Tag Archives: Mobile

When Bundling and unbundling become product features

There’s been some news about a lot of companies “unbundling” their mobile products.  It’s happened enough times, fast enough, that it’s become a thing.  For example

Unbundling and bundling is usually a theme discussed on the business side of Tech.  The startup ecosystem is essentially founded on entrepreneurs betting that if they unbundle a poorly executed feature from a larger, successful product, and they do it the best they possibly can, they’ll win. But that’s just where it starts.  It is a cycle, after all.

The most famous example is Google, which bet that they’d win if they unbundled search from portal and media content (Yahoo!, Magellan, Lycos).  Now, what don’t they do?.  Linkedin started as a simple CV network, but is now trying to become a ubiquitous part of doing business.  Evernote started as a simple, synced notes product.  Now they sell moleskines, socks and scanners, offer CRM services and even want to kill powerpoint.

Marc Andreessen took to twitter to summarise this process: ”[…] paraphrasing Harvey Dent: ‘You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the company you first competed with.'”

So who might be the new Google? Here are some recent startups who are ‘unbundling’ and going after big markets

Now back to the top — these are not cases of business-unbundling (well, maybe Foursquare).  We are talking about big companies AND startups unbundle their mobile experiences.  Why?  They’re doing their best to serve the evolving Mobile User.

Smartphones are now core productivity tools, as well as communications tools, entertainment devices, and more.  The current smartphone user considers their phone a required part of pretty much everything they do.  This reliability leads to frustration and user discontent with complicated menus and processes  Users are now more focused on ease of use and speed to information — let’s call this ‘discoverability’ — than ever before.

When the goal is discoverability, the focus becomes providing the most Direct Access to content possible.  Splitting out the most popular feature of an App’s home screen shortens that journey significantly, and potentially reduces confusion.   A few years ago the challenge was “winning a spot on the home screen”; now the challenge is to focus on discoverability, convenience and accessibility.  Taking FB as an example, before the launch of Messenger, it was 4-6 touches to reach your messages on your mobile phone.  Now it’s 2.

Are you enjoying your ‘unbundled’ smartphone experience?  Interested in more about the business of bundling and unbundling?

Check out Jim Barksdale and Andreessen discussing bundling on a recent Harvard Business Review podcast (registration required).  A16Z Analyst Ben Evans (no relation) wrote a great overview (which introduces the above concept of Discoverability) as well, focused on how Asia is still in a massive bundling moment (despite being mobile-first)

WeChat’s humble beginnings

The return of a blog is not an auspicious moment, but it’s worse to apologize for it.  Yet, after literally years of half written missives sitting in Evernote, I’m trying again — shorter form stuff that’s just too long for 5 tweets, but short enough not to be annoying or Wrong.

WeChat has enjoyed absolutely explosive growth and has begun an international push the likes of which we don’t’ often see from Chinese companies. On my last trip through India, I saw WeChat’s TV ad with Lionel Messi eleventy billion times. It’s now one of the most frequently used apps worldwide.

Statista and Global Web Index graph of most used iPhone apps globally[Source]

All of this is interesting, but I wanted to reflect on how very Asian WeChat’s core offering is, and what that may say about the future of the global mobile experience:

I first installed Weixin not long after it launched. The feature set was thin, focusing on asynchronous voice chat, which was a unique solution to two issues facing the average Chinese smartphone mobile user:

  • Voice calls are crazy expensive (if you consider PPP and compare it to data rates)
  • Data services is spotty / slow, most users are on 2G, and 3G is really 3G in name-only.

WeChat’s asynchronous voice eliminates reliability issues for data-connection drive voice communications, for a fraction of the cost of the equivalent voice call.1 From my perspective, I grew up with Answering machines and Voicemail, so I hated (and continue to rarely use) the Voice Chat feature. I don’t get it. Also, I was clearly not the target user.

While WeChat has expanded past this Asynchronous voice feature, it’s dominance in China has been so amazing that every other IP messaging service has added a version of asynchronous Voice Chat: WhatsApp, the very most western of IP messaging services, is the final adopter to launch voice chat this month

I look at this two ways:
* If your app solves a pressing problem for an Asian market, you’ve got a shot at tons of users (forgetting that revenue problem for a moment)
* “western” apps are looking to Asia to grow their businesses, and adopting features that may not be in demand within their core user base.

I could go on and make a deeper point, but let’s keep the first post in 2 years a bit light, eh?


1 It also wasn’t really their idea, Bubbly[http;//bubblemotion.com] launched earlier with a similar voice-chat offering, but was mysteriously was blocked in China not long before WeChat’s launch.