E-Commerce Times

Apple May Be Gearing Up to Crack E-Books

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Apple has been working on a redesign of its e-book app for iPhones and iPads, in what could be the biggest upgrade to its e-book service in years, according to Bloomberg.

One recent indication is that the app is listed as "Books" instead of "iBooks" in the iOS 11.3 beta Apple released to developers last week.

The new app reportedly is undergoing testing and will be released in the next few months.

It will have a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read in a section called "Reading Now," and a redesigned digital bookstore that has a dedicated tab for audio books and looks more like the App Store redesign introduced last year.

Apple last month hired Kashif Zafar, a senior VP from Amazon's Audible audio books business, possibly to lead its revived efforts in the e-books segment. Zafar previously was a content VP in Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader division.

Amazon's Dominance

Apple has been relatively dormant in the e-book market since it lost its Supreme Court appeal in 2016 against a ruling that imposed a US$450 million fine for engaging in e-book price-fixing.

That relieved pressure on Amazon, which
controlled more than 80 percent of the market in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as of early 2017, according to AuthorEarnings.

Apple claimed only 10 percent of those markets at the time.

However, Apple's e-book app redesign is not likely to help it make any headway against Amazon, suggested Eric Smith, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

"Amazon and Google are redesigning their book and/or audiobook apps and portals this year as well," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Consumers can purchase Kindle titles from Amazon using the Safari browser and deliver those titles to the Kindle reader on the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Amazon "has a foothold with books in Apple's ecosystem, and Amazon Music is pretty good," remarked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"That gives Amazon the potential to eventually displace iTunes — and, if they get [books and music], their ability to help Apple users move to Amazon or Android alternatives goes up dramatically," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Apple's Chances

Apple might gain some ground if it "pairs [the app] with new purchase or pricing options to lock people into its app instead of letting Amazon rule the content landscape," Strategy Analytics' Smith said.

Locking in users to the e-book app is a possibility, Enderle noted.

"Given Apple's past practices of gating processors, denying competing apps, and crippling modems, it certainly is at least likely that they'll move to cripple or block the Kindle book app," he added.

Still, the problem is that Amazon is deeply entrenched.

"Once people have a lot of books on a service like Amazon or records on a service like iTunes, getting them to move is virtually impossible," Enderle pointed out. "You have to find a way to bridge their licenses so that the switching cost is palatable."

That said, people "generally only read books once, so you really only have to bridge their licenses for the rare book they might like to re-read and the books they've bought but haven't read, rather than their entire library," Enderle said.

Further, Apple's installed user base might help. The company accounted for 14 percent of global smartphone volume in 2017, based on Strategy Analytics' estimates, Research Director Linda Sui told the E-Commerce Times.

Then there's the iPad factor.

"With the larger screen sizes that iPads provide, e-books are an extremely relevant source of content to give users a better hook to remain in the Apple ecosystem," said Smith. "Users tend to spend more time performing a task on a tablet than on a phone."


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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Feds to Probe Apple’s iPhone Performance Disclosures

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Both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigations into Apple. The company has said that it will respond to the federal inquiries, which Bloomberg first reported on Tuesday.

Apple faces allegations that it may have misled investors when it decided to throttle performance on older iPhone models while introducing two pricey new ones, including the thousand-dollar iPhone X.

The inquiries, still in their early stages, center on whether Apple may have violated federal securities laws.

The DoJ declined to comment, through spokesperson Nicole Navas Oxman, as did the SEC, through spokesperson Judith Burns. Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Senate Committee Query

Apple has been under intense scrutiny following accusations that it throttled performance speeds on its older iPhone models.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, last month sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook with specific questions as to whether the company was pursuing "planned obsolescence" by intentionally slowing down older iPhone models to encourage demand for the newer phones.

Apple waited until a few days after Christmas to acknowledge the declining performance in older models in an online notice to customers, but the company denied any ill intent.

Apple apologized and released iOS 10.2.1, a software update designed to improve power management in iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, IPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns. The company said that customers might experience longer-than-expected load times for apps, along with other performance issues.

The company also acknowledged that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s batteries might have become less effective due to chemical slowing. However, the company further angered customers with its tepid solution to the problem, which was to begin offering replacement batteries for US$29 — a $50 discount — a few weeks earlier than originally planned.

The Senate Commerce committee expects to hear from Apple this week, said Frederick Hill, a spokesperson for Thune's office.

The committee granted the company an extension on the original Jan. 23 deadline that Thune set for a response, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Besides the federal investigations, Apple faces numerous lawsuits alleging it defrauded consumers by throttling back performance of its older iPhone models. It reportedly faces a probe in France over the same issues.

iPhone X Demand Tepid

The new iPhone models, including the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, captured about 61 percent of the total U.S. mobile phone market during the fourth quarter, which is less than the last major iPhone release, according to data Consumer Intelligence Research Partners released last week.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus captured 72 percent of the total U.S. market in the year-ago quarter.

Comparisons for the year-over-year periods were a bit tricky, CIRP noted, because the iPhone X was launched five weeks after the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and therefore was not available for the entire quarter. "Concerning iPhone X relative to earlier models, we think that after the announcement of new models in September 2017, consumers saw the announcement of the iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X coming, and waited to see what a $1,000+ smartphone really looked like before buying the $700-$800 phones."

Because Apple had about eight different phone models in the market at the same time, the individual choices may have diluted sales of the new, more expensive options, CIRP also noted.

In addition, the iPhone X, which featured a what the company said was a revolutionary form of facial recognition technology, fell short of expectations, with anecdotal reports of family members being able to fool the app and unlock phones that didn't belong to them.

Trust Tarnished?

The addition of this performance controversy to other issues customers have with the new phones — including some features in the new iOS 11 that customers do not like — may cause Apple long-term problems, said independent analyst Jeff Kagan.

"I think this will be very damaging to Apple," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Apple has always had a halo over its head, but now that halo is tarnished."

While Apple may experience a short-term setback, iOS and Android customers are pretty well set in their ways, noted Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner, and the company's current problems aren't likely to have much of a long-term impact.

"Most people have chosen their camp," he told the E-Commerce Times. "I drive a stick shift, my wife drives an automatic."

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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E-Commerce Times

SAP to Forge Stronger Links With $2.4B Callidus Buy

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SAP this week announced it would acquire long-term partner Callidus Software for about US$2.4 billion to improve back-office to front-office links. The transaction is expected to close in Q2 2018, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

SAP to Forge Stronger Links With $2.4B Callidus Buy

SAP will get Callidus Software's CallidusCloud, which offers a full suite of sales performance management and configure-price-quote solutions. CallidusCloud's solutions link sales-related information such as pricing, incentives and commissions, to enterprise resource planning systems.

SAP expects the purchase to give it immediate leadership in the Lead to Cash space, which includes SPM and CPQ, and to enable it to deliver the most complete, end-to-end, fully cloud-based Lead-to-Cash offering.

The Lead-to-Money space "is incredibly important because the impact on revenue is both more obvious and more measurable than many other features," observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"I can't think of a firm that uses SAP that won't find this new capability beneficial," he told CRM Buyer.

CallidusCloud's technology will let SAP seamlessly link front and back offices; align sales, compensation and corporate goals; and ensure real-time data flow between the field and finance department.

"It's a good move by SAP, as it lets the ERP vendors back into CRM," said Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Enterprises have had to integrate different products, which is "always a risk, always pain," he told CRM Buyer. "Now there's the promise again of an all-encompassing CRM suite."

What CallidusCloud Brings to the Table

CallidusCloud SPM solutions give sales people instantaneous knowledge of their compensation associated with particular product and pricing configurations, while reducing errors in calculating sales commissions and compensation arrangements.

CallidusCloud CPQ solutions help sales people identify and configure product packages that have built-in rules for discounts, and are able to generate proposals for customers on the spot. They also can generate contracts automatically and in real time, while sales people are with customers.

The CallidusCloud offering includes "Litmos," a sales-focused, mobile-native learning platform that has been showing solid growth.

SAP's Post-Acquisition Plans

Once the transaction is completed, SAP will consolidate all CallidusCloud product assets within SAP Hybris solutions as part of SAP's Cloud Business Group.

SAP Hybris, which offers omnichannel solutions, is part of the company's S/4HANA business suite in the cloud. Together with SAP's Gigya identity management solutions, it connects the demand and supply chains.

The SAP Cloud Platform will be used for the technical integration of CallidusCloud solutions.

It's difficult to say how much work — such as re-engineering — this will entail, said Enderle, but "SAP had a decent reputation for taking care of their customers."

SAP will continue to support integration of CallidusCloud solutions with third-party installations.

CallidusCloud's existing management team will continue to lead the company.

"The acquisition is a great move for SAP to build a comprehensive customer experience cloud suite," said Cindy Zhou, principal anayst at Constellation Research.

"CallidusCloud's CPQ, Incentive Comp and SPM solutions address a gap in SAP's CX portfolio," she told CRM Buyer.

SAP "has been investing in building a comprehensive CX suite the past few years" to better compete with Salesforce, Oracle and Infor, Zhou said.

More companies are realizing the importance of guided sales activity to winning deals, she noted, and "CPQ and SPM are increasing in prominence."

The Impact of the Purchase

This acquisition "further strengthens SAP's direct-to-revenue value proposition," Zhou said.

SAP has agreed to pay 21 percent more than Callidus Software's 30-day weighted average price per share, and 28 percent more than the 90-day volume weighted average price per share.

"The payment is both in line with [Callidus Software's] value to SAP and what was likely needed to close the deal," Enderle said.

Callidus' purchase "rounds out SAP's solution with no overlap, and gives them access to a new group of customers for cross-sell opportunities," Zhou noted.

Both companies sell to enterprise customers, she pointed out, and "Callidus also has a mid-size customer base, which can help SAP address the mid-market as well."

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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E-Commerce Times

There May Be Gold in Them Thar Podcasts

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User engagement with podcasts has been steadily increasing, and many listeners actually prefer longer-format content, based on results of Apple's Podcast Analytics reported this week. The service, which Apple launched late last year, gives podcasters a way to track performance metrics including number of listeners, total time listened and time per device.

The audience for podcasts has increased as content has become more specialized in nature, the analytics show. Listeners engage with podcasts for much longer periods than with other types of online content, which tends to be shorter.

Audience Increase

Podcasts have been around for nearly 15 years. Originally they were radio-like programming that could be downloaded for later playback on Apple's iPod. Today listeners can access podcasts on a plethora of devices.

The popularity of podcasts in a way mirrors the adoption of radio in the 1920s, as it took time for enough devices to be on the market for there to be a sizeable audience.

"The answer to the popularity today of podcasts lies in the fact that they have been around for a long time, and that it took time to catch on," said Greg Sterling, vice president of the Local Search Association.

"Part of this is timing, as people have embraced streaming media in audio and video," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"This plays into the ability to choose when and where and even how to listen to the content," added Sterling.

"The explosion of smart speakers is also playing into this as well," he pointed out.

"The podcast industry has been silently riding the wave of smartphone adoption over the last decade, and it's been a good thing for the artists and businesses in the industry," noted Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Research.

"After riding the rollercoaster of VC hype in the early 2000s, the industry settled into the long haul of building awareness, trial, and finally audiences," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Flexibility and Specialized Content

As a radio alternative, podcasts have other benefits. One key factor is that they can be downloaded for playback at a user's convenience, unlike traditional radio programming.

"People suffering longer commutes started to explore the different types of content available on the pocket-sized multitool media devices they carried around 24×7," recalled Crandall. "Bluetooth and USB connectivity to audio systems in cars enabled more people to listen to podcasts more easily."

Podcasts are akin to "narrow casting" — reaching smaller audiences than typical radio broadcasts.

"Podcasts are suddenly hot because now more mainstream media celebrities are podcasting," said sales and marketing technology coach
Phil Gerbyshak.

Examples include the multitude of podcasts NPR puts out, he told the E-Commerce Times. "They're very well done, and they have helped bring podcasting into the mainstream."

In addition, radio shows such as Radiolab and This American Life have utilized podcasts to expand their reach through podcasts without too much effort, noted Netpop Research's Crandall.

"Add to this evolution the celebrity podcast performances of
Barack Obama on WTF, and people finally took notice," said Crandall.

"Curious people found niche programming available on podcasts that enabled them to learn, laugh, or simply lean back during their boring commutes," he added. "It was just a matter of time that the trickle of listeners would become sufficient for businesses, producers and artists to begin to reap what they have sown."

Longer-Form Content

Where podcasts also differ from radio and much of traditional online content is in length. Text-based stories online tend to be concise, and even videos on streaming services such as YouTube favor the less-is-more model. Podcasts have broken from that formula, however.

"There is the ability to deliver niche content that drives longer-form programming," said Jake Shapiro, CEO of podcast aggregator
RadioPublic.

"Podcasts are something that is good for driving, exercising, walking the dog or washing the dishes," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"This content works well in the connected car where it can be streamed from a USB device or smartphone, or in the home via a connected device," he noted.

"Most people probably don't even consider the length, and while this is long-form content, it is much like listening to the radio," LSA's Sterling observed.

"What makes this content different is that the host and personalities can be very engaging, and podcasts can be habit forming, where audiences listen all the way through — something that doesn't always happen with publishing on the Web," said Shapiro. "

Directed Advertising

The analytics findings should come as good news to advertisers, who have faced increased fragmentation from traditional delivery challenges in recent years.

Podcasts could have the potential to reach target audiences in a way that radio and other broadcast mediums have been unable to accomplish.

"Many podcasts are sponsored already so there is that opportunity. That is straight-up advertising. But companies can also create podcasts that are relevant to them," suggested Sterling.

"We could see a company like Expedia, for example, create podcasts on places to go, things to see, and ways to get there, and make the podcasts all around travel," he suggested.

"They (Expedia) could generate it and get placement where the content is tied into their websites," Sterling noted.

The challenge is that it would have to be meaningful content that would engage users.

"There are many times that marketers have a great idea but don't have the commitment to build it so that it connects with the audience," said Sterling.

"Content that is created by brands is already an evolution of this," noted Shapiro.

"It is primitive right now — but done right, this can allow advertisers to reach the niche audiences that have been largely unreachable by other means," Shapiro maintained.

The idea could be taken even further.

"Companies can use podcasts as advertisements — not only by advertising on a podcast, but by creating a podcast that highlights people using and enjoying their products or services, and by telling their story on other podcasts as guests," suggested Gerbyshak.

"When done well, advertising is content — content that people want to listen to that drives awareness and revenue," he said.

The issue could be one of value. The Super Bowl is the rare event during which the commercials sometimes outshine the programming.

"You have to make something interesting," Sterling said. "In the end, building a podcast audience is a commitment. It is not something that is "just going to happen tomorrow."

Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.
Email Peter.

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Business Process Solutions Revisited

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The IT industry has been playing whack-a-mole since its inception. We've been applying sophisticated technology to our biggest business problems not once but repeatedly, as each new generation of technology offers and delivers order-of-magnitude improvements to our business processes. In some cases, we're on our fourth or fifth iteration of solutions.

For instance, about 25 years ago most business processes were manual. Customer interactions often involved paper documents. Document management systems came along at the end of the last century to automate documents by storing them for quick retrieval. The improvements saved businesses millions of dollars in overhead, and the problem was deemed solved.

However, automating a document (a very good idea) is not the same as automating the process that the document participates in. For many businesses, modern document storage and retrieval supports manual business processes. Those businesses still spend a lot on printing documents and manually or semi-manually routing them around the building or throughout the customer base.

A Different Problem

Today, businesses looking to tackle business process automation are investigating ways to keep documents from being printed even as they circulate.

That's a different problem from the earlier one defined by storage. It wasn't even visible when document automation was thought to be the key need. If you manage business processes that still use lots of paper and printing, welcome to your personal edition of whack-a-mole.

Today's edition of the problem comes with an especially menacing complication. Many CIOs would love the chance to streamline their document dependent processes and the ROI for most of them is readily apparent in avoiding the costs of paper, printing and better customer engagement. However, with upwards of 80 percent of their budgets, on average, dedicated to keeping the lights on, it's hard to grab even the low-hanging fruit if it means a purchase.

You can find the lowest of the low-hanging fruit not in some exotic business processes but in the every day customer administration that organizations spend so much time in. From professional services to healthcare to finance, opportunity is easy to spot in any business that produces a custom or semi-custom product or service directly to customers.

Advancing regulation also plays a role increasing the amount of paper documents involved even in routine processes. So the problem is not getting better, and whack-a-mole is really just a feeble attempt to keep it from getting worse.

The solution to this dilemma may be as simple as changing software vendors. The original document automation vendors may not have an incentive to change their business models or their products to address the new reality. They've defined solutions to "document management problems," but in an era that needs business process solutions, their models and technologies may be a bad fit.

What to Do

If any of this feels familiar, there's a lot you can do. First, look for process solutions that avoid putting documents back on paper, for example, to capture a signature. Signature capture is one of the easiest processes to automate with modern software.

Also, consider what's in your documents. Are people still reading them on multiple occasions to understand what promises and commitments your company made that need to be implemented? Or are there customer commitments buried in physical documents that indicate future purchases? Paying people to read documents is expensive and unnecessary.

Business process solutions, unlike document management solutions, can capture data from documents and feed it to analytics engines. The resulting information might drive an ROI many times greater than the cost savings from simply automating the storage and retrieval of documents.

My Two Cents

As good as document automation solutions were 20 years ago, the business need has changed, and many vintage systems show their age today. Automating document-based business processes can in many cases offer attractive ROIs that even budget-constrained organizations will benefit from.

The key to all of this might be in how we frame the business problem. Is it the same document problem your business fixed decades ago, or did time and circumstances change the need to something greater? A new generation of solutions based on more modern demands can provide order-of-magnitude improvements. The first step may be to evaluate the problem with fresh eyes.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there.
Email Denis.

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