In the last half-century, technology cycles have maintained relatively steady, turning over roughly every decade. From mainframe computing (60s) to mini computing (70s), personal computing (80s), desktop computing (90s), and mobile computing (00s), advancement was rather linear. However, with the introduction of wearable devices to the public in the past few years (Nike+ Fuelband, Sony Smartwatch, Google Glass to name a few), the newest wave of computing is arriving 4-5 years sooner than expected.

This acceleration of technology begs the question: what’s next? Furthermore, just how quickly will this trend continue to gain steam? Mary Meeker’s 2013 Internet Trends Report highlighted the raw numbers behind mobile and Internet growth around the world, but it’s also important to consider the accompanying social and ethical implications that arise out of humans getting closer and closer to their tech.

Consider the sketch above of a toddler playing with an iPhone. What is the experience of growing up on smart devices? Gone are the traditional physical interactions with books, newspapers, even computer mouses — this generation will only understand and be comfortable with technology that’s at furthest just a thin layer of glass away from their fingertips. With that in mind, it becomes reasonable to soon expect a world where tech jumps from wearable to within: gadgets becoming implemented inside our bodies. By the time today’s young kids become adults, the wearable watches and glasses with revolutionary potential now will likely have given way to even more advanced biotechnologies.

Whether that means ingesting special pills, getting tech tattoos, or inserting chips under your skin, the possibilities of symbiotic tech are already being explored. What’s amazing about this kind of technology is how it signals measured progress toward the Singularity, the theoretical point at which the computing power of machines surpasses that of the human brain. Futurists like Ray Kurzweil expect this to happen sometime around 2045 — which is still far away, but not that far.

The philosophical and moral dilemmas surrounding symbiotic tech are sure to be debated at great length as humans and technology meld closer and closer to one another. In a few decades, tech embedded in the human body may well be a very common occurrence, vastly expanding human potential and calling into question the very definition of “human.” Furthermore, there are legitimate concerns — black markets, privacy/tracking issues, and further widening of the poverty gap, for example. However, it’s important to note that these issues are always relative to the time in which they arise. As technology cycles accelerate, so too will privacy practices, law enforcement, and so on.

It’s unclear whether the Singularity will happen as current futurists predict it, or exactly how symbiotic tech will affect the everyday life of those who elect to use it. One thing that’s not in doubt though is the ever-increasing intimacy of our relationship to technology. Let’s see how the love-affair evolves.

Apps for the Endless Summer

June 6th, 2013 | Posted by Quixey in Favorite Apps - (0 Comments)

Summer is nearly upon us. Kids are thrilled that school’s almost out, adults are yearning for the freedom of their kids’ lives once more, and everyone’s excited for the possibilities that summer’s warm weather provides. Although activities like camping, hiking, biking, hitting the beach, and visiting water parks are staples of a great summer, we can always use a little help enhancing the fun! Here are a few apps to help you hang onto the endless summer:

Sun Shield

Sun Shield, available for Android and iOS, is exactly what it sounds like — an app to help you be safe about the time you spend under the sun. It’s features are incredibly in depth, however. It informs you of the strength of UV rays at your location, the safest hours to be outside, and suggestions for the strength of SPF sunscreen you should use. It also includes the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Assessment, used by dermatologists, to classify your skin type and give personalized best practices for sitting under the sun and avoiding the threat of skin cancer. With Sun Shield, you shouldn’t have to worry about turning into a lobster at the end of a beach day ever again.

Backpacker GPS Trails

Planning to go off the map for your next camping trip? Download BackPacker GPS Trails before you do, available on iOS. The GPS-enabled app allows you to view maps and hiking trails free from the boundaries of cell and data signals, track your progress, and plan trips ahead of time by mapping out routes. Backpacker GPS Trails also includes a digital compass and the ability to save coordinates of your location, wherever that may be. You can even submit your trails to the Backpacker community, and it may be picked for publishing by the editors of the Backpacker Magazine. Who knows, if you love it enough, maybe the app could help you kick off an adventure writing and photography career!

Grill-It!

For the griller in all of us, Grill-It! is an app dedicated to helping you throw an awesome backyard barbeque. Available on Android and iOS, the app is constantly updated with new recipes, browseable by category and searchable by key ingredients like spices, sauces, and more. Each recipe includes professional photos that challenge you to make your creation look as delicious as the pros do, and detailed instructions for for grilling procedure. If you’re looking to impress family and friends with a perfectly grilled meal, this is the app for you.

            

There are plenty of apps available out there to give your summer an extra kick. What others have you come across? We love suggestions, so send them to victor@quixey.com if you have any!

Mary Meeker’s 2013 Internet Trends Report was presented at the D11 conference in California yesterday, and with it came a slew of interesting statistics about worldwide technology trends. After sifting through the presentation’s 117 slides (and seeing a picture of our front entrance on slide 90!), we picked out a few of the points we feel are the most relevant. They include:

  • There are 2.4 Billion Internet users around the world, growing at a rate of 8% year over year.

  • Meeker sees a $20 Billion opportunity for ad spend in the US, noting that overall time spent on the Internet is 4% higher than ad spend, and overall time spent on mobile is 9% higher than ad spend.

  • 80% of the top 10 global Internet properties are based in the US, but 81% of users are outside of the US.

  • 500 Million photos are uploaded and shared every day — over 300 Million of them from Facebook.

  • The global average of users who say they share everything or “most things” online is 24%.

  • Mobile traffic as a percentage of total traffic is growing by 1.5x every year, currently sitting at 15%.

  • There are 1.5 Billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, with 31% growth, 21% overall penetration expected for 2013.

  • Although there are 1.5 Billion smartphone users, there are 5 Billion global mobile phone users — signaling that smartphones are still in early stage growth.

  • Wearable technology such as Google Glass and Pebble Watches are coming to market quicker than technology cycles of the past half-century have lasted. The duration of each cycle, including mainframe computing, mini computing, personal computing, desktop Internet computing, and mobile internet computing, has lasted roughly 10 years. Wearable tech is appearing 4-5 years earlier than this pattern.

  • The total number of iOS and Android users in China surpassed the total number of US iOS and Android users earlier this year, at around 225 Million. China also now leads the US in time spent on mobile and the Internet — 55% to 38% (as percentages of total time spent on media).

  • US government policy makes it easy for foreign high-skilled workers to go back home, but makes it very hard for skilled workers to come here. High skilled immigrants with Science, Tech, Engineering, or Mathematics degrees, are 1% of the total US population. Global competition for STEM workers is about to be very high.

  • Quixey on slide 90! “Street View from Silicon Valley”

  • Consumer confidence is at a 5 year high, but still well below the 30 year avg of 91.5 on the Consumer Confidence Index (CC1).


So what does this all mean?

Growth. Lots and Lots of Growth.

As demonstrated in Meeker’s report, the number of Internet users around the world continues to increase. What may be most intriguing about the growth seen recently in Internet and mobile is that much of it is still early stage — witness the fact that there are only 1.5 Billion smartphone users compared to 5 Billion overall mobile phone users. Dependent on this growth are the opportunities for advertising and monetization, which are even behind what’s currently possible. This is clearly only the beginning of a massive economic shift, affecting not only the technology industry but indeed many of the industries it touches.

Acceleration of Technology/Innovation Cycles

What may be even more shocking still from this growth is the acceleration we’re seeing. The appearance of Google Glass and similar wearable tech in the earlier part of this decade points to an increasing turnover rate of technology. It remains to be seen whether or not Glass becomes a mainstream device capable of unseating smartphones and tablets, but even if it doesn’t, the path has already been opened for technology to integrate closer and closer with the human body. If innovation picks up this quickly, the Singularity may come around sooner than we think.

International Shifting

The US is still the technology capital of the world, but developing markets are progressing quickly, and China has already begun to pass the US in key Internet and mobile statistics. Of course, in areas such as China and India, where the potential userbases are significantly larger than that of the US, this trend is inevitable. The skilled employer-sought talent dispersed around the world, however, is what will truly define dominance within the technology industry. Pay attention to legislation surrounding US immigration reform — it could have massive repercussions for the global tech landscape.

Are there any other takeaways you found from Meeker’s report? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Send them to victor@quixey.com.

CTO Liron Shapira gives a deep dive into Quixey’s Functional Search™ technology at a Bay Area Search meetup.

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Time for another batch of the Quixey Tweet Awards. We’re appreciative of all our partners, friends, and fans of Quixey who spread word about us on Twitter, so we wanted to give a shout out to a few of them!

The “Novel Idea” Award:

 

The Quixey Challenge Mention Award:

 

The COOL Award:

 

The Categorical Award:

 

The International Love Award:

 

The Local Love Award:

 

We love all the support and appreciation sent our way via Twitter, and can’t wait to show everyone what’s coming up this summer! Stay tuned and keep the conversation going!

As we all know, sometimes it’s difficult to find motivation to exercise. There’s simply no arguing with the facts — the couch is just a more comfortable place. Luckily for us, there are apps that can help us from sinking too far in! Here are a few of our favorites for being active and keeping a healthy lifestyle:

Fitbit

Fitbit, available on iOS and Android, allows users to track food intake, activity, weight, water, sleep, and most importantly, see the big picture when it comes to how daily choices affect your health. The app connects to a variety of wireless trackers, as well as an Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. Wearing one of the wireless trackers allows you to track your activity and sleep patterns, while the Smart Scale helps you monitor your weight and set goals. All the devices connect to the Fitbit mobile app to provide you with reports on your activity and areas of need with respect to health.

Nike+ FuelBand

The Nike+ FuelBand connects with an iOS app to provide users with a gamified method of staying on top of their fitness. Similar to Fitbit, it comes in a wearable wristband that tracks your daily activity, including running, walking, dancing, and all sorts of daily activities. Opening the app allows you to see your progress and receive achievements and rewards as you do more. It also connects through Facebook, Twitter, and Path, allowing users to easily share their accomplishments and encourage better fitness amongst friends and family.

Amiigo

Amiigo combines a tracking wristband and shoe clip with its Android or iOS mobile app to monitor exactly what kind of activity the wearer is doing. For example, the sensors can identify whether you’re using the elliptical, running, swimming, doing bicep curls, squats. etc. Amiigo correlates these activities with heart rate and blood oxygen saturation to give a complete physiological breakdown of your activities. Overall, Amiigo can identify and track hundreds of different exercises, as well as reps, intensity, and more.

Have you come across any other great fitness apps? If so, we’d love to hear about them! Tweet at @Quixey to let us know!

How do you measure the value of an app? The standard method is to add the total amount users spent buying an app plus the total amount users spent on in-app purchases, to get the app’s gross revenue. Some platforms publish lists of top grossing apps:

The problem is that gross only measures the direct flow of money from an app’s users. In this post, we’ll see how apps create and monetize value in the larger economy.

Visualizing economic value

We can visualize how economic value is created and exchanged by drawing a diagram like this:

The diagram above represents the economic value created and exchanged when a lego man buys a sandwich from a 7-Eleven. We call it an economic value diagram.

Economic value diagrams have the following properties:

  1. Green arrows represent money being exchanged
  2. Blue arrows represent non-monetary value being exchanged
  3. Solid arrows represent ongoing costs
  4. D-a-s-h-e-d arrows represent one-time value exchanges
  5. The thickness of arrows represents the amount of value being exchanged

In the diagram above, 7-Eleven pays a one-time cost to create a sandwich, then Lego Guy pays $4.35 for it and gets nourishment value. Pretty cool, right?

Here’s a quiz to see if you understand economic value diagrams:

In the diagram above, circle the part where 7-Eleven creates value.

Here’s the answer:

The thin green arrow represents the cost that 7-Eleven paid to make the sandwich, which is probably less than $2. The thick blue arrow represents the amount of nourishment value that Lego Guy got out of the sandwich, which has to be worth more than $4.35 to Lego Guy, since he’d rather have the sandwich than have his $4.35.

The reason we circled the sandwich – the way we know value is being created – is that the arrow leaving the sandwich is thicker than the arrow entering the sandwich. The difference in arrow thicknesses represents the magnitude of the value being created.

Now that we can visualize economic value, let’s see how apps create and monetize it.

How apps create and monetize value

Selling themselves as goods

Let’s start with the classic value-creation model: apps as economic goods, a.k.a. “paid apps”.

In the age of shrink-wrapped software, all apps were goods – tangible products sold in cardboard boxes on store shelves.

The original Angry Birds app was a lot like a good. Users would buy it in an app store for $0.99, play through all the levels, and then lose interest.

By definition, a good requires a one-time cost from a producer. On the other hand, a consumer might get either a one-time benefit or an ongoing benefit from a good.

In the 7-Eleven diagram, the dashed blue arrow shows that 7-Eleven’s sandwiches provide a one-time nourishment benefit to consumers.

In the diagram below, the solid blue arrow shows that Lowes’ hammers provide ongoing hammering benefits to consumers.

 

Similarly, the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app provides an ongoing waking-up benefit after a one-time $0.99 purchase.

Selling subscriptions and in-app purchases

The app industry has seen a big trend toward freemium apps - apps that are free to download and try, but then charge for subscriptions or in-app purchases. Some recent stats:

The Wall Street Journal creates value by writing original news content. It monetizes that value through a classic freemium model.

WSJ charges users a $21.99/month for a digital subscription, which enables a user to read WSJ content inside any WSJ app.

Supporting a larger business

What about apps that aren’t paid or freemium, but simply free?

You can be sure that “free” apps still create and monetize value, but you can’t just look at the direct exchange of value between user and app. You have to consider the bigger picture.

Domino’s creates value, billions of dollars of it per year, by making pizzas. They also created some additional value by developing the Domino’s apps. These apps are “free”, but they help the larger Domino’s business.

The Domino’s app economic value diagram is interesting to analyze:

  • If the “convenience” arrow is thicker than the “development” arrow, then the app has created economic value
  • If the app causes the “pizza order” arrow to increase its thickness, then the app has both created and monetized economic value
  • If the thickness of the “pizza order” arrow increases more than the total thickness of the “development” arrow, then the app has monetized enough of its economic value to recoup its development costs

Increasing brand awareness

The Domino’s app is free to use, but it still asks for your credit card info when you want to order a pizza. What about free apps that never mention spending money?

The Coca Cola Christmas Snow Globes app seems like a fun game that has nothing to do with drinking Coke.

Coca Cola Christmas Snow Globes

The app creates value by letting users send fun Christmas cards. But how does it monetize that value?

The Coca Cola Company is betting that users of its app will raise their awareness of the Coca Cola brand at least enough to recoup the development cost. In other words, it’s betting that the “brand awareness” arrow will be thicker than the “development” arrow.

Selling users’ attention

Coca Cola’s app keeps users’ brand awareness for itself. But what about companies that monetize their apps through ads? Let’s diagram one of the most complicated examples: YouTube.

To make YouTube work, Google pays lots of ongoing video-hosting costs. It also paid a relatively tiny one-time cost to develop its YouTube for iOS app.

As users watch YouTube videos, they pay some attention to YouTube’s ads. When users pay attention to ads, advertisers receive economic value in the form of brand awareness. And advertisers pay Google a lot of money for that brand awareness, as you can see by the thickness of the “placement” arrow.

Functional Web economics

Last week, we argued that app stores’ concept of “installation” is obsolete. Similarly, we suspect that the concepts of “buying an app” is becoming obsolete.

Economic value diagrams show us that many apps create ongoing value for users. It makes sense to monetize these apps as services rather than goods, so we expect purchases of paid apps to continue declining while freemium in-app purchases continue rising.

Economic value diagrams also show us that economic value exchanges between users and app developers can transcend the boundaries of apps. For example, the Domino’s app has zero gross revenue in the app store, but it’s probably added millions of dollars to Domino’s’ yearly revenue by helping users buy more pizza. So even gross revenue is a narrow measure of monetized app value.

The Functional Web model predicts that URLs will remain constant as function identifiers, while everything else – including monetization models – will become infinitely flexible. We predict that apponomics will become uniformly freemium – just like websites and retail stores are all freemium.

We see five major problems with the concept of “installing” native apps.

1. Allocates local resources too rigidly

“Shrink-wrapped software” is what we call ’90s-era desktop applications sold as cardboard boxes on store shelves. Shrink-wrapped software is the precursor to today’s native apps.

A shrink-wrapped software application has to set itself up to work 100% offline. It uses a lot of local storage space and computational resources (and requires a lot of up-front installation time on your local machine).

Web apps usually do their computational heavy lifting on server farms in the cloud, so your device only has to provide a tiny fraction of the local storage and computational resources needed to run a web app – often less than 1%.

Are native apps like the 100%-locally-running shrink-wrapped software that originated the concept of installation, or are they more like 1%-locally-running web apps? Actually, both options are overly rigid resource allocations.

A native app can be located anywhere on the local-to-remote spectrum, depending on how it splits the work between its remote servers and your local device. There might even be multiple points on the spectrum for a single app. In principle, every app’s local-to-remote ratio can be in constant flux, dynamically adjusting its local device footprint (e.g. to populate a local cache using predictions about what data the user will want to access next).

2. Has an outdated concept of “updating”

In the age of shrink-wrapped software, when a user wanted to update their version of an app, they had to get their hands on a newer CD-ROM and repeat the whole installation process.

On the web, updates are automatic and completely transparent to users – users don’t have to think about the whole concept of “updating”, nor make decisions about when to update – it just happens silently over the internet. And on the web, updates happen incrementally – users only download the updated code and data necessary for rendering their current page within a web app.

Today’s native apps have the technology to update automatically like websites do – they have access to an internet connection most of the time. And today’s native apps have the technology to update incrementally – they’re often architected as a hierarchical combination of functional components (e.g. a payment-processing component, a map-rendering component, etc), and in principle the individual components of an app can update incrementally just like the individual pages of a web app.

But in many cases, updating native apps is neither automatic nor incremantal today. There’s no technical reason for this, but there is a conceptual reason. Our outdated concept of installing apps is responsible for our outdated concept of updating apps.

3. Is device-specific

It’s nice that you only have to install an app once per device (until an update becomes available, that is). But if you install an app on one of your devices, chances are you’ll also end up installing it on your other devices. And if you want to use your app when you’re at a friend’s house, you might end up installing it on your friend’s devices too.

You’re bound to encounter lots of app-enabled devices in your life. Why should you have to worry about installing your apps on every device you encounter? Device-specificity is just an arbitrary limitation of installation.

Web apps don’t have that limitation because they’re prepared to be launcehd from a state of zero local resources. If you use the OkCupid web app on your laptop, you can go to your friend’s house who has never used OkCupid, and instantly log into your OkCupid account by typing"www.okcupid.com" into their browser.

It’s a good bet that native apps will eventually drop the concept of device-specific installation. They can copy web apps’ incremental downloading solutions, and they can even go a step farther.

For example, one day you might be able to configure the device in your pocket to constantly signal your presence to the other devices in the vicinity that you might be able to use. The nearby devices will silently make predictions about which apps you’re most likely to want to use on them, and preemptively download relevant resources to be ready to run these apps quickly.

4. Adds up-front wait time

Shrink-wrapped software taught users to expect long wait times for mysterious progress bars called “installers”. A shrink-wrapped software installer might take a few minutes to copy an application’s files from a CD-ROM onto your computer’s hard drive, and then run configuration scripts to register it with your operating system.

Nonzero up-front wait times are a fact of life for any kind of app, but at least web apps address the problem proactively. Web developers routinely think about incremental downloading - programming their web apps to always download the smallest fraction of code and data necessary to provide the current user experience.

The web has taught us to expect instant gratification. Point your browser to a web app and you might have a bit of up-front wait time, but the web’s progress bars fly by at warp speed compared to shrink-wrapped software’s.

Today’s native apps have brought back the installation process.

On the plus side, the native app installation process makes life easy for app developers; it saves them the work of figuring out incremental downloading solutions. But developers can’t afford to comporomise user experience for their own convenience.

Just look at how much work Instagram‘s developers put into making a snappy experience for their users. Their native app has a clever scheme for uploading a user’s photo while they’re writing a caption and tweaking various options, so they never have to wait on a progress bar.

Apps like Instagram, with that level of focus on user experience, would do anything to minimize their users’ up-front wait time. Their installation step seems out of place in today’s world of instant gratification.

5. Breaks linking

Web apps have an extremely useful feature that shrink-wrapped software never had: linking. On the web, we take it for granted that Instagram photos and OkCupid profiles have URLs and are linkable.

Native apps installed on your device also have the ability to open certain links, but the installation requirement makes it risky to send around links to apps. For example, if you have one of IMDB’s apps installed on your device, then a link to imdb:///title/tt0114709 will launch it and go directly to its Toy Story entry.


But if you don’t have an IMDB app installed on your device, that same link will take you to a screen like this:

That’s why people share links to web apps all the time, but rarely share links to native apps. Native app platforms have weakened the concept of linking while strengthening the concept of installation. They really should be doing the opposite.

Conclusion

Developers will always try to maximize monetizable value for users. That’s what drives the long-term trend toward a web of high-level functions – the Functional Web.

Native app installation forces users to think about low-level concepts – which device they’re installing on, how much storage space it has, and when to upate. Plus, it makes users wait longer for apps up-front and it breaks in-app linking. In the Functional Web model, native app installation is a low-level implementation detail that gets abstracted away from users.

In a previous post, we saw how the Functional Web abstracts away the native-to-web app spectrum. In the first section of this post, we saw how the Functional Web can potentially abstract away the local-to-remote app spectrum. It’s also a good bet that the Functional Web will abstract away the installed vs. not-installed app dichotomy.

A snippet from a talk by Christian Rohrer, McAfee’s Chief Design Officer in Consumer and Mobile, on the importance of user research in experience design.

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