Rumour: WhatsApp may be Google’s next billion dollar acquisition
WhatsApp is the popular cross platform messaging service with subscribers in over 100 countries and 700 carriers. Rumour has it that Google is looking to buy the company to fast track growth in the messaging space.
The app’s popularity stems from the fact that it uses cheap data to send messages rather than expensive SMS. And it is surprisingly robust with little down time and near-instant communication. To give you and idea of the numbers involved, almost 7 billion messages were sent over WhatsApp on New Year’s Eve.
The four-year-old company is based in Santa Clara, Calif., was founded by Brian Acton and Jan Koumis, both former Yahoo employees.
So why would Google want WhatsApp?
1. The search giant is expected to launch Google Babble or Babel – a mashup of all its messaging tools across devices and platforms. Google’s own messaging app GTalk is limited to Android devices and doesn’t have the reach of WhatsApp. But the underlying technology driving WhatsApp is very similar to GTalk making it likely that Google will eventually want to merge the two services under a single Google brand.
Plus with a huge established user base across mobile platforms, WhatsApp will give a much needed boost to make the service immediately relevant on mobile.
2. Like Google Maps, WhatsApp can give Google access into non-Android devices particularly iOS.
3. WhatsApp uses the device phone number as the default password and that can be valuable information for Google when paired with personal data.
Compelling reasons no doubt, but does this make WhatsApp worth the billion dollar price tag? Hmm…
Do you give in to pester power or hold out until they are older? In these times of mobile phone addiction, cyber-bullying and sexting, would you rather not give them a phone at all?
On the flip side for you as a parent, having a phone means peace of mind when they are out and about, while helping them form stronger social networks and be included at school.
So, what is the right age for a child to have their own phone?
Kids of different ages use phones differently. Younger kids, between 5 and 10, are more likely watch YouTube videos and play games on the phone. Your phone or a shared tablet should be good enough at this age. However 31% of Australian kids already own a phone by the time they are 10.
As they get to 12-13 the mobile starts becoming more of a communication tool with texts being the form of conversation. This is also when they start becoming more independent and the phone is useful for organizing the inevitable pick ups and drop offs. You could get them one, but the level of flexibility would have to depend on the emotional maturity of your child. Consider a prepaid cheapie with restricted credit instead of a full blown smartphone. Research shows 80% of kids in this age group own a phone.
The phone becomes a perceived necessity in teenage years when the online world becomes as, if not more, important as the real world. Kids have access to a lot when they are on the computer anyway, so mobile phone or not depends entirely on your relationship with your child. This Mum gave her 13 year old an iPhone for Christmas along with an 18 point contract that included terms like restricted hours, no porn, responsible use and no phone to school. Not many parents can enforce such rules but it is a good idea to discuss responsible use sooner rather than later. Perhaps make them earn the phone by saving their own money.
So should your 13 year get her own phone? The answer as we see it, is a qualified yes.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, HTC was the king of the Android roost within touching distance of the iPhone juggernaut. But with Samsung’s new Galaxy S3 beating HTC flagship One X 0n every benchmark, there seems to be little HTC can do to recover lost momentum.
The Taiwanese manufacturer recently revised down the 2Q forecast due to competition from the American and Korean giants, a weak Euro and production delays. HTC revised down second-quarter revenue to NT$91 billion (US$3.03 billion) from an earlier forecast of NT$105 billion. While the overall Android market share has been increasing steadily, HTC’s market share actually dropped for the first time this quarter from 8.9% in Q1 2011 to 4.8% in Q1 2012.
So why this sudden change of fortune?
It turns out there are three key reasons.
1. Strong Samsung Marketing. Samsung have really gone all out with the launch of Galaxy S3. Look at the lavish global launches including the one here in Sydney at Capitol Theatre complete with celebrity performers. The phone is splashed across all consumer media including a very Apple style television ad. HTC One X is nowhere to be seen except in a few dedicated mobile outlets and some outdoor advertising. The lesson here is that smartphones need to appeal to wide audiences across the country to gain real traction. HTC needs to broaden its appeal to beyond the ‘techies’ segment.
2. Strange naming conventions. Dream, Salsa, Magic, Sensation, Incredible…the list of HTC phone names has long been a dogs breakfast. The names give no indication about where each phone fits in terms of technology and pricing. To top it off, last year HTC released a number of almost identical spec phones with different names sold through different carriers just so that carriers could claim exclusivity for their particular phone. Thankfully someone put a stop to that.
Things are looking better in 2012 with the One series with a promise of some consistency. So far we’ve seen the One X, One XL, One S and One V.
3. Positioning. Compare HTC One X advertising to iPhone 4S or the Galaxy S3
HTC One X commercial – Features a bunch of skydivers taking pictures while in free fall. Main message is about camera capabilities.
Apple iPhone 4S commercial – Also talks about the camera and other features, but using cute kids with a focus on ease of use.
And finally Samsung Galaxy S3 commercial that out-Apples Apple. Piano music, lots of faces and talkining about benefits not features.
Clearly Samsung marketing teams have taken a conscious decision to move away from features and focus on benefits, as Apple has been doing all this time. Nokia take a similar approach with Lumia and “the amazing everyday” campaign.
HTC does have some punches of its own on the product front. The phones are always solid and well designed, HTC Sense UI is much better than Samsung TouchWiz and integrates more smoothly with ICS and the HD LCD displays are definitely the best out there.
But the question remains: Can HTC recover back to the heady days of Desire HD? While it is hard to make predictions in this ever changing smartphone market, Samsung and Apple have the top two spots pretty much stitched up. However better marketing and better channel engagement strategy may help HTC claw back some of that marketshare. But it is not an easy task – just ask Nokia and RIM!
Thanks Joe, for bringing in your perspective on this.
2011 has been pronounced the year of the mobile, with mobile advertising set to deliver potfuls of money to the advertising giants.
Take a look at some of the mobile ad formats accepted by Google for display on mobile devices -
Businesses, particularly SMEs, are very excited about the prospect of serving cheap targeted advertising to customers while they are away from their computers. Mobile marketing is expected to reach 5 billion dollars by 2012.
But according to this study by Pontiflex and Harris Interactive, 47% of users have clicked on a mobile ad without actually meaning to. This is behaviour is actively encouraged by app developers – crucial navigation elements are placed sneakily close to ad placements driving accidental clicks and therefore revenue.
However the lack of ad effectiveness is likely to drive down the attractiveness of mobile advertising in the long run; and app developers will end up losing out on revenue, or will need to severely compromise the user experience to make any money. A lose-lose either way. And its only a matter of time before users acquire the same immunity to mobile ads as they have for banner ads on websites.
As a consumer, you have the option to chose how app developers fund apps. Pay a couple of dollars and buy an ad free experience, or get it free and live with the accidental stumble into the world of mobile advertising.
Its deja vu all over again. This time it is Windows Phone 7 handsets that are not available at launch due to ‘supply issues’. Microsoft has learnt a thing or two from the gurus of technology marketing – Apple. Over the years Apple has repeatedly demonstrated the golden rule to creating a runaway success - create demand and then squeeze supply.
This week was to hold the big multi carrier launch with five Windows Phone 7 enabled phones to hit the market with the three major carriers. Of those, only HTC Mozart made it to the shelves in limited quantities through Telstra. VHA announced on Twitter that they had no idea when HTC Trophy will be available. And no word from Optus on dates for Samsung Omnia 7 or the LG Optimus 7. Even with Telstra, the phone generated a lot less buzz than its brand ambassador The Old Spice Guy.
However people did pick up the HTC Mozart and initial responses are just starting to filter through. We’ll do a dedicated review of the phone and available deals soon.
So while we wait for all the phones to come through, you could take time to familiarize yourself with some tips and tricks on getting the most out of your Windows Phone 7. Or you could just watch the Old Spice Guy again.
Why are popular phones so regularly out of stock? The question contains its own answer. Popular phones by definition generate high demand and are all too often in short supply. But don’t expect to see supply catching up anytime soon as the stock shortage, or scarcity in marketing speak, is a terrific marketing tool.
Take a look at this classic demand supply curve –
As the supply decreases, demand increases. The more in demand something is, the more you can charge for it and our friends over at Apple are masters of this game. The trend started with the iPhone 3GS which was out of stock for months after its launch in July last year. We saw a repeat with the iPad and now again with iPhone4. The iPhone4 becomes more desirable just because more people want it than have it. By the way, we keep a close watch on the iPhone4 stock situation here.
Interestingly the demand curve works the other way too. Over supply leads to a drop in demand. And that may just be playing against Nokia – their handsets are so ubiquitous that Nokia lies on the unhappy end of the same supply demand curve.
Other manufacturers have caught on. Samsung Galaxy S, a strong challenger to the iPhone, has been having stock issues last few weeks. And I suspect it won’t be long before we see more phones following suit as more handset makers build stock management into their marketing and PR strategies.
Today Apple CEO Steve Jobs declared that every day 270,000 to 300,000 iOS based devices are being activated round the planet. The statistic was in response to a recent comment from Android chief Andy Rubin, that Android activations were touching 250,000 a day.
This graph from netmaketshare.com shows that although Android devices are rapidly gaining usage share, iOS has 4.9 times the global usage share of all Android devices.
But if recent performance is an indicator, it is only a matter of time that iOS and Android are at level. Nokia still leads with Symbian in actual numbers, but its marketshare is rapidly declining even as Android becomes the platform of choice in traditonal Nokia markets like Indian and China.
As the two giants battle for mobile OS leadership in public, privately both have seen tremendous growth on the back of smartphone devices. Earlier this year Apple beat Microsoft in market capitalisation, while Android is the perfect move for Google to extend its online dominance.