What Everyone Ought To Know About the Mobile App Development Business

Matthew Campbell, September 17th

Everything and their grandmother wants to see their software appear on the iPhone right?

Today the iPhone is the premier mobile development platform – it looks the coolest, has the most developers on board and the general public is fascinated by the device. That is why I specifically talk about how to develop iPhone apps on this blog every week. But, there is much more to the mobile app development world than just the iPhone or the details on how to program iPhone apps.

You may have noticed that we now have two new credible smartphone competitors out there: Android and Palm. Blackberry and Windows Mobile are other iPhone-like devices that have been out for a while. This is a whole new market and has been taken to a new level by the iPhone, but the iPhone is not the only game in town.

I suspect that this red-hot market will experience wild changes over the next few years. The potential of mobile computing to impact our lives is so great that we can expect to see a lot of development here over the next few years.

For me, the most intriguing aspect of this mobile revolution is that developers and entrepreneurs at the smallest and largest levels have a voice in the conversation about the future of our mobile experience. That is what is so powerful about the Apple App Store and why Microsoft and Google are trying to get some skin in the game. Many new developers want to get in on the action.

While this new industry is exciting it is also very uncertain. While many people are reporting early success stories, others have reported serious problems or outright losses. Things are all so new that no-one has a “formula for success” and even the rules for promoting applications are uncertain.

What this means is that there is a huge potential upside to the mobile app business; but you cannot assume that a particular app or business idea will bring you a return on your investment in time and money. However, it is possible to try ideas on these new platforms at relatively low cost thereby minimizing your exposure to risk. For instance, a typical iPhone app could be created in one to three months and cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

Apple is still the biggest player here and some developers are expressing frustration because they depend so much on Apple’s approval process and rules in general. The bottom line is that if you want to publish your software on the iPhone you need to play within Apple’s walled garden and your business will depend on Apple’s goodwill.

Most developers will not have a problem with this, but you really need to consider this as a potential risk. If someone can just pull the plug on your business you are in a pretty weak position. But, the advantage to working with Apple is that you get a built-in audience for your products. There is no need to spend months or a year building up an audience. Your apps will sell from day one (if they are going to sell at all).

My advice is to try to diversify your business as soon as possible. Why not get your software onto two mobile platforms or self-publish a desktop version of your app if you can. In my opinion, to succeed in the long term we will need to think of the mobile app world in the bigger picture and as mobile computing becomes more important platforms like Android will become more influential.

This week I relaunched my Matt[j]Drake blog where I discuss mobile app development, online business, app promotion and marketing and sometimes general development topics. Articles on the more general topics will appear on Matt[j]Drake. I will be reserving the How to Make iPhone Apps blog exclusively for development related topics like Objective-C programming, Cocoa-Touch and iPhone Programming. My hope is that both blogs will be able to maintain a tight focus, but clearly there will some overlap.

Click on over to http://mattjdrake.com for more information. This week I did some intro articles on online business in general where I discussed seven different online business models including app development.

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