Thursday, September 11, 2008

App Store - Key Is Creating An Ecosystem

I came across the post from Mobile Opportunity about creating an ecosystem for an app store.

It's a great article that is geared towards developers.  I encourage all mobile warriors head over and read it as well as it applies to folks who will likely be picking a smartphone or a device with with a dedicated mobile platform this fall or during the Holidays.  It would make sense to understand what Apple, T-Mobile, ATT, or Verizon may be offering and weigh which ecosystem best fits your needs and habits.

Now, I don't consider iPhone a smartphone.  I'm iffy on Android because we don't have it tested and reviewed.  But Blackberries and Nokia's E71 are definitely smartphones.  Basically they are phones that want to do more while the iPhone is essentially an iPod Touch with telephony functions (SMS, voicemails, calls, etc).  It was built by Apple from the ground up to be a true mobile platform.  It's a fine line.  I'll get into that later on.

Now, back to platform ecology.  Some are more restrictive than others in terms of flexibility, connectivity, and support.  Users and developers share common objectives when looking for apps and the right ecosystem to buy into.  And of course, there are also differences in what users and developers will look for in a mobile platform.

For developers, you have some things to consider:

  • Creative freedom.  Android seems to be the most open but we don't know that for sure.  iPhone, because of security and maybe just Jobs' desire for control, is consider restrictive but for most developers and users, it's not an issue.
  • Reach.  The more platforms supported the better for the developers to 
  • Support.  You'll have to see how responsive the app store provider is to your inquiries, needs, and support.  Apple is so far very notorious in keeping folks in the dark with their still active NDA.  It's so bad that developers have to figure out creative ways to communicate with one another.  Others have promised to be more open but so far, there is no one for us to compare Apple's store to.  But definitely worth keeping in mind.
  • Keep in mind that there may be a reason we have not think of regarding Apple's NDA implementation and other restrictions imposed on developers.  The general consensus from developers is that they are happy with sales and the growing number of iPhone and iPod Touch users.  
  • SDK - something to consider.  Who makes it easy to develop, distribute, and reach users.  
  • Standard support - MO mentioned Java and Flash.  For instance, if these two standards are important to your development, Apple's mobile platform is not for you.
  • Cloud, cloud, cloud.  This is the future.  I'm betting Android will have the full support of Google's cloud and computing systems.  Apple has demonstrated that it has a way to go before coming close to what Google can offer.  Microsoft is also in the game with their platform but we have not seen what they will roll out.
  • User base.  This is not about numbers.  Obviously the more platform you support, the greater the reach.  But what if you have limited resources?  Well, you'll need to do a bit more research.  You have to learn a bit about the different systems and learn the mobile behaviors of its users.  Say a year from now, Nokia has one billion users worldwide and Apple has 100 million iPhone and iPod users but Apple's users are buying and using apps are a rate of twenty to one versus Nokia, it's clear who you want to develop for.  
Now, users have more flexibility when looking for a smartphone.  The best thing is to do very thorough research.  Some app distribution systems will be more business-oriented than Apple's iTunes.  You can't go wrong with Apple and iTunes if you want entertainment like music, video, and, now, games.  And with the business add-on like Micrsoft Activesync for push mail, the iPhone is a provides a good balance for work and fun.
On the other extreme, you have Blackberries that has been tested time and time again for great corporate e-mail access.  RIM has announced their intentions to create an app store for Blackberry but we'll get into that when it's actually out.  
And lastly, mobile users will have to decide on a good balance of easy access, quality apps, and for the right price.  Piece of cake.  
Related Articles:
  • Onxo thinks there may be a good reason for Apple to continue enforcing their NDA.
  • Onxo talks about Skymarket for Windows Mobile.
  • Mobile Opportunity analyzes app store ecosystem.
  • Onxo wonders if iPhone or iPod Touch will ruin mobile gaming.
  • We think T-Mobile should be careful with their own app store.

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