Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reinventing the software development business for the mobile world

Here is Pinch Media's presentation "AppStore Secrets", a data analysis of about 30m downloads of from the Apple iPhone application store. There were several insights in the presentation. The first thing that struck me was the relatively short lifespan of mobile applications compared to PC based applications.

Consider this: According to the presentation, most mobile applications seemed to "die-out" within days. They lie unused, or worse, they are uninstalled within a few days. Not even months. Compare that with Microsoft's MS Office, which usually lives on a PC for its entire lifetime. Usually a new MS Office user increases her usage over the months and years after purchasing it. While MS Office is expensive relative to mobile applications, the former's "per-run" cost may actually be lower than app-store mobile applications.

Fortunately the number of man-hours going into simple mobile applications for things like storing recipes and writing notes is quite small and most applications seem to be coming out of garage startups. I think this will change and we will see the emergence of a conglomeration of developers (e.g. a large mobile development company or even a developers' cooperative) who can amortize the risk and costs of mobile development. This may curtail rags-to-riches stories of 'lone star developers' as success will also be amortized. Still, the synergies of a large developer group working together, sharing code and risk make this a valuable preposition.

High level, reusable and modular tools that can be used to compose applications easily should emerge as the winners for mobile application prototyping and development. Developing everything in C++ from the ground up will not be economically feasible. Instead development tools like Python for the Symbian platform and .NET tools for Windows Mobile will become popular with developers. Given the variety of platforms, a cross-platform tool will have a huge advantage. In my opinion, Adobe's mobile development tools like Flash Lite are well positioned for such high-level and cross-platform mobile development.

No comments: