NFC Update – Zenius/InsideSecure

I met with the Inside and Zenius folks last week, and am impressed with both teams. Their mutual objective is to make development of NFC applications “easier”. Both have developed a chipset independent framework (common API layer) which creates a layer of abstraction between an NFC application (ex wallet) and the underlying hardware.

7 March 2011 

Previous Blog: OpenNFC 

I met with the Inside and Zenius folks last week, and am impressed with both teams. Their mutual objective is to make development of NFC applications “easier”. Both have developed a chipset independent framework (common API layer) which creates a layer of abstraction between an NFC application (ex wallet) and the underlying hardware. Both have also developed example applications that leverage this API layer (wallet, ticketing, loyalty, … ). My summary thoughts on the 2 teams are I like them both. Inside has expertise from hardware through software delivery. Zenius’ expertise extends from POS to Handset across multiple hardware architectures.

Comparison

Zenius

  • NFC API framework
  • Chipset independent (proven)
  • Vendor independent
  • Handset Applications
  • POS Applications
  • MNO experience

Inside

  • NFC API Framework
  • Marketed as Chipset independent (no proven)
  • Handset NFC Applications (5 of them)
  • Discourages Multi SE environment
  • Discourages Application Development (Use on of its 5 Applications)

What I struggled with was Inside’s insistence that there should only be 5 NFC applications. In other words, its NFC middleware layer was only for its own internal use to ensure that its applications work across all (competitor) NFC chipsets. The implication is that there will only be 5 NFC applications… for eternity. For example, ISIS selected the C-SAM wallet that sits on top of a custom built NFC stack.  In the Inside model, ISIS would need to jettison both CSAM and its custom middleware.  (Yeah, I had the same reaction).

Zenius has a much more mature model, driven from their legacy working within Verifone and VivoTech. The Zenius guys had to make their applications work across multiple hardware solutions, and hence developed a framework that is now productized. They have also developed 5 standard application, that are “reference implementations” of their APIs, you can use them in a white label fashion, customize them.. or take them apart to see how they leveraged the API layer. This is a better approach hands down.

Inside’s approach seems a little unrealistic, and could be perceived as a “land grab”.  What do I like about Inside’s OpenNFC? The middleware and their end-end experience. In the end they are driven by chipset volume.. my guess is that they would be willing to give away OpenNFC if it would drive their chip sales. Problem is that giving it away may only commoditize their core product, hence they would be tempted to ensure that their product “works best” with OpenNFC. This is one reason that middleware vendors (MQ, Tibco, WebMethods, ..etc) developed separate from software companies.

Given that developing native NFC applications is difficult, the experience largely sits within companies like: Inside, NXP, Verifone, VivoTech, Device Fidelity, Tyfone.. .  People within these organizations all know each other.. after all it is a very small community. I asked them how many of their colleagues are at Apple. The answer across the board is that they don’t know of anyone.  This tells me that Apple is probably more than a few months away from launching an NFC wallet, or that they are dependent on a vendor (?Gemalto) for all development.

Since ISIS has already completed development of its own NFC wallet (not on iPhone), what are Apple’s plans?  I’m told that Apple wants a wallet tied to their 200M Apple accounts, this could be mere speculation, but it seems logical. I’m also told that Apple has their own NFC wallet. If Apple does indeed have an NFC application, it is something they have procured (licensed and modified) from Gemalto.  This is not a bad thing, particularly if Apple is more focused on hardware architecture, and plans for managing secure elements (SEs). The first wallet will undergo significant testing, through a new hardware and software stack. They must have something they control (not ISIS) and that is tested (Gemalto) to reduce complexity. Apple will likely need additional applications, but they must start somewhere.

All of this just spells further trouble for ISIS, who was hoping to focus more on POS issues now that they have a working wallet application. If RIM and Apple are successful in keeping control of the NFC wallet, ISIS can only hope to be another “card” in the wallet… one that speaks Discover ZIP initially. Quite a different value proposition than what they started with 6 months ago.  

For Apple, this allows them to strike a strategic relationship with a card issuer (like Chase) who will likely invest in both marketing and POS infrastructure. I’m sure that Apple’s plan is to also integrate iAd… although it can’t possibly make it for 2011 (my guess).

iPhone 5 – NFC “Twist” (OpenNFC)

Last week Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities spoke of Apple’s plans for NFC with a unique twist. So what is the “twist? My guess is that the TWIST relates to Apple’s plan to support multiple Secure Elements (ie, one embedded, another in UICC). This would allow Apple to “support” MNOs driven initiatives and also create a closed system (described in many patents below).

Update Mar 14

No NFC for iPhone 5. Too many architecture considerations.. (below). So while their patents clearly indicate it is in their plans.. they have not been able to coordinate all of the design into their iPhone 5 program (from hardware through software and apps).

See article from UK’s Independent

Update Mar 3

Multiple SEs are too complicated for Apple. Think they actually want to control everything and have one wallet with multiple cards. So much for ISIS having a TSM. Verizon/AT&T must be pushing back.. why subsidize the iPhone and let Apple control it? My guess is that JPM and Visa are also Apple launch partners (which further diminishes ISIS value prop). The downside of controlling everything.. is that YOUR TEAM becomes a throttle to success.

Feb 21 2011 (Updated)

Apple is a tremendous company, beyond its design and technical prowess the factor that most impresses me is its unique ability to maintain confidential information. How can such amazing innovation come out of a company that seems to operate as a mix between the CIA and the Hotel California (checkout any time you like… but you can never leave…)?

Last week Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities spoke of Apple’s plans for NFC with a unique twist. So what is the “twist? My guess is that the TWIST relates to Apple’s plan to support multiple Secure Elements (ie, one embedded,  another in UICC).  This would allow Apple to “support” MNOs driven initiatives and also create a closed system (described in many patents below).

For background on multi SEs see GSMA whitepaper

The GSMA NFC project recommends the UICC as the most appropriate secure element (SE) in mobile phones. It is foreseen that other secure elements (removable and non removable) may be implemented in mobile phones. As a consequence, applications may be hosted in secure elements other than the UICC. The selection of the secure element hosting the targeted application shall be solved. This case only applies in card emulation mode.

Most NFC pilots have launched with a single application in a simplified environment. The long term future of what NFC really looks like is very, very hazy. Many potential complexities arise, as best described in the Stolpan whitepaper (a EU consortium now largely defunct, an irony in its own right). Apple (or ANY MNO) certainly can’t build a business on this complexity. A multi SE architecture could also provide Apple with a mechanism to address anti-trust challenges on platform fees and openness/control (Washington Post – Apple’s Subscription Model Sparks Antitrust Concerns).  Apple would compete on quality of service and integration, but allow other applications to also “exist” in a separate environment with a different “trust”.

The champion of Multi SE architecture is Inside Contactless (OpenNFC).. a very very smart “Judo” move that leverages NXP’s substantial momentum (in integrated NFC/controller/radio) against itself. Inside’s perspective is that there is no reason for the ISO 14443 radio to ONLY be controlled via NFC (treat it like a camera). Inside’s OpenNFC provides for “easily adaptable hardware abstraction software layer, which accounts for a very small percentage of the total stack code, meaning that the Open NFC software stack can be easily leveraged for different NFC chip hardwalet multiple applications and services access it”. Handset manufactures love this model.. MNOs hate it. As I stated previously, closed systems must develop prior to open systems as investment can only be made where margins and services can be controlled. OpenNFC changes the investment dynamics for MNOs, and provides new incentives for Google/Apple/Microsoft, … to transition their closed systems into NFC platforms.

Along these lines (Apple AppStore into NFC Platform), I need to correct the assertion I made in my previous blog Apple and NFC.  In it I stated that NFC “control” for Apple was about advertising control (not payment revenue).  What if Apple evolves all of its current applications into a “trusted” (in NFC context) environment, with secure storage and access restrictions (GPS, Alerts, phone, camera, NFC element, payment, advertising, enforced customer anonymity, …)? Apple could also enable this new architecture to support new secure areas for the Mobile operator (or other TSM) to provision secure services, or even an “open area” where the customer can run anything they want.  In this multiple secure element example, Apple would seek to control (and monetize) access to device services and seek to INCENT all providers to run within the APPLE SECURE ENVIRONMENT.. but would provide an alternative (that it does not manage, support or control).

If this is indeed Apple’s plan I will have to update my prognostication on the death of mobile apps (in favor of HTML 5). Particularly for Apps that leverage any of the Apple services I list above. This scenario is consistent with Apple’s  Patent US10200082444 PORTABLE POINT OF PURCHASE USER INTERFACES

[0088] Close range communication may occur through the NFC interface 60. The near field communication (NFC) interface 60 may operate in conjunction with the NFC device 44 to allow for close range communication. The NFC interface 60 may exist as a separate component, may be integrated into another chipset, or may be integrated with the NFC device 44, for example, as part of a system on a chip (SoC). The NFC interface 60 may include one or more protocols, such as the Near Field Communication Interface and Protocols (NFCIP- 1) for communicating with another NFC enabled device. The protocols may be used to adapt the communication speed and to designate one of the connected devices as the initiator device that controls the near field communication. In certain embodiments, the NFC interface 60 may be used to receive information, such as the service set identifier (SSID), channel, and encryption key, used to connect through another communication interface 58, 64, 66, or 68.

[092] … The security features 74 may be particularly useful when transmitting payment information, such as credit card information or bank account information. The security features 74 also may include a secure storage area that may have restricted access. For example, a pin or other verification may need to be provided to access the secure storage area. In certain embodiments, some or all of the preferences 72 may be stored within the secure storage area. Further, security information, such as an authentication key, for communicating with a retail server may be stored within the secure storage area. In certain embodiments, the secure storage area may include a microcontroller embedded within the electronic device 10.

There are 4 market forces at work which may drive a multi-SE approach

  • Protect App Store/iTunes Model
  • Support MNO Models
  • Anti-Trust Concerns
  • Control Platform

Your feedback is welcome

– Tom

Other Information

Digital Goods: Where to Invest?

What is driving the explosive growth in digital goods? Social gaming. The nice thing about running a credit card network is that you can see who is making money. No doubt a factor in last week’s $190M Visa acquisition of Playspan.

 17 Feb 2011

Digital goods are everything that can be sold and shipped online (music, movies, articles, ring tones). John Doerr (legendary KPCB Partner) certainly turned heads in Nov 2010 when he said Zynga is “our best company ever”.  What is driving the explosive growth in digital goods? Social gaming. The nice thing about running a credit card network is that you can see who is making money. No doubt a factor in last week’s $190M Visa acquisition of Playspan.

A key benchmark in the category of “digital goods” is Apple. Within Apple’s annual 10k digital goods revenue is accounted for within the  “Other Music Related Products and Services” category.  This category also includes app stores. For FY10 Apple saw a 93% increase in iPhone sales, but there was only a 23% uptick in “digital goods” (growth in line with previous 2 years). This makes intuitive sense given that Apple customers did not need to repurchase their iTunes library from iPod 1 to iPhone 4. But Digital Goods has certainly NOT been a key source of  growth for Apple. 

Lets take a look at Zynga. As I stated in previous blog,

…three years old with an estimated market value above $5 billion with more than 320 million registered users and estimated revenues above $500 million… From my perspective, Zynga’s secret sauce has been its ability to get 1-2% of their customer base to pay for game credits (see Gawker article). Although they have recently agreed to a 5 year deal with Facebook, this patent (if granted) will provide them leverage in future negotiations and extending their services outside of the Facebook platform.

For more info see TechCrunch / Steven Carpenter Zynga analysis (excellent)

The fortunes of Zynga have been tightly tied to the success of Facebook. Facebook’s new payment policy (mandating use of Facebook credits) will enable them to capture 30% of revenue. Zynga’s margins are obviously impacted in this move.. I’m sure many people immediately see the analogies here with today’s WSJ article (Apple Risks App-lash…) on Apple’s 30% digital goods tariff.  

As an investor, where do you place your social gaming bets?

A foundational digital goods investment question is your view on how social gaming can exist. Can social gaming survive in a model disconnected from Facebook and Apple? If you believe so, then possibly place bets in the Google model. Over the past 6 months, Google  has made five acquisitions in the field: SocialDeck, a mobile social gaming company; Angstro, a social networking search application; Like.com, a social fashion store; Jambool, a social gaming virtual currency; and Slide, a social game maker, and a $100M+ stealth investment in gaming giant Zynga.  Beyond Google, other views exist for social gaming in a mobile context  (MNO driven model).

Now that you have chosen the model (I’m tired of using the word ecosystem), where will your bet play? I see 5 categories:

  • Games (Zynga, EA, …)
  • Analytics/Incentives/Advertising
  • Distribution
  • Gaming Infrastructure. Example Payment, Hosting, Mobility, Support, …
  • Confluence. game-community, game-retail, game-mobile, game-mobile operator, … Example.. earn farm $$ by visiting a retail store and checking in..

Is social gaming a sustainable category? My personal preference is to place bets in common infrastructure until the next Zynga flourishes. Something I learned from Larry Ellison “when there is an arms race, don’t fight.. sell the guns”

Feedback appreciated..

Mobile Apps will Die

As Google evolves Android into an open mobile platform, the “app” revenue model will evolve as well. Just as with Apple’s Mac experience, it will be difficult for Apple to attract continued investment. Given the tremendous talent at Nokia, MSFT, Google, RIM.. I’m sure they see the analogy to the 1994 example I have provided above. An “open” mobile browser with enhanced features would destroy the Apple ecosystem. App developers would choose “open” first (IF they could monetize their investments).

16 February 2011

Yeah.. thought the headline would make you read this one. This was the theme of yesterday’s  WSJ article covering a NYC Mobile Monday Confab. I agree with these young CEOs, as I’m sure would James Gosling, Grady Booch, Marc Andreesen, Alan Kay (and the Xerox PARC team). Most of the readership of this blog are business/payments folks, and probably don’t recognize the names or the technical dynamics at play. Objective of this blog is to give a business perspective on a “death of apps” dynamic as these business execs are the ones who actually fund (and take the risk) on these technical approaches.

Let me start off with 2 stories

Story 1 – 1994

A long, long time ago (1994)…  Netscape launched and gave ability to view basic HTML. The experience was rather dry, with even “drop down” boxes a major accomplishment. There was very little transacting, and the internet looked like one big marketing brochure. Early stage corporate use was limited to “employee directory” kind of functions, and interactive employee applications were built on … wait for it… POWERBUILDER, VisualBasic, or … for the more advanced companies… Smalltalk (an excellent language and my personal favorite). IBMs OS2 Warp was easily winning the enterprise war against Microsoft’s 3.1, a release which required a TCP/IP add on (Win95 came the next year in 1995). 

Enterprises had a desktop mess, applications had to be installed with all of their supporting libraries, on multiple machine types, with multiple operating system versions, hardware versions, most of which conflicted. Fortunately internet browsers began to develop more and more functionality, with scripting and embedded virtual machines of their own. “Light” applications began to migrate to the browser with a significant advantage in cost to deploy and a slight disadvantage in functionality. As browsers and standards further evolved, more applications changed their architecture, attracting more top tier developers. Fat client apps became an ugly legacy (for all but Microsoft’s Office applications).

Lessons learned: multiple proprietary architectures won in “functionality” but lost in cost to develop, cost to deploy and cost to service. Greater investment in a “sub standard” approach enabled faster growth, focus and subsequent adoption. Open architectures allowed multiple parties to create profitable businesses, and further invest.

Story 2 – Fat Mobile Applications

I had a tremendous global team at Citi, quite frankly some of the best and brightest people I have ever worked with at any company. As head of channels for Citi Global Consumer, mobile (outside of the US) was in my domain. Banks are highly driven to reduce cost to serve and acquire. Mobile was (and is) a channel with much experimentation. At Citi I took a look at 6 key mobile initiatives within the last 3 years to look for patterns of success/learnings that could be leveraged. We had developed “fat client” mobile applications in US, Germany, Japan, Mexico, AU as well as SMS based applications in PH, SG, IN, Indonesia, … In every case fat client mobile applications failed.  Why? Technology, user experience, cost to deploy, MNO “support”, …  The testing matrix of handset types, OS types, screen size, OS versions, …. was just not manageable.

Perhaps the biggest learning of all.. is how mobile is viewed by the customer. As my head of mobile in HK (Brian Hui) told me “what is so urgent that the customer can’t wait to get back to their PC”? Customers want speed and simplicity in their mobile interactions. For services like “what is my balance”? Fat clients are not needed. Even today, bank mobile applications are largely a competitive “me too”, as deployment costs to support 3 platforms (RIM, iPhone and Android) are much lower than prior “universal” support attempts. Although the statistics are not widely published, more than 3x customers access their bank through a mobile browser than through their bank’s mobile application (not everyone has an iPhone.. imagine that).

Proprietary Closed Systems must go first in NEW markets… then evolve or fail

As I mentioned in my previous blog, history has shown that closed networks form prior to open networks (in almost every circumstance). Closed networks are uniquely capable of managing end-end quality of service and pricing. This enables the single “network owner” to manage risk and investment. How can any company make investment in a network that does not exist, it cannot control, at a price consumers will not pay, with a group that can not make decisions or execute? Answer: Companies cannot, it is the domain of academics, governments, NGOs and Philanthropic organizations.

The principle challenge in evolving a closed business platform is financial. The margins associated with maintaining “control” of a platform are substantial… they are very hard for any company to give up (ie Microsoft, Apple, IBM). Just take a look at today’s WSJ regarding Apple’s subscription service plans. Apple wants to take a 30% cut of everything ever sold to its platform… for eternity. Can you imagine Microsoft asking to take a 30% cut of every fee on any item viewed or played on a Windows PC? How do you think Amazon or the music industry feel about this? Every iPhone App developer? It must feel like a Faustian bargain at best.

Apple’s big advantage today is app revenue, as it provides:

  • Terms and Control
  • In App Billing
  • In App Advertising
  • Consumer Payment Management

Yet I digress…. what about fat apps? This is why I like Google’s model, and why it will be so hard to compete against them. As Google evolves Android into an open mobile platform, the “app” revenue model will evolve as well. Just as with Apple’s Mac experience, it will be difficult for Apple to attract continued investment.  Given the tremendous talent at Nokia, MSFT, Google, RIM.. I’m sure they see the analogy to the 1994 example I have provided above. An “open” mobile browser with enhanced features would destroy the Apple ecosystem. App developers would choose “open” first (IF they could monetize their investments). Every handset manufacture and MNO has incentive to develop and invest in a “kill the app” mobile browser standard to compete with Apple and change the competitive dynamic.

One exception I see is in mobile “secure” applications. In this the GSMA and NFC Forum are absolutely brilliant… they have defined a common standard.. unfortunately the business model to monetize it has not yet developed. They had the right technical team design it.. can they get the right business leaders to make is successful? (see related blog)

Excellent TechCrunch Article on HTML 5  Feb 5, 2011

Apple and NFC

Take Away for Investors/Start Ups: Apple will be a very, very hot platform for mobile applications. Do not assume that there will be substantial volume in next 4 years. In short term look to complimentary services.

26 Jan 2011

Today’s Article in TechCrunch: Apple Aims to take NFC Mainstream

Previous Blogs

To summarize from my previous blogs (regarding Apple’s NFC moves)

  1. Not about payment but about advertising. The mobile device will be the top advertising platform for the next century. It provides a unique opportunity for convergence of the online and physical worlds (with the commensurate customer data). In the virtual world there is a “click” by which google can bill. There is also an “order” by which online retailers track channel advertising effectiveness. Apple’s moves in NFC represent the combination of the click and the order AT THE POS so that advertising effectiveness can be managed. It is ALSO a platform for many, many other services through which Apple SEEKs to control (and monitize).
  2. Apple’s desire to control the secure NFC element is not aligned with carriers (in the US) or internationally. How will Apple’s NFC integrate with the SIM? Will they follow the GSMA approach? Most interesting is whether Apple will support Single Wire Protocol /UICC model or will it have a unique architecture (SE NFC) with Apple acting as TSM and managing the secure applications outside of the SIM?
  3. Apple has 4 separate payment infrastructures today: Legacy Apple Store, iTunes, App Store and global treasury. They are indeed building a new payment infrastructure to support their wallet. Rumors are they are working with a big bank (?Chase?) as well as considering acquisition (ex. GlobalCollect). It seems that they are confident that they have capability to support US market rollout.
  4. TechCrunch is well off base in its assertion that the Debit interchange provides an opportunity for Apple. Actually, the reverse is true (in US Market). As discussed in the ISIS blog above, the key for NFC adoption is merchant POS infrastructure investment. ISIS is working with several large retailers to subsidize POS infrastructure. ISIS is doing much heavy lifting in its payment system incentives. Discover/Barclays relationship allows ISIS to build a merchant friendly value proposition and gives ISIS a unique ability to “control” the NFC/PCI certification process. Given that Apple is currently outside of ISIS, it must have another payment network to support it at the POS. Apple has typically partnered with Visa (given that MA has partnered with RIM this would make sense). In either case the merchant transaction costs for an Apple/NFC transaction will be higher (Visa controls the MDR) and Visa will control the NFC certification process. Apple may create a package of marketing incentives that will offset the merchant costs, but marketing effectiveness will be poor in the early stage (prior to NFC at POS). A classic chicken and egg problem.

Take Away for Investors/Start Ups

  • Apple will be a very, very hot platform for mobile applications.
  • Do not assume that there will be substantial payment volume in next 4 years
  • Assume there will be iAd “advertising views” but few mechanisms to track effectiveness until payment is captured
  • Important: even after payment is captured, the item detail will not be available to Apple.  Apple will be able to track that customer clicked on iAd, and visited store, but NOT what item was purchased.  There are a few companies addressing this… but not going to spill the beans here as I really like this space.
  • Apple’s ability to capture mass media spend will be driven more by Steve Jobs and the demographic of the iPhone user base.
  • Apple will have continue w/ interim CPC model on iAd until tracking through POS.  They will likely attempt to develop a couponing system, but bar codes on iPhones are viewed very negatively by retailers.
  • Expect to see many “four square” like start ups which try to leverage store visit check ins. But less than $2B in marketing spend shifting to platform until POS integration.
  • Look for Investment hypotheses that align to Apple core services (acquisition/exit)
  • Payment will take some time, DeviceFidelity spent almost 2 years in certification with Visa. In short term look to complimentary services. Examples
  1. NFC to Open Doors
  2. Physical advertising with NFC (NFC in a store display through coupon redemption)
  3.  NFC “Four Square” like Check In (ex shopkick)
  4.  POS Infrastructure (VivoTech, Verifone, Vending Machines, …)
  5. Retailer friendly applications that attempt to marry iAd data with retail POS data (think KSS Retail, DemandTec, ….)

App Stores $25B Market?

$7B in App Store Rev? Given that Apple’s total is certainly under $1B I see it quite a bit under this. If there were some movers within the space I would expect to see Apple become more aggressive in investing and acquiring either directly or though their iFund investment vehicle (in partnership w/ KPCB). What is my guess? In-App and social gaming is the revenue driver of the segment and it represents $500M-$700M of gross sales

18 January 2011

Read the report in TechCrunch this AM on AppStore market growth going to $25B by 2015 (up from $6.8B in 2010), as well as their excellent article on the App Store Boom from last week. Other analysis:

 As an investor.. my intuition is to ask… Are these forecasts reliable? Where is the revenue? 

Perhaps LightSpeed Ventures can provide an update to their excellent 2009 analysis on Apple’s $25M App Store revenue estimate. The market has tremendous information on number of app downloads.. what we don’t see is much in the way of revenue numbers for paid apps (or in-app purchases).

Starting with the first study’s estimated 2010 app store revenue of $6.8B (Juniper also aligns on this estimate). The easiest place to start analysis is Apple’s numbers(as Nokia’s are even more obscure, and Android’s marketplace is fragmented). We can either calculate revenue as Lightspeed did (# paid apps x average price) or from Apples financials. Using Distimo data see for December 2010 350k paid app downloads per day at average price estimates ranging from $2.43 to  $0.99 (with prices declining 15% YoY).

December  Gross App Store Sales Estimate (excludes in app purchases)

350k * $2.43 *30 = $24.6M

For FY 2010 given 15% price decline and 40% growth rate, Apple 2010 App Store Gross Sales (Excluding in App Purchases)

Gross Sales = $24.6 * 12 * ((1 + 0.15/12)^12)* ((1-0.4/12)^12) = $228M

Apple’s Net App Store Revenue = 30% of $228M = $68.4M

Is there a way to validate these numbers using Apple’s 2010 10-k? A: Not really.  As you know, App Store revenue is accounted for as “other related music products and services” which totaled $4.1B for FY10 (23%, $912 YoY growth), where this same category grew 21% in prior year (FY08 v FY09) and 34% (FY07 v FY08). This segment includes iTunes revenue (note App store launched in July 2008). On its face, it would certainly seem that App Store revenue has not significantly added any substantial growth for this “other” segment”, and the LightSpeed Venture 2009 analysis of $25M is aligned.

The question remains: to what extent does in app purchase drive app store economics (Apple + Nokia + Google +…)? This is where the Juniper Study comes in to play. The Juniper information is tightly correlated (directionally) with market G2 from both issuers and the card networks. The lightning growth is in social gaming segment of digital goods. I still have a hard time with a $7B number given that Apple’s total for the segment is certainly under $1B (10k). If there were some movers within the space I would expect to see Apple become more aggressive in investing and acquiring either directly or though their iFund investment vehicle (in partnership w/ KPCB). What is my guess? In-App and social gaming is the revenue driver of the segment and it represents $500M-$700M of gross sales. Adding Nokia and Android, this market is at most $2B Gross Sales.

Investment take

  • Go strong into social gaming
  • Ensure in-app purchases are part of all plans
  • Treat market analysis skeptically
  • Watch for rollups and Apple investments.. this is where the money is.

Admittedly I have not wrapped up this analysis cleanly.. this is a blog not a treatise. I’d love your feedback on other numbers and perspectives.

Apple’s 1Q earnings call is today at 5pm… let’s see if we get any more insight.

Apple and Google after Boku?

So if Apple buys Boku will Android still support Boku payments (http://www.boku.com/android/)? I do think Boku is in play.. but the real acquirer may look more like the Mercury NewCo than google.. MNO synergies are the core of the Boku business model. Unfortunate that the Mercury NewCo still has no CEO.

2 Nov 2010

TechCrunch: Apple’s next strategic move

Yesterday: AT&T inks deal w/ Boku

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10265243-36.html

What is Boku’s core asset? Technology? MNO billing relationships?

Hope that Apple and Google look long and hard at the MNO contracts as the “secret sauce” that has driven Boku’s growth. Boku’s MNO friendly approach and neutrality allows any customer to buy digital goods and charge it to their carrier bill.  Neither Google, nor Apple would seem to have a strategic fit here. Why would carriers allow Google/Apple to bill to goods to their customers? Or perhaps I should ask at what cost will carriers allow this to happen?

All of this is even more relevent as ATT/Verizon/TMobile/Discover,.. etc. build their own payments business.

Boku is a great business, but it operates on a precipice much the way PayPal did in its early days.  Carrier billing can certainly be  a much more cost effective infrastructure for mobile digital goods purchases. But what drives this efficiency? Isn’t it the carriers and their relationship to mobile customers?

On the “buy side” digital goods stores use Boku because of its independence. So if Apple buys Boku will Android still support Boku payments (http://www.boku.com/android/)? I do think Boku is in play.. but the real acquirer may look more like the Mercury NewCo than google.. as the MNO synergies are the core of the Boku business model. Unfortunate that the Mercury NewCo still has no CEO.

Mobile Advertising Battle: Beyond the Internet

We may be seeing the beginning of a seismic change in advertising spend, and the way consumers are tracked and targeted. The “addressable market” for mobile advertising should not be viewed as a subset of online spend, both because of POS opportunities and the media richness (and now multi-tasking) of the iPhone. Apple’s strategy is brilliant, I would imagine them taking a regulatory position that all ad networks are welcome to work through their standard…. Apple is protecting customers’ privacy.

10 June 2010

Apple is brilliant!

Having just read today today’s WSJ Article- Google Blasts Apple on iAd Rules, a few random thoughts started to coalesce (which doesn’t happen as often as it used to) into a new ‘‘investment perspective’ on mobile advertising.

Yesterday Magna estimated that online advertising will climb 12.4% in 2010 to $61.0B and surpass $100B by 2013. For perspective, AFP reports that advertisers will spend $59.6B on TV ads and around $600M on mobile advertising (eMarkerter, $1.3B by 2013). The growth here is just astounding, there is little wonder for the transactions over the last 3 years:

  • MSFT aQuantive $6B (May 2007)
  • Google DoubleClick $3.2B (April 2007)
  • Google AdMob $650M (May 2010)
  • Apple Quattro Wireless (Jan 2010)

In my experiences as global buyer, online was by far the most cost effective way to acquire a customer (with SEM the most cost effective). From my perspective, Online Advertising brought a solution to the challenge faced by marketers for decades: data. Finally I could relate marketing spend to customer acquisition. Marketing went from throwing a blanket.. to a shotgun.. In 2005-2007 this shotgun was very hard to use.. particularly outside of the US. Although most agencies were well versed in spending through Ad Networks for display ads, few had any experience in SEM across search providers. Those Agencies that did still did not provide tools for my teams (buyers) to calculate CPA (determining which ads resulted in customer acquisition). Hence, large companies had to develop their own internal expertise or manage their spend directly with a chosen few suppliers (eg. GOOGLE). Internal marketing thus took on the form shown below.

The Ad industry recognizes that the ability to track a customer is key to measuring effectiveness, target ads and thereby key to greater marketing spend. There are a number of technical solutions which have developed over the last 3-4 years, tagging customers with cookies is all something we are familiar with.  Apple’s strategy in defining standard for “tracking” is challenging Google’s unique position as the “starting point” of a customer’s online activity. It moves the starting point to the iPhone device. This is a brilliant move by Apple given its 50M iPhones (and 30M iTouches), particularly when you look at the demographic of the owners and the media capabilities of this killer mobile appliance.

Apple’s plans to take ownership of the iPhone’s “Ad Ecosystem” will not end with these standards. In the online advertising model, the objective was an online acquisition. In the mobile ad model the objective is for either an acquisition online or at a physical point of sale (POS). The mobile device is in a unique position as a point of convergence between the virtual and physical world. In this model the iAD/mobile market expands from mobile advertising (as a sub category of online advertising) to generating store traffic at the POS. The challenge for a iAD at POS is similar to the “customer tracking” challenge described above.. how do I know the customer went to the store? Answers: coupons, payment, geolocation, …

Expect Apple and the MNOs to become very active in linking mobile advertising to these activities (ex Apple’s NFC patent, MNO prepaid consortium). The linking of card data to mobile advertising (consumer behavior and preferences) also provides a tremendous opportunity Banks/Issuers to monetize consumer information (see Googlization of Financial Services).

We may be seeing the beginning of a seismic change in advertising spend, and the way consumers are tracked and targeted. The “addressable market” for mobile advertising should not be viewed as a subset of online spend, both because of POS opportunities and the media richness (and now multi-tasking) of the iPhone. Apple’s strategy is brilliant, I would imagine them taking a regulatory position that all ad networks are welcome to work through their standard…. Apple is protecting customers’ privacy.

Related Content

April 2010 online ad spending report

Thoughts appreciated

Apple’s NFC Patent

Apple’s approach to controlling its ecosystem is not perfect, but is the right thing to do early stage as both technology and consumer behavior evolve (I remember my Apple IIe). Right now my bet on “mobile wallet” is with Apple precisely because of their ability to orchestrate such an extended ecosystem. This is going to be hot…

On my other blog http://wp.me/pG4GT-4O