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Lei Jun, Tim Draper, rapping and the GMIC Silicon Valley

Lei Jun

by Appconomist staff

You know that something rather fundamental has changed when the kick-off speaker for the biggest 1st year conference to hit Silicon Valley in quite a while delivers his remarks in Mandarin.  But, that’s what happened at the GMIC-Silicon Valley when Yuri Milner interviewed Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s founder.

They led off an event that one fellow participant, next to me, observed a rapid “revolving door” of speakers, welcomers, organizers, and panelists for the morning.  The mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed, even got stage time encouraging everyone to “max out their expense accounts” while visiting the city – there’s a man with a mission, on behalf of his business community!

The overall message we would observe, from the variety of fireside chats and panels, is two-fold:

  1. that mobile remains the most fast-changing, innovative industry, bar none, and
  2. that it is rapidly headed to a future of convergence – a post-mobile world

In this post-mobile world, the technologies that we think of as mobile, i.e., hardware devices and software apps, are embedded in everything…from cars to clothing, from appliances to artwork, from weapons to wristwatches (assuming the Pebble can bring the wristwatch back).

Some of the morning speaker highlights included comments by Vaughan Smith, Facebook’s VP of Mobile, who said that its mobile users had crossed over 600 million per month.  When they switch to mobile, Facebook users spend 20% more time on it.  And lastly, he said they churn (i.e., stop becoming active users) of a product 18% less than through other non-Facebook mobile channels.

Another highlight was Tim Draper, of DFJ.  His expansive comments ranged from the role that mobile played in enabling the successful transition to democratic governments during the Arab Spring, to the potential for mobile to influence the support for free markets and outing of corrupt leaders in Africa, to his enthusiasm for Draper University, which is targeted to provide life-changing experiences for 18-28 year-olds, as future leaders.

Ever the venture capitalist, Draper also encouraged participants with great mobile products that are truly different to contact him (Tim@DFJ.com).  He also brought “down the house” with a live performance, partly singing / partly rapping a tune he called “The Riskmaster.”

We attended the GMIC in Beijing in May and were pleased to join as a media partner of the inaugural US event, based upon the strength of what we saw in China.  So far, we haven’t been disappointed.

Watch for more articles and updates via twitter (@Appconomist) and hashtag #TheGMIC, as well as Sina Weibo updates (also, @Appconomist).

Cloud Services for Mobile App Developers

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by Steve Guengerich, Executive Editor

I chaired a great panel today at the kick-off of the 2-day App Conference in San Jose.  The panel topic, on “Cloud Services for Mobile Developers,” really is one of the most important topics for developers.  Because, at the proverbial end of the day, the ability to be “bigger, better, faster” than others will make a key difference in an app developer’s long-term success.

I was fortunate to have three terrific panelists join me:

  • Alan Knitowski, Phunware
  • Steven Citron-Pousty, Redhat
  • Dave McLauchlan, Buddy

You can view and download the overview slides I presented, as well as the intro slides that they each prepared.

What was terrific about them was that, while they each presented a different cloud services/ platform solution, they also spoke very frankly about the issues, concerns, and struggles app developers confront, when choosing the tools & technologies they use to build and deploy apps.

There were a number of gems in their comments. Among the most urgent discussion was around answering the question: “is it actually cheaper to run in the cloud?”

All three said “no” when it comes to the pure out-of-pocket expense for hardware, software, data center / communications facilities, etc.  In fact, Dave from Buddy said they had benchmarked the difference with the cloud option being 2.5 X more expensive than the DIY (do it yourself) option.

But they all further went on to say that the cost of people’s time, management resources, upfront investment in perfecting a mobile app infrastructure, and ability to move rapidly made mobile platforms a better option for early or smaller development shops – whether an in-house enterprise dev  team or an independent app dev agency.

As Steven from Redhat asked the audience (rhetorically), “who here likes to do server administration?” to which no hands raised their hand in answer.  The point being, leave that kind of time-intensive drudgery to a platform provider.

Alan took the “is the cloud cheaper” question one step further.  He contrasted the potential for saving money by building one’s own platform services with the consequence of delivering a mobile app for a large client with critical service level needs or that has high visibility brand awareness with consumers.

“Is it really worth it?” he asked the audience, to risk a terrible experience – one he cited was NBC’s Olympics app that crashed repeatedly and received a one-and-a-half star rating in the Appstore – by using an early-stage, in-house set of mobile services.

Their companies all represent good options for developers to build robust apps.  On the two ends of the range were Redhat and Phunware, with Buddy somewhere in the middle.

You can read more about each platform and gain access to varying levels of “sand box” functions & features, by going to their respective developer sites:

Whereas Redhat’s Openshift caters perhaps more to the open source/independent developer or agency, Phunware’s PRAISE caters more to the large, multi-brand enterprise or agency-of-record for big consumer product & services producers.

Buddy’s difference is in its scenario-based approach, as well as its addition of Microsoft Windows 8 as a native option for app developers – something that few offer.

Appcelerator/IDC: Is Facebook Mobile Toast? And Other Findings

appcelerator-IDC logo

by Appconomist staff

Earlier this morning (early evening, US time), Appcelerator and IDC distributed their latest quarterly report on app developer community trends and preferences.  This closely watched report has been an excellent source of US-centric indications of the shifting trends in the app development community.

While it’s nearly unavoidable for a vendor like Appcelerator to work in a couple of shots at the competition (like HTML5) or plugs for its strategic directions (platform services), our opinion is that the reports, balanced with IDC’s touch, have been a valuable contribution to developer community knowledge.

After a quick initial read of the report, here are a few of the findings that caught our eye:

1.  A very strong sense (almost certainly driven by developer activity) that Facebook is vulnerable. Mobile developers appear to be going after that weakness aggressively, hoping to disrupt Facebook significantly enough to provide an opening for one or more emerging, mobile-centric social networks.

2.  We are a little surprised by the data that indicates a 4th consecutive quarter of declining interest in Android development.  This finding is especially befuddling, given the data later in the report showing that developers are overwhelmingly motivated by the installed base and price of smartphones.

The sticking points seem to be: (1) concern about the revenue potential for Android apps, as compared with iOS and (2) continuing fragmentation of the Android platform, with developments like Alibaba’s Aliyun fork not helping matters in terms of developer confidence.

3.  A very strong base of support (right now, perhaps best characterized as wishful thinking) for the Windows 8 platform and introduction of new wave of mobile devices like the Surface.  However, there is a dose of reality in the wishful thinking that indicates developers understand the difficult road ahead for Microsoft to make significant gains on Apple and the Android ecosystem.

Finally, we were quite intrigued by the developer persona provided at the very end of the report.  While not labeled that way, it provides some fascinating insight into the present attributes and opportunities for the developer community, for example, the enormous gender disparity, of 96% men to 4% women.

You can download a copy of the report, at no charge, by completing a form on Appcelerator’s website.

A Made-in-China Event for a Made-in-America Industry

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by Steve Guengerich

Global. Mobile. Internet. That about says it all, doesn’t it?

When we first attended the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) in Beijing this past May 10-11, we were eager to see how “global” the event was.

We’ll have to say, for a relatively young event, we were impressed – and we attend *a lot* of events!  Selfishly, among the few things that we wish we’d seen was more participation from US companies and English-speaking entrepreneurs.  You can read the trip report of firsthand observations, key learnings, etc. from our sister company, Appconomy, Inc.

However, we were sufficiently impressed with the event that when we learned the producers – the Great Wall Club – planned to hold their inaugural event in the US a full year earlier than we had been expecting, we wanted to help support it.

And, thus, we’re pleased to say that Appconomist has joined a number of other media, association, and promotional partners to create awareness of the event and encourage you to strongly consider putting the GMIC-Silicon Valley (#GMIC-SV) on your calendar for this October 19-20.

GMIC-Silicon Valley is themed “Connecting Global Innovators” and features a terrific line-up of speakers and panels on the shifts, challenges and opportunities for mobile innovation in growing markets.

In addition to the main program, the producers are featuring a couple of parallel tracks of mobile programming and competitions, to provide more hands-on appeal to mobile developers and entrepreneurs: the AppSpace/appAttack and the G-Startup SV.

Speaking of mobile designers and developers, Appconomist is giving away 20 free Developer (Expo) passes worth $50 each.  Although they are probably more valuable to those readers who are within a daily commute of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, where GMIC-Silicon Valley is being held, all are welcome to claim one.  To get one now, click this registration link – hope to see you there, in a month!

Design Rules: Barcamp Shanghai Recap

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by John Biesnecker

This past weekend, I had the chance to present at Barcamp Shanghai.  Barcamps are semi-structured “open” conferences, typically organized by volunteers and offered to the participating audience at no or low-cost.

But, don’t let the egalitarian, slacker-ish description fool you.  The organizer of the Shanghai event, Techyizu, runs a well-organized, efficient event that has plenty of pre-planned, subject matter expert (SME) presenters lined up to talk, well before the conference begins.

I was one of the prepared presenters, speaking on the topic “Product Design for Chimps,” drawn from my experience as a software product development manager. If you’d like the slides, you can download them here.

In addition to my design-related topic, another one I enjoyed listening to was Matt Meyer, Principal of Reign Design, who’s presentation was “Insert Title Here.”  His overall thesis was that software designers could often, greatly improve the experience of their users by designing a user interface (UI) with a “placeholder” – a faux report, a sample completed account profile, etc. – that helps users understand what they are supposed to do.

By Matt’s way of thinking “a bad placeholder is 1000 times better than a good error message.”   He cited a couple of excellent proof points.  Like Apple’s iPhoto which, when first loaded, is absent of any of your pictures.  However, rather than presenting you with a big, white, blank canvas, it instead provides a series of prompts with attractive pictures of models, enticing you to get started uploading and manipulating your own photos.

There are other great examples: Basecamp by 37Signals, which provides you a sample of what a completed project plan is supposed to look like.  Even the classic 404 error messages fall into this line of thinking, by providing software developers an opportunity to make them fun, soothing, reflective of their company culture, and most importantly, informative as to the steps the user might want to take to find the web page they were seeking but didn’t find.

I linger on this design topic for a few reasons. One, because it’s so critical, especially in the era we’re in, where every app is moving to mobile devices.  Two, because it’s so expensive, with the true cost of researching and creating a design often underestimated, in terms of complexity (it’s hard to make something simple – Exhibit 1: iPhone) and cost.  Three, because it’s a large part of what I do.

Which leads me back to a few more Barcamp Shanghai summary observations.  If you desire learning about broader, “big think” topics, then Shanghai is the destination for you, with topics on design, clean tech, social entrepreneurship, etc. tending to be the norm.  There also tend to be more foreign, ex-pat, and English-speaking presenters at the Shanghai venue.

The Beijing Barcamp, on the other hand (where I have also presented), tends to have fewer sessions with wild titles like “Lean Sex Machine” (a riff off of the Lean Start-up technique) and more on tactical, practical topics, like how to solve a particular development-related problem.  The Beijing Barcamp also attracts a larger Chinese-speaking and native audience.

Speaking of Beijing, one of the more straight-up mobile talks I attended was by Frank Yu, co-curator of Beijing StartupDigest and Founder of Kwestr.  Titled “Welcome to 1999,” Frank’s thesis was that we are presently at a point in the maturity of the mobile eco-system that is similar to the maturity of the web 1.0 (aka, dot-com) ecosystem in 1999, which history tells us now, was just the beginning of what web could do.

Among Frank’s big points was that native mobile apps will continue to prevail for a number of years for a few reasons:

  • They outperform mobile web apps in speed and other performance measures (sound, rich graphics, etc.)
  • It will be some time yet before browsers are fully reimplemented to deliver an experience on mobile devices that they deliver on conventional PCs and laptops
  • And, finally, Apple has been somewhat unkind to browsers and apps that have attempted to duplicate native apps, prohibiting them from being included in the iTunes appstore

There were more memorable topics – “My MBA is from Amazon.com” and “How taking a job in Shenzhen at 19 changed my life,” for example – that I enjoyed and, of course, I haven’t even mentioned the personal networking that goes on at Barcamp… greeting old friends and making new ones.

The Changing Mobile Landscape

by Justine Ealy

“As companies branch out and create more products, the clarity between partners and competitors is becoming clouded. Apple is competing with Cisco, Comcast is going after AT&T’s business, Visa and Verizon want to be the payment channel of choice, Amazon is gunning for Microsoft’s enterprise business, so on and so forth. Nothing is set in stone.”

So says an astute new report from Chetan Sharma Consulting, covering the State of the Global Mobile Industry.While the greater strengths of Sharma’s research is in the carrier space, we found the analysis and illustrations from a number of sections of this Half Yearly Assessment – 2011 to be insightful and very deserving of summary coverage, which we provide in the following paragraphs.

Please refer to the firm’s website for additional information about publications and services.

Apple and Android are proving to be tough competition in the tablet market. With Apple’s long-standing market lead and Android’s competitive pricing, other products are finding themselves playing a constant game of catch up.

OEMs have potential if they can sell at competitive prices that attract different demographics, but they continue to struggle to keep up with features. Microsoft is planning the release of its Win8 tablet in 2012, but will face stiff competition as the iOS ecosystem continues to expand.

Proving to be a favorite computing option due to their convenience and portability, tablets are rapidly replacing netbooks and taking over a considerable share of the desktop and laptop marketplace.

Typically used indoors, WiFi is the primary mode of connection used by tablets. As family data plans become more available, there will be a rise in cellular activation, but WiFi will continue as the prevailing method as it provides a better, less expensive user experience.

A lack of product planning and execution have caused both investors and developers to leave Nokia and RIM. Nokia’s appraisal has been halved allowing HTC to surpass the once leader of the industry. Nokia’s N9 shows potential, but the first generation of Nokia Windows Phones faces significant pressure.

A good collection of devices may incite a taste for  Windows Phones and allow the team a ranking as number 3 in the market. Together, HP and Palm are bringing in new products, but still lack traction without an effective network of support .

Many desktop and laptop players are expected to exit the industry amid the overwhelming shift in consumer preference to mobile computing. The atmosphere of this market is rapidly changing as companies that once limited themselves to one product market are now surfing all over.

Companies from Apple to Visa, from P&G to AT&T, from Facebook to Time Warner, from Google to Best Buy, are delving into projects in order to glean the backing of consumers – and a piece of their wallet.

Mobile is sweeping through and overhauling consumer behavior habits in spending, communication, and sharing. Much to the delight of advertisers, buyers are eager to promote purchases they are satisfied with.

While mobile is allowing advertisements to become more narrowly targeted, the ultimate game-changer for any company will be prove to be extensive knowledge of the consumer. Success is imminent for those who can learn their customers the best.

Headlines Hotter than the U.S. East Coast

by Tom Parish

Are you still wondering “How Mobile Can Help Business-to-Business Marketers and Retailers?” That’s the title of an article by Lori Colman where she provides the following three data points for you to consider:

  • More than half of devices connected to corporate networks will be mobile by 2015.
  • Mobile is already the preferred method to accomplish many tasks, especially social media engagement.
  • Mobile search is now an $8 billion industry, accounting for 11 percent of total searches.

This is one of those articles worth circulating to your B2B management if they remain skeptical about the medium being relevant to consumer brands alone.

If you’re a fan like I am of these information-packed graphical representations called  “Infographics” then check out this one on the “Mobile Commerce Revolution: Smartphones & Smarter Shoppers.” The information was collected from the team at Microsoft Tag, a bar code scanning app for mobile. Accuracy can vary, but from an overview perspective, it’s a useful indication of trends.

One of the big mobile app development debates of 2011 for enterprise is whether or not HTML5 is going to become the best solution for most, if not all, mobile apps – versus hand crafting native apps for each mobile platform. Phillipee Wintrop takes a stab at this debate in his article, “HTML5 is Not (Yet) a Panacea for Mobile Enterprise Applications.”

Spurred by the news that Financial Times decided to snub Apple by launching a new mobile app that runs entirely out of a web browser, this happened just weeks before Apple began retaining 30 percent of all revenue made by publishers who sell through Apple’s App Store. There is a lot more to the HTML5 issue than merely creating a publishing app. If you’re following the HTML5 app trends, then read both articles for some insight. As a side note, I interviewed James Pearce during SXSW2011 about HTML5 trends.  James covers this topic in greater depth during the podcast so when you have a moment, give it a listen.

Speaking of app development for the enterprise, another trend that is quickly coming on the horizon is the demand for enterprise app stores.  There is a growing need for business service providers and enterprises to come up with their own stores to service a global ecosystem of apps for their enterprise.  Dana Gardner delves into this topic at length in his article, “Rise of Enterprise App Stores Point to the Need for Better Applications Market Place Services.” I highly recommend giving it a read considering it’s astute depth.

Are you considering a Home Depot run to replace your tungsten light bulbs? I for one have been wondering if I could save on my electrical bill this way, but it’s difficult to be sure. Here’s a little app that might wet your whistle – Eco App. It calculates the cost of savings when the light bulbs are replaced. I have yet to try it out, but it sure looks cool!

Alright, thanks for being with us this week. Be sure to check out the twice daily updates on mobile trends for business here every day or subscribe to the RSS feed for instant updates on your mobile device!

-Tom Parish, lead curator – Enterprise Mobility news

East Coast Mobile Scenes

by Tim Gasper

In an effort to continue expanding our coverage of different mobile entrepreneurship ecosystems across the country, we’re proud to announce the launch of four new mind maps. They range from New England to the Mid-Atlantic, with representations for New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.

They are hosted using the MindMeister app (which you can install from the iTunes link at end of this article) and have been shared out as Wikimaps.

So, besides welcoming you to reference them in conversations with colleagues, we also encourage you  to sign up for a MindMeister account, download the app, and contribute your knowledge to any one of the maps, if you are a local of informed observer.

Here are a few quick highlights for each:

New York City

New York has long been known to be a hub for creative agencies, digital advertising, and media, but it’s now also a thriving mobile startup environment. Companies include popular social apps Foursquare, GroupMe,and Hashable, a bevy of hot funding sources such as Union Square Ventures and Betaworks, and mobile thought leaders like Dennis Crowley and PercentMobile’s David Harper.

Boston

Boston has always been known as a startup hub throughout the past two decades and beyond. Its mobile scene is no exception, with highlights including social location game SCVNGR, mobile analytics startupLocalytics, and city guide company WHERE, which was recently purchased in a successful exit to Groupon.

Washington DC

Despite being at the doorstep of the Federal Government, DC’s startup scene expands far beyond the government sphere. Mobile players include health and exercise app Nexercise, ad & recommendations platform AppTap, and popular mobile app providers LivingSocial and CareerBuilder.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s DreamIt Ventures is both a reflection of the expanding Philly startup scene, and a spark that is driving its growth in Mobile and many other areas. A strong Mobile Monday organization, led by mobile thought leader JP Finnell, serves as a hub for it’s many leading companies in enterprise mobility, mCommerce, mobile search and beyond.

Look for more maps coming this summer – contact us, if you would like to sponsor a map!

App Gamification and Social Loyalty: 5 Things I Learned at the AppDevConf

by Paige Cattano

I had the opportunity to cover the debut of the AppDev Conference in Santa Clara last week. Lots of hustle and bustle didn’t disappoint. (NOTE: The Appconomy was pleased to serve as a media sponsor for the event.)

While there was something of interest going on every hour, one panel that especially caught our attention was the panel covering “Gamification and Social Loyalty for Apps” featuring speakers from Badgeville, Talenthouse, and Bamm.tv.

As more apps are produced, there is an increasing recognition that the majority deserves to be criticized for being really poor in their user experience – they are hard to use, limited in value, and (frankly) just plain boring!

Continue Reading this Entry

Mobile Enterprise Summit 2011 Videos

by Steve Guengerich

On the heels of a very comprehensive Mobilize 2011 event last week, we thought it was worth drawing attention to the enterprise-intensive Summit produced in April of this year and hosted by Appconomy.

You can find the complete set of videos for the 2011 Mobile Enterprise Summit on this page.  Please feel free to watch them, embed them in your own blogs and websites, and share them with others.

They are all available on Appconomy’s Youtube channel, as well.  For more information about this and other Appconomy-hosted events, please contact us.

The State of Enterprise Mobile

An analysis of what mobile is in the enterprise and what opportunities exist next from the eyes of industry analysts. Covers infrastructure, applications and hardware. A must for those seeking a map of opportunity and missing elements in the enterprise mobility space.

  • Moderator: Mike Wolf, VP, Research, GigaOM
  • Speakers:
    • JP Finnell, GigaOM Pro analyst, Principal, Mobility Partners
    • Sameer Patel, Managing Partner, The Sovos Group and GigaOM Pro member analyst

What “User Provisioned” Will Really Mean

We no longer live in a world where people can say they are “not technical”. As smartphones proliferate and users gain sophistication by finding, provisioning, and using apps from app marketplaces with little to no 3rd party help or training. Employees no longer need IT to install software for them, they can work anywhere with access to the applications and information in their hand and technology decisions are being made “bottom up” by users vs. “top down” from IT.

  • Moderator: Mike Wolf, VP, Research, GigaOM
  • Speaker: T.A. McCann, VP, Research in Motion (RIM)

 

The shift in usage patterns and the proliferation of mobile devices will mean that IT managers and CIOs will have to reconsider their strategy for the infrastructure that powers the organization. What mobile services (MDM, middleware, content adaptation, presence, geo-fencing, security, NFC) does your company have to provide to support future off the shelf and custom apps? What will be the immediate impact and long-term opportunities for the CIO to lay down an infrastructure for a mobile future?

  • Moderator: JP Finnell, GigaOM Pro analyst
  • Speakers:
    • Barbara Nelson, CTO, iPass
    • Vishy Gopalakrishnan, Director, Industry Mobility Solutions, AT&T
    • Ojas Rege, Vice President of Products and Marketing, Mobile Iron

 

There is much anticipation and much hype about the entry of tablet devices into the enterprise. Yet we are seeing very little innovation of applications that actually use the benefits of tablet. Is this the future of the tablet replacing existing game consoles and e-readers or will productivity be the app that really makes use of the tablet form factor? This fireside chat will give an insider’s perspective into one of the largest horizontal app categories.

  • Moderator: Mike Wolf, VP, Research, GigaOM
  • Speaker: Sean Whiteley, SVP, Product Marketing, Salesforce

Create Your Own “Apportunity?”

Fireside chat with an enterprise mobility pioneer. Together, we’ll explore why the enterprise presents unique challenges to those companies developing break-through mobile solutions. For example, businesses have unique infrastructure, business process, and control requirements that have created a significant barrier to entry – but also resulted in significant pent-up demand for enterprise-class mobile solutions. Leave this session with expert advice on how to turn barriers into “apportunities” for your business.

  • Moderator: JP Finnell, GigaOM Pro analyst
  • Speaker: Raj Nathan, EVP & CMO, Sybase, an SAP company; Head of Mobility Applications Group, SAP

Enterprise App Stores: Open for Business

The Apple App Store has changed the way users think about provisioning applications. Will employees now expect the same level of empowerment in the enterprise? How will the provisioning of enterprise apps and mobile apps be similar? How will it be different and what enhancements are needed in the enterprise app world? We talk to a leading app store provider and a leading practitioner of self-service applications and hear their point of view about what the future may hold. We ask about the pros and cons and the opportunities that are presented.

  • Moderator: Mike Wolf, VP, Research, GigaOM
  • Speakers:
    • Ken Singer, CEO, AppCentral
    • Patrick Mork, CMO, GetJar

Enterprise Applications and Entrepreneurial Innovation

The consumer’s influence on IT started with the departmental adoption of web 2.0 software in the enterprise. Now individuals arevoting on apps one by one with their smartphones and tablets. In this new world, apps need to address both the needs of the end user for their personal & work purposes, and enterprises (authentication, role-based security, control & productivity).

  • Moderator: JP Finnell, GigaOM Pro analyst
  • Speaker:
    • Brian Magierski, Co-CEO and President, Appconomy
    • Steve Papermaster, Co-CEO and Chairman, Appconomy

Customer Panel: The Buyer’s Perspective

A reality check from the people buying the technology and making mobile solutions work. We’ll get two distinct customer viewpoints on the two sides to the coin of consumer influence on enterprise mobility: managing & building enterprise mobile apps and managing mobile devices and their security. Some of the questions we’ll discuss include: How is building enterprise mobile apps different from the web-based solutions they built before? How should IT think about managing devices as well as distributing & managing mobile apps? How are security threats shifting? What are the priorities for 2011?

  • Moderator: JP Finnell, GigaOM Pro analyst
  • Speakers:
    • David Patron, Head of Mobile Initiatives, Pepsi
    • Roger Hale, Head of IT Security, Brocade