Heads Up: Google Just Invented The Mobile Browser

Self-driving cars? Hot-air balloon Internet-delivery? Alchemy-tech projects from Google X’s laboratory. Now, finally the Mountain View scientists launch a moonshot project that has immediate impact on our mobile economy: the invention of the mobile browser.

Google X’s ability to “stream” app functionality without requiring the user to download the heavy app chassis is a watershed technology. It is the first step in delivering the mobile browser content experience we, the diehard mobile consumers deserve.wheel

It also is the first salvo on the sanctity of the App Store, in the same way that streaming music services are forcing iTunes to reinvent its business model and Wi-Fi in the car is the death knell for satellite radio subscription services.

When you click the “stream” link on nine beta app partners, including the Weather Channel, Hotels Tonight and The New York Subway, the content will render in the cloud (as it does on Google’s Chromebook). The phone simply pulls down the resulting visual data from the Google virtual computing platform.

Of course, this does not mean that the app store is about to crumble and vanish. However, for anyone with an app strategy and that are contemplating how to leverage the app store, this may steer resources or, at the very least, have them thinking about the browser as a viable destination for further development.

Invention Of The Browser

“Invention of the mobile browser?” you ask. “We all have a super-app called a browser on our phone.” Well you are correct. There is a search portal on billions of phones globally that opens up mobile-friendly responsive media to a small-screen consumer.

Chrome, Firefox, Opera Mini and Safari lead the phone-top browser wars. However, for the iOS an “open” browser does not provide a market advantage. The open browser search portal has been outgunned by the marketing muscle of Apple. It knows all too well that content-sells-hardware, and the company that can show more apps exploding from its billboards wins.

I have always said the Apple SDK for its App Store is the best marketing investment the company ever made (outside of the legal dollars it spent on patent grandstanding).

The fact that Apple (and grudgingly Android and even more grudgingly Windows) has a segregated digital portal of mobile apps (many clunky, forever updating, getting lost in folders and soon forgotten after the impulse download) seems to be an accepted evil.

Many apps are built using web technology like PhoneGap or React Native, packaged as a native app (with considerable complexity) and being live-streamed back into web search (with considerable complexity). Unquestionably, Apple has an unnatural chokehold on content distribution.

Apple has fought back offering Bluetooth shopping beacons that tether the native app to bricks-and-mortar shopping. However, many CMOs are unaware that the mobile browser can be tied to the store Wi-Fi and used as a powerful beacon leveraging SMS to drive the proximal consumer into deals and other rich media.

It is clear that Apple doesn’t want to give up its content control to the universal browser. Losing its lock on the app store would be an attack on its big data strategy and market differentiation, ultimately loosening its walled-garden hold on the consumer.

Heavyweight To Featherweight Champion

Google’s ability to “stream” app functionality (without requiring the user to download the heavy app) is presently seen by the app developer community as a great “preview” opportunity. Audiences can find and taste test their apps via a simple search. However, ultimately this has to be Google’s first attack on the legitimacy or outright pragmatism of many heavy app downloads.

Initially Streaming Apps are limited to Wi-Fi connect devices due to the large amount of data transferred in a virtual rendering. However, it is a stepping stone to completely rethinking the traditional web application.

New technology frameworks, such as AngularJS, enable the retailer’s development team to build powerful and compelling user interfaces — this front-end spit shine is the hallmark of the native mobile app. As the mobile browser matures to allow a slick user interface on the phone top, the server development becomes simpler. Using App Engine Data store access and OAuth authentication, developers can focus on business logic instead of backend technology.

The first phase is tying native apps to browser-based search. Google has gone to great lengths to get its app community to “index” its content to be searchable and allow for deep links. Google now can search inside the app for retail deals and news.

Second, is the ability to view a rich app experience through the browser without the usual slimmed down, reductive UI of the browser. Initially the streaming data will not be optimized but as developers see this as an opportunity to become more searchable and more accessible without mandating the multi-megabyte initial download to the phone, they will design for cloud functionality.

While the service may appear to cannibalize the market for app developers, there is an inevitable shift in the way mobile consumer finds data. The streaming app maybe a half step as my developer friends tout: it is part of an evolution. The power of mobile CPUs, newer web technologies, local storage as well as fantastic performance debug tools in Google Chrome have enabled new web apps to closely match the potential of native for many applications.

Perhaps the native app is soon to be the vinyl of the phonetop.

Your Hotel & 50 Billion Things (60min keynote on the IOT)

HEDNA.org Brussels Conference, June 2014 Keynote by Gary Schwartz on the Internet of Things and how it impacts your hotels and the relationship you have with your guests.


While the phone will continue to connect people to people, it will increasingly connect machine to machine. The new phone will amplify, control and navigate the world around us. Many call this the Internet of Things (IOT).

The IOT is about how to talk to your washing machine as your friend. Maintain a relationship with your baby as if you were beside them in the crib. It is about finally having the basketball tell you how it thinks you have played and could improve your game. It is about having plants talk to you and shoes become your eyes. It is about clicking, signalling calling, texting, waving, approaching inanimate things and making them into digital, active, responsive stuff.

The digital app store is expanding to a new app store of objects for our home, work, and travel.

Interview on Twitter, Blackberry & disruptive business models

While the market complains that the it is an overhyped initial public offering. Many of the detractors are using Twitter to voice their concern. Ironic, isn’t it?  Post IPO, the stock will most likely rise to $30 and wait for Twitter to show some lift in advertising revenue. This will come as the media dollars need a home and their are few options for the digital buyer.

Twitter has moved from a microblog to a trend-crowd-sourcing destination.

1 in 5 have accounts but more and more will use the service to scrap instant and succinct info from the web. With this as a unique value prop, Twitter will capture revenue and drive profit over the next 48 months.  http://watch.bnn.ca/#clip1036995

BNN Interview: Challenges with Twitter’s biz model pre-IPO

BNN 5 minutes: The Business News : October 4, 2013 : Challenges Facing Twitter’s Business Model and its Upcoming IPO [10-04-13 12:20 AM]

  • Positive: Twitter is NATIVELY mobile and will not have the same questions that FaceBook had on its IPO – i.e. What is your mobile strategy?
  • Positive: Twitter has an owned-content advertising model which is less impression based and more brand ENGAGEMENT. 
  • Challenge: Twitter is an social aggregation hub. We see lots of auto-twittering without visiting the social platform from third party sites. (See page 61 in their S-1 filing)  Referred to as blind tweeters (syndicated from other sites), these are a big slice of their user base.  This is an impression-based advertising challenge.
  • Challenge: Twitter is an advertising company. Specifically, mobile advertising with 65% of the revenue coming from small screen. The mobile advertising space is in a bubble. Same old story: Big growth in revenues, but no profits. The breaking bubble is evident in Jumptap’s exit to Millennial Media.
  • Challenge: Although the US is Twitter’s home it needs global growth. There will be global pressure from competitors like SINA WEIBO in China and LINE in Japan.


The 2014 Ad Game Changer: Digital Maps

Gary Schwartz (16 September, 2013)

Of all the widgets and long-forgotten apps on your phone the one with most mobile mindshare is your map app. We have become a mobile society, and in the 2010s, map apps personify our wanderlust. When we open our mobile map, we have intent, direction and purpose. It is vitamin “M”: the ultimate upper and highly addictive.

And map real estate is hot: Apple buys Locationary, Embark and HopStop; Google buys Waze;  Bing is rumored to be in talks with FourSquare; Zillow, the map real estate tycoon, buys EasyStreet, and indoor mapping app company, Aisle411 raises a hefty seed round in the valley. As OEMs beef up their services, we are entering a new phase of map building. Location has always been a data grab. Now, the industry is starting to focus on monetising subway stops, street corners and highways across the world.

The principal challenge is that maps are a new and unique advertising paradigm, and the incumbent search business models, mostly designed for the web’s previous era as a stationary, desktop experience may need to be adjusted.
Galileo to Google

Google Maps, the grand daddy of digital mapping, was born in 2004 as a skunk works project by two Danish brothers in Australia.

First designed as a heavy client app, in 2004 the software came full circle as Lars Rasmussen and his brother were acquired by Google after making a web-based pitch. The same year, Google acquired Keyhole, Inc. and proceeded to use Keyhole’s mark-up language to launch Google Earth in 2005.

During the next five years, Google started to revolutionize digital maps. It is quite possibly the most exciting innovation effort by the company. Not since map mavericks Ptolomy, Copernicus and Galileo has mapping accelerated so profoundly. Within a few short years Google has redefined the way we see the world around us.

Google Maps rolled out road directions in North America in 2006 and their PC-based maps became the pre-GPS automotive assistant. However convenient and customizable, Google maps for the desktop were a print-on-demand version of London’s A-Z pocket maps. In many ways, a Google map printed out before a trip was no different from John Ogilby’s 1675 Britannia detailed strip maps that travels bought to find their way from Norfolk to Newmarket with inns, stables and other points-of-interest as well as clear directions and distances clearly marked. They balanced behind the horse on the coach seat as our laser-printed version would sit on our car dashboard.

But the small screen was the true game changer. The capacitive screen touch invented by Andrew Hsu, combined with the pinch-and-zoom mobile interface developed by Apple made complex map navigation simple, user friendly and, most importantly, mobile.

With multiscreen map adoption, Google Maps expanded. The company launched in Latin America and Asia, and started the subterranean mapping of subways in 2007. In 2008, a view from space; in 2009, a POV from the street and 3D rendering.  And more. Google mapped canals and bike paths, endangered forests and the ocean floors,  the moon and Mars and the ultimate conquest, Macy’s in-store experience.

This was phase one: Build a dominant innovative platform with simple APIs, establish market stickiness and trust by the point-A-to-point-B public.

Now add metadata

Google+ Local launched in 2012, allowing users to post reviews and images into pages hosted by third party sites. This year maps are becoming more customized, providing location-specific information on points-of-interest. While Google has maintained a focus on road navigation with its 2013 acquisition of the crowd sourcing road-warrior Waze software, the operative term on the new Google map is “explore.” Explore photos, recommendations, and restaurants.

Maps plus Google Glass makes the possibility of on-the-go exploration more immersive. Using the Google Mirror API developers can feed real-time GPS info and pre-rendered map images into the eye window of Glass wearers for “dexterous” driving, cycling or walking to the local mall. Glass becomes “a Segway for your head.” And taking maps to the edge of utility: Google Sky (which maps the stars based on your GPS location and vision angle) can be integration with Google Glass to show the outlines of constellations through a transparent filter to view the night sky.


And then at the end of this epic journey, Google announces local advertising. Google Maps now allows short sections of advertisements to be placed directly onto the map itself. Local advertising is one of Google’s core business and Google Maps ad purchases are made through the same Google AdWords auction that buyers are already very familiar.

For Google this is simply a terrestrial version of browser-based search. When a consumer enters “Starbucks” in her browser, she finds links to buy “Starbucks Instant Coffee Bundle” on Amazon.com. When a consumer enters Starbucks in Google Maps, she finds local Starbucks to get the real deal (or if Tim Hortons is bidding, an ad for a competitively located Timmy’s coffee store.) Both these use cases involve path to purchase. One is virtual, the other is proximal.

Google hopes Map-based ads will follow the same digital success that Google has had with its search-based ads. Instead of auctioning AdWords at point-of-search, Google auctions ads at point-of-navigation.

Ptolemy what? There has to be more than just that. We’re just not fully there yet.

Don’t forget the Big Apple

Apple recognized the value of maps and knew that they had a Trojan Horse lurking in their mobile operating system in Google Maps. Google’s map app had become the dominant phonetop service with the most unique visitors of any app in-market. When Appl­e launched and preloaded its own proprietary map app in August 2012, Google’s traffic dropped making Facebook the winning app for unique impressions as well as time spend.

(After a few geographical faux pas) Apple started to establish its own relationship with the map consumer. But Google Mappers are loyal. When Google launched its new map app for iOS 6 in December there was a 30 per cent rush of Apple folk upgrading to the new operating system (MoPub.com). Affinity to a map app had influenced these consumers’ mobile behaviour. Quite remarkable.

However, Apple is committed to build a map following. While the company no longer needed to pay licensing to Google, which was good, the key reason for ousting Google Maps was that maps had become a data pillar. By replacing Google, Apple had direct access to a wealth of consumer data and potential advertising revenue.

Yahoo! Maps, Bing Maps, Nokia Maps, and MapQuest all use the NAVTEQ electronic map feed (best known for its automotive navigation services), and like Apple now, they own their own consumer data layer, which is crucial for generating advertising and marketing revenue on maps.

Bing is the major map contender.  In September, the company added 13 million square kilometers (316TB) of aircraft and satellite photography to its service. Microsoft’s large investment in Facebook in 2007 ($240 million) led to the 2013 decision adopt Bing as FaceBook’s mapping and search provider. To do this effectively, and compete with the market-leader, Google, Bing needs to beef up and differentiate its map offerings. Bing has already rolled out “Local Scout” which helps consumers find food and fun across all its screens. Rumors of a FourSquare acquisition (or possibly financing) may be part of this grand strategy.

(Microsoft acquisition of Nokia did not come with their HERE maps assets. Nokia’s HERE maps include road networks, traffic patterns and urban landscapes and as licensed by major properties such as Garmin, Oracle and Amazon.com. Will Nokia take the lead as the premier mapping and location services across different screens? Will they just sell off the asset to Apple after the Microsoft acquisition is complete?)

And the open-source mapping movement is also growing. Washington D.C.-based startup, MapBox, provides more custom navigation and interesting APIs built on top of Open Street Maps. Open is good and allows developers greater flexibility and affordability; Foursquare uses MapBox’s services to display its users’ check-in histories. However MapBox is not preloaded on your Android or Apple phone and while they have an iOS mapping SDK they have no Android footprint. MapBox will certainly play a roll as an embedded technology in sites all over the web; however, it is unlikely that they will be a standalone consumer utility on top of your phone and tablet.

With the proliferation of WiFi networks in retail, vendors such as Cisco drive mobile mapping solutions for shoppers that join the free network. The maps allows for hyper-local, custom mapping that includes restroom as well as promotional information on retail stores.

All of these digital map offerings are entering the mainstream at a time when advertisers are questioning consumer engagement on mobile, and trying to understand how best to follow their consumer in a contextual and relevant manner. Brands and retailers are re-evaluating the way we sell and, more importantly, engage across multiple screens. Their assumptions on path-to-purchase, built during the era of the desktop web, are no longer fully valid and reliable. The classic consumer narrative of home-to-store has changed and retailers and brand can no longer simply hire a Director of Shopper Insights and hope for the best.

Advertising and marketing is about providing a consistent message at aisle, and checkout, wherever the shopper finds the retailer. If the advertisers wants to get back in the game, possibly the most exciting place to be right now is on the map. When the consumer and shopper opens their map app when they have intent to meet someone, go somewhere or buy something. All this drives commerce. Maps provide unadulterated path-to-purchase.

Narrative: Going beyond advertising

So what is the new advertising paradigm for maps? Maps have layered functionality: terrain, roads, satellite, traffic, public transport and images. Then there is the exploration layer: recommendations and general points-of-interest. And now Google has provided an additional local advertising layer.

However, the adding an advertising layer may not prove to be effective in a map environment. There is more value to the exploration layer. Yes, maps help us move in a utilitarian fashion from Point-A to Point-B and that is why Waze and other transit acquisitions have been so important.  But maps also have a very non-utilitarian function.

Maps help the consumer simply “explore” and is what will ultimately connect map users to brands and content owners. Maps tell stories because precisely they have a beginning and an end, and are defined by intent and clear purpose.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook already situate the user’s photos and comments at a latitude and longitude: a country, a city, a bar. However these social graphs are not map applications and location is an important but secondary metatag.

The opportunity is to build a new bespoke map layer for brands and content owners. Think map first.

Startups such as Findery and CityMaps have map based UGC (user-generated content) engines. Where is the content input engine for brands? How can brands visualize content and actively map this data across all their customers’ screens?

One company called Mapiary, based out of Singapore, is developing the tools to allow brands and retailers to layer rich navigation onto the map. How can Unilever’s Becel margarine be more relevant to power walkers globally? Or how can Heineken weave narrative into a city pub crawl? Diageo, can map a DJ tour for Smirnoff. The NYTimes can map their 36-Hour travel series in a rich contextual manner. This is new digital cartouche and as important as the underlying map.

Where is the new vision of brand advertising? After all the innovation that Lars Rasmussen (Google Maps) and John Hanke (Google Earth) brought to maps we surely need to go beyond paid search models and allow owned content to become a rich and valuable layer in the 2014 map.

BNN Interview on the “Battle to Monetize Maps” discussing the positioning of Apple, Google & Microsoft. http://t.co/M1Pa0Qcijd 

Gary Schwartz is the CEO of Impact Mobile. Having been at the frontlines of the mobile industry for over a decade, Gary is the author of two books, “The Impulse Economy: Understanding Mobile Shoppers” and “Fast Shopper. Slow Store: A Guide to Courting and Capturing the Mobile Consumers,” both of which highlight the current state of the mobile commerce space and chronicle the significant impact that mobile is having on consumers, retailers and brands. Gary is also a chair emeritus for the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Mobile Entertainment Forum NA and global director of the Location Based Marketing Association.

The Washington Post: Bezos’ Legacy

by Gary Schwartz  (06/08/2013)

The newspaper business is tough.  Over the weekend the New York Times Company sold The Boston Globe and its other New England media properties to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox for $70MM. It bought the asset in 1993 for 1.1BB.

When Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, agreed to purchase the Washington Post newspaper (affectionately called WaPo by its readers) for $250m, was he buying a viable business or and the glory of 80 years of traditional media leadership.

With a net value of 20BB, Jeff Bezos can buy many things. Does he see this as an extension of his internet empire or as a way this new-age business genius can secure an old-world trophy and a media legacy?

Amazon Publishing, Amazon Studios  . . .  but this is different

Bezos has taken on incumbent media business before. He has single-handedly changed the publishing world. Amazon Crossing, Amazon Publishing’s imprint acquired Pötzsch’s Hangman’s Daughter series and translated it from German into English and launched it in audio and print. The series became a #1 bestselling Kindle book and in June 2013, the book reached the platinum one million copies sold.

Amazon Studios is now developing movies and TV series, and recently announced five new video-on-demand program pilots. It has started a crowd sourcing campaign soliciting 2-15 minute long shorts to pitch a feature-length film idea. Amazon Studios evaluates each submission, and will seed some of the submissions with $10,000.  The studio then grooms the development funding successful scripts through to the theatrical release incentivizing film makers that get their ideas from paper to the silver screen $400,000.

White-Glove Legacy

But the Washington Post is different. He did not purchase the Post’s other online assets: Slate magazine, TheRoot.com, and Foreign Policy. The flagship Washington Post newspaper purchase seems more of a personal acquisition and less a vertical strategy. Bezos will become an owner taking over the Graham family title. Does Bezos what some old-world legacy to place on his media mantel?

Post chief executive, Donald Graham has known Bezos for about 15 years which most likely helped this transition easier. He told FT.com that “He [Bezo] is a very patient, long-term investor.” He will need to be. Despite the paper’s move into digital publishing, the Washington Post has seen a decline in circulation (6.5% in the last year alone) and the trick down pain of declining advertising sales.


What Bezos is buying is the paper’s white-glove media position only rivaled by The New York Times. The paper hold its place as the seventh most popular daily newspaper in the US. Many in the industry is watching closely and hoping Bezos can bring his magic to the ailing publishing business.

Journalist Carl Bernstein who broke the Watergate story with the Post, told Politico that this change of power is “recognition that a new kind of entrepreneurship and leadership, fashioned in the age of the new technology, is needed to lead not just The Post, but perhaps the news business itself”. Bernstein’s partner and Post associate editor Bob Woodward, said on MSNBC. “I think in some ways, this may be the Post’s last chance to survive, at least in some form of what it was.”

So with the world watching what will Bezos do? Will he launch 3D printing with this property? Will he connect one-click commerce to this new newspaper install base? Maybe he will simply use this blue-chip Washington company as entree to the DC Beltway and all the value of being a Washington insider.

While Bezos will surely add innovation to the paper, he will be careful not to vanquish Katharine Graham’s family-run papers legacy and maybe happy to simply keep the association with grit journalism at its best.

SCREEN WARS (Digital Media Forum Keynote 2013)

In Dubai talking to agencies and brands about “digital velcro”. How linking content seamlessly between one screen plus other consumer screen equals a multiple of value for a brand.  20  mins – view here.