I recently found some notes and tasks from March 2008 – 18 months ago – and it really brought home to me how Apple has changed the mobile software world.
Our biggest problem at that time was that people didn’t know they could buy programs for their smartphone or PDA. Apple’s fixed that one – even people who don’t own a mobile device know “there’s an app for that”.
Availablility of apps is a huge factor in how new mobile devices or operating systems are judged. When the Pre was released, the sparse app catalog was mentioned in nearly every review. Same for the Zune HD. Imagine – if you can – a review mentioning “not many apps” in a review for a new device two years ago. It just wouldn’t have happened.
New mobile platforms and devices are big news. And any changes to the iPhone, iPod Touch or iTunes are huge news.
Mobile app developers are now a market by themselves. There are literally dozens of sites with iTunes App Store ranking tracking, tools and stats plug-ins. There are several providers of paid, in-app, mobile ads. Mobile developers’ blogs – at least some of them – get attention from major sites. There’s even a book coming out called Starting an iPhone Application Business For Dummies. (Don’t believe me? Here it is).
I used to spend about 20 minutes each morning reading enough mobile sites to keep up with any news and changes. Now it’s more like 90 minutes, and I’m sure I’m not reading half of what I should be.
We’re selling software for prices that we wouldn’t have even considered 18 months ago. While desktop app prices haven’t changed, the “99 Cent” pricing model of the App Store places mobile app prices at about 5% of what they used to be.
I am inundated with calls and emails from people who want us to put our apps in their stores, outsource our development to them, or buy ads on their sites. (Guys, here’s a hint. If you send me an email and I say I don’t want a phone call, I mean it. If you leave me alone, I’ll keep your info on file. If you call anyway, I’ll toss it.)
Mobile developers’ expectations of software distribution have completely changed as well. While we used to accept a distributor taking a commission of 60% of an app’s price (not happily, but we did accept that, having no good alternatives), 30% is now a de facto standard. And audience numbers that would have made us pretty excited in the past now seem pretty minor.
New mobile operating system and hardware releases are coming – and expected – at a much faster pace than ever before. What used to be considered a reasonable amount of time between hardware and OS upgrades is no longer acceptable.
Did all these changes happen because of Apple, and the success of the iTunes App Store? I think so. I can’t prove it, but we’ve been doing mobile software development – successfully – for over 12 years. The changes in the mobile world over last 14 months are nothing like anything that happened in the past.
Am I fan of every change? Of course not. But overall, I know that we as mobile developers have many more options than we ever have before. There’s a lot more potential for success, though I know that means that there’s also a lot more potential for failure.
What Apple’s changes have put in motion isn’t going to go away. I fully expect the next year will bring more and more demands on mobile developers, and more and more changes – big ones – in the mobile market. I expect we’ll see some of the established big companies fail, and some new ones succeed. Being smart and lucky won’t be nearly enough.
I predict interesting times.