5.3 Writing Mobile Applications

Creating mobile applications is more a programming matter than one of ecommerce, but the marketing principles are the same. Software developers will want to:

1. Research to find real gaps in the market: there are literally thousands of applications for Palm, the iPhone, iPad, etc. All ate up hundreds of hours of programming, and it's unclear how many repaid the investment. Spend time on such mobile application blogs as iPhone Application List, iPhone AppPreview, AppleiPhoneStore, WhatsOniPhone, iUseThis, Mobile Phones and Mobile Games, CNet, SpotLight, ReviewStream and Frengo. Much of the revenue comes from advertising the application carries.

2. Work in with the device manufacturer: applications have to approved by and sold through the manufacturer, usually on a commission basis.

3. Accept that marketing may take precedence over the technical excellence or usefulness of the product: consider teaming up with a marketing company, or developing applications with companies that have the marketing muscle to push the product.

4. Modify and sell an existing application to large retail companies who will use it as a give-away viral product.

5. Have the product reviewed in the relevant mobile applications store: to gain exposure and a ranking vis-à-vis similar products.

Developers need a software development kit (SDK) from the mobile operating system, readily available for the iPhone and Android platforms, and now offered as the Application Center for the Blackberry. The Windows Mobile also offers SDKs for each of their operating systems, but seem likely to promote the SDK for Windows Mobile 7 to dovetail with the launch of Skymarket.

Though iPhone is the more popular, the Android platform is held to be easier to develop an application for and get it accepted. Particularly this applies to VoIP or P2P file sharing, which can be blocked by the iPhone SDK and not allowed in the App Store. The Palm SDK is not sufficiently sophisticated for many developers. Google is more responsive to queries than Apple, and provides clearer criteria for acceptance.

Some applications are free, but most are charged at $1 to $15. Google and Apple supply the applications and pay a 70% commission to the developers. Returned applications are 100% charged back to the developer, however, and AppStore will also keep their original 30% commission, leaving the developer with a loss.

A good logo, compelling name, sensible price and detailed product description are all essential. You can promote your product in the usual ways: through your own website or application bloggers, by affiliates, mailing lists and ppc campaigns.

Tools

Adobe {8}, Quark {9} and others {10} {11} provide tools to automate the process and license the product.

Questions

1. Why are mobile applications important?
2. What needs to be done prior to creating the application?
3. List some applications and say why you like them.

Sources and Further Reading

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