The “Frapple” Nations - Facebook, Frappuccino and Apple

3:51 PM / Posted by Andy Harjanto /

Having visited many countries in the past 2 years, it gives me fresh perspectives on how people embrace their digital lifestyles. I observed them at the airports, at the malls, at the cafés, at work, as well as at their homes. Things have change quite a bit since I visited those countries. Plenty of study data from prestigious research firms could point you to this shift, but I’m more interesting in sharing real-life stories, hoping to gain insight on where the market is going. Yes, shift does happen, and it happens at faster and faster rates.

Not just Starbucks, many other
cafes with wifi and great food are everywhere in Asia
First, “What the hell is Frapple?”. OK, ok, I made the word up. As you can tell from the post title, it is a combination of Facebook, Frappuccino and Apple. So where is the “Frappuccino” coming from? I must confess that I use it so that the word is easier to pronounce. No, actually it’s a new phenomenon of social lifestyle around the world. It’s no secret that Starbucks growth outside the US is impressive. But more impressive is the Starbucks copycats and wannabe are popping up everywhere. It is a respond to high demand to accommodate a new lifestyle – wi-fi, great coffee, great snacks and great people to talk to.

So, why Frapple is interesting for entrepreneur, businesses or startups? It is a shift, tipping point, snowballing effects in which many countries are experiencing or would soon go thru the experience in a few years. This is where the big wave and money will be made at least for the next 3-4 years. It would be an exaggeration to say that Facebook and Apple are everywhere. They’re not even major players in China, Japan, India or Brazil. China blocks Facebook and Twitter; Japan has Mixi and South Korea has CyWorld. Orkut is popular in Brazil and India. However as more and more people interconnected globally expect changes come quickly. For example, Facebook is getting more and more popular in Brazil as people who live closed to the border of the neighboring country Argentina use Facebook.

In the US, RIM-Blackberry has still the biggest market-share for smartphone, and even Android outsells iPhone in the last quarter. But what Frapple has is loyal and passionate users and developers who will buy, build, sell on their platforms. Many countries fall into this category. Japan, Singapore is good example. While iPhone market share is still tiny in those countries, but the reactions to the product are overwhelming. iPad is another product that they just love. Even in China, you can find iPad wannabe runs on Android. As a software developer and entrepreneur of a small startup, the trajectory is as (more) important as the market share size. Last month, it was a landmark milestone for Facebook with 500 million users, while iPhone boasts more than 200 thousands applications with more than 3 billion downloads.

Let’s look at what I observed when I spent time outside US:

At the International airports. More and more airports around the world provide free Internet access, in the form of free wireless or Internet kiosks.

Internet Cafe at Taipei International Airport
 At SFO(San Francisco) and SEA (Seattle) airports, iPads could easily be spotted. At Taipei and Singapore airports, free internet kiosks are provided. I stood there and observed for a pattern. As they signed in, most people went directly to Facebook, followed by web mail (Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo). Often, I would see all computer screens in at café are Facebook pages.

Picture was taken 12:35 am in Jakarta
Living their daily (digital) life. Asian people love to eat as social activities for both personal and businesses. It’s easy to find restaurants at 3:00 in the morning. One local article I read while I was there show how growing number of people started the work at night thru early morning at café or restaurant to avoid traffic jam. They carry anything they need in a mobile phone and it is typical to carry more than 1 phone. Mobile becomes the personal computer. In Japan, people spend a great deal of their time in subway trains, holding one hand on a hand rail, while the other hand is on phone. Mobile app must be design as such that is useable with one hand. In short, mobile is their life. While personal computer and online usage is growing, that’s no comparison to mobile internet growth.

This also happens at the bottom of pyramid. A surprising number of users can afford mobile Internet access with cheap mobile handsets. Most of them use pre-paid cards to access Internet with as little as US $1. Yes, they skip PC generation altogether. In just 2 years, for example, Indonesia has 165 million users who have Internet access from the mobile, thanks to Facebook and Blackberry (and its copycats).

Online Search – Does it matter? This trend may not be good news for Google. While online users can’t live without search engine, mobile users much less incline to do search. As I meet many people, many times they ask me what company I work for? When I tell them I work for a startup and they can search it on the Internet, they wouldn’t try to search from their phone. If I tell them that they can find the company info from their Facebook mobile, their face lights up. It’s still painful to browse pages from such a small device, even with zoom in/out capabilities.

Does this mean the “search war” really matter anymore? It does still given the gigantic size of the market, but it becomes less and less relevant. As more and more find the products and services from friends’ recommendations (for example for Facebook “Like” feature). On the top of that, more and more interesting news, links are brought you by your friend via Twitter and Facebook update streams. For me, I don’t need to filter a humongous RSS streams anymore; let my friends (happily) do it for me.

Developers and Startups. Every company who offer platform knows how important developers are. If you’re still in doubt, you should watch this.

Startup Weekend, Seoul -
Geeks on A Plane. May-June 2010
How about startups? For entrenched and dominant players, startups pose the greatest threats. Eric Schmidt from Google realizes this. No longer startups need millions of dollars to come up with scalable, stunning products, thanks to open source and cloud computing. True that many of them will die, but many of them will blossom that could take over them. I believe the biggest advantage of being startup over entrenched player is the agility and humility. No one will laugh at your product even if you produce a sucky product during your product iteration. In my recent trips with Geeks On A Plane to Asia, I was amazed how many startups are building iPhone apps (Android platform is popular in China).

Can’t Frapple be stopped?  Well, the default future seems like pointing that way; but as you know missteps could cost company dominance, even its existence. There are a few cracks already seen and competitors won’t stand still. In addition, government plays major roles in a few countries dictating the technology and services used for their citizens. Among a few things that I see:

• In a few countries, like Thailand and Indonesia, Blackberry platform is surging ahead. Although, Indonesia is the 3rd largest Facebook country, RIM comes up with their own social networking (allowing users to create a group, post pictures). As I landed in Jakarta, I updated my Facebook status with my temporary phone number, but no one seemed want to connect to me. After a week, I got a call from a friend who happened to open his Facebook, and forwarded my phone number to his Blackberry groups. The following days for the next 4-5 days, I got so many lunch and dinner invitations.

• Apple has a world class marketing team. However, in a few countries, its products have difficulty penetrating the market; not so much the products itself, but the price is unreachable for vast majority of the population. I understand that they would like to protect the profit margin; but will it be too late as other mobile platforms can offer good enough products at fraction of the cost? In Jakarta, I saw a big billboard for iPhone 3GS “for just 13 millions rupiah”, that’s roughly $1,300. As a result, iPhone becomes just a status symbol, instead.

Frapple in Action. I leave you with a picture that illustrates how Frapple could shape our culture and digital life. In recent wedding ceremony in Seattle, the bridge and groom brought their own iPads; signed-in to their Facebook accounts and changed their status from single to married. That’s so Frapple!


Ajay Ramachandran on August 8, 2010 at 11:53 PM

Nice post Andy! I see a lot more Mac laptops in India but mobile internet usage is still low - messaging is huge and of course in the BOP, talk is still king.

Have you tried Aardvark (now owned by Google)? They do social search - in the sense that you can ask questions to friends (or friends of friends).

Interestingly, my brother has an app on Facebook and he's hoping to get some users for social buying - check out IWANNABUY (or Wisdomtap on Facebook).

I wonder how much longer before facebook does Aardvark style questions. Right now I don't thinks status updates are quite teh same as questions but I'm sure they are thinking about it.

-- Ajay

Comment by Andy Harjanto on August 9, 2010 at 12:07 AM

Hi Ajay,
Thanks for comments. As far as social question and answer, Facebook has rolled out the beta version to limited user. Please see their blog.

Comment by Mariani on August 30, 2010 at 2:04 AM

Frapple! I think that is a smart abbreviation!
You are so right about the craziness that is going on in Indonesia for using BB. It's been very popular, from as young as a 5 yr old to my mom's generation, they all know how to 'abuse' BB :P
Now we say "BB me' or 'FB me' rather than Txt me or call me (these r for maid and chauffeur :)

We use FB for marketing media too. When u open a new business (e.g...u guessed it..wi-fi cafe)just post it on your FB wall, and at least u'v reached hundreds if not thousands of your prospect customers.

Downside from 'Frapple/Frebbe' is (hv to balance the yin & the yang here)..The future generation of Indonesia will wear glasses, and have sore neck and heart problem..
As for the 'bumi' will be polluted by obsolete BBs. What shall we name it- BuBBs?? ;)

Great posting! I enjoy reading it!

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