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All posts by Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

  • Amazon’s Kindle Fire is not an iPad killer, but boy it changes the game

    Content. Content. Content. Apple gets it. And Amazon gets it. Is it any coincidence then that tablets created by these two companies will be the category leaders for the next few years? In launching the Kindle Fire, Amazon instantly created a hit. Not because it was selling support for Flash. Or dual quad-processors with eleventy hundred gigs of storage or two different-megapixel cameras. There aren’t five different models for all kinds of mobile networks. And you don’t have to choose between “Honeycomb” or “Gingerbread”. Consumers don’t understand this. What is Android 2.2? What is Android 2.3? Why do I even need to...

  • Those 8-million smartphones are just the beginning

    The massive growth in smartphones in emerging markets -- in South Africa the number has doubled in the past year -- has led to many suggesting that the market is close to "saturated". Take into account that there are between 50-million and 55-million active SIM cards in the country, and suddenly 8-million number doesn't look like such a big number any more. There are also well over 2-million “data-only” SIMs in South Africa, but you can easily assume that the majority of these are secondary devices (more often than not, company issue) and these users have smartphones. Pieter Uys, the chief...

  • With millions of smartphones in South Africa, where are all the apps?

    There are millions (and millions) of smartphones in South Africa. And growth is accelerating. Vodacom’s latest financial results disclose some interesting numbers: Between April and June, it added 406 000 smartphones 70 percent of smartphones sold in the quarter were BlackBerry As of 30 June, there are 3.7-million active smartphones on its network 33 percent of its smartphone subscribers use data bundles MTN, the second-largest network in the country, has 2.6-million smartphones on its network at the end of June. And Cell C, latecomer to the BlackBerry party, has over 100 000 BlackBerry customers. That’s a total of 6.5-million (adding in 8ta and other smartphones...

  • Facebook is missing a trick on apps (and copying from Twitter to boot!)

    Facebook is all about mobile. Its number of active users -- 750 million -- is impressive. Even with engagement slowing in more mature markets, it is on track to be the first platform in history to crack the 1-billion user mark. A full third of those active users (250-million) access the site via mobile devices. Facebook itself admits that people who use Facebook on mobile devices are "twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users". So where's the innovation? That said, not much innovation can really happen on the mobile site itself. Facebook has taken the standard tick-box approach of making...

  • Facebook is fast becoming irrelevant and has lost the real-time battle

    I remember the glory days of Facebook. We used to share voraciously on our news feeds. Our movements. Interesting links. Videos. It was where the conversation happened. Daily. And then came Twitter. The real conversation (and the real-time one) shifted to Twitter. The shift was slow to begin with, which made Twitter a hollow place. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does...

  • Forget the rest of the world, Apple’s real future is in the BRICS

    It's strange how we all get caught up in the Silicon Valley (and Alley) hype. If a company's product fails in the US, it gets punished by the market. Think about RIM's recent BlackBerry woes. Or the fact that Nokia simply doesn't register as a smartphone maker in the world's largest economy. Apple is king. While that may yet change, it's a runaway success in North America, and Europe (and demand in Asia is roaring). Being successful in the "west" (at this stage) means mindshare globally. The sheer volume of products like the iPhone and iPad being shipped in developed...

  • Why Kenya’s M-Pesa won’t work anywhere else

    It's the runaway success story: From a standing start just four years ago, over 15-million Kenyans now use the M-Pesa mobile money service to transact. Billions of Kenyan shillings have been moved through the system. It's this success which leads to M-Pesa being held up as a case study of mobile payments in emerging markets (try researching mobile payments without reference to M-Pesa!). It's also made financial services companies and rival operators salivate. True, the growth rates are staggering. There are only 40-million people in Kenya, which illustrates just how many economically active adults in that country use M-Pesa (practically...

  • SMS is dead. Well, almost.

    SMS is dead – more accurately, dying – and why wouldn't it be? Hundreds of millions of consumers around the world are wising up to the costs of mobile communication and because of its 160-character length, SMSes are obvious candidates for a subconscious cost/value analysis. Every so often the meme of SMSes being wildly overpriced (they are 140bytes of data after all) does the rounds. And then there was BBM. BlackBerry Messenger suddenly removed the need for SMS. It needed the BlackBerry installed base to reach tipping point before it became useful. The youth market, though, eventually cottoned on to...

  • The group buying collapse is coming

    Group buying. Daily deals. Social commerce. Call it what you will, but the sheer number of blatant knock-offs that have sprung up in global markets following the "success" of Groupon and LivingSocial should give you a hint that all is not well. A fair number of these startups are nothing more than two or three people, a few laptops, an internet connection and phone line. They're strangely reminiscent of those outfits that sold small businesses those five-page microsites a decade ago. Small businesses got ripped off with websites based on cookie-cutter templates. Users/customers got ripped off because they actually couldn’t...

  • The ‘Age of Apple’ will end

    First, a little disclosure. I never really wanted to like Apple, or use any of its products. Sure, the allure was there, all the cool kids sitting at the street-side cafes were using Apple products after all, but I managed to resist throughout. The iPhone 4 changed all that. Now with that out of the way… Apple will disappear. We'll talk about the glory days, arguably the period we're living through now, where it defined entire product categories out of thin air. At the time, it was the leader, the innovator, the best-designed, the most coherent platform. Remember when the iPad...

  • Yes there’s a tech bubble, but will it burst anytime soon?

    "This time it's different". It's always different. When Cisco hit US$80 a share in 2000, making it the most valuable company in the world (worth US$555bn), it was different. It was also different when Goldman traded at US$235 in 2007 (and when AIG hit over US$2000 in 2000 and around US$1500 just four years ago). Perhaps in the original bubble, Dutch Tulip mania in 1637, it wasn't different. With the latest flurry of tech IPOs on Wall Street: LinkedIn, Pandora Media and Zillow (with Groupon, Zynga, LivingSocial polishing their prospectuses), it's different too. At least that's what we keep hearing. "This time there's...

  • Manifesto for web startup entrepreneurs

    I’m going to apologise up front. These aren’t all original thoughts - are original thoughts still possible? I read voraciously online and I am pretty convinced that all that reading has helped inform this list. And no, I’m not going to get into the semantics about exactly what a “startup” is right now. 1. Think global You are not going to become rich building an online business solely focused on the South African market. Read that again. You will not become rich. Despite what you think now, in order to become wildly successful, you have to build an online business that...