ComboApp

Webinar: “10 Steps to Release Your Mobile App” -April 22, 10 am CDT

On Tuesday, April 22nd- ComboApp will host a webinar for business owners who are ready to bring their product or services to market who are in need of an example of solid marketing strategy to use as a guideline as they ramp up for their launch date. This webinar session will also be useful for investors who are considering mobile apps as an investment and want solid release strategy to backup their financial interest.

Register at:
10 Steps To Release Your Mobile App

Art Dogtiev,
Head of Branded Content

Adap.tv Launches Programmatic TV Buying Program

Real Time Media and Marketing (via MediaPost.com) reported last week that AOL’s Adap.tv was moving ahead with their programmatic TV buying program. Announced in fall of 2013, AOL has taken over six months to polish the product offering, which has paid off – as they have snagged a major media partner in Magna Global – who began beta testing the platform in Q4 2013.

According to RTMM, this move by Magna makes a lot of sense, as their parent company (IPG Mediabrands) is interested in automating 50% of all their ad buying by 2016. Though, programmatic TV buying may not be the whole solution to this quest, as the human touch is still needed to provide the highly targeted results that the medium promises.

The implications for this platform are huge: Dan Ackerman, the senior vice president of programmatic TV for AOL, claims that by partnering with Adap.tv the company gains the ability to reach over 90 million US based television households. The scope will put Magna in position to compete with the top-30 networks in terms of scope and distribution of ad content. Whether or not that is accurate, remains to be seen.

Besides Magna, there are smaller companies who have signed onto the platform, though Ackerman could not comment on specifics of those deals at the time of RTMM’s article.

“These are smaller deals compared to the multi-seven-figure deals elsewhere in TV, and we see huge upside there,” he said. “The upside is not only in the size of the deals but also in the frequency and the volume. Some agencies and clients are very progressive, while others are moving into it a bit more slowly.”

Kate Kotler, senior media relations manager

New App Store, New Developer Challenges

Image via GetPebble.com

Talk about contextual technology – pundits who are enamored with the burgeoning spectrum of “wearable tech” often point to the smartwatch as the forerunner of what is to come in this nascent category. And, while there are more than a few smartwatches on the market at the moment, arguably, the most functional and popular is the Pebble.

With over 400,000 units shipped and major partnerships with retailers such as Target, etc. – this super sexy accessory is positioned well to continue to be a leader in its’ category. Pebble operates on an open system, making it accessible to indie devs who want to try to make waves in app development for wearable tech.

To that point: On March 10, 2014 – on the heels of launching app stores for both the iOS and Android ecosystems, Pebble announced they would be running a developer contest for the best new app for the Pebble. Contestants were organized into a “March Madness-esque” bracket, pitting developer against developer, until the apps were narrowed down to the winner who would  receive $5k and a new Pebble Steel watch for their efforts. A winner in both iOS and Android were to be chosen on March 31st, but due to a problem with Pebble’s iOS app store, final voting was postponed until this week… and, winners will be chosen/announced on Friday, April 11th.

Exciting!

Pebble is one of the first crowdsourced tech products, in 2012 they raised $10.2 million dollars from donors via Kickstarter. Subsequently, in May 2013 they netted a cool $15 million in their Series A funding round. (Makes us think that perhaps they should shell out a bit more than $5k for a winning app for their product, eh? Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers – right?)

It will be interesting to see which apps win this contest and how it impacts the development of the wearable tech market. Stay tuned for updates…

Kate Kotler, Senior Media Relations manager

PreApps Announces Launch of Innovative 2.0 Platform

Our partner PreApps, a site dedicated to enhancing the collaborative process of app developers and users, is excited to launch their brand new PreApps 2.0 platform! With their revamped site, developers will have the opportunity to enjoy five times more market exposure than before. And for one year developers can take advantage of complimentary beta testing and user downloads.

But they didn’t just improve the developers’ service, new features allows users to have a more personally tailored experience. PreApps 2.0 is highly customized to individual users and will recommend apps based on the taste of the user. Users are rewarded for their engagement, through the Gamification system, which allows users to earn points for providing valuable feedback to developers. The points can then be exchanged for prizes, including Amazon gift cards.

As well as the improved offerings available with the 2.0 platform, app developers gain viral marketing opportunities, continuous exposure, and marketing services through the use of PreApps. Be sure to check out their newly styled site here: www.preapps.com

ComboApp team

Update: Apple vs Samsung, the Saga Continues

As the legal battle between the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers continues, U.S. District Judge, Lucy Koh has recently rejected a bid by Apple Inc. to ban the sales of certain Samsung smartphones. This decision was reached when Koh could not find evidence that Samsung’s patent infringements caused irreparable damage to Apple. While Apple did get a sizeable $929 million settlement from the trial, Samsung has gained more leverage which could be beneficial in any future injunctions by Apple

‘‘The real importance of this ruling is what it tells us about Apple’s chances of winning a future injunction against Samsung,’’said Brian Love, associate professor of law at Santa Clara University, in an interview with the Boston Globe.

 Although Samsung may have the upper hand, Apple continues to demand royalties on each of the Korean company’s patent-violating products. Another trial is scheduled to start at the end of March, where Apple will propose harsher royalty fees than before. According to FOSS Patents, in some cases proposed fees reached as high as $30 per smartphone and $40 per tablet. These are very steep fees compared to the first suit, where Apple was paid $7.14 per device for three patent violations.

Despite the harsh legal penalties imposed upon Samsung, the company continues to produce devices that are in violation of Apple’s patents. Why? Possibly because Samsung knows that, despite the costs to the company resulting from the suit, their devices are still in demand. Despite the massive royalty fees imposed via the recent trial, the company continues to profit from the sale of these devices. Samsung has found an effective strategy to get around the law and may very well go on infringing on Apple’s patents so long as the revenue collected on the questionable devices continues to be greater than the fines imposed upon them.

Written by Rich Frederick, intern

Edited by Kate Kotler, senior media relations manager

App Store Search Update: related searches

The long coming App Store Search new features have finally glimpsed last week, when the Time Planner co-founder Olga Osadcha accidentally spotted a new feature. As you can see on the screenshot below she was searching for her app’s name in the iOS App Store and in return, plus to the number of app cards, a new featured popped up.

The Related list provides the number of suggestions for alternative keywords to alter a search query quickly. Clicking on each keyword on the list returns a different search results set and so it does help to speed up searching process and leads to finding a specific app user is looking for.

Currently this feature hasn’t been rolled out officially, it was only spotted for US App Store and as Apple confirmed to TechCrunch recently it will be rolled out within next few weeks. The implications of this update will number one – shorter route for a particular app to be discovered and number two – app developers will get an idea for what keywords to choose for their app keywords set. Currently the latter is pretty tough call as there is no such thing as publicly available statistical data about keywords popularity on the App Store and so app owners have to use third party tools, which are more or less capable to estimate keywords popularity and correlation within.

Stay tuned and check out the App Store search periodically to spot the moment when it’ll be rolled out and don’t expect Apple to issue a press release about it :-) Well,  it’s not a new software or a hardware release.

Art Dogtiev,

Head of Branded Content

WhatsApp Acquisition Faces Roadblock

WhatsAppIt didn’t take privacy advocates very long to throw up a red flag in an attempt to block Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp:

Reports from the BBC and ThreatPost state that two non-profit foundations (the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Center for Digital Democracy) have filed injunctions with federal regulators which could pose a substantial roadblock in the acquisition process if Facebook doesn’t make the reason for the startup company’s acquisition transparent. The complaint reads:

“WhatsApp built a user-base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue. Users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model.

“The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”

This is a fair point: WhatsApp was built on a strong precept of “no advertising allowed” by its’ founder Jan Koum (as detailed by Forbes writer Parmy Olsen in her detailed profile piece of Koum and WhatsApp published last month). Whereas, Facebook has faced considerable criticism over the years for questionable advertising and data mining practices; including, but not limited to, the implementation of user photos into advertising without permission, supplementing user profiles with third party data and selling private user data to outside companies.

So, what DOES Facebook intend to do with WhatsApp, if not plunder it for all it’s rich, sweet, unspoiled user info?

Mark Zuckerberg is adamant that WhatsApp privacy promises to users will be honored. In a statement released to Reuters, Facebook drives this point home: “As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honour its commitments to privacy and security.”

What most likely is of interest to Zuckerberg and Facebook is the backend technology which powers WhatsApp. As pointed out in another Forbes article late last week, to simply be mining the data from WhatsApp makes it -essentially- a very very expensive list of names. What tech insiders suspect Facebook is likely to do with WhatsApp boils down to splitting the business model in two into the “value creation” (WhatsApp as it stands alone, operating as it has) and the “value capture” (where Facebook takes the tech WhatsApp has created and implements it into Facebook to provide existing users with a richer, more engaging user experience).

table economistIn addition, Facebook – of all places – may have a thing or two to learn from WhatsApp about virility: As the Zuck himself stated, WhatsApp reached 450m users faster than any other web service in existence. That includes Facebook and Twitter. According to the Economist, 72% of WhatsApp users are active on the service every single day. That number is staggering. Ease of use and the company’s commitment to user privacy has created the perfect storm to push WhatsApp ahead of its’ major competitors Skype, Viber and WeChat.

Innovation is not something which is lost on Zuckerberg and crew, so it is entirely possible that they are interested in acquiring the smarts behind the app, too.

But, realistically (and, sadly), as with any multi-billion dollar enterprise, The Guardian’s Dan Gillmor probably is closest to hitting the nail on the head when he says that Zuck is no “benevolent overlord” and Facebook is “trying to take over the world” with this latest big deal.

Cue the theme music from Pinky & the Brain… we know Zuck is the Brain, so who is Pinky in this scenario?

Kate Kotler, writer

Burstly Joins the Apple Family Tree

0122-burstly-1.jpgHave you ever had a moment after reading something where you had to shake your head because you just couldn’t believe what you had read? This is the feeling we had when reading about Apple’s most recent acquisitions:

The news of the Burstly.com pickup hit the wire a few weeks ago. Burstly is the company that brought iOS devs the TestFlight platform, used to share app builds pre-release for beta testing. There is no more popular third party solution provider amongst iOS developers. TestFlight is used pretty ubiquitously throughout the developer community. Unlike some sites reporting on the rumor that Apple will shut down TestFlight (IOHO, these posts serve as click-bait), we think that the Apple acquisition of this massively popular tool has other implications.

During a recent interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook shared something unexpected – the exact number of companies which Apple has acquired over the last 16 months. Tech pundits and media have been so focused on the acquisitions of WhatsApp by Facebook, Zite by Flipboard and Motorola Mobility by Lenovo that they have totally missed the fact that Apple has snapped up TWENTY THREE companies in a little under a year and a half. Only a handful of Apple’s acquisitions were publicly acknowledged and if Tim Cook had not mentioned the rest in this interview, the tech community would have remained (generally) in the dark about those pickups.

Apple is known for having an acquisition policy that is quite different from other companies like Google and Microsoft. They are always on the search for innovative ideas, talent and new technologies to enhance their existing hardware and software. Take, for instance, this recent rumor that Apple is going to buy Tesla Motors: As much as we would love to see these companies to join their forces, we realize that it’s not going to happen. Apple wouldn’t make the strategic decision to buy a company for $25 billion dollars which forces a jump into a completely new product category. But, they might join forces with Tesla in a partnership designed to manufacture a more efficient battery – that we can see, as it would be hugely beneficial to Apple to have intellectual property rights on that type of technology. (And, would effectively screw over the rest of the mobile market in the process.)

We digress.

Apple has essentially purchased two major assets with the acquisition of Burstly: TestFlight and SkyRocket. Here is how those acquisitions will benefit Apple:

 TestFlight

This is the solution we at ComboApp have encountered over and over again while working with different apps in beta that we need to develop marketing and communications strategy for. Among the many ways you can actually get ahold of an iOS app before it becomes available on the App Store, TestFlight has always been the best and most stable option. TestFlight feels like it is the solution which Apple itself should have developed and provided. And, with this acquisition, it is likely we soon will see TestFlight integrated into the xCode app development suite.

Even though the TestFlight solution is extremely popular doesn’t mean that 100% of iOS developers are taking advantage of it – as it is a matter of scale – how many users the system could handle. With Apple’s technical backup TestFlight can take flight into a larger world of iOS developers… pun intended.

There is always going to be a technical gap between what a small startup company and what a company like Apple is able to support and offer. The acquisition of TestFlight is clearly a win-win situation: Apple will be able to offer one more extremely useful tool, making its platform even more attractive for iOS app developers; the Burstly team will benefit by being able to simplify their solution offerings and having bragging rights about being an Apple partner.

One thing about the Burstly acquisition is crystal clear to us: The days of TestFlight for Android are over. This is a no brainer, Apple has already (as Liz Lemon or Jack Donaghy would say) shut it down.

 SkyRocket

Clearly SkyRocket is destined to build upon Apple’s iAd mobile ad platform. iAd – introduced by Apple in 2010 was previously a mobile advertising platform called Quattro Wireless which had been in operation since the app store’s inception in 2008. iAd clearly has its strong points and weak points, for some time it has been speculated that Apple would make a strategic move to strengthen the offering by rolling another similar product suite with stronger tools into their own.

SkyRocket is that app. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple will shut down SkyRocket in its current form and move it entirely under the iAd umbrella.

But there is another implication we believe should be noted: By acquiring a mobile app advertising company, Apple will be able actually see first hand how the mobile advertising market has evolved in the past six years since its’ inception. Today iOS apps market is so much more than just the app store. There are literally dozens of mobile ad networks app developers work with to generate traffic for their products. Each of those companies helps the app developer with his bottom line slightly differently, but in general they have been doing a big chunk of Apple’s work for them in helping app developers make a profit.

As to the Apple’s next possible acquisitions? Our gut feeling is that an A/B testing (for iOS apps) company such as http://apptimize.com will be the next bloom to sprout from Apple’s family tree.

~Art Dogtiev, Head of Branded Content

Second Silicon City: Chicago Selected for Digital Manufacturing Institute

Sears Willis Tower at Dawn

As anyone who lives here (or, has visited here) can tell you: Chicago rocks! We have the tallest building in the US (sorry New York, an antenna does not a building make and we refuse to give up our #1 ranking), Portillo’s and the Chicago Hot Dog and the Italian BeefChicago Deep Dish Pizzathe Mag MileThe Chicago Cubs; the mighty Chicago BearsThe Blackhawksthe best inland beaches in the country; we’re the home of improv and sketch comedy; we have more than 50 institutions of higher learning; are home to a pretty rad Top Chef winner and MasterChef judge; the best St. Patricks Day Parade and green river; our city boasts a pretty impressive list of Nobel Laureates and – oh yeah – the friggin’ President of the United States of America is from Chicago… Despite all this overwhelming evidence of true excellence, we gracefully accept that the rest of the country believes us to be the “second city” (though in the hearts and minds of all true Chicagoans we will always be #1.)

Thusly, it came as ZERO surprise to us when last Tuesday, the aforementioned President Obama announced that Chicago will be the site of a new digital manufacturing institute backed by $50 million in federal money and $250 million in private money/other governmental resources.

In its earlier days, Chicago was known for its’ manufacturing – primarily being home to the meat processing industry and steel works through the the early 20th century. The city also led the country in printing/publishing and commodity trading, though most recently it has been known for its’ convention business and as the home base for 29+ Fortune 500 companies that include Walgreens, Boeing, McDonalds, Motorola and others. In the past five years Chicago has also seen a rise in the number of tech startups making their home in the Loop and Near North commerce areas – observations that have given rise to the proclamation that Chicago is the “next tech city” – being the local of choice for companies who cannot afford the sky high prices of the Valley or Bay Area.

The Chicago Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute - to be housed on Goose Island and run by UI Labs – gives this claim a particular amount of gravitas. It also will return manufacturing for a major industry sector to the city and create thousands of new jobs (hopefully, impacting Chicago’s drastic 8.3% unemployment rate in a positive way.)

Says Michael Sacks (Mayor Emanuel’s lead advisor on the project), “This is not a think tank. This is an industry-led partnership between business and academia, which will solve real manufacturing problems and deliver goods to loading docks across America faster and cheaper.”

And, indeed 41 companies, 23 universities and labs and other tech-related organizations were involved in securing the placement of this facility in the Windy City.

“This is clearly, without a doubt, one of the most significant things to secure Chicago’s long-term economic future,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told The Chicago Tribune last Saturday. “It is the best insurance policy you can buy, which is major research capacity.”

It will be exciting to see what comes out of this institute and how it impacts the influx of tech related companies and services into our fair city.

~Kate Kotler, Writer

OK, Glass! Updates About Google Glass:

While many people believe that wearable tech (such as Google Glass) will provide the tipping point that leads us into the “age of context,” Google’s attempt at iPhone-type revolutionary technology is still ramping up slowly and having a hard time finding a foothold within the consumer demographic which it needs the most to succeed.

To date, the cutting edge technology, championed by such celebrities as Neil Patrick Harris, Kevin Smith and Alyssa Milano is still only in the hands of a few thousand members of the Google Glass “Explorers” program and the price point has not dropped from $1,500/pair (plus, tax).

Despite this, the tech industry and beyond are still reacting at both ends of the pro/anti Glass spectrum in anticipation of the more widespread release of the tech… someday. But, reviews and reports are mostly negative:

  • In December, SlashGear reported that Google would be rolling out prescription lenses and customized frames in an effort to appeal to a broader demographic of (fashion conscious, optically challenged) consumers in “a few weeks” due to a partnership with Rochester Optical.
  • Actually, the rollout took more like a few months, but, CNN reported just this past week that Google finally debuted those chicer frames and prescription lenses this past Tuesday. Frames are reported to be at a price point of $225, with sunglass options at $150. Prescription lenses will cost what prescription lenses tend to cost… AND, no drop in the tech price, as the Glass hardware is holding firm at $1,500 + tax. And, you still have to “apply” to be invited to purchase Glass. Not so good for the democratization of the tech, as despite the new frames and lenses, Glass is still out of reach -financially speaking- for the majority of consumers.
  • Journalists are having mixed reactions to Google Glass: In December, Jack Aaronson of ClickZ reported that the Glass was either half empty, or half full – it’s hard to tell. According to Aaronson, there are so few applications for Glass at the the present time that it’s difficult to pinpoint what the actual use of the device is. Aaronson says that the Navigation tool is really the only helpful aspect of Glass, but that it’s so distracting to use while walking or driving that it negates its’ functionality. Similarly, C.W. Nevius (a tech reporter for the SF Gate who participated in the “Google for Media” summit recently held in the Bay Area), says that while Glass *could be* useful, it is massively distracting and causing “Glass paranoia” in San Francisco.
  • To wit, Sarah Slocum -a Glass Explorer and SF tech flack- was verbally and PHYSICALLY attacked in a bar because she was wearing the device. (She was also robbed of her purse and cellphone, so it is feasible that the Glass aspect of the mugging was overplayed by the media — Molotov’s is a pretty notoriously dive-y Lower Haight bar with a mixed patronage, it’s as common to see gutter punks and homeless in that bar as it is to see hipsters or professionals…)
  • Glass Paranoia is not restricted to SF, as many have expressed deep concerns about how Glass will affect individual privacy. A user was dragged out of a movie theater under suspicion that he was illegally recording the movie, police wearing glass have been accused of using the device to profile on the sly and more and more establishments are banning the device – including sporting venues, gyms (for use in the locker room, natch), hospitals, classrooms and strip clubs.
  • The number one place Glass has been banned (and most impactful, IOHO) is behind the wheel of a car. Illinois is amongst several states that have already filed legislation to restrict the use of Google Glass while driving, thinking that it will be as dangerous as using a handset not on handsfree mode… it’s a pretty safe assumption that is a true fact.

So, what does all this mean for Google Glass? We’re not sure, but as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel point out in The Age of Context, there is likely to be serious push-back against wearable tech before it is embraced by the wider public. It will be interesting to watch what happens next with Google Glass…

~Kate Kotler, Writer