Android, Buyer Currency Support C-

One of the new features announced by Google yesterday was support for “Buyer Currency” now this may come as something of a shock to iPhone users but chargeable apps in the Android Market have been billed in the developers currency since launch!

Yep thats right Google that multinational company that connects the whole world couldn’t solve a simple issue such that if I want to purchase an app from their app store written by a developer in say the USA (There are quite a few of them) then I have to pay for that App in US Dollars. Not a huge issue I thought at first, thankfully VISA manage to take care of letting me pay in any currency then debiting my UK bank account in GBP.

However my Bank helpfully see’s this ‘extra’ service as a highly valued commodity and levies a charge for this, not just a simple 1-2% of the amount charge but a fixed fee regardless of amount, now normally this wouldn’t be much of an issue walking into the Apple Store in downtown SF and dropping $1000 on a couple of iPads I don’t really mind paying with my UK card and the bank adding on a £1 charge. However when I’m buying a $0.99 app from Android Market I still get hit with the same £1 charge! I end up paying more to my bank in fees than I do for the app. Madness!

Now this has been one of my major complaints about the Android Market since launch, Google are the big player in the model and for their 30% cut of the takings they should be brokering the currency deals such that both the independent developer and the consumer don’t get a sucky experience.

However they didn’t, Its a bit like me going into Tesco and them saying yes your english apples will be billed in GBP but those strawberries were grown in Spain so will bill you for those in Euros, and the maple syrup thats canadian so Dollars there…..

Anyway Google have announced their solution yesterday and at best I’d rate it a C-

Their ‘solution’ is called Buyer Currency and its an option for developers to set a price in multiple currencies around the world. Yes thats right another thing the developer has to do in order to sell their app in Googles ‘global’ marketplace. Now I wonder how many developers will bother to go through and work our their pricing for each country, and how many will do that for all countries, as a Market I suspect that the GBP is a fairly small slice of the app store, most of the rest of Europe uses the Euro so I guess its reasonable to expect US developers to add that but GBP? How many will think of that?

And what about currency price changes? Do developers have to go in and adjust their pricing as rates rise and fall, will tech savvy consumers be able to hedge their app purchases based on the best current exchange rates?

Why Google, why? I know you like to be open and offer developers control but lets face it Apple have got this right and you’re wrong, right now I think very carefully before buying an app priced in anything other than GBP and the net result is that developers sell less apps. All you’ve done here is create an extra complication and workload for the developer, which right or wrong some developers won’t bother with and end result is the user looses out.

PS Yes I know I could blame the banks for adding the charge in the first place but lets face it they were there first and doing this long before the market came along, and yes I could switch accounts to someone that doesn’t add the charge but I like my bank, everything is with them and why should I change due to Googles failings.

My Breakfast

Last week I went to DroidCon in London, as I had an early start and I got the venue with half an hour to spare I had breakfast at the Breakfast Club Cafe in Angel, unfortunately our expense system only allows 50 characters in the description field when claiming expenses which I hardly think does this experience justice (nor can I claim to be embracing the spirit of Sarbanes-Oxley) therefore I’m writing a post which I can shorten with  then link to from our expenses system.

I had pancackes

I also had a latte  

I’m not claiming for the coffee as that would put me over policy £6.00 even though I dont think this is an excessive amount of food for a human male on a cold winters morning (let me know if you agree in the comments)

I also had an apple juice but as this is part of my 5-a-day and the government mandated it I’m clearly getting far more benefit from this than the company would so I won’t claim for that either. Sorry I didn’t get a photo of this as it didn’t look that appetising, therefore it must have been healthy.

Here’s a picture  of my receipt with the items I’m paying for out of my own pocket clearly crossed through, you’d think that a large technology focussed company would be able to do without paper but in a couple of days the electronic system will tell me to print out my claim and put it in an envelope along with theses scraps of paper and send it to a real person.

That syncing feeling

There’s been some recent discussions around contact syncing and particularly issues wiht the HTC Hero’s latest update. Mark Watts-Jones had a rather embarrassing moment he shared on twitter and it made me think about the whole issue of keeping mobile device information current.

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Mobile Broadband signals the Death of WiFi Hotspots

Its been a long time since I last wrote a proper post and I doubt this will be that, however having just spent the afternoon chatting with the guys at carsonifiedabout whats happening in the mobile industry I’m feeling all inspired.

Currently I’m sat in Starbucks in Bath and I’m using my Orange Mobile Broadband dongle to get online, quite frankly its great! Whilst I loved the idea of Wifi hotspots in Starbucks (coffee & the web my 2 favorite things) I very rarely used them. Why? well mostly it came down to cost & usablity. Paying per minute for wifi is just plain crazy and especially at the rates TMobile charge. Mobile Broadband dongles are availble for around £15 per month and that gets you about 3 gig of data, whilst that may not seem much if your comparing it to a home broadband subscription its plenty for using a laptop on the go. I suppose I could get a subscription to TMobile’s hotspot but I really don’t want to as it feels like a lot of hassle and wouldn’t work everywhere.
Ok so full disclosure time I work for Orange and don’t pay for my mobile broadband but when I leave I think I will get one and pay the bill for it!
The usability is spot on, Orange have even created a Mac client so I just fire up the software, plug in the stick and click connect, The odd time I’m tried to use a paid hotspot its been a real mess of trying to get the connection, then open a browser, wait for the re-direct and then get out my credit card to pay for it. It just doesn’t seem to fit my work flow.

The speed is perfectly good, I don’t know what I’m getting here but its probabbly around 1 meg and I’m browsing and watching the odd qik video without even thinking about it. I’m not gonna download a whole software update via this but that can easily wait till I get home. I’ve certainly never thought that a hotspot had amazing performance.
The cloud wifi have got a nice setup where the account is tied to the hardware mac address of a device and therefore it connects seamlessly, this works great for my iPhone on rail stations but I think when we see the 3G iPhone its usefulness will diminish, again the hotspots aint everywhere.
Now the only problem is I’m out of coffee and don’t want to pack-up my laptop to go downstairs to order another one, anyone know if the Bath Starbucks is on Twitter? :-P

2008 Predictions in Mobile

Better late than never, I`ve put down some of my thoughts as to what mighthappen in the mobile industry in 2008.
1) Location Services
Location is going to be big in the mobile Internet in for 2008 but this will be in spite of the networks not thanks to them.
Mobile operators have had services allowing applications to determine a users location for year but they have kept prices so high that it makes any kind of web business model unworkable. However, we are no starting to see 3rd parties building location services to bypass the operators, in addition handsets are appearing with GPS. this combination of these 2 factors mean that we are in store for some pretty cool location aware mobile web apps.

2) Handset vendors will gain more strength.

2008 will see a rise in the popularity of handset manufacturers as they start to compete with the operators for the relationships with the customers. Nokia`s OVI and Music Store are good examples of this.
Users feel a strong attachment to their handset more than their operator and this will translate to a better brand awareness for the likes of Nokia, people choose the handset that they really WANT whereas they choose their network based mainly on price and coverage.
Handset makers will also exercise their advantage to pre-install software on their devices that drive usage of their own services, the operators won’t like this but in the end they will have to accept it or not offer the handsets which will loose them customers. The iPhone will lead this shift.

3) Operators arn’t dead (yet!)
Whilst from within the industry it will look like the mobile operators are condemned to be little more than bit pipes they will still continue to run successful mass market services as the majority of customers out there won`t fully understand what alternatives are out there. The operators have a hug installed base of non tech-savvy users and they rely on these people for their revenue, however this base can only decrease but I doubt that the operators will realise until its too late!

4) An MVNO might get the mobile Internet right

This one is more a wish-list than a prediction, I’m not really convinced it will happen in 2008 but hopefully it will one day.
Mobile operators are sitting on some huge advantages when it comes to data services, they have full and open control of pricing, identity and all sorts of meta information on users. However they seriously lack innovation and most of them are now part of giant lumbering corporations therefore are unlikely to do anything revolutionary. However we are seeing multiple virtual operators spring up, in the UK these are people like Tesco, Virgin, and Carphone Warehouse. Until now most of these have competed at the bottom end of the market offering cheap voice calls or just wanted to extend their brand. Blyk are once operator who are doing something a bit different with their business model but ultimately they attract customers on price.
However I think there is real scope for a web company to open up as an MVNO using a combination of their brand, technology and infrastructure to provide some killer mobile web services, oh and of course basic voice calls will still be there just the same as anyone else. Can you imagine how cool it would be if google was your service provider!
There is a chance that some startup could do this too and then maybe sell out to someone like google or yahoo but I`m not sure if they’d have the momentum to get there (unless they’ve got some major VC backing) Still if there are any startups out there that fancy doing this I`m always looking for a job ;-)

5) There is no 5
Why do online lists always have to be top 5 or top 10! I’ve only got 4 ideas so I`m stopping there not cramming in one more obvious idea just to round the numbers out.

My Web 2.0 Life

I’ve been thinking about my whole web2.0 life for a few weeks now and the multitude of different platforms out there. Some of you know me well enough to know that I’m not a fan of systems that don’t interoperate! SMS only really took off once you could text across networks and its often one of the biggest barriers to success for a service (Yes kids there was a time when you could only send texts to people on the same network – ask your parents!)

Anyway just as we have a very split IM world and people end up with several apps open to stay in touch with people across various service so the same is happening with Web2.0 sites. Many sites allow you to update your status during the day but I find myself having to post to twitter, facebook my blog and jaiku with basically the same thing.

What I’m thinking of doing is building something to keep all of these in sync, you update one point and it pushes it out to all your services, sort of a GAIM for Web2.0.

The question is how to do this? The obvious way seems to be to use one service as a master and have all the others pushed from there. The obvious one seems to be twitter, its got a multitude of ways to update your ’status’ and seems to be one of the most widespread, also its pretty simple and lightweight so if you don’t have a twitter account signing up for one is no biggie. However twitter has one gap in their API, you can have your status pushed out to a call on another service in some http manner. The only way for twitter to push out to an application is using IM, so I would have to run an IM server to receive the updates form twitter and post them to the other services. The other method would be to poll the twitter status’s and update accordingly but that doesn’t scale.

Please post your thoughts on this and how you’d use it, also need to find the business model here, bandwidth aint free!