Archive for March 2, 2012
Hoo boy. I’m going to take a quick trip down Psychosis Street and give you a bit of stream-o-consciousness here because I just read something that lit up the small 60 watt light bulb over my head, and like any blogger worth his/her/it’s salt, I had to come out and pummel you with it.
It’s no secret I prefer Windows Phone over the other smartphones. I’ve had an iPhone, and it was good. I had an Android phone, and to put it bluntly, I remember having a more stable experience with Windows 95, but otherwise it was OK. I had to accept early on that I was really going to take a hit when it comes to developer support on the WP platform. This is always pointed out as the weakest link in an otherwise stellar platform when pundits report on their time with WP: It doesn’t have the app support that either iOS or Android does.
Why does everyone develop for iOS and Android, and not WP? Maybe because there’s this belief that if you develop for the platforms with the furthest reach, you’ll have a much better shot at scoring big. After all, if you’re pulling your wagon into Times Square and start hawking your wares, you’ll probably get more
suckers customers then you would if you parked it in the middle of Main Street in Backwater, Arkansas, right?
Well, I’m not entirely convinced, and it seems that not everyone is either. So much of what we base our expectations on (and this goes for almost everything) is supported by a bed of nothing more than supposition; it’s all PR telling us what we like to hear or which reinforces our established opinions, and that makes things sound like everything’s coming up Millhouse. Apple has been generous in featuring apps on their ads which surely elevates their visibility and (we’d like to believe) sales. Their “What’s Hot” and “Staff Picks” sections of the App Store rotate frequently enough that millions of eyeballs see a steady stream of apps paraded past them every week. It’s a developer’s dream to be featured in a commercial or to show up in those rotations, so in picking a platform to develop for, the choice of iOS is as easy as:
- Make a great product
- Since it’s great, it’ll rise to the top
In reality, I think this quote from the IndustryGamers article says it all:
“So much reporting concentrates on the gold rush aspect of iOS development. […] It’s like when you walk into a casino, all you hear are success sounds, slot machine payouts and sirens. If you heard all the failure sounds, you would be deafened. If the press reported the reality of our market, the same would happen.”
Bet you never thought of it that way, did you? I know I didn’t, but now that I see it in black and white, it makes so much sense that I kick myself for not having recognized it sooner. Knowing something and coming to terms with what we know are two different things. We all know that there is no guarantee that simply putting a good app – or even a great app – in front of a crowd is a golden ticket to riches, but when it comes down to where to direct your efforts it should fall to logic that the larger the reach, the better the chance, right? Right?
“The biggest mistake a developer can make when starting iOS development is to expect he or she will reach a hundred thousand users just because there are millions of iPhone users.”
So, maybe not. As the piece goes on to say, it’s easy for a developer to blame the avalanche of churning apps in an overcrowded marketplace as the reason why theirs didn’t do as well as they’d hoped it would, and while there are certainly other factors (like “luck”, as the article alludes to), being just another face in an otherwise ginormous crowd can’t be discounted. Marketing is nice, but the ideal is to create an app so outstanding, so desirable, that marketing will be superfluous. It will sell itself strictly on word of mouth. It’s just a hell of a lot harder to get that word of mouth when you’re lost in a sea of apps with the exact same aspirations, put in front of millions of people who have an embarrassment of choices to the point where choosing one isn’t so much an exercise in picking the best, but in weeding out the worst. Those kinds of decisions are usually based on seemingly arbitrary and personal aspects that have nothing to do with what makes your product unique. People don’t have unlimited time to review every app, so when two (or more) apps are strikingly similar, it comes down to a virtual coin toss to decide which one the user will favor.
Naturally, I’ve got ulterior motives in posting this, and that’s to hopefully make a case as to why more developers should be writing their apps for Windows Phone. Not writing your app for Windows Phone because of it’s current market share is like leaving money on the table, and I say that because it seems that too many developers are thinking this way. What’s happening in the WP market right now is that the community is filling the void that you, the loyal iOS and/or Android developer, are creating – they’re stealing your thunder, which is great for them because they’re the heroes of the community, but they’re also taking what could be your revenue by either pocketing it for themselves, or they’re giving away their stop-gap applications for free. There’s third party Dropbox and Pandora apps on the WP market because both companies have yet (or may have refused) to release official versions. Grooveshark has flat out said that they had no plans to make a WP app, but we’re OK to use their HTML 5 website version. That’s potential ad revenue that they’ll never obtain. Don’t even get me started on the games. Don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s a lack of real quality titles; there’s a comfortable amount to be sure, but we’re at the level where even 10 new high-quality games a week couldn’t satisfy the demand. There’s plenty of room to present your products to an audience that not only appreciates well-made apps, but which probably appreciates each and every high quality product more than iOS or Android users do because…well…we don’t get that many. Our time isn’t taken up by trying to figure out why your “Where’s My Water?” clone differs from someone else’s clone. We’ve got time – and the desire – to try them all and to let each stand on their own merits, specifically because we do not need to clear-cut our way through our marketplace.
When it comes down to it, there’s probably a better chance that you’ll sell more copies of your product in Times Square than you will in Backwater. Today. So, you can go home at the end of the night and fist pump to your successful positioning and might even secretly hope that this is your first step on the road to a long-term career as an iOS or Android developer…at least until someone else comes along and builds on your success, your mechanics, your ideas, makes a clone – and improves on your original. Whoops! There goes your thunder. You’re now back at square one where you have to convince your customers from yesterday that you’re next product is going to be better then the one offered by the hundreds of other shops that have sprung up in Times Square since you went home last night.
Or you could pack your wagon and go to where you could not only be “yet another contender” in a specific market, but could be responsible for growing that market as a leader by selling your product to, yes, a smaller market, but also a more appreciative, less blasé consumer segment who will remember you the next time you roll through town.