Monthly Archives: November 2013

The impossible user contract!

I am sure this subject is like opening a can of flaming hot worms – there really is no one answer to it.

I stumbled across this today:
http://steveblank.com/2013/11/21/when-product-features-disappear-amazon-apple-and-tesla-and-troubled-future-of-21st-century-consumers/

The downside is when companies unilaterally remove features from their products without asking their customers permission and/or remove consumers’ ability to use the previous versions. Products can just as easily be downgraded as upgraded.

Steve makes some fair points but as a PM myself I grapple with this concept all the time. Do we have some contract with the users that we must keep everything we have ever put in the product alive? Steve almost alludes to that but I know he is just trying to make the point – especially as compared to what has happened lately with products like the Apple iWork suite.

Huge backlash over the new completely rewritten stack losing some key features but with Apple slowly pouring them back in on a new code base. The premise is that Apple rewrote the iWork suite to make it function across iOS, web and OSX. Now that the rewrite happened they are adding some, but not all, of the features back in. Seems logical but as a user you might still hate it since you still lose the feature and running old version is hard to do these days.

Latest on the iWork shuffle:
http://www.macrumors.com/2013/11/21/iwork-for-for-ios-and-mac-updated-keynote-gains-with-new-transitions/

We experienced some of this at Spuul as we moved over to our new API stack, brought to you by the code magicians at Spuul, since we pretty much rewrote everything from the ground up to accommodate more clients and features. This also meant looking at our current feature usage and deciding what features might stay and which ones might hit the bit bucket. Did I ask users about this? No. Mostly cause the data largely answered the questions for us – we could see what was being used and what wasn’t. We could also look at our help queries and the customers emails that I save. All of these made up a nice view that for the most part gave us a clear indication of what to do. Then we added in some ideas of our own and logical guesses to decide what to throw out and what to save.

Some of the goals were the same as Apple really. Build from a new more agile base, simplify, and then work our way back up. We are just not as big so the impact isn’t the same. With Apple – they are so big that practically anything they do will affect someone in some way. I don’t know if Apple handled it right- most of the cuts haven’t affected me but I assume they affected someone. Could Apple have polled everyone? Maybe but the poll would have created a funnel for people to complain and then even more press about it. I am not sure anyone wins at this. Expectations are just so high that everyone expects to be pleased in their own way setting up an impossible user contract.

Steve Blank uses other examples like Tesla and Google to prove his point. The Tesla one is the most interesting cause it is a software update that changes the car – something very tangible. I think Tesla should have been upfront about it and stated that for the safety of the occupants in their vehicles they felt this is the best way to handle it until they come up with more data or options. Just doing it without telling folks seems sly – in a bad way even if the goal is for good.

Steve closes out with user contract idea of some sorts:

A 21st Century Bill of Consumer Product Rights

For books/texts/video/music:

  • No changes to content paid for (whether on a user’s device or accessed in the cloud)

  • For software/hardware:

  • Notify users if an update downgrades or removes a feature
  • Give users the option of not installing an update
  • Provide users an ability to rollback (go back to a previous release) of the software
  • This is interesting but in the world of App Stores this is tough to manage with all the auto-updating and no ability to roll back. So for any of this to happen the folks like Apple, Google and MSFT would have to allow the developers to manage stuff like this. Today it is not really clear how one would do that.

    Great topic to think about but a tough one to really have a definitive answer for.

    Open-Source Angel Investment Templates

    Still catching up on my inbox but wanted to get this out there to help spread the word.

    Open-Source Angel Investment Templates – brought to you by Dr Bernard Leong and Huifen Zheng. This is great stuff and continues to solidify Singapore as a leading base for startups – globally and within the region.

    I won’t try to explain it all since it is all explained here:

    http://www.bernardleong.com/2013/11/05/open-source-angel-investment-legal-templates-convertible-loan-shares/

    As we continue to see some exits and successes in Singapore there will hopefully be an uptick in local angel activity.

    carry on!

    iOS or Android first?

    Update: Bernard did a nice piece, much longer than mine, about this as well. Check it out:

    http://www.bernardleong.com/2013/11/19/android-or-ios-first-definitive-guide-startups-corporations/

    ————-

    I am a slacker when it comes to blogging cause I just don’t put enough focus on it. Love writing and I have so much I want to say but I don’t have enough time to always put together a quality post. For a while now I have been meaning to discuss the whole Android iOS debate a bit further. This was mostly due to this article :: http://stevecheney.com/why-android-first-is-a-myth/

    With Spuul we went iOS first – for good reason. We were going after the Indians who live overseas and since we are in the streaming video space there is still not a great secure standard for doing proper streaming video on Android. Apple has eHLS built in so it was a no brainer. In general I think it really depends on the markets you are going after and what your product is that will decide which platform to tackle first. The idea that there is a blanket rule for one or the other seems to be for developed markets but if say for example you are going after India, Pakistan or the Middle East – it would be hard to think that going after iOS first would make much sense. Android is just much bigger in the undeveloped markets. That’s a fact and Apple for the time being is not concerned with this.

    I love iOS. I won’t lie. As a USER it is the best thing ever. As a coder, which I am not, coders tell they like iOS better but of course my Android guys loves coding Java. He loves making our Android app but guess what he carries as his primary phone? An iPhone cause as a USER it provides him what he wants in his day to day experience. So from different angles one platform may appear to be better than the other.

    As the product guy I must admit that as of late – I would rather manage an Android app than an iOS one. This is another field I want to talk about but for another post – the whole product manager thing. Lately Google is making big strides in the Android world when it comes to what they offer the folks managing an app to success both in usage and monetization.

    Yes – at the core Apple users tend to buy more and tend to pay for things that people on Android tend to think should be free. Our stats show this over and over again but the growth in Android is eye popping and shows no signs of abating. Plus, as noticed on my recent trip to India, you see way more Android than iOS. Still even with this stats – we get more people paying in India on iOS than on Android. I am sure this is a global phenomenon.

    All that being said I think most companies going for the jugular will need to support iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It might be easy to say go iOS first but once again it depends on the market, the product and the monetization strategies. If you are not going where iOS is the core leader than chances are hitting Android first might make more sense.

    The issue for me lately is around app management and monetization. This is what is causing me to favor Android recently. What I mean by favor Android is that sometimes it is making more sense to lead or test features with Android first and then if they make sense bring the same features over to iOS. Why? Simple. I don’t have to wait for approvals when pushing a new app, Google has a built in beta program for apps, and I can pretty much sell anything I want via in app purchase. On top of that Google is hooking up with carriers around the globe to offer carrier billing for in app purchase. This is huge stuff and slowly it is turning the tide some in the ecosystem wars.

    Further to this is the ability for us to see our comments and ratings on our Android app while also being able to reply to the commenters. At Spuul we experienced first hand how a lot of comment/rating is mostly drivel and even some weird form of trolling but yet once you start responding to everyone the trolling stops and the reviewers tend to take a more logical approach. Bottom line is we managed our app up from 3.x to 4.x by responding to the users and using this channel as a form of communication and support. This is something Apple is sorely missing out on in my opinion. This is where you can see Google knowing how to build for the internet extending a slight light due to their technical prowess.

    On monetization Apple leads but increasingly Google is offering more ways to get it done – the carrier billing movement for example is very real and brings paying for things to the masses without credit cards. Yes Apple has a lot of users with cards but this is concentrated in the developed markets thus making it useless in the undeveloped markets where people want to pay with phone credits or post paid billing cycles. The second area of differentiation is where Google, although they sell movies and music, allows a developer to use in app purchase for anything – meaning I can use their stack to also sell my own movies and music. Apple on the other hand prevents developers from using in app purchase where the developer is selling something similar to iTunes. For example – Spuul cannot sell an individual movie via our iOS app. Only Apple can. It’s silly but yet is a sign of the difference. Apple makes money on the transaction anyway so not clear why they don’t allow us to use it apart from the only reason I can think of which is to protect iTunes. If Apple wants to win in the living room with something like Apple TV then they need to let developers charges for things – single movie or subscriptions.

    For the moment I only see Android and iOS winning. Will this last – tough to say but slowly I think Google is chipping away,ever so slightly, at Apple’s lead by making this fit the way the world is moving. Apple could easily reverse this by also providing some of the same capabilities in their platform.

    Time will tell.