One of the primary cues I used two years ago when going short RIMM was the sliding developer interest in the Blackberry platform. Where did I see that? Well, it was partly anecdotal – from developers I know and trust, plus from startups I've invested in or talk to – but it was also the excellent quarterly IDC mobile app developer survey.
The latest version of the IDC Appcelerator survey is out, and the findings are, as always, interesting.
First up, interest in the Blackberry platform continues to fall, while developer interest in Apple remains unsurprisingly high. The former is, of course, more than a litte hard to square with the following graph i tweeted today.
Let's leave that aside. What's more interesting is the stubborn middling level of interest in Windows 8. Yes, it has improved since the last quarter, but it hasn't improved commensurate with the Microsoft marketing dollars spent, nor with the new hardware and software coming out. Granted, that doesn't mean Windows 8/Phones won't be a third option for developers, but the market (so far) shows zero sign of making it one iota more important than that.
Should anyone care? Assuming you are interested in markets, technology and the disruptive influence of mobile, of course you should. Microsoft must build a stronger base among mobile app developers – it must, to use Tom Wolfe's line, successfully stalk that billion-footed beast of large and small developer shops around the world – and so far it shows limited progress in doing so.
obDisclosure: Short MIcrosoft, long Apple, and no current position in RIM.
One of the first signs of stasis and eventual decrepitude in any ecosystem is an absence of flux. So long as things are changing – appearing, disappearing and, most importantly, replacing – the system is alive.
That's partly why mobile apps had begun to seem stale to me. As I have written a few times, I haven't changed any of my front page apps on my iPhone in years.
And the first page is what matters. Because on-screen real estate is precious, and, like most, I rarely get past the first page of my device, so whatever is there had been be something that I use all the time.
To be fair, now and then I might have added something, but then I fairly quickly removed it again, leaving the core first page apps the same. That isn't exactly the sign of a vibrant app ecosystem, if no new apps came along that could knock something else off the front page.
This year, however, has been different. For the first time I have made significant changes to the apps on the front page, adding some, deleting others, and (in a bit of a cheat) adding folders so that I could get more on the front.
Here is my current front page:
So, you ask, what apps are new to my first page this year? Well:
Google Maps (as of today)
Fantastical, which replaced Apple Calendar
Groups, which replaced Apple Contacts
Gmail, which replaced Sparrow
If you look inside the folders on the page you'd find even more new first-page stuff. (Yes, yes, I know, a cheat, but still.)
These are big changes, even if you exclude the apps in folders. In percentage terms, folders aside, I changed 30% of the apps (6 out of 20). And, to paraphrase James, Brown, the ecosystem feels good.
P.S. I know some of you are going to say … Dude, WTF, why don't you have an iPhone 5? Four rows of icons? Pshaw, etc. Interestingly, it's partly because of apps: I was waiting until Google Maps came along and so I wouldn't have to suffer through Apple Maps, or at least not through Apple Maps alone.
It's no secret that Amazon and Wal-Mart going toe-to-toe this holiday shopping season online. The two companies are the go-to online places for people – which is to say, me – who hate shopping and hate malls.
With that in mind, JPMorgan has released its annual look at holiday online buying, comparing prices of a basket of 50 goods across Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target.
It really comes down to Amazon and Wal-Mart, however, as they are the only online retailers JPM looked at with most of the 50 items in stocks. Even then, however, there are six cases where only Amazon has the product, not Wal-Mart (which is why the total below is not 50).
While Wal-Mart beats Amazon more regularly on price, what is interesting is how it does it. In six of 18 cases where Wal-Mart has lower online prices, the difference is a penny, showing that Wal-Mart is likely scraping Amazon prices in some key categories and underpricing by one cent.
As the “Price Advantage” column shows, Amazon's lower prices are, on average, lower than Wal-Mart's when Wal-Mart has a price advantage. In other words, while Wal-Mart wins on price somewhat more often, it is often by a nominal amount, while Amazon has both more selection and generally lower prices.
More than a few people are fond of bringing up the example of Nortel when it comes to RIM's ongoing decline. The comparison is extreme, as the following figure should make clear.
To turn back the clock, however, let's remind ourselves how extreme Nortel was, Back In The Day. My favorite example: At its zenith Nortel accounted for a staggering 30% of TSX market capitalization. The Toronto exchange was essentially the Nortel exchange.
Did RIM ever become as important to the TSX as Nortel? No way, and not even close. Of course, it did have an echo boom in the post-Nortel years, as the following graph (using Bloomberg data) shows. But RIM peaked at around 5% of TSX market capitalization. (Apologies for the horrible color choices; will fix later when I get a chance.)
As Senator Lloyd Bentsen might say, “I worked with Nortel, I knew Nortel, Nortel was a company I invested in. RIM, you're no Nortel”. Thankfully.
I was messing about this morning with Google Domestic Indicators – a search-based measure of economic activity in the U.S. – just as the August durable goods orders numbers came out. I was curious how those numbers matched up again Google's, so I put together the following graph to see.
The upshot: Google's indicator has been not bad in 2012, as well as in the second half of 2011. Early in 2011 the two were far apart, however.