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Mar 11

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Apps, Clients, Events, Outreach, Products, Stage Two

Grouped{in} Launches Group Messaging App – Brings Tacos To SXSW

Are you interested in keeping up with the latest news and happenings from SXSW? Do you love delicious tacos, Rube Goldberg machines and dunk tanks? Then read on, friends.

Stage Two client Grouped{in} is bringing their recently launched mobile group messaging app to SXSW in Austin, Texas, along with a boatload of fun events and activities. There will be live updates from KXAN weather man Jim Spencer, an outdoor activity group with RunTex- did we mention that there will be tacos? There will be tacos.

Grouped{in} is the only group messaging app that allows you to simply communicate across multiple channels – including Facebook, email, phone, SMS and Twitter.

A full itinerary is available here. If you want to meet up with the Grouped{in} gang in Austin (or anytime, really) email meghan@stagetwo.com.

Mar 11

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Clients, Events, Gadgets, Products, Stage Two

Sphero Heads To SXSW – Named Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator Award Finalist

Sphero is heading to SXSW in Austin this week and is a Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator Award finalist.

There’s a lot going on here, so please pay attention.

Mashable House Geek Games

Sphero will be at the Mashable House Geek Games with a brand new game developed specifically for Southby. Come out and experience Pepsi MAX Sphero Bowling at the Geek Games on Monday.

Plutopia: The Future of Play

Sphero will also be at Plutopia: The Future of Play from 6:30 till Midnight on Monday the 14th. This “sense event” features emerging technologies such as augmented reality, robotics and more.

Below is Sphero’s full schedule for SXSW. If you’d like to set up a time to meet in Austin, just reach out to meghan@stagetwo.com.

Sunday March 13th

10am – 5pm Find us in and around Austin!

6pm – 11pm Techcocktail

Monday March 14th

2pm – 5pm Mashable House Geek Games

5pm Accelerator Award Presentation Round 1

6:30pm – Midnight Plutopia: The Future of Play

Tuesday March 15th

10am – Noon Find us in and around Austin!

Mar 10

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Stage Two

How Apple’s Focus on UX Created the Post-PC Paradigm

We recently blogged about how Apple’s commitment to amazing user experiences is ushering in a new Post-PC paradigm in computing.

Determining the best tech products was easy in the old PC era. The best devices were the ones with the best hardware. A 5 megapixel camera was better than a 2 megapixel camera. Specs settled all debates. End of discussion.

But in this new, post-PC world, usability dictates which device “wins.” ZDNet picked up on this theme in a post that claims “user experience is everything, hardware not so much.” Quoting from their article:

Apple has proven time and again that the user experience is the primary thing on any product that will get millions of mainstream consumers to purchase and enjoy using the gadget . . . The user experience is everything, from the way a device handles users’ common tasks to how pleasant that experience is perceived by the device owner.

The best device is no longer the one with the biggest chip inside. The best device – in this post-PC world – is the one that users enjoy interacting with the most. And with that definition of success, Apple products (including the iPad 2) will continue to outsell their competitors.

Engadget smartly highlights how specs are diminished in the new post-PC era of usability.

In a post-PC world, the experience of the product is central and significant above all else. It’s not the RAM or CPU speed, screen resolution or number of ports which dictate whether a product is valuable; it becomes purely about the experience of using the device. What that means is that while Motorola and Verizon will spend millions of dollars advertising the Xoom’s 4G upgrade options, CPU speed, and high-resolution cameras, Apple need only delight consumers and tell them that specs and and speed are the domain of a dinosaur called the PC.

Apple’s iPad defined the tablet space just as the iPhone changed the very nature of the telephone. But it wasn’t the hardware that made Apple the second largest publicly traded company on the planet. Their dedication to usability and creating simple, stable products that people love to use drove their growth.

Mar 10

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Marketing, Social Media

Is a Tweet Worth More Than A Facebook Like?

Social Media Today has an interesting post up that looks at the monetary value of a Tweet vs. a Facebook like.

It is interesting to see these social media studies assign monetary value to online actions. It is clear that brand awareness and brand loyalty are bolstered through social interactions online.

For more information, the Social Action Value Study can be found here: http://www.chompon.com/chompon_social_action_value.pdf

Mar 09

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Marketing, Products, Stage Two

Apple Could Ship 29 Million Tablets in 2011 Says Wall Street Analyst

AppleInsider has a jaw-dropping post up this morning that looks at Apple, the iPad2, and how the tablet bubble could burst.

J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz predicts that Apple’s tablet business could grow 100% this year, with the Cupertino firm shipping close to 30 million iPads in 2011. What that means is that the rest of the market may not find buyers for their products. Quoting from the article:

“In our view, the technical and form factor improvements of the iPad 2 stand to make it tougher for the first generation of competitive offerings to play catch-up, meaning actual shipments could fall well short of plan,” Moskowitz wrote.

Using discounted build plan estimates to project tablet shipments for the year, the analyst claims that tablet makers will build approximately 65.1 million tablets in 2011. When compared against J.P. Morgan’s estimates of 47.9 million tablets sold this year, companies could find themselves with as much as 51 percent oversupply in a worst case scenario.

This analysis is in keeping with other Wall Street thinking, that sees iPad 2 controlling much of the tablet market in the coming year. Dan Frommer concurs, and sees the iPad controlling 60% of the market for years to come. Yes, Android and Windows tablets are coming, but the question is, will anyone buy them?

Mar 02

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Events, Gadgets, Products, Stage Two

Apple Announces iPad 2

White iPad 2

Apple's iPad 2

Engadget had a great live blog from Apple’s media event this morning, where Steve Jobs and others introduced the iPad 2. As expected, the iPad 2 has a slimmer form factor and more processing power than the original tablet from Apple. It also has front and rear facing cameras and a gyroscope. The iPad 2, which comes in both white and black, will ship March 11th along with iOS 4.3, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. Other features touted during today’s announcement include a 10 hour battery life and updated Garage Band and iMovie Apps.

Jobs took this opportunity to highlight Apple’s first mover advantage in the tablet space. He remarked, “many have said this is the most successful consumer product ever launched. Over 90% market share . . . our competitors were flummoxed.” In fact, the iPad has sold more units than every other tablet PC ever sold.

But jobs went further to differentiate Apple from other consumer electronics manufacturers. First, he defined the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad as post-PC devices. He then stressed Apple’s commitment to delivering technology to the arts and humanities.

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology is not enough. It’s tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it’s the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive (emphasis added).

Apple has dominated the tablet space in past year. As we blogged earlier, other companies need to innovate – rather than imitate – if they want to compete with the iPad 2.

Feb 28

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Products, Stage Two, UI/UX

Is Your Cell Phone Making You 48% Dumber?

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox has a well written piece up today that looks at mobile usability. The post examines a recent article in the International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction that studies how screen size affects reading comprehension. The article found that “when reading from an iPhone-sized screen, comprehension scores for complex Web content were 48% of desktop monitor scores.” That means it is twice as hard to understand what you are reading on a mobile display.

A smaller screen hurts comprehension for two reasons:

* Users can see less at any given time. Thus, users must rely on their highly fallible memory when trying to understand anything that’s not fully explained within the viewable space.
o Less context = less understanding
* Users must move around the page more, using scrolling to refer to other parts of the content instead of simply glancing at the text. Scrolling introduces 3 problems:
o It takes more time, thus degrading memory.
o It diverts attention from the problem at hand to the secondary task of locating the required part of the page.
o It introduces the new problem of reacquiring the previous location on the page.

The study, performed by R.I. Singh and associates, highlights the need for mobile application developers to deliver clear, simple content to their users. Both the content and the UI must help people understand key messages of the application.

Feb 28

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Products, Stage Two

Verizon iPhone Sells 1 Million Units

Despite a bevy of headlines calling initial sales “underwhelming,” The Street is reporting that the Verizon iPhone has sold over one million units. Some tech press observed “short to nonexistent” lines at Apple and Verizon stores when the device launched and cited sources concerned about low sales numbers. However:

Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless chief, told media outlets this weekend that 60% of the company’s iPhone sales were preorders. This would explain why the turnout on a cold February launch day was much lighter than some may have expected.

We won’t know official sales numbers until April, but it makes sense that large numbers of preorders cut the initial lines down to size.

Feb 21

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Apps, Products, Stage Two

Android Market Grew 861% But App Store Grew ONE BILLION DOLLARS. FTW.

Phandroid is reporting that the Google Android Market grew 861% last year – and calls that feat “remarkable.”

A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars.

While it is true that Google Android Market moved from $11 million in revenue in 2009 to $102 million in 2010, the real story is Apple’s growth in the mobile application space. Quoting from Know Your Mobile:

It will come as no surprise to hear Apple dominates the world of apps, not just in terms of support but also in revenue. $1.7 billion dollars were generated in 2010, and the App Store now accounts for 82.7 per cent of the market.

While Apple technically lost market share in 2010, it also increased sales by a billion dollars. Apple’s dominant market position is one of the reasons the company is implementing a new subscription fee structure for applications (and angering some mobile app developers in the process).

As I wrote in 2009, clumsy usability and a “free” app culture hinder any sustained growth for Android applications.

With the fracturing of Android as a platform, not all apps are even guaranteed to run on a given phone! It’s as if the entire experience was “in beta”, only nobody’s overseeing the process.

Android will likely continue to grow in the coming year as the platform matures. But that growth must be observed in light of Apple’s strong presence in the mobile application field.

Feb 21

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Products, Stage Two

Building Hardware is Hard

Kara Swisher is reporting at All Things D that student tablet maker Kno

is considering selling off the entire hardware part of the business and is in talks with two major consumer electronics manufacturers to do so, according to sources close to the situation.

Engadget also picked up the story, and cites competition from more established hardware manufacturers as one of the motives behind this move. Kno will reportedly focus on providing software for the iPad and Android tablets going forward.

The news only underscores the point that bringing well designed hardware to market is a difficult proposition. Some individuals think that because they have built a successful software business or popular website, they will be good at building hardware. This is a lot like assuming that if you are good at plotting data on a graph, you know exactly how a black hole works. Hardware is a complicated, complex animal. It presents many potential points of failure, and has its own unique challenges. The key to delivering great hardware is assembling an experienced team that knows how to handle everything from product concept to product launch.

Let’s imagine a web entrepreneur who starts a successful dating site (or cooking site, etc). Given the way the web works, he could easily transfer all of the lessons he learned building that site to another URL. Everything the first experience taught him about customer acquisition, internet marketing, and web design would apply to his second website (and his third and fourth, etc). If this CEO used the same transferable skills to build a number of websites he would be considered (rightly so) a savvy entrepreneur.

Now let’s look at what it takes to build a gadget, and the paradoxes that are inherent in successful hardware manufacturing. The more successful one is at building a gadget, the more money is needed to continue to be successful and the more likely the gadget business is to fail.

Wait, what? It seems counter intuitive, but with hardware, growth = problems. The moment your device becomes a success you need to accommodate more orders from the distribution channel (those are the guys that place your hardware in retail, BTW). For example, if you sold 10K units last quarter, and orders for the next quarter are 30K, you have to start building for the quarter after that. The good news is that sales are projected for 60K units. The bad news is that you need to pay for those gadgets now.

Hardware presents problems that software and websites never encounter. Bringing a hardware device to market can take 9-13 months. During that time there are significant costs and multiple points of failure that can come up (the power button won’t work, the driver is malfunctioning, the gadget loves to catch on fire, etc). As opposed to the web/software entrepreneur mentioned above, almost all of these hardware problems are unique and no amount of software success will apply in the gadget realm (you can’t pivot a defective mother board).

This post isn’t meant to pick on Kno or its leadership (by any means). And the point is not to say that startups that build hardware can’t be successful (they can). The point of this post is to point out that a great product team determines hardware’s success. They do this largely because they have done the work before and were successful. (Take us for example, we have been building award-winning devices in the CE space for years, but don’t ask Stage Two to design a main frame- that’s not our bag). Dedicated product professionals understand how complicated hardware is and have the mettle to think through every potential problem, from the quick start guide, to the distribution channel, to customer service and support. Building a new device is hard. Make sure that your product team is up to the challenge.

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