it could harm your business. This is a story of how we came up with our name, and how it has changed over time.
How we named our service
When we launched the world’s first premium text question and answer service, we considered a number of approaches.
We looked at mnemonics related to our number, but ODEDO didn’t really appeal to us. Furthermore our experience showed us that whilst companies like 1800FLOWERS were effective in the US, almost no one in the UK would know that it meant you should call 18003569377.
Secondly, we didn’t initially want to name the service just 63336. It was our belief that unless you’re a notable savant, most people have difficulty remembering any number. Try it for yourself – how many of your friends’ phone numbers can you remember?
Eventually, we took the ‘ronseal’ approach – a brand famous for putting out adverts based on the tagline “does exactly what it said on the tin”. Thus, we named the service AQA – short for ‘Any Question Answered’.
Developing our name
Over time some problems with AQA become more obvious.
In the process of registering the trademark we had to negotiate with the well-known examination board. Despite us and the board being happy to coexist, our customers get confused – we still get called up by parents arguing about their beloved son/daughters poor marks. Many students continue to text us questions amazed that their examination board would recommend continuing to party through the night.
More significantly, whilst the service name accurately described what we did, it doesn’t include a ‘call to action’ – that is, how do you use it? The answer, of course, is ‘to text 63336′. This is something that we thought we could control in advertising, but it became apparent over time that it wasn’t something we could always control in either conversations people were having about us, or press articles written about us.
As an example, in one of the first significant press coverage of AQA the then editor of the Sunday Times refused point blank to include the service number. It was very frustrating to us on the day of publication – how would people know what number to use to text us? Our frustration was relieved somewhat the day after when the Mirror, Daily Express, Metro, Radio 1, LBC and umpteen other newspapers, radio stations and blogs all published 63336, causing a ten fold increase in question volume.
Although we’ve managed most of the time to get press to put the all important number in, we’ve always recognised that it is what customers do that matters. Interestingly, despite putting AQA: at the beginning of every single answer, and we’ve now sent out over 20 million of these, the public have their own names for us: the Oracle, the Answer Man, Ask any question, or even just God! Many don’t have any name for us, we’re just ‘that text a question service’.
But really we don’t care that much what people call us, what matters is whether they could remember the number to text us a question. Looking at our data, and commissioned research, it became clear. The number one reason for those people not using our service after trying it out was they couldn’t remember the number.
In 2006 we tried to address this problem by calling the service AQA 63336 (or AQA 57275 in Ireland). We wanted to retain the name so that people knew what it did, but include the ‘call to action’. It has been pretty effective in the media, who have been for us one of the most important channels to communicate with our customers. But each time a story is written we have to fight tooth and nail to get them to write AQA 63336 and not just AQA.
The plot thickens
Two good examples of this are earlier this year, the BBC commissioned a TV show based on a comedy show that we developed with some leading comedians for sell out tours in Edinburgh. At the time of commissioning, the BBC argued that whilst it could credit us, it should really include our company name (IssueBits Ltd) rather than the service name. We eventually managed to get them to credit AQA, but again, many who watched the program thought it was the examination board working with the BBC.
And despite years of practice at working with the media, last month we launched the ‘ask a stupid question day’ and managed to get press coverage worth ‘over £40,000 of equivalent advertising spend’ in British newspapers, but all just referencing merely AQA. One paper seemed to get further confused in the association with the exam board. How many texts did this coverage drive to our business? Maybe 20-30.
Enough, is enough
Finally, you might argue, we’ve come to our senses and the new name will just be 63336.
Answers will now have 63336: in them, it will be ‘63336 thinks’ when you need an opinion, and of course ‘63336 apologises’ for all those customers that proposition us. It is our belief that this will make it easier to remember the number, and all other things being equal people will continue to use us if not more.
But nothing much has really changed. The most important thing for anyone to know is the number on which you text to get an answer. Remembering one thing is easier than two things. In retrospect, this should have been our Ronseal approach. The service should be called 63336 because that’s the number you text to get an answer.
Even if we’re not all savants and this name, by being a five digit number, is difficult to remember, it’s still the only thing that you need to remember. Everything should be focused on that.
And just to eliminate any possible further confusion about who we are, or what we do, from today, our company name has changed. The 63336 text service you use to answer all of your questions is now provided by 63336 Limited.
And finally, somewhat loosely related to our name change, if you can name the character in this picture as well as the well loved TV series it is from, then we’ll give you a free copy of our latest book More Brilliant Answers. Email your answers (with your postal address) with ‘competition’ in the subject reference to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name the series and the character to win a book
1. With ‘only’ 250,000 words in the English language, almost every word that’s usable as a brand name has been trademarked. Worldwide, there’s over 13 million active trademarks registered.
2. Often misquoted is a story about a General Motors fiasco of mistakenly naming a car ‘Nova’ for the Spanish market, when ‘no va’ means ‘doesn’t go’. However, I would urge you to seek the truth at snopes, the doyenne of myth busting sites.
3. An interesting development, five years after launching the service, is that increasingly less phones have characters next to the digits making this argument for not substituting numbers for letters more compelling.
4. Despite not including our number, the Sunday Times on July 18th, 2004, generated around 150 questions from customers and we recorded a ‘record’ of most questions answered in one day of 460. This was a very short lived record as the very next day, thanks to subsequent media coverage including the all important 63336 number, we had to answer 4,266.
5. One way in which PR companies try to convince you of their worth is that they charge you £X per month retainer to get coverage which, had you placed an advert in the same space, would have cost you £X*5, making it the best ‘bargain’ you’ve ever had. Of course the fact that you would have never even considered spending £X*5 in the first place doesn’t come into it.
6. We get 2 marriage propositions a week. We also get a regular number of other slightly more risqué propositions, some of which will now get the answer “63336 apologises but as we are a mixture of human researchers and machines we simply could not do that. Besides, 63336 is washing its hair and has a headache.”
The App Store launched on 10 July 2008, followed by the iPhone 3G the next day. With 800 apps available for download, by 14 July – just 3 days later, over 10 million apps had been downloaded. A phenomenal take-up by any measure.
This success has continued, with 35,000 apps and 1 billion downloads by 23 April 2009. Latest figures (from 27 October 2009) are 100,000 apps and over 2 billion downloads. An AdMob study of 1,000 mobile phone users suggests that iPhone users download 10 apps per month and that iTouch users download 18 apps per month. Such figures are simply stunning and suggest that a completely new market is in the making.
While many of these apps are free, they are often commercial in purpose. For example, at 63336 we have been developing a Java ME app for the 63336 service, which we are launching today. An iPhone app is on the way and should be available by early December. The app allows a customer to ask a question of 63336, to see their question history, to see our daily top 5 questions & answers and to see what we call the 63336 Buzz. 63336 Buzz is made up of short articles highlighting the questions customers of the 63336 service are asking each day. It lets you see what’s on the mind of the nation.
New App Stores proliferate
Unsurprisingly, the result of Apple’s success has been a flurry of App Stores launched by the rest of the mobile phone industry. For example, network operators: Orange, O2 and Vodafone; software platform providers: Symbian with Symbian OS, Sun with Java ME, Google with Android and Microsoft with Windows Mobile; mobile phone manufacturers: Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, RIM, Palm and Nokia. And still more to come.
The problem with all of this is that none of these App Stores are really addressing the needs of the app developers. As commercial organisations, developers want to address the largest possible market for the least cost. The target demographic is customers of all the network operators using any mobile phone.
One increasing problem is the proliferation of software platforms: iPhone/iTouch with a special version of Mac OS X, Windows Mobile, Android, Symbian and Java ME, amongst others. However, Java ME has significant market penetration, probably well in excess of 50% of all UK mobile phones. With iPhone sales approaching 3 million in the UK, the market for Java ME apps is at least 10 times bigger. This represents a terrific market opportunity that exists right now.
It’s marketing, stupid
Currently, if a developer wants to market their Java ME application to the widest possible demographic, they would have to make it available on the O2, Orange and Vodafone App Stores at the very least. As Three and T-Mobile do not have App Stores, it would probably be necessary to do Nokia’s Ovi App Store and RIM’s App Store as well. So that would be five different submissions, and then, every time the App was updated, another five submissions. Very costly in time and effort, especially in maintaining a commercial relationship with five App Stores.
However, just making your application available on App Stores is not even a tenth of the battle. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, “it’s marketing, stupid”. That’s right, you now have to market the application. As the iPhone app developers are finding, it is not much fun when there are 100,000 applications listed. With so many apps available, there are typically 10 or 20 variants for every kind of app and the volume of apps is still growing steadily. You will need marketing to persuade customers to download and use your application.
Marketing is already terrifically expensive, without being made more so by the proliferation of App Stores. It is hard enough developing a single marketing campaign without having to target it to 5 different App Stores. Even if you run national marketing campaigns, it will still be expensive, because you are paying to reach a much broader audience than your target demographic.
A single App Store for Java ME apps
What developers require is a single App Store providing Java ME apps that will reach all the customers of all network operators using a mobile phone that can run Java ME. Developers would have a single marketplace from which to promote their applications, and a single commercial relationship. Customers would need only to go to one location to find and download applications. All of which would reduce friction in developing a substantial Java ME app market that could potentially dwarf the Apple App Store.
This situation is very similar to when SMS was first available. Initially, each network operator restricted SMS traffic to its own network, limiting the market for their customers to communicate with mobile phone users on other networks. Again network operators were focused on their own requirements and not on the requirements of the wider market. As soon as the agreements were made which allowed cross-network SMS traffic, SMS took off and has not stopped growing since.
The mobile industry has an excellent track record of working together to create and grow markets. GSM and SMS are good examples of that cooperation. There is a great opportunity for the mobile market to work together to produce a single App Store. In particular we are looking to Virgin, Three, TMobile, Orange, Vodafone and O2 to all get together and create a single App Store for Java ME applications.
There is more to this story on applications. Look out for further instalments, which will be on dealing with the complexities of multiple mobile phone form factors, and why the network operators didn’t really want their customers to run applications on their phones.