Strong iPhone 5 sales have helped iOS devices overtake Android for the market share lead in the U.S., reports Kantar Worldpanel. Currently, iOS devices have a 48.1 percent share of smartphone sales, while Android controls 46.7 percent of the market.
“The last time we saw iOS overtake Android in the U.S. was when the iPhone 4S was released and Apple managed to retain its lead for three consecutive periods,” notes Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “This time we predict that Apple will beat its previous high of 49.3 percent and achieve its highest ever share of the U.S. smartphone market within the next two periods.”
Android still dominates European markets, controlling 81.7 percent and 73.9 percent in Spain and Germany respectively, but Apple has recently gained market share in four of the five main European countries, according to the report. Apple’s strongest European presence is in Great Britain, where it controls 32.7 percent of the market.
“Apple has always managed to maintain loyalty levels far above the competition, and this has clearly played a part in driving sales of its new device,” explains Sunnebo. “An impressive 92 percent of existing Apple owners in the U.S. said they will choose an iPhone the next time they upgrade.”
“While loyalty is clearly key, it is also important to make sure that new customers are attracted to your brand,” Sunnebo adds. “With roughly 60 percent of U.S. iPhone 5 sales coming from existing customers and 40 percent from new consumers, Apple is achieving this at the moment — a clear sign of the strength of the brand in the U.S. marketplace.”
This loyalty helps explain why 62 percent of American iPhone 5 sales were the result of consumers who owned older versions of the phone and wanted to upgrade.
While the world of professional gaming is on the rise, with some top players earning up to $200,000 annually, most players do not earn enough to sustain a living, writes The New York Times.
“We’re at a point where only about 40 people in the U.S. can make a living playing video games,” explains Sundance DiGiovanni, chief executive of Major League Gaming. “I’d like to get it to a hundred. I think we’re a year or two away from that.”
Some competitive gamers will sign with sponsored teams, but the salary for these types of players is only about $12,000 to $30,000.
Outsiders may see this as a lot of money to play a video game, but the players say they practice their game eight hours a day, and increase that to 10 to 14 hours a day as tournaments near. Additionally, the cost of competing (travel, hotels and registration fees) can be steep.
Marketing has seen recent changes as Major League Gaming has shifted its focus away from television and now broadcasts on the Internet on sites like CBS Interactive’s GameSpot.com.
Since most gamers cannot support themselves with gaming alone, many use their talent to advance themselves in related fields such as game development and competition broadcasting. Some young gamers even emphasize their video game successes on college applications to show they are passionate in a field.
Android phones currently control 75 percent of the global smartphone market and 53 percent of the American market, reports Business Insider. This is compared to 15 percent and 34 percent, respectively, for the iPhone.
However, despite this overwhelming lead in adoption, Android devices only contribute to about 20 percent of global Web traffic, notes the article. Comparatively, 60 percent of mobile Web visits come from iPhones.
This trend continued on Black Friday, as iPads and iPhones accounted for almost 20 percent of online sales, while Android only accounted for 5.5 percent, according to an IBM study.
“It seems like something is just fundamentally wrong with the Android platform, at least when it comes to interactive engagement by Android users,” writes Business Insider.
This trend could shape how app developers and advertisers approach the different platforms.
In an effort to spur the success of Windows 8, Microsoft offered 20,000 apps through the Windows app store during its first month — and users have downloaded the top 300 apps at a rate three times higher than Apple’s top 300 apps, writes TechCrunch.
But while Windows has seen a high volume of downloads, about 86 percent of the apps are free, which has resulted in Apple generating revenues five times as high as Windows, according to research from Distimo.
Windows has thrived in localized content. For example, 41 percent of the top apps in Japan are local applications, while 30 percent of Korea’s applications are local.
“The strong local proportion, Distimo notes, is because of two reasons. One, Microsoft has been effective at marketing them to local audiences. Two, there are actually a higher proportion of local apps. The percentage of apps that are U.S.-only in the Windows 8 app store is 65 percent, compared to 85 percent and higher in most other app stores,” writes TechCrunch.
The best way for Windows to monetize the app growth may not be to charge for the apps, but to use the app store popularity as an incentive to upgrade to new versions of Windows as they are released, suggest the post. If Windows can make the app store an essential part of the Windows ecosystem, people will be more inclined to upgrade to new software.
Customers can now purchase iTunes digital gift certificates on Facebook, deepening the Facebook-Apple alliance that formed with integrated Facebook features on iOS 6. Users can recommend what music, videos or apps to purchase with the gift certificates.
“What the actual revenue split is remains a secret,” reports TechCrunch. “We do know there’s no shipping costs for either partner to pay for, and Apple typically taxes content and app creators 30 percent to be sold in iTunes.”
The iOS 6 release brought Apple and Facebook together through Facebook sharing buttons and contacts integration. “If today’s integration is a success, it could create a virtuous loop where Facebookers buy iTunes credits for friends, who buy media or apps and share news of their purchases back to Facebook,” notes the post.
The partnership also provides more legitimacy to Facebook Gifts, which recently left its beta phase and launched for millions of Facebook users.
TechCrunch explains that the real money in Facebook Gifts would be if Facebook begins suggesting who to buy gift cards for, and for what. Facebook certainly has enough user data to know who frequently makes purchases on iTunes, and who uses Facebook iPhone applications, so this should not be a difficult step to implement.
With a growing number of tablets hitting the market, and games now serving as the largest category of tablet apps, industry leaders are faced with a possible shift: Are tablets the gaming console of the future, or something all to their own?
Tablets certainly play an important role in the gaming industry, argues Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global, but Greg Harper of Supercell North America adds that tablets should not be compared to anything in the past (i.e. gaming consoles) because they have created a new market rather than replaced an old one.
The consensus among industry leaders is that tablets will not replace consoles, but could pull casual gamers away from the more expensive and time consuming consoles in favor of the relatively simple world of tablet games.
“I don’t think tablets are going to replace the next console generation, but they will siphon a large number of potential players away from next generation consoles,” suggests Chris Ulm, CEO of Appy Entertainment. “Tablets will have the effect of luring away casual and semi-casual players because they are portable, have multiple entertainment functions and an incredible number of free or low priced games.”
Tablets should dominate consoles this holiday season for multiple reasons, industry insiders told GamesIndustry International.
First, Microsoft and Sony’s consoles are dated, and fans are essentially waiting for the next console. This leaves tablets competing with just the Wii U. Additionally, some parents favor tablets rather than consoles because tablet games are relatively inexpensive compared to the $60 offerings on consoles.
But if game developers hope to make a significant splash in the gaming industry, they must overcome the problem that tablets lack physical buttons. This makes complex controls difficult. The first game to overcome this obstacle will likely benefit greatly.
The shutdown of the Megaupload file-sharing service in January has hurt box office revenues for average and smaller firms, writes Torrent Freak. This could be because word of mouth promotion was negatively affected, as fewer people saw the films on Megaupload.
The report comes from the Munich School of Management and Copenhagen Business School in a study that analyzed weekly data for 1,344 movies in 49 countries over five years.
While negative effects were found in some cases, the report notes that some of these negative effects were negligible. However, the report still concludes that piracy can act as a form of promotion, as people who watch pirated movies can talk about them to friends, who then actually purchase tickets.
“Our counter-intuitive finding may suggest support for the theoretical perspective of (social) network effects where file-sharing acts as a mechanism to spread information about a good from consumers with zero or low willingness to pay to users with high willingness to pay,” notes the report, titled “Piracy and Movie Revenues: Evidence from Megaupload.”
While this theory works for small and average films, it does not work for films shown on more than 500 screens. For these bigger films, Megaupload’s shutdown had the opposite effect and helped increase revenues.
After spending the last year redesigning the once thought to be dead Myspace, Interactive Media Holdings plans to relaunch the site in 2013 as a direct competitor to Spotify and Pandora, according to documents obtained by Business Insider.
Specific Media bought Myspace during the summer of 2011 for $35 million, and then changed the company name to Interactive Media Holdings. The company then rebranded Myspace as a destination for unsigned artists to showcase their music.
Myspace traffic has risen 36 percent since the acquisition, but still stands to lose $40 million this year and a projected $25 million next year.
Interactive Media Holdings is looking for another $50 million in funding, of which “$10 million will go to marketing, $15–$25 million will go to licensing deals with the music labels, and another $15 to $25 million will be reserved for ‘general working capital,'” writes Business Insider.
“Interactive says the big competitive advantages for MySpace versus Spotify and Pandora is that it pays labels a lower rate for song plays than Spotify and Pandora. MySpace relies on 27 million songs from unsigned artists, who account for 50 percent of the music played on its site.”
The post includes Interactive Media Holdings’ pitch deck, an interesting inside look at how tech companies sell themselves for a significant funding push.
Before the iPhone, the app economy did not exist. Since then, it has grown to produce 400,000 jobs and billions of dollars in business.
But just like every other market, the app economy is controlled mostly by a few large players. To illustrate this point, The Atlantic notes that while Apple has paid $6.5 billion to app developers, only 25 percent have made more than $30,000 and only 4 percent more than $1 million.
The article compares apps to the music industry in that there are many people trying to do the same thing, and when one gains traction, it translates to tremendous growth internationally. This means that minuscule differences can suddenly spark one app or musical artist to international glory, while a similar application or artist struggles to gain any notoriety.
“It’s the Economics of Superstars law, applied to apps: In a crowded international field, small differences in talent can translate to huge differences in outcomes,” suggests the article. “The most popular photo app, Instagram, was bought by Facebook for $1 billion. The 10th best photo program probably isn’t worth 1 percent of that figure.”
But there are differences between apps and music, such as the tendency of “venture capital firms who buy equity in promising apps with the expectation that ad money, or something else, will follow audience,” explains The Atlantic.
“But since many of these bets are made with the expectations that somebody somewhere will figure out the model for monetizing mobile attention, it’s not alarmist to suggest that the longer big companies like Google and Facebook struggle with mobile ads, the smaller VC’s appetite for some apps will become.”
“Mobile commerce is big and getting bigger,” suggests a new report from BI Intelligence that analyzes trends in mobile commerce.
The report indicates that 29 percent of American smartphone users have used their devices to purchase something, and adds that Cyber Monday e-commerce sales rose 6.6 percent over last year.
This increase falls in line with Bank of America’s predicted $67.1 billion in mobile e-commerce revenue by 2015 for American and European customers.
Successful mobile payment systems not only give customers a way to pay for their items, but also add “extra value that can [be] created as a direct link between brands and customers,” according to the report. This means adding coupons, loyalty rewards, or other innovative ways to connect customers and products to mobile payment systems.
The report also highlights tablets as important targets, as the devices drive more traffic to e-commerce sites, and tablet customers also complete more transactions than smartphone users.
Location targeting allows companies to specifically match customers to stores they are interested in, writes Business Insider. “With in-store mobile marketing, an indecisive consumer can be nudged toward a specific brand or product,” adds the report.
After three years, Disney has decided to shut down Disney Movies Online, a streaming and digital locker service similar to UltraViolet.
The service allowed users to buy and rent movies from the Disney library, as well as stream movies they own on DVD or Blu-ray, but the service did not allow for offline viewing or for viewing on mobile or videogame systems.
“The digital environment is rapidly evolving and Disney Movies Online does not have the flexibility that many users today demand,” said a Disney spokesperson. “We made a business decision to close the service until we are able to provide the greatest value and experience to our customers.”
Disney is not abandoning the streaming movie business, and is expected to relaunch a Disney Movies Anywhere service with more features and more access to films, writes Variety.
While Disney Movies Online plans to officially shut down on December 31, the company will continue to embrace digital platforms.
“The opportunity to monetize owned IP is only growing because of new technology,” according to Disney CEO Bob Iger. “We will see growth in revenue and bottom line. It’s an exciting time for intellectual property owners.”
WatchESPN is now available for Xbox Live Gold Members. Previously Xbox Live only offered ESPN3, but now users can watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater and ESPN3 live on their Xbox.
Users must have service from a cable provider that offers WatchESPN. If they do not, they can continue to watch ESPN3 as long as they have an Xbox Live Gold membership “and an Internet connection from an ‘affiliated provider,'” reports Engadget.
The Xbox Live app offers split screen viewing so users can watch multiple channels at once — and with Kinect, users can navigate the experience with gestures or voice control.
The app also features game reminders and allows for personalization through its “My Sports” feature. The Mini Guide “gives fans a preview and quick access to all live events and highlights right at the bottom of the screen,” according to the press release.
ESPN and Microsoft plan to release an XboxSmartGlass feature for ESPN, NBA, and SportsPicks by December, notes the post.
While some American game developers have shied away from free-to-play models, the genre could soon become a dominant force in the gaming industry as developers creatively construct games to make the experience better for both the gamer and the developer, writes GamesIndustry.
Many current free-to-play games annoy users because they “effectively put a tax on fun” by employing dwindling energy levels that need to be replenished. However, the article notes: “The future is digital, and the elasticity that freemium offers will be to everyone’s benefit.”
“A lot of games that we like and enjoy today could very easily be free-to-play: ‘Fallout 3’ or ‘Skyrim’ could be, the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series could be,” suggests game designer American McGee. “Any game in which there is a world, and you’re going around acquiring items and interfacing with shops, any of those could work under a free-to-play model… I suspect that if you’d launched ‘Fallout 3’ as a free-to-play title rather than paying $60 for the disc it would have had equal or greater success.”
Brandon Beck of Riot Games has a different view of the future of free-to-play games. He argues the shift to free-to-play may take longer than people think, and that it may never fully happen.
“I don’t think the industry has figured out the right free models for many types of games — even your standard console platformer,” he notes. “So a rush into free-to-play may end up limiting the kinds of content choices that are available to players.”
“That would be a travesty, because we all want to see rich, linear eight-hour experiences continue, as well as many other kinds of games that don’t fit into the conventional free-to-play box,” he adds.
Developers agree that free-to-play has great potential, but it will only realize that potential if companies develop better, more interesting, and more creative games, argues GamesIndustry.
StoryVisualizer (or StoViz), a new PC-based technology, can reconfigure video sequences around specific characters to create a “personalized video episode” based on a specific character, writes New Scientist.
StoViz uses image analysis to isolate actors’ faces and the backgrounds in certain scenes. The technology also analyzes audio to find key words that help compile similar scenes and stories.
“The software then assembles a group of scenes that its video and audio algorithms have decided are semantically similar, and therefore hopefully represents the same plot line,” explains the article.
Hervé Bredin of the Computer Sciences Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences in Orsay, France has been working with a team at the Toulouse Institute for Computer Science Research to develop the technology. The team has tested StoViz on TV series with different formats: “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Game of Thrones” and “Ally McBeal.”
“The system could easily be activated via a screen menu, says Bredin, and perhaps in the not-too-distant future you might simply say the name of your favorite character to a Siri-like voice interface,” suggests the article.
The technology could be useful for people who need to catch up on a series or wish to understand the backstory behind a character. But some question if the technology is actually useful.
“I frankly wonder about the character of a viewer who would wish to use this when up to date with a series,” says Simon Parnall of pay TV systems maker NDS.
North Carolina State University researchers have developed software that could help improve Wi-Fi network throughput by 700 percent.
The technology, called WiFox, “monitors the network’s congestion and assigns an access point high priority when it accumulates a backlog of data,” writes Digital Trends. This allows networks to better handle high volumes of traffic, like when many people are accessing the same network at a coffee shop.
“In tests funded by the National Science Foundation, NCSU researchers found that WiFox led to performance improvements of 400 percent for a network with 25 users and 700 percent for a network of 45 users,” explains the post. “The tests also showed that the Wi-Fi network was able to respond to user requests four times faster on average than a network not using WiFox.”
The researchers will clarify details about WiFox next month at a conference sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery.
“Most likely, the program has an algorithm that will allow it to quickly direct the flow of traffic,” speculates Digital Trends.
“Of course, the effect crowds have on a wireless network depends on how good your router is. Besides, if the Terahertz band investigated earlier this year by Japanese researchers ever becomes commonplace, Wi-Fi could be speedy enough that we won’t need wireless traffic cops.”