Posts from Android Market

Mobile Gatekeepers

One of the things we try to avoid in our investments is gatekeepers. We would prefer that a company has easy access to end users and doesn't need to navigate through a gatekeeper or a series of gatekeepers to get into the market.

Mobile internet investing has been tricky for as long as I have been doing Internet investing. Initially it was the carriers and handet manufacturers who controlled access to the end user. If you wanted to be in the mobile internet business, you spent your time working with carriers and handset manufacturers to get distribution. We didn't like that business and didn't invest in it.

With the advent of the iOS app store model, we saw a change in the market and changed our stance. To date, we have at least a dozen investments where mobile apps represent an important part of the user base.

But in the past ten days, I have seen three different situations, not just in our portfolio but with companies I've met with or know well, where the company's app was either not approved or pulled from the market. This is not limited to the iOS app store. It has also happened in the Android marketplace. And of course, we have seen RIM's removal of a Blackberry app create great harm to a portfolio company.

These actions are always taken in attempt to enforce terms of service and to protect end users. I am not complaining about the actions or saying they are unfair. They are what they are. But the mobile Internet is not the open web and may never be.

Welcome to the new boss. Same as the old boss.



I wrote a post on saturday asking for an android app that would turn my wifi on and off when I was in certain locations. I got a ton of great comments and installed a bunch of apps on my phone as a result, including Locale, JuiceDefender, Y5, and Tasker. I promised that I'd write a blog post telling everyone what was the best solution for me. This is that post.

Locale, JuiceDefender, and Y5 all do the thing I wanted (turning wifi on and off based on location). Y5 is drop dead simple. You don't need to do any configuration. JuiceDefender is very powerful and can do a lot of things.

But I'm really taken with Locale and it is the solution I opted for in the end. It's not a battery saver app, it's a location configuration app. And I think it is a very smart idea. With Locale you can tune your phone to do different things in different places. Here's some copy from the Locale website:

With Locale, you create situations specifying conditions under which your phone's settings should change. For example, your "At School" situation notices when your Location condition is "77 Massachusetts Ave.," and changes your Volume setting to vibrate.

It's been almost 30 years now, but I still remember that 77 Mass Ave means school (MIT). I guess the team behind Locale is out of MIT. If so, I like this app even more.

Here's what I've done with Locale so far. I've set up Home and Office as "situations" and geolocated them on my phone. I've set wifi to turn on whenever I arrive at eiter location. And I've set wifi to turn off whenever I leave either location. I've set volume to vibrate at the Office and to ring loudly at home (I leave my phone by the front door and don't take it around my house).

I'm trying to figure out how to make Locale turn on Bluetooth when I get in my car and turn it off when I get out. I'm going to try to geolocate my garage and see if I can make that work.

The user interface of Locale is simple and yet fairly powerful. I think it can do so much more and I hope they keep adding features to this app. The idea that I have an intelligent phone that configures itself depending on where I am is very powerful and I think there's a lot of potential here.


HTML5 Mobile Apps

I saw two HTML5 apps yesterday. One running in my Android browser. The other running in the iPad browser. They looked and worked exactly like their mobile app counterparts. It was a mind opening moment.

There still are issues. When I went to show one of the HTML5 mobile apps later, my mobile data connection wasn't there and I couldn't load it in my Android browser. But a friend told me you could cache all the elements, including the database, on the phone and deliver an offline experience in HTML5 in the browser.

I've always disliked the idea that we have to download apps on our phones when the apps we use on the web are loaded in the browser on demand. But I've accepted the mobile app paradigm as something we will be living with for the next five years.

I'm not sure it's five years anymore.