In this week's round up of the big news in technology and digital media, we look at how Virgin Media are bringing new targeting to TV-based advertising, new research in smartphone and tablet usage, latest smartphone sales figures, more EU regulations that could impact online advertising, the latest in the Google/Motorola takeover and… a banana.
Advertising on cable TV in the UK could soon see targeting at a household level, with Virgin Media's plans to introduce an addressable advertising service in Q2 2012. The service will allow advertising to be targeted to individual households, segmented based on data such as postcode, age and viewing packages.
Virgin Media has been trialling the new service with SMG clients, including Honda, Gillette and BlackBerry.
Sky have been talking about a similar service branded "AdSmart", which is already available via their online Sky Player but not to the TV-based service. IT is expected to launch in 2013, when it will be focussed on linear TV, rather than the on-demand service.
The latest wave of Orange's annual Exposure study has revealed some interesting findings this year, thanks to the inclusion for the first time of tablet usage in the study. The headline story is that smartphone usage tends to complement TV and PC usage - while tablets cannibalise.
Smartphones are being used to "kill time" (ie. where no other screens are available), while tablets are being used to "save time" - taking the place of other screens to be more efficient. In the UK, tablet usage is akin to PC usage, while in Spain, mid-sized tablets like the 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab are being used outside the home — showing usage patterns closer to those of smartphones.
Some other stats from the UK findings; 35% of tablet users are watching on-demand content, 40% are watching streaming content, and 39% "watching TV" on their tablet. Orange also report a 15% decrease in PC usage. 20% feel they browse on the PC more as a result of mobile media, and 15% read more newspapers online as a result of engaging with mobile multimedia.
Data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows the latest picture in the smartphone market, as 69.8% of mobile phone sales over 3 months were smartphones. This means that 44.8% of the British population now owns one.
Sales of smartphones grew by 43% in October. Apple's share was 27.8%, while Android phones account for 46% of smartphones in the 12 week period covered. According to a report from the Guardian, Apple's sales jumped fourfold in October as the new iPhone 4S launched - 75% of sales went to existing iPhone owners, with an impressive 14% already owning an iPhone 4, indicating that they were buying out their contracts in order to buy the latest high-end device. Meanwhile, the Symbian OS plummeted to just 3.9% of sales (from 10.2% a year ago), as Windows Phone 7 (the platform Nokia is migrating to from Symbian) rose slightly to 1% while the old Windows Mobile platform virtually vanished. It will be very interesting over the next few months to see whether the iPhone 4S can maintain this momentum. (As we noted in October, there is clearly a disparity between the reaction from the consumer market and the "disappointment" from tech bloggers and Twitterers.) We will also be keeping a close eye on how the market responds to the new Windows-powered Nokia handsets, and whether what was once the dominant smartphone platform in the UK can become a competitor for a significant share of a rapidly changing marketplace.
But while smartphones are increasingly dominating the UK's handsets, global figures from VisionMobile (PDF link) show that global smartphone penetration is at just 27%, with a very different picture when it comes to both handset manufacturers and operating systems.
A report that the European Commission is planning a new EC Directive to stop Facebook from "eavesdropping", and ban Facebook from targeting advertising based on the data that Facebook can track about its users.
Except — Facebook don't appear to be doing this. A TechCrunch article goes through the Facebook ad creation tool, highlighting the data that is made available to advertisers (or anyone else who has a Facebook account and wants to use the tool.)
Of course, the fact that Facebook don't appear to be using this data doesn't mean that they aren't using it. It is
The article also refers to a 1995 Data Protection Directive which the EC will be proposing reforms for by the end of January 2012, covering issues such as users' "right to be forgotten" (ie. the power to ask for their data to be deleted), and harmonisation of regulations across European states.
Obviously this is a complex issue, but it is one we will be watching closely.
Meanwhile, another technology giant could see EU regulators getting in the way of their plans, as Google are seeking approval for their $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility. A provisional deadline for the regulators decision has been set for January 10th 2012.
A clause in the purchase looks like it could have an interesting impact on the deal. It is fairly common to see a "breakup fee" in takeover deals (where the seller pays a fee to the buyer if the sale falls through — for example, if they choose to sell to another buyer at a higher price.) But the Google/Motorola deal reportedly includes a $2.5 million reverse breakup fee, where Google will pay Motorola this huge sum if the deal fails to go through.
Or, to look at it another way — assuming that the reports are correct — it would be worth Google spending $2.5 billion on lawyers to challenge any obstacles that regulators put in front of the deal, purely to save having to pay the fee to Motorola.
To put that fee into context - it is more than three times the $750 million that Google bought AdMob for last year, and nearly 50% more than the $1.65bn that Google paid to buy YouTube. Meanwhile, the $12.5 billion that Google are supposed to be paying for Motorola is about 50% more than Google's entire net income for 2010. Whether or not the regulators see a problem, whatever it is that Google plan to do with the company seems likely to be more ambitious than simply owning an Android phone factory…
Finally, if you're bored of every vision of the future seeming to be obsessed with the "pictures under glass" idea (where everything has to be a touch screen); how about "invoked computing"? The concept is that instead of learning how to use a piece of technology, the technology would be able to learn what we wanted to do with it. For example, if you pick up a banana and hold it to your ear, the computer could work out that you wanted to make a phone call - and project the audio to make it sound as though it was coming from the banana.
Crazy? Possibly. But if today, with the iPhone 4S, we can talk to our phones and ask it to set appointments or send messages. Tomorrow… will we be talking to bananas as though they were our personal assistants?
More worryingly, if the technology demo works as promised — perhaps they will be talking back…