Monday, October 10, 2011

60 days – déjà vu all over again?

Hi all – today I sent out a notice to registered Runtime Intelligence for Windows Phone users letting them know that a change would be coming to our service on (or perhaps after) December 9th. I have already received messages from some rather annoyed developers who feel like we are playing some kind of Machiavellian pricing game; the basic flaw in this view is that it presumes we sit in the Prince’s chair – which we do not.

First, let me start by stating categorically that we remain excited and committed to the Windows Phone platform.

Our approach to analytics has always been squarely focused on development organizations rather than on marketing; this is not a “spin,” rather, this approach informs and influences our product’s architecture and business model.

I’ll drill into this distinction in a moment, but first, I want to point out that it is this distinction coupled with our belief in WP7 as a platform and the value of our approach to application analytics in general that led us to invest in building out the WP7-specific service. While I cannot speak to Microsoft’s motivations (in any context, let alone this one), it is public knowledge that they funded this service so that it could be offered at no charge to the WP7 dev community (but now that’s no longer the case).

Why was this even necessary? Why couldn’t PreEmptive just give away our analytics and protection service like Google does?

“Marketing-centric” analytic services make their money off of your data – but first they have to cover their costs; the “back end” or analytics portal is where the majority of that “cost” sits. Today, Google or Flurry (or any other similar service) each rely upon web and other mobile platforms to generate the data volume that ultimately funds their backend service. At this early stage, WP7 app data can fund client API’s (perhaps) but is nowhere near the volume-levels required to pay for an entire service.

But there’s more – focusing exclusively on resalable content (and by extension, divesting from any requirements that do not) have profound feature and architecture implications.

Given a marketing-centric focus, you can readily understand why these solutions all share the following traits:

· Custom data fields and data types are limited in scope and volume (unique/heterogeneous data points cannot be easily rolled-up, sold or used to better target users)

· No built-in enforcement for opt-out policies – this is left entirely to the developer (if you do not provide user data to these services, you are of no value)

· No investment in analytics of software away from the presentation layer (this data has no relevance to advertising, profiling etc.)

· Software-specific data is only marginally supported – unhandled exceptions can be captured, caught and thrown exceptions are out of scope *same as above – does not contribute to monetization model.

· They own your data (privacy rules notwithstanding – the have full rights to monetize your data in any way they see fit). This is the entire reason they are in business – if they don’t own the data, how can they make money?

· They can provide their analytics software for free – since they have built a monetization strategy based on your data and do not invest in any development that does not directly contribute to that strategy, they can afford to give you the picks and shovels for free in exchange for the gold you produce for them (that’s big of them don’t you think?)

Conversely, focusing on application stakeholders as we do, we invest in features that do not contribute to a roll-up across companies and apps to monetize user preferences – in fact, some of these features can materially impede that objective – yet they are equally as important for developers who want to build better, faster and more effective software…

For example:

· Supporting custom data (app-specific fields and states) and data types (other than strings)

· Built-in exception tracking (unhandled, caught and thrown) to not only send you stack traces but provide insight into user experience and runtime environments (hostile or otherwise)

· Built-in opt-out policy enforcement (local, regional, cultural, legal and regulatory rules are so complex – serious development organizations need to centrally manage and reliably enforce compliance – could you sell a gun without a safety?!)

· Analytics away from the presentation layer (want to know how your Azure or other distributed services are performing and behaving?)

· AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, you own your data. (given the heterogeneity and specificity of each application’s data – it’s value is exponentially higher to development stakeholders and proportionately lower in aggregate)

So what’s the takeaway?

With Microsoft, we invested in this mobile platform because we believed (and now we know) that it has significant value.

Given our focus on development rather than advertising, we have to innovate on both the technical and business ends.

We had hoped that our previous relationship with MSFT Windows Phone division had lasted a bit longer, but it is what it is.

We have a number of very interesting scenarios in mind that we think will prove to be both exciting technically and innovative from a business perspective – but we are not ready to discuss that yet (as soon as we can – we will).

If you don’t care about these added value features and don’t mind the strings that come with web/mobile analytics services like Google – then you should certainly use them. They are not flawed – they are just fundamentally different.

If you value the services we have been offering or have ideas on how we can improve them even further – PLEASE LET US KNOW…

Registered users will be getting a survey in the next 24-48 hours – please let us know what you think and what’s working (and not) for you.

As I've already said, we remain excited and committed to the Windows Phone platform.

(now i have to break to prepare my wp7 training materials; i've got a crew from my son's high school writing WP7 apps for independent study credit)


Anonymous said...

Well, we all knew that it's not gonna be free forever. Overly, it's a great tool to have, I mean it's better protection than no protectoin and the analytics can be really heplfull. It all depends on what the pricing would look like.

Anonymous said...

Disappointing... just hoping pricing is cheap else I'll be on Google boat...