To date, web apps are designed to capitalize on the monetization opportunity created by the success of the Apple App Store. The iPhone obsession (and the subsequent rise of Andriod) has focused developers’ attention almost exclusively on these two platforms. But new, non-Apple devices — such as the Blackberry PlayBook and the Samsung Galaxy tablets — are hitting the market, giving developers far more options.
As browser-based app usage spans across web and mobile environments, end users will clearly see the value and pay for that capability and service. In a twist on the “freemium” model, it’s possible that the free mobile edition of some app or content has a more valuable set functionality on the desktop/laptop and users will pay to unlock this premium version. In essence, mobile makes the web more valuable (and vice versa).
Because HTML5 is breaking down the walls of OS-based app stores, mobile operators have the tremendous opportunity to participate in this revolution thanks to their core business of data access and transport. By augmenting the end-users’ browser traffic, operators can help in the app discovery and distribution process (and far beyond their own app stores) with personalization and targeting assets. They can offer developers greater distribution and more flexible monetization models through flexible billing mechanisms and advertising. Here are some examples:
App sponsorship — An operator-branded in-browser toolbar could promote specific apps to targeted users/demographics to aid the discovery of little-known, long-tail applications (a knitting app to knitting fans). Sponsorship is a successful model in the Internet space (the GetJar app store has relied on giveaways for distributing premium apps for a limited time). No reason it can’t work in the mobile environment. An operator’s ability to engage users through the browser is a powerful asset.
App advertising — Sponsorship leads to direct content advertising. GetJar offers a pay-per-download (PPD) advertising solution that gives developers the opportunity to bid for premium catalog placement in GetJar’s store and distribution channels. Developers can also set their own maximum daily budgets, run multiple campaigns with unique messaging, and/or geo-target a campaign by country, handset or carrier. The PPD solution operates on a bidding system much like Google’s AdWords. Operators willing to expose a targeted, advertised app can directly apply the model in its own app store or via an operator toolbar overlaid in the browser.
App traffic subsidy — Amazon Kindle and Facebook have both found success in bundling content or services and charging for value not the usual megabytes. Amazon charges for eBooks, not for download time or data volume. Facebook has announced apps, phones and SIM cards that let subscribers pay for Facebook access in a way that corresponds to the value they get.
Personalized services and content bundles – essentially traffic that is subsidized through sponsorship or advertising – is a mobile operator’s bread and butter. By applying traffic zero-rating to certain kinds of traffic, the operator can convert its flexible charging capabilities into a powerful business asset for third parties, from enterprises to public or government-funded entities.
Bundled data and content subscription models — Currently, operators charge users per megabyte for regular traffic and subscription fees for premium content. To avoid the erosion of the per-megabyte price, operators could propose unlimited data plans restricted to the top favorite apps/sites used by a subscriber (similar to the “friends and family” option which has been quite popular in voice and SMS plans). For specific content that requires substantial network use, such as video, VoIP or audio streaming, operators have an opportunity to explore other models such as metering video usage per second of viewing (instead of per-megabyte) across the desktop and mobile environments. (A subscription fee that allows for time-based usage should gain traction with heavy consumers as audio streaming services have been known to deplete an average 500Mb plan after three days of normal use.)
Cooperation Brings Win-Win Opportunities
To insert themselves back into the value chain, operators need to find ways to effectively participate in and help the interdependent world of content providers, advertisers, consumers and network owners and web companies, collectively known as the mobile ecosystem.
Using the abundance of anonymous subscriber data, operators can fuel innovative solutions that help service providers and app developers improve their product reach, and that personalize the consumer experience. Cooperation is an essential. By leveraging access, user engagement and content bundling and promotions, operators and content providers can benefit from each other and drive the buying process.
Thanks to maturing technology around networks, devices and browsers, the differences between mobile and web experiences are now blurring. HTML5 appears to be the catalyst that propels operators higher up the internet value chain by exposing their assets, via the browser, to a mobile ecosystem that is willing to pay for them.
Openwave believes that beneath the shifting platforms, a cultural shift is underway. Our Amplicity™ solution gives mobile operators the platform developers have been waiting for, a platform that lets operators move at web speed and take their share of the expanding mobile ecosystem.