Google Nexus 7 and Consumer Tablets

The competition for consumer oriented tablets is finally starting to heat up:

InfoWorld reports here that “The Nexus 7 is primarily a media consumption client, specifically for content from the Google Play store… In pairing Google Play’s media and entertainment offerings with superior hardware at the $199 price point, Google has set its sights squarely on Amazon and the Kindle Fire.”

Will smaller Android tablet devices work for SMBs? We still have to wait and see what the marketplace decides.  App developers will play a critical role.  Things are certainly getting more interesting for mobile, and the next iPhone release is around the corner.

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Microsoft’s new app store for Windows 8

“Apple still keeps its Mac and iOS realms separate. Microsoft wants to collapse mobile devices and the desktop into one ecosystem.”

With so many developments in mobile, it will be interesting to see how Apple, Google and Microsoft maneuver to gain a competitive advantage.  Competition will be great for mobile, especially for consumers and businesses that leverage these platforms. One consideration that should not be forgotten: who will provide the best interoperability with third-party systems?

via Deja vu? Microsoft’s new app store for Windows 8 – May. 24, 2012.

GoodReader: Another App I Can’t Live Without

My favorite app for reading documents on iOS is GoodReader. This app does an excellent job of rendering various document formats. This is a great way to go paperless. GoodReader allows you to annotate a document, with markup tools for highlighting, text boxes, sticky notes, and freehand drawing. I mostly use the highlighting tools, as it helps me mark important information. Bookmarks are also helpful for keeping track of where you left off or reference items.

I’m now in the habit of buying books in PDF format when available instead of print and reading them on the iPad. I favor PDF because the file format does not lock you into a specific platform or vendor. They can also be created using a number of free tools. Even the Chrome web browser supports Print to PDF.

Two tech publishers that I believe do an excellent job with e-book distribution are Apress and Addison-Wesley. I became convinced this is the best way to read tech books after buying a softcover PHP and MySQL reference that is rated at 3.4 pounds and is thicker than the Yellow Pages. It included a CD with the book in, wait for it… PDF format. I ended up using the digital copy much more than print once I had my iPad.

Cloud access is a huge plus with GoodReader. I can keep documents on Google Docs or Dropbox and download or upload from within the app as needed. Any docs I find online through Mobile Safari can be opened in GoodReader and then uploaded easily. This makes viewing product manuals online a breeze.  If you anticipate having limited wireless access then you can download your docs to GoodReader for offline viewing.

This app has so many features I really can’t list them here, but I have mentioned those I use regularly. GoodReader is priced separately for iPhone and iPad, but I still think it is a great value. I own both versions. I would not use my iPad as much without it. I have a lot more room on my shelves but I’m still reading more, and as a small business owner I do a fair share of reading on tech and marketing topics. The iPad plus GoodReader make me much more productive.

GoodReader on iTunes

Ian Thane: “Mobility in business is now a necessity”

Ian Thane wrote an insightful blog posting entitled “Mobility in business is now a necessity” in which he asserts:

“Smart businesses won’t just think of mobile applications as extending existing systems, but look at how new systems can free your workforce to create value in a multitude of environments and in more innovative ways.”

I think this is a great statement. The current generation of smartphones provide capabilities that are still very new to us, and we are only beginning to understand how to leverage them. The way to accomplish this is to listen to your internal and external mobile customers. They probably have some fantastic and profitable ideas.

I find it very exciting to think where mobile businesses will be five years from now.

http://features.techworld.com/mobile-wireless/3334738/mobility-in-business-is-now-necessity/

HTML5 Links

Still wondering what all the fuss is about HTML5 and mobile?  Here are some links that you may find helpful…

Why companies are flocking to HTML5 – Fortune Tech

HTML5: A Look Behind the Technology Changing the Web – WSJ.com

Will HTML5 replace native apps? It might: here’s how to figure out when – Guardian Technology Blog

but be sure to consider the pros & cons of Native vs. Web Apps:

Mobile applications: native v Web apps – what are the pros and cons? – mobithinking.com

Which is better, native or web?  There is no simple answer based on the many ongoing debates.  I think the best quick answer is “it depends.”  What are you trying to build and for whom?

Apps, Your Personal Data, and Ethics

There have been headlines in the past few weeks concerning the practice of mobile apps transmitting your private data without permission, most notably Path. Judging by the outrage of customers and mobile users in general, the first question that came to my mind was “What were they thinking?” I still can’t see how anyone thought a customer would be OK with an App collecting and transmitting their smartphone Address Book data without being asked for permission first. The first time I heard of a program secretly accessing data like this I think it was called the Melissa virus.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t speak for the legality of such practices. I do believe they are in violation of clear App Store policies. The more important question I would like to pose: Are these practices ethical?

Ethics is a complicated subject, but the best advice I received is to use the “New York Times Test.” Put simply, how would you feel if something you did, or failed to do, showed up on the cover of the New York Times, for all the world to see? Imagine everyone you are related to, have worked with, or will work with in the future knowing about it.

If you feel what you are doing is acceptable, can be explained logically and clearly defended, and you can honestly say that your customers and/or stakeholders will not have a problem with it, then chances are good that what you are doing is ethical. “No chance of embarrassment here. We are in the clear. I truly believe we are doing the right thing.”

If however you would be uncomfortable having your actions put in such a public light, would have to defend yourself with complex explanations, and would probably have your reputation impacted, then it is a pretty good bet what you are doing is unethical. “If our customers knew about this they would not be happy. We can make excuses or explain it somehow, but in the end people will not like us.”

I think any reasonable person will say that collecting a user’s personal data from their mobile device without their knowledge or permission fails this test. Once your customer knows about it there is a lot of explaining to do, i.e. Damage Control. I believe that the practice is unethical.

Still not sure if what you are doing is ethical? Why not just ask your customer? “Would you be OK with this?” Ask permission.

Are the data mining, network effects, and other phantom advantages worth it? I can’t imagine how this is a good idea long term. Short term there may be benefits, but consider the cost. We as software vendors need to live up to high standards so that our customers can feel confident that we are providing them with solutions to their problems without causing them new problems. As an industry it is in our best interest to be ethical. Failing to pass such tests could result in litigation, and even worse, unnecessary government regulation that will stifle our growth. I believe the Mobile Space is our best chance to get the American economy out of its current doldrums. Let’s be careful and err on the side of protecting our customers and behaving ethically.

18 Firms Sued Over App Privacy

“The lawsuit stems from an issue that made headlines last month, when Path CEO Dave Morin acknowledged that Path uploads the entire iPhone address book without user permission on the iOS version of the app. Morin apologized and released a new version of the Path iPhone app that allows users to opt in or out of sharing contact information.”

via 18 Firms Sued Over App Privacy, Including Apple, Twitter, Facebook | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

Three Business Apps I Can’t Live Without

Evernote

The word I use to describe Evernote is ubiquitous: it makes it easy to create and view notes from almost any device, with clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and the Web. Evernote does such a great job of syncing your notes that you almost forget that they are stored in the cloud. With an intuitive user interface and features such as tagging it is very easy to keep your notes organized. Advanced features such as PDF viewing are impressive. Evernote is free, but to get offline access to your notes a subscription is required. This has never been a problem for me with 3G access from my iPhone. (4/20/2012: Upgraded to Evernote Premium. See my update at the end of this posting.)

http://www.evernote.com

Toodledo

Whether or not you follow the Getting Things Done approach to task management, Toodledo can help you keep track of all your tasks, both business and personal. Contexts (ie: Personal, Work) and Categories help organize your tasks into the right buckets. While Toodledo’s mobile apps are not free, I think they are definitely worth the asking price. The iOS version is a Universal app so you only have to buy it once for your iPhone and iPad. All versions, web and app, do a great job of filtering your tasks by almost any criteria, including starred tasks, category, context, recently completed, due date, etc. and all your tasks are kept in sync with the cloud. I’ve been using digital task managers going back to the Palm III, so I’m very choosy, and to me this is the best one yet.

http://www.toodledo.com
Traveler Ultra-Light Guitar

Streaks

Lately I’ve found success reaching goals by using the Jerry Seinfeld Productivity Method, where you take a calendar and mark off a red X for every day that you work on your goal. You keep the chain of X marks going as long as you can and whatever you do, “Don’t break the chain.” Streaks has a great implementation of this in app format, and I’ve been able to achieve multiple goals, from learning and working on Customer Development to practicing guitar every day. My streak for playing guitar, a true stress reducer, is officially 365 days and counting without interruption as of last week, so I really think this app is a winner. Having a Traveler Guitar (which I also can’t live without) definitely helped. What goal do you want to work at daily? With this app you just might do it every day for the foreseeable future and reap untold benefits, or just have fun and relax.

http://fanzter.com/products/streaks

4/20/2012 Update:

I broke out the credit card and upgraded to Evernote Premium today.  I find it indispensable the more I use it.  The note history, offline access and PDF search features are too good to pass up and $45 a year is very reasonable.  I also should mention that I already have a Pro subscription to Toodledo.  Here’s a link to a great article on Evernote from Inc.com.  Looks like I’m not alone in singing their praises.

http://www.inc.com/magazine/201112/evernote-2011-company-of-the-year.html

We Need an App

If you are a regular user of a tablet computer then you may already be convinced that mobile is the future. The convenience, power and relatively low cost of mobile devices versus traditional laptop computing put us on the path where smartphones and tablets consume more of our time and dollars for our benefit. Throw into the discussion the record-breaking quarterly revenue reported by Apple last week ($46.33 billion) and you may decide that, for your department or organization, “We need an App.”

Perhaps you worry that you are missing out on an exciting technology trend, almost as bad as not having a web site. There are many ways an app can empower your team, but you want to come up with a clear statement on what your app will help you accomplish. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Promote your business

You have found a great way to promote your products via a free app. Some examples:

  • An interactive catalog of your products. This sounds simple enough, but Sony Music Entertainment takes this to a new level with “Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Experience.” This app provides entertaining content on the guitar legend, including music and photos, while promoting songs available for purchase on iTunes. Think of what this could do for a medical device catalog.
  • A utility app that is useful and highlights your business. Examples include the Winchester Ballistics Calculator, and the Bloomberg app for news and stock quotes. Both target very different audiences, but give each a reason to keep coming back.
  • A novelty app that is fun and promotes your products. The Virtual Zippo Lighter app shows off these collectibles and is a must-have for your next Rush or Justin Bieber concert. Download it and you’ll see why it’s a keeper.

Just like a web site it is important that your app is sticky and gives users a reason to return. You are using the app to build a customer relationship. Make sure that it is useful, interesting and promotes your brand without being too in-your-face about it.

Make money, save money, or solve a problem

Have you found a problem to solve for your customers that they are willing to pay for, or that you can include as a value-add for an existing product?

Do you have a way to save money by streamline internal operations? If you have a paper-intensive operation and you are looking to go paperless, a tablet can be the answer.

The possibilities are endless, just as they were with the advent of the PC and the World Wide Web. The key is to listen to your customers, both internal and external. Find out what their pain points are. Think about what hurdles you will have to overcome: if wireless connectivity is limited, local storage and syncing to your corporate systems may need to be built in. Focus groups or a customer site tour can be very helpful. Consider using Customer Development. An idea for an app can come to light any time you talk to customers. This is why you don’t want to outsource customer service.

Print money (i.e. get rich)

Hearing the siren call of the app gold rush, you think you have the killer app idea that will make you a fortune. No matter how good your idea is, marketing will be critical. The app market has pushed down pricing to the point where some users complain about paying $2.99 for an indispensable app while sipping a disposable $3.00 latte. You need to examine the app market, your potential competitors and determine what customers are willing to pay for your solution. There is a great deal of competition for customer attention in any major app marketplace. Getting rich from your app is the extreme exception, despite what you see in the media. If you have a great idea for something that people will pay for and you market it properly you still have a chance at success. Just don’t think it will be easy.

Further Reading

Rather than repeat them here, take a look at the questions listed in my previous article on marketing and Customer Development. Answer all of them. Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will download it, even if it is free.

The Business of iPhone and iPad App Develoment provides great suggestions on how to come up with app ideas and useful strategies for marketing your app. I think you will find it helpful no matter what mobile platform you choose.

Why do I need Twitter?

I’m sure there are many business owners out there still wondering why they need to use Twitter.  For those that are already convinced that it is an indispensable tool for keeping a dialog going with your current and future customers, there may still be questions as to how to best use the service.  Lucky for us Dun & Bradstreet released way back in June their list of “The Most Influential Small Business People on Twitter.”  The Wall Street Journal also posted this great writeup on the list.

Don’t forget that Twitter makes it very easy to post with their mobile apps, so you can keep the updates coming no matter where you are.

Take a look and see how the experts are increasing their number of followers, and customers.

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