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Meeker Releases Annual Report

Mary Meeker  - a juggernaut in the venture capitalism world known to some as the “Queen of the Net” – recently released her latest report on Internet Trends.

The report, released by Meeker’s partner VC firm KPCB, has been an important reference in Bottle Rocket’s back pocket when it comes to discussing the leading edge of mobile innovation.

Some important points from the 2014 report:

  • 30% of all mobile users are now equipped with smartphones

One of the most important considerations we make is where eyeballs are moving and how we can follow them. With the percentage of mobile users on smartphones climbing every year, it means more and more eyeballs are on iPhone and Android screens.

  • Tablet shipments increased 53% over the last year

Tablets changed the landscape of mobile app development by providing a completely new layout and altering how users play with apps.

  • People spend 20% of their time consuming media on mobile
  • 84% of mobile owners use devices while watching TV (second screen)

Bottle Rocket has strong experience developing for second screen experiences – such as Showtime SYNC. Second Screen experiences bring the user into their favorite shows with interactive content and social media integration.

According to Meeker the tech boom we are currently experiencing does not have the same valuation risks as the “dot com” bust. With the continued increase in mobile screens there are new market opportunities that will utilize these devices to extend brand capabilities in new ways. Meeker also points valuation of Chinese companies as a foundation for continued strength in technology. 

Another interesting stat from Meeker’s report references the explosion of screens across the globe.

A decade from their inception, mobile devices are already 4-5 times greater in unit volume shipments than TVs and PCs.

Previously we’ve referenced Meeker’s 2013 report to discuss the massive potential for advertising on mobile.

Calvin Carter, our Founder and CEO, leveraged the same content during a talk in Austin last May:

"Mobile is an underutilized channel. That might seem like I'm overstating things because there is so much conversation about mobile. CMO's are likely saying "Are you kidding me, it seems like all we talk about is mobile". But take the time consumers spend in a channel compared to the amount of money spent advertising in that channel [see picture above]. In 2013, we spent about 4x more on ads in print than people spent time looking at print. TV is on balance. Internet and radio could actually nudge up a little bit in their spending relative to the time consumers spend there. But there is 4x as much usage on mobile than we are spending on mobile.  While it seems all we do is talk about mobile, it could be argued that advertisers and brands are not fully leveraging time spent in that channel.”

Mary Meeker’s work has helped us to analyze important trends in digital and mobile, and we’re looking forward to fully digesting KPCB’s latest findings.

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Bottle Rocket welcomes Epic Games

Bottle Rocket opened its doors to Epic Games last night for their “Dallas is Unreal” Indie Developer meet-up.

From 6-9 p.m., representatives from Epic Games hosted members of the community at our offices and showed off demos of the new Unreal Engine 4.

The new engine boasts “new workflow features and a deep toolset” that allow developers to iterate on ideas quicker, all while providing complete C++ source code access.

“We want this to be as widely available as possible,” Epic Evangelist Andy Hess said. “By making the tools available to everybody, amazing things happen.”

Hess and his team gave live demos showing off new post-processing effects and animation previews – all aimed at making developers’ lives easier.

We’re excited to see what local indie developers do with Unreal 4 and are looking forward to seeing the guys from Epic Games again!

Check out the Unreal Engine 4 website for more information. 

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Six-year-old dazzles with app idea

Those close to Bottle Rocket know our story started with a few sketch pads from Office Depot and the passion to build something amazing.  We keep that tool close, by always having sketch pads around our office to get our ideas down on paper!  We have iPad and iPhone versions that we have passed along to many of our clients and partners.  

Recently we heard an amazing story from our friend Richard Smith at IBM.  Richard’s 6-year old son Cole is a MASSIVE Star Wars fan and had an idea to create his own iPhone game!  Cole used Bottle Rocket graph paper to sketch out his ideas.  

It is evident by his designs, he had a clear vision of what he wanted and was heading in the right direction! In Cole’s game, players choose a good guy and a bad guy to fight.  Check out his sketches:

 

Cole was to share his project at his school’s science fair and enlisted Bottle Rocket for a bit of advice before submitting.   After talking to us about the idea, Cole felt a boost of confidence and entered his game into the contest.

Out of 80 entries, Cole’s game was one of fifteen projects displayed around town!

We’re expecting more great things from Cole. Give it a few years and he may just turn into a Rocketeer.

It’s always great to see the things we are most passionate about extend beyond a glowing screen and inspire others… especially children!

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What if you could hit restart on your UX department?

The ever changing approach to UX 

Four years ago, I assumed building mobile user experiences would simply be another form of digital experience. Each digital medium has some unique considerations, but for the most part, the learning curve was not that great. I have found that is not the case for mobile, the learning curve is significant and it has pushed us to examine the work, the way we work, and the people doing the work. What old assumptions are we working under that may not work or could be improved? 

Some things never change. Communication, collaboration, and working iteratively still apply, but it is the way in which we do those things that could be improved. Here are three things we are doing to build a better mobile experience in the UX group.

Working publicly 

We highly encourage people to work big, and on a white board near their team. This is different than working on a screen or drawing on a piece of paper. If someone is drawing out an experience on the wall, it is an unspoken invitation for others to view. Every time someone asks what they are doing, a conversation is had and it is a form of iteration. Those simple iterations strengthen and vet the idea before any code is written. It also creates an interesting short cut to team alignment on things. Even after the white board is erased, team members will reference an idea by pointing to the spot on the board where the idea used to be, quickly gaining an understanding.

No more Art Directors 

Same people, just a different name. The actual “art” aspect is getting smaller.  Photoshop used to be the primary tool for an Art Director, but mobile experiences include so much more. In mobile, screens are expected to crack open, flip over, and morph. Transitions and animation require an understanding of motion and timing. Much of the layout and design is done programmatically by tweaking code. As we move to wearables and the Internet of things, screens are minimized or may not exist at all, who will design haptic feedback? So, it’s less about visual design and more about holistic UX design.

Iterate good ideas, not bad 

Too much reliance on process can create a false trust that the process and iteration will evolve a mediocre idea into something better. That’s not true and stops us from continuing the search for a good idea. The UX team needs to fly fearlessly, willing to trash the only idea they may have in search of a new one. It’s easy to recognize a good idea, but hard to recognize a bad one. The moment you suspect an idea may be bad is the same moment you may want to step back and rethink the problem that you are attempting to solve. I have seen UX teams spend way to much time and effort attempting to fix a bad idea.

Prepared by Michael Griffith 

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HomeKit's jump toward a connected home

Home automation and intelligently connected devices aren’t just a myth anymore. Now we have products from Nest, Philips, Honeywell and more that are helping bring some of the magic of smartphones and the Internet into our homes. The only thing missing was one big player to make home automation for the masses both cheap and accessible. This is where Apple is hopefully coming into play.

At their Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple unveiled HomeKit, a framework for communicating with and controlling devices in your home. Compared to everything else that Apple unveiled that day HomeKit flew under the radar. Everyone is much more excited about iOS 8, OSX Yosemite, continuity and the new programming language than HomeKit. I guess that makes me an outlier.



The week before I attended WWDC I, and some other developers here at Bottle Rocket, created an app that can control Philips Hue lightbulbs with your voice. In order to do so we had to learn how to use Philips’ APIs and build an entire framework to do so. But now, with HomeKit, we don’t need to do any of that.

What HomeKit does is make one central framework that can control any HomeKit enabled accessory. So instead of having to learn and build an app that can control Philips’ Hue bulbs and then one to control Honeywell’s accessories, I can just build one app that can control everything. This means developing apps for HomeKit is going to be incredibly easy, which of course means that we’ll see a lot of amazing apps. The only problem though is getting people to actually buy these devices and putting them in their homes.

But here lies the magic of Apple. So many people own and use Apple devices that people have started to just trust anything they make. When an unknown company comes out with a new way to control your thermostat, consumers are going to be wary at first. They don’t have any reason to assume that product is going to be any good. However, with the ridiculous amount of customer satisfaction and trust that Apple has, if a company releases an Apple certified and approved device that can control a part of your home, I think consumers are going to give it a second look.

With so many large companies already on board to create HomeKit devices, we know they are going to want amazing apps to control them, and we are ready to make them.

Prepared by Justin Ehlert 

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