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.
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|
|Picture was taken 12:35 am in Jakarta|
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
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.