State of the Developer Nation

mobilemondaylondon.gifYesterday evening I went to Mobile Monday London on State of the Developer Nation.

The event revolved around Vision Mobile’s Developer Economics Report 2011. There were talks by BlueVia (who sponsored the report and the MoMo event) and also from Vision Mobile followed by a panel session comprised of Simon Davies, founder of Snaptu, Tom Hulme of Future Platforms, Simon Walker of ComScore, Chad Cribbins of Sapient Nitro, chaired by  Eli Camillieri of Vision Mobile.

The report itself contains many insights that I won’t repeat here. Instead I’ll pick a few random things that came out of the event with my thoughts in italic…

  • Tom Hulme expressed the opinion that the (mobile) web will always be technically behind what native apps can provide as they will always be playing catch up. My feeling is that the (mobile) web isn’t much more advanced than it was say five years ago. There’s no impetus by people developing mobile web browsers to get them to be as functional or as good looking as native apps. The differences/fragmentation in web browser implementation together with excessive complexity required to get native look and feel in the web browser cause me to question whether the web will ever be able to compete. Should we even be trying to get native look and feel in a browser? Maybe a web site should look like a web site.
  • Simon Walker quoted stats that show that the number of (mobile) people accessing facebook via an app rather than in the web browser is increasing at a much greater rate.
  • Many developers lose money. Only one in five are happy with the commercial return. Eli suggested that this might be as much to do with the lack of commercial acumen as it is with difficulty of getting seen in the noise of so many apps. I sort of agree. My personal experience is that some people engaged in mobile entrepreneurship have limited experience of software development processes, company processes, general management, marketing and PR let alone the complexities of mobile development. Mobile apps aren’t a get rich quick scheme where you can be oblivious to best practice. Usual business rules apply and there are extra mobile rules for the unwary.
  • Simon Davies talked about how, when building a business to sell later, knowledge on who your users are is very important. This would be his first priority for any new venture. Related to this, there was also a question from the floor on whether there’s enough mobile PR happening. Knowing your users and applying PR to the right type of people are difficult at the moment because app stores shield the developer from details of the end user. The way I have seen this solved is to have cleverer app designs that opt-in  users into revealing details about themselves.
  • Someone expressed the opinion that most apps (and mobile conferences) have a very narrow view of mobile. There are lots of opportunities in internationalisation and focussing on local needs, available phones and cultures.  I think this is true. There are many gaps at the moment not just internationally but also other areas such as enterprise and B2B.
  • Today, demand for downloading an app is coming more from brands mentioning apps in their promotions rather than from happening to find them on an App Store.
  • Simon Davies mentioned how Chinese clone manufacturers are starting to use Android. The difference this time is it’s real Android and not some dumb OS in a Nokia looking case. Very cheap Android phones might have huge, as yet unanticipated ramifications on our mobile ecosystem.