Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Mother Lode of Data on the Mobile Internet

Browsing the Internet this morning, I found this Morgan Stanley report on the Mobile Internet. Depending on which version you look at, you'll find hundreds of slides packed with data and insights on mobile internet usage. I recommend you at least flip through the this short 92-slide version.

Here are some of the highlights - this is the data I found most interesting.

iPhone Growth

The growth of iPhone + iTouch outpaces that of Netscape, i-mode, and AOL. It's more explosive than anything we've seen so far.

iPhone and iPod Touch are growing at the same rate This slide was meant to demonstrate the explosiveness of the iPhone platform, but another thing it demonstrates is how iPhone and iPod Touch sell around the same number of units, and have done so consistently even through the introduction of the 3G and 3GS.

Web Usage

Unproductive sites are increasing their addiction levels. Online global time spent is trending heavily toward Facebook and YouTube. MSN and Yahoo are shrinking away while Google (probably the most work-related of all these sites) is holding steady. I wonder about the effect of all this on global GDP.

Google now makes $20 per user per year in ads. I still remember when my friends were asking "Who clicks on all those ads anyway?" Somebody does. Google's annualized revenues per user have increased from $10.22 / year in 2005 to $20.06 in 2009. That's a large chunk of the total ad revenue per user on the Internet, which is $46.41. Wow.

PS: Morgan Stanley has done an outstanding job in assembling all this data. I just wish they'd hired a graphic designer for their slides - they do look a bit busy, especially pasted at small sizes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm off to Europe

I'm off to Europe for the holidays to spend some time with my family.

I heard that Switzerland is totally covered in snow. I heard my brother got snowed in the other day - quite unusual in a country with the level of road services that Switzerland has. I'm certainly looking forward to doing some snowboarding with the Alps!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mobile Email Usage to Grow from 131M to 434M in 2 Years

I just found this great report [pdf] by email research group Radicati. It comes with bucketloads of stats and predictions on email usage.

In particular, this one table is a gem. According to Radicati, mobile email usage is poised to grow from 131 million users today to 434 million in 2011.

That's pretty substantial growth - almost 100% growth year-on-year! I'm happy that's the space that reMail is in.

The In-App Freemium Model

We're now letting users download reMail for free and then upgrade to IMAP support and no ads. Previously we were charging $4.99 upfront, now we're selling features via In-App purchase. I think many useful apps will eventually charge this way. For example, navigation apps might charge you per city or per routing instead of charging $80 upfront. Games have already shifted to selling virtual goods and levels.

Initial sales are encouraging. I'll let you know how it worked out for us once I have more data.

Read more about how we implemented freemium on the reMail blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

reMail 2.7 is Out

We released reMail 2.6 late last week and it had some bugs. Bugs we should have caught in our QA department [*]. Sorry about that.

However, we fixed those bugs ASAP and resubmitted a new version. reMail 2.7 is out on the App Store now and you should update.

[*] We don't really have a QA department. Yet.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Shocker: A Drop in Email Overload!?

The Radicati Group is a research organization owned by HP that surveys email and messaging usage patterns. Here's a shocking new blog post:
Our newly released Business User Survey, 2009 shows that for the first time since we started monitoring email traffic patterns, the amount of email that reaches business user inboxes is actually decreasing. Survey respondents indicated that they sent and received an average of 108 email messages per day in 2009, which is noticeably lower than the average of 140 email messages sent and received in 2008. This is a fairly significant decrease of 23%!

Their explanation for this data is that users are shifting to other means of communication such as IM for certain type of messages: "Wanna grab lunch?"

This data does not fit my observations. For me, 2009 was the year of notification emails, as illustrated here and here.

My alternative explanation: This is a survey-based report. People generally overreport on how busy they are. They've recently become more realistic.

Now if only I had $2500 to buy that research report.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Vision for reMail

As an entrepreneur, there's one question you get asked a lot: "What's your vision?"

Unfortunately, I don't have a beautiful answer like Larry & Sergey's "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." That's a powerful one. So powerful that Eric Schmidt apparently questioned their sanity when he first heard it.

For reMail, the goal is to solve the two big problems in mobile email:
  1. You're on the way to a meeting and you need to look up where it is, or who you're meeting. This is an email search problem.

  2. You're walking from the meeting room to the bathroom and have 45 seconds to catch up on your new messages. This is a prioritization problem.

These two problems are not orthogonal: You can see prioritization as a special case of search. You're searching for important messages. You can see search as a special case of prioritization: You want to see the important messages related to your current state of mind, as expressed by the query. The solutions aren't as clearly separated as the use cases are. And that's good for reMail.

We started with search because it's easier to solve, and the value is clearer to the user. We've built a pretty successful product - it needs a lot of refinement but it fills a clear need for users. I've built some sketches of prioritization tools in May - reBoxed and something I called "reMail Commander" - but they need a lot more work.

We were so luck to focus entirely on mobile email. Mobile email usage is growing and there's no reason why mobile email usage shouldn't eclipse desktop usage in 5 years or so.

Sounds smart? This decision fell into our lap: In December 2008, we had a meeting with a potential investor (he didn't invest and probably wouldn't like to see his name here). We had plans to do stuff on the web, desktop, and mobile. During that conversation, it became clear to us that on the desktop we'd get killed by Outlook 2010, Postbox, Zimbra, Thunderbird, and many players with deep experience. In webmail, we'd get killed by Gmail Labs. Mobile seemed like the right spot, with lots of whitespace and huge problems. I'm happy that's what we decided to focus our efforts.

Say it with me, all together now: reMail is reimagining mobile email.

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Swiss Announces Direct Flights ZRH-SFO

I live in San Francisco but my family lives in Switzerland. I've been petitioning Swiss International Air Lines every year to open up a direct flight Zurich-San Francisco. My wish has been granted. Starting June 2010, Swiss will offer a direct ZRH-SFO flight.

This route makes so much sense: There's no shortage of people shuttling back and forth between Zurich and San Francisco (just ask those weary-looking people with Google shirts in the SFO International terminal). Until now, we've had to connect either on the East Coast (ORD, JFK, etc.) or somewhere in Europe (MUC, LHR, FRA, AMS, DUB, CDG, from best to worst).

I'm so happy about this new route. Thank you Swiss!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The New Consensus: It's Android vs. iPhone

In our YCombinator Demo Day presentation, we had a slide about how we'll also build reMail for other platforms, starting with Android. This was 9 months ago. Members of the audience were puzzled: "Why would you build on Android, not Blackberry or Windows Mobile?".

I'd reply "I think the war was going to be iPhone vs. Android". It seemed like a reasonable bet at the time. Google has deep pockets and great engineering talent. Turns out the only thing missing was the right device.

Now, of course, there is the Droid, which sold more than 800,000 devices since its launch. That's a huge number. My roommate just got one the other week!

And attitudes have changed. Fred Wilson says that Android will be to the iPhone what the PC was to the Mac. In many conversations in the past weeks, no one took offense with "it's iPhone vs. Android".

Android still has a long way to go. I'm confident they will get there. Usability and stability need to improve, developer tools need to get a big speed bump, and I'm a little worried that by the end of 2010, we'll have too make device configurations to develop for and test on. But the speed at which the Android team cranks out iterations is very high.

Armed with a G1, I've fired up my Eclipse this weekend and started toying around again with Android apps. I have some ideas about what I want to build. I'll keep you posted.