7 Feb 2012

Facebook’s IPO and the Google factor

I’ve read lots of speculation about Facebook’s initial public offering, since news of the $5bn share issue was announced last week. Because it’s the biggest IPO since Google went public in 2004, the two companies are being directly compared, even though their business models at the point of flotation have substantial differences. Perhaps surprisingly, Facebook is not only a much bigger overall business than Google was at IPO, it’s also arguably more mature and better diversified.

There were lots of naysayers at the time of Google’s offering, who have since been forced to swallow uncomfortable servings of humble pie. And now there are plenty of Facebook sceptics arguing that the stock will be overvalued – although it seems a few former Google pessimists are betting the other way this time around in the hope that history will prove them half right.

In 2004, sceptics were fond of bashing Google by pointing out how transitory success might be in the search engine industry. They had the handy example of Alta Vista, which had dominated the business of connecting visitors to websites immediately prior to Google’s arrival.

Alta Vista surrendered its enviable position through what proved to be bad decisions and a seeming lack of vision. It was reasonable to suppose that Google might do the same, opening the door for another, smarter company to move in and leave Google stockholders with empty wallets. Instead, of course, Google’s stock has improved almost six-fold since its IPO.

As we now know, Google’s management proved to be very canny about taking the business in profitable directions without losing sight of what made it popular in the first place.

It seems to me that Facebook has already shrugged off its own ghosts – in the shape of former social media stars like MySpace. Its management has amply demonstrated that it can grow and generate new revenue streams without alienating its audience.

From what I can see, the comparison with Google at IPO time falls quite strongly in Facebook’s favour.

26 Jan 2012

Why tablet apps must divide to conquer

Image of Android tablet, iPad and Windows tablet showing market share
Figures were released today highlighting the rapid growth of the worldwide tablet market. Most of the reports I’ve read focused on the increasing success of Google’s Android operating system in challenging Apple’s iOS (which powers the iPhone and iPad).

Today’s numbers come from a firm of analysts called Strategy Analytics, giving Android tablets a 39% share of global sales in the final quarter of 2011, with Apple taking 58% of the pie. The remaining 3% of the crumbs were fought over principally by Microsoft and RIM. In the same period a year ago, Apple took 68% of the market it effectively created, leading to stories like the one I saw at lunchtime on BBC News 24, suggesting that Apple’s grip was loosening.

To my mind, the most important piece of information is not the platform split but the topline growth. The fourth quarter saw a year-on-year increase of 150% – from 10.7m to 26.8m units sold around the world – accounting for more than a quarter of global personal computer shipments during the quarter. If losing your grip means increasing sales from 7.3m to 15.5m units, I’d like a grasp as slippery as Apple’s.

What the figures really show is that in a relatively short space of time, the tablet computer has completed its journey from rare and expensive curiosity to cornerstone of the technology market.

Incidentally, not everyone thinks the above numbers are especially solid. With so much money at stake, many of the big players are keeping their cards discretely covered. While Apple publishes its sales figures, the bigger Android makers simply aren’t saying how many tablets they’re selling. As The Guardian’s report today highlights, there surely must be more than a little extrapolation (otherwise known as guesswork) in Strategy Analytics’ figures.

We can be certain, though, that the tablet market is now an established, big and growing part of the computing landscape. And as it grows, it will naturally diversify if only to cover a greater range of price points. Apple will no doubt continue to hold the high ground (and the highest prices), but other suppliers and other platforms will carve out market share at margins Apple won’t want to tolerate. While the market was started by the iPad alone, and may eventually converge onto a single operating system when tablets become properly mature, for the moment, proliferation is unavoidable.

Companies hoping to serve their customers on tablets need to be aware of the fragmented state of the market. It’s tempting to think that Apple has the biggest slice and that it’s therefore good enough simply to write your apps for iOS and ship them through the iTunes store. But if we return to Strategy Analytics’ estimates, 42% of new buyers just made a different platform choice. They won’t thank you for ignoring them.

Whatever you’re building on the tablet, and on any mobile computing device for that matter, make sure you do it in as agnostic a manner as possible. Design your apps – and choose your software suppliers – with diversity in mind. It might make things more complicated in the short term, but you’ll be thankful eventually – and probably much sooner than you expect.

22 Jan 2012

A word about the name Lyfthelm

a picture of some cloudsI’ve been asked if the name “Lyfthelm” means anything. I’m happy to say it does: it’s an Old English word meaning “cloud”. As it happens it also means “mist”, but I chose it because of the cloud association.

I’m a firm believer in cloud computing. I experienced the benefits of the cloud first-hand, long before the term was coined. I became an early adopter of Amazon’s cloud services when they were first made available in the early 2000s – when they were simply called web services – and I’ve used them consistently since. Cloud computing is an important part of how we deliver Lyfthelm’s mobile e-commerce applications.

So cloud is the main reason why Lyfthelm Limited gained the name that it did. I also thought that “lyft”, which is the Old English word for air, and “helm”, which means protection or covering, were both strong and positive words.

Most of all, the name simply felt right. Lyft may be unfamiliar but “lift” is generally a good thing, whether you’re flying an aeroplane, taking someone in your car, or just need perking up. And to helm is to take control or to steer a course. Hence the suggestion of a yacht’s sails in our logo. So whichever way one looks at it, Lyfthelm seems to be an upbeat name with depth and meaning.

And finally, and most prosaically, the Lyfthelm.com domain name was available. Mundane as it may seem, that’s a vital consideration for anyone naming a business in this day and age.

7 Jan 2012

Lyfthelm website goes live

The new Lyfthelm website went live this morning, giving a lot more detail about what the company is about and what we can do.

Lyfthelm is a mobile app development specialist, with expertise in iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian development. We aim to help our clients capitalise on the 40% of UK internet usage that takes place on mobile devices. Consumers, in particular, are increasingly choosing to use their mobile devices to access digital services in preference to desktop PCs.

The site showcases two of Lyfthelm’s first customers: iState Systems and the Royal Mail.

For iState Systems, Lyfthelm delivered an innovative mobile banking solution. For Royal Mail, we developed a bespoke app that lets customers design and purchase customised postage stamps from their smart phone. You can read more about both projects via the “Our Work” section of the new Lyfthelm site.

If you’d like to know more about what Lyfthelm can do for your business, do browse the new site, and feel free to drop us a line.

30 Dec 2011

New personal website

It's good to see the first couple of pages go live on my personal information website, NelsonWootton.com. The design and coding work was done by Lem Bingley, based on the existing Lyfthelm.com look and feel.

There'll be some more pages to come, when the content has been written, describing what I've done in the past and hope to achieve in the future. I have some really interesting projects in the pipeline that I unfortunately can't talk about just yet.

In the meantime, if you spot any typos or other errors, leave a comment and it'll be fixed up in no time.

29 Dec 2011

Gearing up for new websites

I'm hoping to use this blog to talk a little about what's going on in my professional life over the next few months, as some of the projects I've been working on are finally getting to the stage where I can talk about them openly.

In a few days a much-needed update to the web presence of mobile app company Lyfthelm will go live.

I'm also hoping to have a new personal website up and running very shortly, at NelsonWootton.com.

I hope you like the new websites. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.