Enterprise Software Development

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Mobile isn’t a gold mine, it requires work and planning

Vision Mobile’s Developer Economics report is very revealing. Amongst the interesting information in it, is a section on developers’ preconceived notions about their expected revenues in mobile. Not surprising to those of us who have shipped many mobile products, most developers are not jumping for joy over the revenues they’ve made on their mobile apps. In fact, more than many are quite disappointed. Is that a function of bad apps, or unrealistic expectations?

Ultimately, it’s a little of both. But the perspective most developers need when approaching the mobile market is missing as they are blinded by the dream of being the next Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Tap Tap Revolution, or Camera+ app. The media likes to sensationalize the success stories in mobile (often without a true perspective on the amount of work that went into the product — it’s mobile so it must be short development times and easy right?) without talking about the thousands of mobile apps that make little or no revenue after developers have spent months of work on them.

I talk to developers all the time that want to quit their job, or start a company creating a mobile app because they have a great idea they are passionate about. I never want to dampen an enthusiastic developer as when you love doing something, “work” becomes much more fun. But when you try to explain to them that maybe others won’t understand their idea, won’t see it in quite the same positive light, or that having a good idea alone is not enough to drive a million downloads, they don’t want to hear it.

The same attitude permeates though (otherwise intelligent) branding, marketing and product managers at companies that are not yet invested in mobile. The perception in mobile is that it’s cheap, easy, and a quick way to drive revenue. The truth is much more complicated. A successful mobile product launch can rely on luck, or planning. Planning starts when the strategy for the mobile product is created — not after the product is complete. Too many developers and businesses develop their product first and then try to figure out how to sell it.

In mobile, having a good idea is not enough. With the correct planning and forecasting ahead of time, the perception of the revenues generated by mobile developers would change a lot — either because they would be more realistic in their expectations, or drive higher revenues to meet their expectations. And if developers in mobile are happy, they will keep developing and innovating in the market — which is good for everyone.

You can read more from the Vision Mobile Developer Economics 2011 report here.

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