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Mobile Fix - June 12

So last week was all Google I/O and this week is all Apple WWDC. These developer focused events aren’t about new devices and are more focused on software. That said Apple had plenty of news.

Rather than go through the list, we’ll focus on what we think are the most significant things;

Music

Left until last at the event, Music was the big news – but largely expected and in many ways a little underwhelming. The product doesn’t seem that new or different - but the marketing power of Apple could make it a winner.

With lots of focus on curation and a big role for artists it is more human than Spotify and whilst an algorithm will still be there, starting with Zane Low and Drake etc is a smart move. But the announcement reinforced our belief that Tidal will be bought by Apple – and we wonder if it wasn’t actually designed to be bought by Apple. Exclusives are going to get more and more valuable – Samsung paid JayZ $5m for a one week exclusive window on his album and we suspect Beyonce was paid a similar amount for the surprise launch of her videos album. So whatever Apple have to pay for Tidal, it will be worth it to get exclusive content from those artists. Techcrunch have come round to our way of thinking.

Add in the fact Apple have 800m credit card accounts -many of which have bought music from Apple –and you can see how Apple should be able to convert many of their iTunes users to subscribers. Spotify certainly have a fight on their hands and raising $500m suggests a few people think they have a chance. Although the investors don’t look like this is smart money .

News

Despite all the promise when the iPad launched, people didn’t reinvent the magazine for the tablet age. Look at the Sports Illustrated tablet concept that some friends did back in 2009 then look at the digital edition of Sport Illustrated today. But Apple are looking at News again and their new product takes inspiration (?) from Flipboard and should be a good new opportunity for publishers. Not too much detail on the business model but we think publishers will welcome the renewed interest from Apple. Whilst many are embracing Facebooks’ Instant Articles, we sense some concern over Facebook becoming the gatekeeper for News. Having Apple fight with them as news providers could be a good thing for many publishers. Again with GAFA, your enemies enemy can be a friend.

Watch

Lots of things that weren’t ready for launch are now coming so we can judge the Watch properly in September - and by that time most of the apps will have been reimagined by developers who have actually used the Watch. One thing we find particularly interesting is that the Watch will be able to connect to known wifi networks, so for some tasks – Siri and supposedly sending texts and using Apple Pay – the Watch doesn’t need to be near your phone. This is the start of the evolution from a peripheral to a true wearable.

There is more developers can do now – and probably the most interesting is complications where the nuggets of info that can be displayed on the watch is down to the developer. So we’ll know instantly when Leeds score or the Uber is outside.

Search

These complications are another element of the atomization of content – along with Cards and Notifications. You will still download the app but you may never need to go to it – the information you need will come to you – either in a Glance on the watch or perhaps as the results of a search. An Apple search - not a Google one.

When you drag down your iPhone homescreen to search you use something called Spotlight search. The first thing it does is highlight a suggested website or App – either one you have installed or one in the app store. It then searches your mail and finally gives you some web search results - from Bing.

In iOS9 these results will expand to include results from within the apps you have installed – so when I search for a hotel the entry from Trivago will come up. This sort of deep linking is coming to the new version of Google Now on Tap   too.

Jason Calcanis has a bit more on this - he thinks Apple is slowly assembling a search engine of their own. We remain absolutely convinced that Apple want Google off their platform.

Ad Blocking

This topic keeps bubbling away – the Economist wrote a good piece on the issues and with our friends at Balderton we did a Podcast sharing our views. Now Apple have shaken the space up with the almost surreptitious iOS9 capability to block content. Well explained here, this is a major development and puts this subject at the top of the agenda for publishers and for brands.

Coming at the same time as their ad supported news service some see Apple as slightly calculating but we’re not convinced that Apple care that much about Ad revenues. Steve Jobs said mobile advertising sucks and we think the current regime thinks the same. Do they have the appetite to sort it out? Does there current push on privacy preclude them offering a strong ad product?

Is the possibility that this new feature could enable iPhone users to block ads in Google apps appealing to the Apple team?

Our overall thoughts on the WWDC? It’s clear Apple want to build anchors that create friction for anyone considering switching to an android device and they see music and news as big opportunities. Their focus is on controlling the user experience and they don’t much care who’s lunch they eat. Spotify, Flipboard and Citymapper all face huge new challenges as Apple appropriate their user experience. And Apples animosity towards Google seems to be strengthening; reducing the data flow from iPhones to Google seems to be a priority. And if they can reduce the ad revenue too…

For brands, the pincer movement of ad blocking on one hand and the choking of the data that fuels smart targeting on the other is a worry. Couple that with more and more content being funded by subscriptions and things start to look a little bleak.

Interesting times.

GAFA and the next 11

Our recent coverage of Snapchat has caused a few questions over whether it’s a threat to GAFA and at the Balderton event we were asked who we thought could join this group. This got us thinking about the various companies that aren’t as big or as powerful as GAFA – yet – but still have lots of influence. So stealing the Goldman Sachs invention of BRICs and the Next 11, we are looking at who the Next11 is in digital.

Obviously the three Chinese giants of BAT ( Baidu, Alibaba & Tencent) are in there and so is Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, Snapchat and Uber. eBay should be there too. Using market cap Salesforce and Priceline could be included, but they don’t really shape the market. So who else deserves inclusion? Softbank? Or maybe Ratuken? All suggestions welcome – use #DigitalNext11

(Just seen that Twitter CEO Dick Costello is out - what happens next is crucial for Twitter as it would be really easy to screw the product up to chase growth)

Snapchat

Talking of Snapchat new data shows it is now on the top 15 US apps reaching just over 20% of US Smartphone users aged over 18. If that data included a younger audience it would be much higher (One Mary Meeker chart shows their reach of 12 -24 year olds at 57% - vs Facebook at 74%)

This is a good FT piece on their ad sales and how agencies are reacting – with some focus on the vertical video formats they insist on. Mary Meeker data says vertical video viewing is now at 29% of time watching video – up from 5% in 2010.

Quick Reads

Fashion brand Alexander Wang is using QR codes on his new collection. Don’t know they are out of fashion now? Despite the marketing failures when used badly, QR codes still work well for many use cases.

With Cannes imminent Fix Friend Tom Goodwin points out that many of the winners are rather artificial – part of the trend we see of people doing things largely so they can make a video.

Twitter are tweaking their product to make it easier to follow conversations. Initially it’s just on desktop with mobile to follow.

Many expected some news on Apple TV at WWDC but there was nothing. New data shows that Amazon is winning this space in the US –and that cheap dongles are proving very popular.

As part of Apple Pay coming to the UK, TFL will accept Apple pay instead of an Oysert card or contactless card. But reading through the steps to set up your phone – or watch - to do this and what’s involved in the actual transaction I think we may see a few queues forming.

Finally …this new project from Google shows what’s coming next – Solis uses radar to ‘read’ hand movements and use them to control devices without touching. Watch the video to see what I mean.

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