Microsoft has again called time on Windows XP with a 12 month countdown till support expires. They note the 11-year old operating system is still on almost 14% of computers in New Zealand, or half a million PCs, and to be fair they’ve released a variety of upgraded operating systems since.
I admit to being a hold-out at home with an old laptop that probably can’t handle the new systems – but I have other Apple computers to choose from as well so I’m running that one to the ground.
However, in the business space the support and security of computers is critical and we can sympathise with Microsoft in wanting to be shot of XP – there’s been a lot of technological development in that 11 years, not the least of which has been in the whole app concept and the cloud.
With Xero’s exposure to the small business sector, it’s worth pulling up our stats to see what is happening with XP and other operating systems. We have data sourced from Akamai – a snapshot of the past three months hits to the Xero application, excluding traffic to our mobile application and excluding traffic to our mobile domains from devices such as iPads. We presented earlier data in an October blog post as well so we can compare the two.
First up we can see that Windows XP is 15.41% of the traffic, headed off by the dominant Windows 7 at 52.93% and Mac OSX on 19.67%. Windows 8 has made an appearance on 3.64%, behind Windows Vista on 5.12%. It’s a drop for XP from 21.77% in October, while Windows 7 is up slightly and Vista is slightly down.
Read more about Accountants
Michael Wood, co-founder of Receipt Bank - Xero UK Add-on Partner of the year in 2012 - stopped by our UK office last week for a conversation (audio here) with me about the fast growing Xero Add-on Partner community.
Of particular interest to me was how Receipt Bank’s partnership with Xero meant that their original UK focussed business plan could quickly broaden to encompass Australia and New Zealand (and soon, the US) and in doing so, earned them the distinction of being possibly the first ever London based technology start-up to open their second office 11,000 miles away from the first one!
Last week we ticked off a couple of important market milestones in the UK; firstly the technical experts at the Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales saw fit to re-accredit Xero as ticking all the right accounting boxes in all the right places, and second we opened up the first phase of our long-awaited online integration with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs online gateway, enabling UK customers to submit their VAT Returns online at the click of a button, directly from Xero to the HMRC online gateway.
We first obtained the ICAEW’s nod back in 2008 shortly after we launched the UK Edition of Xero and its fair to say that after the 70 or so updates since then there was a great deal more functionality for their assessor to check through this time around. Continue reading ›
In delivering cloud-based applications like ours, there are two main ways to reach your customers – the web, and app stores. Digital app stores are a relatively new phenomenon that have only really achieved scale with mobile. For iOS and Android handsets, we’re heading in a native direction where we’re planning to create apps for app store distribution that compete with anything else in the store.
However, we still believe in the web as the application delivery channel that matters in the long term, which is why we’re evolving Xero to perform better on touchscreen devices of all dimensions and sizes. The core Xero application is a web application. Provided you’re using something fairly modern, it shouldn’t be too fussy about the device or browser through which you view it.
In the early days of web development – sites were optimised for a 640 pixel page width. In the late 1990s, this crept up to 800 pixels, and later still to 1024 pixels. Site width crept up – and now with a huge proliferation of smart devices of all sorts and dimensions, a lot of designers are finding it a challenge to slim back down.
We sometimes get a bit of stick for a perceived bias toward iOS on smartphones. Are we ignoring the largest smartphone market? There’s so many more Android devices out there, right?
If we focussed on sales figures – it’d be a no-brainer. Android is clearly the platform of choice for buyers of smartphones. Only Android, iOS and Windows Phone really have any maturity as smartphone platforms. iOS sells a handful of models and Windows Phone hasn’t yet captured much of the market. All the diversity and variety in hardware is on the Android platform. If it weren’t for Android, all those telco handset stores would only have half a dozen models on display.
But the reality is that our data tells us our users, the people that buy and are considering buying subscriptions to our software, are predominantly using iOS devices. Visitors to our marketing site are prospective customers who are researching Xero and also existing users who want to login to and use Xero, and they are the sorts of people to read content, to watch video, to read our blog, and so on. The story this tells is that plenty of people might buy Android phones, but a smaller proportion of those people use those phones to browse our site or use our applications.
Yesterday we outlined a change of direction for Xero Touch. Today, I’d like to introduce our newest iOS developer, Layton Duncan.
Layton joining Xero is a bit of a coup for us. He’s well known amongst the iOS development community as the founding director of Polar Bear Farm, widely regarded as the first iOS development company in the world. He’s worked on a large number of iOS projects both for external parties and for himself, including Face Match, Forms, Air Forms, Tweet Push and more.
As mentioned yesterday, we’re still actively looking for an Android developer to help us deliver some great Android apps.
Meet Layton Duncan
Having founded Polar Bear Farm shortly after the release of the iPhone in 2007, mobile computing has been my passion since. I started building native iPhone apps before there was any App Store, before any developer tools from Apple, even before the promise of tools to develop native apps from Apple.
The launch of the iPhone was something I saw was as potentially game changing as the introduction of the mouse and GUI with the original Macintosh, and I wanted to build apps for it. Almost six years later, it’s hard to imagine daily life without a smart phone. They’ve quickly become pervasive and ingrained into many people’s daily lives. Having the internet in your pocket virtually everywhere you go is incredibly powerful.
So when Rod approached me to come on board to help Xero build the native mobile presence on iOS, it was immediately interesting. As a long time customer of Xero with my businesses, I’d always admired the company, the product, and the huge value it provided me in running my businesses. I remember the first time reconciling bank statements in Xero with bank feeds and rules; it made a once-tedious task, effortless – an experience which pervades all parts of the product.
Close watchers of our careers webpage may have noticed our advertisements for a Senior iOS Developer and a Senior Android Developer. What does this mean for mobile at Xero?
Very early on we chose to build Xero Touch using HTML5 technologies. That choice showed that we care about the future of the open web and its continued success as an application delivery platform and we firmly believe that HTML5 is the future of development across any and all platforms. We do not regret this choice – but we’ve found that building a complicated mobile application in HTML5 has been hard. Even with frameworks as amazing as Sencha Touch, we’ve found the ability to iterate as fast as we would like has become harder as our application has become more complex.
The choice to go with HTML5 was very much a choice based on us – how do we use the skills we already have to build a mobile application? Unfortunately as the application grew we needed to hire to fill out the team, and we were never able to hire fast enough to fill those roles. Ironically those skills were equally as critical for the “desktop” version of Xero – we were cannibalizing our own team and slowing everything down.
Xero prides itself on not compromising on customer experience, and when it comes down to it, the question isn’t “How can we use our existing skills to build a mobile application?” but “What is going to enable us to deliver the best customer experience on the mobile devices that our customers use?”
As someone who’s been in business technology for a long time, I have a penchant for the long view of tech innovation and particularly how we’re adapting our use of technology rather than just the fact of it.
The smartphone is an interesting example of how iterative improvements to the original mobile phone ultimately resulted in a device that has little to do with origin of the species, with a recent study revealing that phone calls now account for only 10% of total smartphone usage. Despite this, the word phone still accounts for half the letters of the term smartphone. It’s likely that if the smartphone had just magically appeared, fully formed in a puff of smoke yesterday, it wouldn’t occur to us to put phone in its name.
And so, as we increasingly look at contemporary technology through a lens that can’t see as far back as the mainframe, we’re free to think differently about how we apply technology in the workplace, and specifically in different workplace contexts.
As a new year’s resolution last month I embarked upon an App cull.
That is to say I deleted any app from my iPhone that I either hadn’t used in the previous month, or apps whose remit I deemed was to just sit there in idle readiness for episodes of emergency boredom such as one might encounter in an airport departure lounge, or on a long train journey.
I also decided that any apps I culled would be welcomed back with open arms on a case-by-case, as needed basis.
A month later and I’ve noticed a couple of interesting things.
- I haven’t added any of the deleted apps back.
- I could have deleted even more of them – usefulness is relative.
- Most of the apps I rely on day-to-day are free.
- I don’t remember the last time I actually bought an app. It’s been months.
The four pages of apps on my iPhone 5 contain 76 apps – as an aside I can remember a time when if you’d told me I’d one day need 76 apps to run my life I would have thought you were an idiot.
- 23 are system apps that you can’t delete, Contacts, Camera, Mail etc.
- 11 are paid for, including one for train times, a podcasts app, Shazam for identifying music in coffee shops etc., a couple of music apps, Keynote and iMovie.
- The remaining 43 are free apps.
So, I didn’t buy a whopping 85% of the apps I use. (Which is an amusing latter-day take on software piracy).
Then I broke it down another way.
Apparently I have a mild OCD that compels me to organise my apps a certain way. Firstly, those apps fortunate enough to make it onto my homepage are my must-have, do-or-die, Premier League apps. The second division apps live on page two, and so on. Some apps teeter on the demotion/promotion boundary from time to time, but the front page rarely changes.
And it doesn’t stop there.
In my last blog post I listed a few observations about why some retailers are struggling and specifically how failure to react to changing consumer expectations and the arrival of new online competitors is probably terminal for some big brand name retailers.
But it’s not all doom and gloom and there are examples where specialist retailers have found higher ground where they can add discernable value and differentiate themselves from competitors, both online and offline.
While this blog post is focussed specifically around retail, the thematic arc is a common one in that significant structural change is unfolding across all industries and throughout broader society as we change and adapt to a new technology empowered age.
In round terms, some basic facts hold true.
- Offering mainstream value is a race to the bottom.
- Differentiation is key.
- Online is no longer a trivial adjunct to your core offline operations.
Amid a broad collapse in specialist retail, the Apple Store shines as a prominent example of how vibrant and successful post-web retail can be in 2013.
Apple Store Facts
- The average store attracts 20,000 visitors a week and generates USD $49 million in sales per annum.
- In terms of sales per square foot in the US, Apple Stores are number one with over $6,000 per square foot, twice that of the company in second place, Tiffany & Co.
- Apple’s 400+ retail stores collectively generate almost $20Bn of revenue with year on year growth last year of 38%.
- Apple stores deliver profit margins of 26%.
Instinctively, you could be forgiven for justifying the success of Apple stores on the grounds that Apple’s products are among the most sought after gadgets and devices on the planet.
While that’s certainly a factor there are weighty counterarguments; you can freely purchase Apple products in many other retail outlets (and often at discounted prices because Apple’s own stores rarely if ever discount) plus, if it was just about demand for Apple products, we’d have seen swathes of independent retailers opening stores dedicated to selling Apple kit in competition to Apple’s own stores.