For the first time in a while I went to both conferences this spring in New Orleans and Brighton respectively. I gave papers at both events, which were important opportunities to develop my new business, catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Funding my own attendance led to me to reflect sharply on whether they were worth the money.
This is the article that appeared in the Guardian Weekly on 8 March 2011:
There has been an explosion in the use of smartphones. Around 270m handsets were sold in 2010, while CNN Fortune has forecast that sales could exceed 500m in 2011. With the price of entry-level handsets expected to fall to $100 or below, growth is likely to accelerate and smartphones will become more accessible to consumers in developing countries.
Smartphone owners use them on the move to access information and entertainment such as music, audio books, reading, and for viewing photos and video clips. One-third of Facebook traffic is now via these devices used simultaneously for instant messaging, email and Twitter.
The mobile phone application, or app, brings all the above to life in one self-contained mini-program. The growth in apps for communication, gaming and simple utility (finding the quickest route on public transport) is phenomenal. Apps seem to be everywhere, often created for quite short-term uses: event apps, conference planners, even the small hotel in Berlin I stayed in recently had its own free app for guests.
Apps are often seen as synonymous with the iPhone, which has been the leader in this area, but many commentators expect the Android operating system, which works on smartphones from other manufacturers, to overtake Apple.
Apps have enormous potential for language learning because they allow for multisensory learning on the move: for learners to use nuggets of time in a queue or on public transport. And because smartphones can store so much data or retrieve it via the internet, apps can serve as rich media dictionaries and reference tools.
The term “monetising” is an ugly but useful term that helps businesses consider the short and medium term cash flows that they can generate from digital products and services. They need to do this while ensuring that their strategies for generating these cash flows support and enhance their brands and reputations.
The smartphone App stores, markets and business models and services provided by Google, Apple and Paypal are making it easier for content producers to sell their digital products and services through market places and micro payments, though the margin that these companies require are not inconsiderable.
After two months of owning an iPad, I finally went to my local newsagent today and cancelled my daily newspaper. I had delayed this partly because I had a subscription arrangement that made it more complicated, and partly for nostalgic reasons, I really enjoy breakfast and my morning paper. But the iPad will do the job just fine, and it is good to reduce our paper consumption. The newsagent seemed uninterested, despite the fact that we must have spent thousands of pounds with him over the 12 years we have lived here, and even the newspaper subscription department did not bother to ask me why I was cancelling the subscription. Are they both resigned to their fate? And what is their fate? The Guardian is developing a digital strategy, but the newsagent may find it harder to find a new niche or business model, as a Tesco Metro has recently opened near him.