My Answers to Benedict Evans’ 20 Questions for 2015

At the beginning of this year Fred Wilson suggested answering Benedict Evans’ 20 questions for 2015.  Here’s my attempt at briefly answering each question.  I didn’t do any research in answering these questions.  All my answers are just my gut feeling.

1. Will Facebook relaunch Messenger as a Wechat-style sharing and discovery platform – which would be Facebook’s first real ‘native’ mobile experience? I doubt David Marcus joined to add stickers, after all. Link

They will try to create this as another platform.  I might be answering the second question but I believe they will continue to try to take up as much of the front screen of your phone as possible.  They now have three very popular apps with Facebook, Instagram, & WhatsApp.  I think they continue to diversify by purchasing popular leaders in different categories.

2. If Messenger is a move up the stack, will Facebook try something further down, or did it decide to give up after the failure of Home?

I’d be surprised if they completely give up on moving further down the stack because I think everyone wants to have control of the environment like IOS & Android.  I don’t think they will be successful.  Home was a complete misreading of the market.  People don’t want to be boxed in.  Why do I want another environment on top of an environment?

3. Will we find out how much of Facebook’s explosive mobile ad revenue is app installs?

If it’s good news, we will.  If it’s not good news, we won’t.

4. How will Amazon follow the failure of the Fire Phone? Will it try a (much) cheaper price – say $200 unsubsidised, even though the US pricing structure makes that much harder than elsewhere?

I think we haven’t seen the last of the Fire Phone.  Does that mean it will be successful? No.  It will get pumped again.  Everyone wants to be Apple & Google but it’s just not realistic.  I understand why Amazon wants a phone but they can’t just do it because they had niche success with their tablets.  The only Amazon tablet I own is a standard Kindle which is awesome and by far the best tablet for reading.  I think both Amazon & Facebook should refocus on their core businesses instead of trying to follow Apple & Google.  I don’t think either of them wins that race.

5. Will we see the ‘Fire’ platform on devices from other OEMs? The Google contract forbids selling both Google’s, closed Android devices and open ones, but a new OEM might not care. Link

I think this is what amazon should do but I don’t think they want to.  They want to create a great product but they’re not going to beat Apple or Samsung at this game.  The only ‘Fire Phone’ I want to see is the Firefox phone finally gain some traction.

6. Will we get resolution on the Android versus Chrome division? I can see one scenario in which Android becomes a legacy run-time on top of Chrome phones, with Google moving everything back towards the web.

Android runs on top of Chrome phones.  Androids one of the main keys to Google’s future success.

7. Does Google double down on Glass or (officially) give up? Launch another new Labs project? Or wait for Magic Leap?

I think they officially gave up on Google Glass a few weeks ago.  I think they launch another Labs project.  I don’t know what it is but Google refuses to stand still which they really can’t do because everyone is trying to emulate them.

8. Will we start seeing more open Android devices on sale outside China and emerging markets? Which if any Chinese OEMs will come to Europe, or will that be for new, local companies? Will they try to become premium players – will Lenovo succeed where Huawei and ZTE failed? And (if they want to) can they get away without Google services? Link

Android has really eaten up the market for mobile phone OS the way Windows did for PCs.  It’s going to be really difficult for any one to break that grip.  I could only see Chinese OEMs being able to do it because they could make a better phone for the Chinese the way Alibaba has beaten everyone in China.  It’s also the only country that’s large enough to make a huge dent in market share.

9. Does Samsung bounce back with another successful pivot?

Samsung’s an interesting story. They produce some great phones and people seem to love them.  I don’t own one.  Some of their phone’s features are better than the iPhone.  If Apple basically copied one of Samsung’s phones called it an iPhone then it would be ridiculously popular.  Wait, didn’t Apple just do this with the 6 Plus?

10. Will a well-known OEM exit the phone market, or get bought? (Sony and HTC look like candidates, or even RIM)

I could see RIM getting bought because blackberry is garbage heap.  You might be able to buy the whole company for some cash and a player to be named later.  The problem is that it might not even be worth it since their brand has been burnt so bad. Other than business executives, I don’t know of anyone who would want or feel nostalgic about a Blackberry phone.

11. How far will Microsoft pursue its new ‘it doesn’t need to be on our OS’ approach? It’s already taken Office to iOS and Android, but how much might it try to leverage open Android?

Microsoft has lost this battle.  They have no trust and nobody needs them on mobile like you do on PCs.  They should make Office mobile only and force everyone to buy their phone. Ha!

12. How well will the Apple Watch sell? And more importantly, what does ‘well’ mean? A great financial result might not be enough to change the broader market environment and have second-order effects like changing the direction of app interaction models on smartphones – but still be a big loyalty driver for repeat iPhone purchases (say). Link

It’s not going to be the iPad or iPhone but the first run of this device will sell decently because all the Apple fanboys will go out and buy this up.  I’ve seen sales forecasts from 10 million to 30 million and think the final numbers will fall in the middle.  Apple Watch is a fashion statement the same way the iPod, iPhone, and white headphones became a fashion statement.  The Apple Watch takes the fashion statement image to the next level.

A few problems with the Apple Watch:

The problem with this fashion statement is that it’s going to be too expensive, doesn’t have a good reason for parents to buy them for their children, and you may need to have your iPhone in close proximity.

  • The lowest price of the Apple Watch could start at $350 and go up to the price of a MacBook.  It won’t be an impulse buy.
  • The iPhone & iPad gave parents an excuse.  Kids need a cell phone to be able to check in, parents to contact them, and they will be safer. The iPad is a learning device.
  • The main reason I’d be interested in buying the Apple Watch is for the health and fitness features. Currently I use a Garmin Forerunner, it serves it’s purpose but the user interface is horrendous.  I run a lot and would love to be able to map my runs and log my miles on a watch with a great interface.  Sadly, I think you’ll have to have your iPhone on you to use these any of these features on the Apple Watch.  Last thing I want to do is carry both this watch and my iPhone on 10 mile run.

13. What other new things does Apple have planned? Is this the year that the content rights finally align to let it launch a new TV product? What would that look like? Would it be as (superficially) benign to the TV industry as Apple Pay is to the card companies, or more directly destabilising? Link

It seems like every year is going to be the year Apple disrupts TV.  It’s coming but I don’t think it’s this year.  They can’t do anything without the content.  There is no reason content providers can’t just say forget Verizon and Comcast and stream their ad supported content online.  But it’s not going to happen without anything less than an act from Congress.

14. Also, Apple Music? Cloud? Will we start seeing some of the blind spots being filled in?

Beats Music will continue to make its push to take over Spotify.  Apple can figure out a way to offer Beats Music for $5 month than it’s a game changer for streaming music and probably a knockout blow to Spotify.  $5/month seems like that perfect price point for streaming music.

15. The annual question – will Apple try to take more of the midrange with a $3-400 handset, or continue to leave that to old models and second-hand? Link

For this year, I don’t think they really care.  They’re satisfied with taking the high-end.

16. Where will Apple and Google take the interaction model and integration model in WWDC/IO 2015? Integrate Uber and Lyft into the OS? Move into messaging? Into Social? With new meta-platforms starting to emerge on top of the OS layer, what do the people who own that layer do about it? Link

Like every year they’ll both purpose a few large players in key industries.  I think they both stay out of Social.

I think the two main things both Google and Apple look to integrate is improved Messaging & deep linking.  I think deep linking is more crucial to Google because their entire business depends on them being able to search inside these apps.  Right now, Google Search is being locked out of mobile.

17. Will tablet sales continue to be flat or will the balance of replacement and user growth shift towards growing (or shrinking) sales? Link

I think Android tablets continue to grow but I think iPad will be flat.  Android tablets are cheap enough that you can really buy a few of them for the price of one iPad and use them as super remotes like Fred Wilson.

18. Is this the year that the Bitcoin blockchain starts producing real consumer products? If so, they’ll be on mobile first.

I need to do some more research.  I agree that it will be on mobile first.  From what I’ve seen the Bitcoin blockchain makes a lot of sense and I think a lot of people will be trying some interesting stuff using the blockchain.

19. Do concepts like the Samsung Gear VR take off? What if Apple/Google try to bake the capability into the OS this summer?

Virtual reality has been going to be the next big thing from the 80s.  I’m skeptical to say the least.

20. Finally, the most interesting thing to happen this year is almost certainly not on this list. One reason tech is so fun is that you only really start understanding things at the point they become irrelevant – there are always new questions.

One word: Hoverboards!