Amazon adds “Help me!” button to its Fire tablets

October 6, 2013

The button is actually called “Mayday” – this is a new Amazon-MayDay-Buttonbig new feature Amazon added its Fire line of tablets. While general public rarely hears this word (normally only in movies), it is a well-known emergency procedure word, used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators.

The button is supposed to take you to live video support. A video chat window opens on the screen. You see the person, but she can’t see you. That person can see the screen of your device and therefore help you to figure out the problem you are supposedly having.

Now this is some real innovation going on in the tablets market. I don’t know how it is going to work out for Amazon’s customers, but this feature has even greater potential for the enterprise use. And if we take it a bit further…

Say you have a problem with the car. You press a button on the car dash panel and get a “Mayday”-like service from your car dealer! The person from the dealership would be able to read data from the car’s computer real-time, thus being able to pretty much accurately determine the reason for a malfunction and whether there is a quick fix for it. This is pretty much the same as they have it on Formula-1 cars, but this time it’s for everyone. Wouldn’t it be great?!



Apple reinvents education?

January 25, 2012

The release of educational platform is a strong move by Apple. Not only it’s a market that hasn’t seen any significant innovations for years. Getting young people hooked on the  iOS platform early is a great way to ensure they’ll be willing to buy Apple stuff when they grow up. However, it might be a bit too soon for Apple to celebrate. I expect the same move by Amazon in a few months. Eventually they will ship a better tablet than their current Kindle Fire is, and with the clout they have among traditional publishers, they’ll be able to grab the lead in tablet-based educational market.

Amazon is becoming a super-monster company of the new age. Their cloud services were basically the first large-scale commercial cloud available, and it seemed to be a bit weird for them to move into it. These days, after their strong tablet debut, it won’t surprise me if Amazon releases a personal cloud platform (think gmail and Google Docs), a browser (take Chromium), a search engine (becoming a commodity too), ad platform (hello AdWord). This all can happen thanks to their deep penetration into consumer market and democratic (think cheap) pricing. Now this is a threat that Google might not survive.

Kindle Fire is a firestarter

November 27, 2011

Amazon released their Kindle Fire only about a week ago, but the sales our MobileNoter in Amazon AppStore have exploded. They are still not as big as those of the Apple’s or Google’s appstores, but an increase by 5 times is a nice thing. Amazon AppStore is definitely getting some traction after all. That’s why we are going to release our HD version into Amazon – it should be approved any day now. Also, we are going to do an update to our Android versions of MobileNoter with some really nice features in December this year.

Why app stores are evil for business software

August 14, 2011

App stores have been around for a while, and our company has been selling MobileNoter through all major ones: Apple Appstore, Google Android Market, and Amazon Android Market. We know a thing or two about app stores, and the most important thing we know is that they are totally unfriendly to the business software vendors. I will use “business software” in a loose sense here – basically, everything that is not entertainment and doesn’t cost a buck or two apiece is considered as a business software in this post.

1. App stores hide buyers from vendors. While staying anonymous is cool when one buys iFart app or perhaps another countless “3-in-a-row” clone, this is not the case for the business software. First and foremost, it is going to be harder to provide support to the customers. It is harder to identify whether they are your customers at all, what software they bought, what version they are using, and so on. It is also harder to do cross-selling and up-selling. You can’t send an email to the customers saying “You have our software for iPhone, we have a new version for iThing too”. What app stores should do: they should allow for opt-in email sharing by the customers. If a customer wants to share her email with the vendor, she should be able to just do that without any hassle.

2. App stores have terrible pricing structure. They don’t have discounts or coupons issued by the vendor, they don’t have volume discounts, they can’t sell upgrades to the applications, and they don’t allow packaging your goods and services, for example offering a premium support plan for extra money. All these things have been used by the business software vendors for a long time. One would wonder why major app stores can’t implement these things. The only thought that comes to mind is that they are only interested in selling entertainment stuff. What app stores should do: they should implement flexible pricing structures similar to those of Plimus and other eCommerce infrastructure providers.

3. App stores don’t let a free trial (with the exception for Google Android Market, where developers can use in-app purchases for that). Business software costs anything from $10 to 4-digit figures and few people are going to just cough up this kind of money without seeing what they are getting first. What app stores should do: pretty obvious.

4.The 30% cut is not justified. App stores shouldn’t be THAT greedy. It’s OK to take 30% off $0.99 purchases because the transaction costs are high and because the impulse buyers are the main drivers of sales. It is a totally different story for elaborate and expensive software. These apps require out-of-the-app-store marketing, because they are rarely going to be in the app store top lists and the app stores’ search capabilities are dismal. The 30% cut is a good deal when compared to the brick and mortar stores, when you sell software in a box with a disk and a printed manual, and it is sitting on a real shelf. Ain’t these times gone forever? What app stores should do: they should implement a straightforward structure where the cut is reduced the higher the price of the software is.

5. Lack of payment options. App stores only know the credit cards. The other 10 ways of paying are unknown for them. An enterprise buyer is likely to demand an invoice, to pay with a purchase order, and so on. Again, this is not going to be a problem for a cheap one-time-run app. What app stores should do: again, pretty obvious.

What the business software vendors should do: the only way currently available is to move your software into SaaS territory. If you claim that you provide a service, then you are free to sell it on your website, gather customers’ emails, provide flexible prices, offer a free trial and don’t give a leg and an arm to the greedy app stores. A lot of companies are doing this at the moment. However, it would be more convenient for the users if the vendors didn’t force them to their websites. Sometimes the app is not very suitable for the SaaS model, and strange things can happen along this route. Second, the app stores still can change the way they are treating SaaS. When the Apple Appstore introduced subscriptions a few months ago, it scared shit out of many SaaS providers, because for a moment they thought they would be forced to part with 30% of their money.

Is there any hope? Actually, I think there is, at least for Android. With the two major app stores and smaller (carrier operated) rising, it creates a place for competition and this will push the pressure on the app stores to improve. At least, that’s what the theory says.







Google Android market vs Amazon Appstore for Android

July 2, 2011

Update: as of November 2011, our Android version of the app outsells iOS version of the app.

Since our release of MobileNoter SE into Amazon Appstore two months ago, our sales have been growing steadily, but one thing remains the same: Google Android market outsells Amazon Appstore by 10 times. In other words, an application that brings $10K of monthly sales in Google market will sell for a total of $1K in Amazon market.

The ratio is pretty accurate, because we sell exactly the same application, and we don’t have any marketing or PR targeting specifically any of the markets.

And from the Captain Obvious department: both of these markets, even combined, are still being dwarfed by the Apple AppStore sales.

MobileNoter is available in Amazon Appstore

April 26, 2011

Amazon approved MobileNoter SE into its Appstore a few days ago, and the first sales are rolling in. Amazon Appstore is weird in many ways. For example, they have the right to change the price of your app. Unlike Android Market, they take time to approve apps and they don’t reveal identity of the buyers to the vendors. On the bright side, they got transaction export into Excel right, which is still a great problem for Google.

So far, customers’ activity is about 10 times less than that of Android Market. On the other hand, all our competitors like Evernote, Catch Notes, Springpad are on the Amazon, so we couldn’t sit on the sidelines.

I find the most helpful customer review of Evernote to be very remarkable: Great app for organizing and keeping track of things as they happen, however the terms clearly states they can use, modify and distribute anything you upload for purposes of the site and sell to partners. 18 of 22 people found this helpful.

That’s exactly the biggest difference between MobileNoter and its competitors: we don’t and won’t own your notes and data. Use Dropbox, SkyDrive, or your personal server to store your notes and don’t ever worry about who can access your data.

Is a good business?

November 12, 2009

Our OneNote on iPhone software is doing very well for its first day of sales and it got me thinking about who else is doing very well. Everyone knows this company. I personally have been buying from Amazon and I really admire it, just like millions of people out there. It must be a good business. They are the biggest online retailer, the 900-pound gorilla. So I took a look at their annual reports. They are available from their site, go to the bottom link “Investor Relations”. It’s not very easy to find the most important figures, but it’s not very hard either.  I won’t tease you, here is the table of their annual profits (or should I say losses) for the years I was able to find: 

1996 -6
1997 -28
1998 -125
1999 -720
2000 -1411
2001 -567
2002 -149
2003 35
2004 588
2005 359
2006 190
2007 476
2008 645

Total: -$713,000,000.

As you can see, the great company had a glorious result for last 13 years. It has spent much more money than it earned. I won’t even go into stock prices and P/Es.  Is a good business? I don’t think so.