While established mobile platforms like Facebook and Google are already thinking about the post-mobile world, with bets on fire alarms, robots and virtual reality, the whole world is still adjusting to the post-PC world, where mobile rules. The dominant PC platform, Microsoft is still playing catch-up on mobile and its newly appointed CEO is expected to announce the long rumored Office suite for the iPad tomorrow.
Mobile devices have quickly proliferated and their shipments have eclipsed those of PCs, but they haven’t made a big dent in the productivity market to date. Time-spent on these devices is still concentrated in games, social networking, messaging and entertainment. But, it appears that this about to change and Microsoft’s announcement of Office for iPad couldn’t be more timely. In fact, it can define Microsoft and its newly appointed CEO’s tenure in the post-PC world. In a new analysis we conducted between the months of January and March 2014 we found that the average US consumer spends 119% more time in productivity apps than they did over the same period a year ago. This includes time spent in apps on iOS and Android devices, both tablets and phones. This growth rate eclipsed all other categories including Messaging, Games and News.
The actual numbers are still relatively low as the average US consumer spent 5½ minutes per day in productivity apps. This compares to 2½ minutes per day in March of 2013. This takes into consideration the relatively low penetration of productivity apps in general. In fact, an analysis of 7,800 productivity apps on the Flurry platform shows a total reach of 32 million US mobile users. But the year-over-year growth rate is still significant and indicates a shift in consumer behavior. Applications such as Evernote and Dropbox are gaining traction and new emerging apps such as Quip, Slack and Acompli are ushering a new era of mobile-first productivity applications. Continued innovation and growth in this category will accelerate the adoption of productivity apps on tablets and phones, and spell further doom for the PC industry.
Analysts are still divided on whether Office for iPad will fuel this industry and make Microsoft relevant in the post-PC world, or will simply be a product from another era, brought to mobile without much impact. The rumor of the announcement gave Microsoft a nice 4% boost in market cap, but the world is watching what Microsoft’s new CEO will say more than what the product will do. One thing we know is right: timing. Productivity apps are gaining tremendous traction on mobile devices and Microsoft’s products can simply be the second-stage booster for this industry. It will be fun (and productive) to see what happens the next few months.
In the history of high tech corporate incumbents facing market disruption, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s blunt, provocative “burning platform” memo, where he describes a blazing platform, upon which his company has poured gasoline and now must abandon for its very survival, has become an instant classic. While history will ultimately reveal whether Mr. Elop’s bold call to action was delivered in time to save Nokia, Flurry can look to trends from the app development community as an early indicator for whether it will support the new Nokia-Microsoft (“Nokiasoft”) partnership.
Flurry periodically measures the relative support that developers dedicate to different platforms by tracking new application starts within its system, especially when there is a major market event. For example, prior to the shipment of Apple’s iPad, Flurry reported both increased activity and rates of project starts. A Flurry new project start is recorded when a developer adds the Flurry SDK to its pre-release application. 38,000 companies have created projects using Flurry.
This week, with the early speculation and subsequent announcement that Nokia and Microsoft would partner, Flurry measured a 66% increase in Windows Phone 7 project starts over last week. However, since we only began Flurry Analytics support for Microsoft Windows Phone 7 five weeks ago, we went back in our records to ensure what we were seeing was not an aberration.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, we studied Flurry new project starts for the first five weeks of support for each of the following platforms: Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. We then normalized the measurement to show a relative vs. absolute comparison (percentages vs. actual numbers). The results are presented below.
Reviewing the chart, it is interesting to note the similarity in relative growth of Android and Windows Phone 7 project starts. When Flurry launched its support for Android in October 2008, there was doubt in the industry around the viability of Android as a development platform. Back then, the sentiment was that Android would capture market share as a mobile operating system, but not necessarily as an application development platform or an ecosystem where developers could thrive. 180,000 apps later, Android answered its critics.
Likewise, prior to today’s announcement, many questioned the viability of Windows Phone 7 as an operating system that developers would support. Moreover, there was doubt that Microsoft as a company could muster enough momentum to gain relevance at this stage the mobile platform race. From Flurry’s point of view, this week’s spike in Windows Phone 7 developer activity shows that developers not only believe Nokia has given Microsoft Windows Phone7 a shot in the arm, but also that Nokia and Microsoft together can build a viable ecosystem.
While Android ultimately became a vibrant platform, it’s also important to note the relative drop off in BlackBerry’s project starts over the same initial period. It appears that developers voted down BlackBerry as a viable third contender to Apple and Google in the first five weeks of Flurry’s support. Months later, the market proved these developers right.
Yet, despite the rising development cost to build for multiple platforms, developers continue to demonstrate their willingness to support a multi-platform world, where they believe real business opportunity exists. As one of our developer-customers once told us “I would develop in assembly language, if I thought I could make money.” With spiking support for Nokia and Microsoft, developers are showing us they believe.