“You have to be in mobile,” venture capitalists will instruct you.  “We have to be in mobile,” tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo will echo.  Obviously, it’s because we’re living in a mobile-first world.

Yet, becoming the next Instagram or Snapchat is insanely difficult and increasingly so.  A hit app is a rarer unicorn than a hit website.  Why?  Unlike websites, apps aren’t linked to each other; you can’t click on a link to discover a new app, you have to purposefully search and download it from the app store.  Then you have to learn how to use the app before finally getting some value out of it.  Some apps — especially on Android but even from giants like Facebook — behave badly and mistreat your phone’s battery or privacy settings.

The result of the above is that, according to Nielsen, most people use only 30 apps on their phone.  What are the chances your mobile app can make a person’s top 30?  Let’s break down how difficult a threshold that truly is.  What are the 30 apps you’d typically use?

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So Nvidia announced its Shield Tablet, an 8-inch, 1920×1200 display with two front-facing speakers priced at $300.  But the real cost is $400 as you’ll want to get the $60 controller and $40 kickstand cover; both specifically made for Shield.

What’s special about this tablet is that it has a beastly Tegra K1 processor, which on paper destroys the iPad Air and other Android tablets.  As you might have guessed, this is a tablet made for gaming.

Should you get it?  I guess if you like games and in the market for a small Android tablet…sure?  The price is fair for what it can do.  The endorsement is not ringing however because I’m not sure what problem this solves — most high end tablets today are plenty powerful for games — and because I think the 8-inch screen size is just too small for a gaming tablet.

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Yahoo has acquired Flurry for a reported $200 to $300 million.  Ostensibly it’s for Flurry’s targeting ability and fledgling ad network; but I have a more sinister suspicion, totally unfounded.

To wit: Yahoo’s ambition is to be your daily habit, whether that’s mail, news, weather, etc.  Increasingly, that means mobile.  However, their impact there so far is questionable.  What Yahoo app is a must-have?  None.  How can they be smart enough or visionary enough to create the next Snapchat?  The next Instagram?

Flurry can be the answer.  Mine the Flurry database and analyze which apps are doing well — based not on fluff like hype and press coverage, but on the actual metrics that count like growth, retention and engagement.  Study those apps and then decide whether it’s something Yahoo should clone.

Nutty conspiracy theory?  Maybe.  Given Yahoo’s disappointing results so far, Marissa Mayer may decide it’s time to change the rules of the game.  “What matters is we build products that people love,” she said.  If Yahoo can’t do that on a level playing field, maybe it’s time to cheat a little with Flurry.

With Microsoft in the news recently (18,000 in layoffs!), we thought we’d check in with Skype 5.0, which launched last month for iPhone and will soon debut on Android. Skype used to be the name in messaging, but in today’s mobile world the venerable brand has become an afterthought to Whatsapp, LINE and even Google Hangouts. So how does Skype 5.0 fare?

The Skype team apparently rebuilt the app from scratch with a focus on speed. I’m glad to report the new version doesn’t feel slower than its competition. It looks good too. Microsoft wisely decided to stick to one common design (Windows Phone) and apply it everywhere. One nice upgrade is that if you use Skype for both desktop and iPhone, if a message is read on one it’s automatically marked as read on the other.

However, Skype remains as unusable as ever. Why? Contacts still works like it’s from the 90s. To message a new contact, I have to first search, hope the right person shows up and then manually add her. What makes it worse is that I haven’t used Skype in a long time, so most of the contacts in the “people” section are outdated.

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As a Duke alumnus, it’s weird to be excited about college football; but after last season’s phenomenal 10-2 run here I am hopping on the bandwagon.  Yesterday was media day for ACC football, and one of the topics ACC commissioner John Swofford talked about is showing ACC games nationally on digital.

Given the ACC’s attractive footprint, I can see the potential.  But I can’t help think there’s a huge, missed opportunity: international.

US college sports is classic long tail content.  It’s content meant for a very specific person: the die hard college sports fan — already niche in the US, miniscule outside it — and alumni from the two schools competing in any particular game.  I follow college basketball quite closely but even I don’t really care about Missouri playing Arizon State.  During the regular season it’s Duke first and foremost, and perhaps ACC games second.

Any business model predicated on showing me multiple “Missouri vs. Arizona State” type games for the occasional game I really want to watch are bound to fail.

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Ten years ago, when Microsoft had more than 90% control of the computer market, they were handcuffed in how they can innovate Windows due to anti-trust concerns.  Some things were already obvious even for Vista (at least to me while I was there): native security, centralized app store, collaboration, etc.

The reality today is that Microsoft has merely 14% share of the larger devices market.  So Microsoft was finally able to build in security and an app store into Windows 8.  They misfired on the latter however by making it unpleasant for those living in the desktop world to download and use Modern apps; an error they are fixing for Windows 9.

Windows is in danger of losing relevance in today’s mobile world.  The brain trust in Redmond is busy figuring out how to catch up with Windows Phone, but it would be a great mistake to put Windows into maintenance mode.  Windows is still one of Microsoft’s greatest assets, and instead of fighting losing battles, they should be building more strengths unique to Windows.  Especially now that they don’t have to answer to regulators.

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The narrative is that Chromebooks are disrupting Windows PCs.  Forbes: “Here’s why Microsoft is worried about Google Chromebooks.” The Verge: “The Chromebook is just a better device.” WSJ: “Google’s winning over some businesses.” The Street: “Why Google’s Chromebook is better than Windows, Mac and Android.”

Let’s run with the assumption that Chromebooks are doing well and compete with laptop PCs. Advocates claim non-tech savvy consumers choose Chromebooks for generally three reasons: 1) simplicity, 2) low maintenance and 3) easy usage in its fast start-up times. I disagree. People with low computing needs don’t buy Chromebooks because they are a better experience; they buy them because of PRICE.

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