I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on Andrew Warner’s Mixergy, a program I’ve watched the last couple of years. We had a great time discussing the strategy and planning aspects of building mobile apps, answering the typical questions non-designers and non-developers usually have about how to get started in this process.
If you haven’t already, register now for the awesome 360iDev conference coming to Austin from November 7th-10th. There’s a great lineup of speakers and if you are a developer in particular, you’ll be hearing from the very best in the biz.
In addition, I’ll be moderating my “Think First, Code Later” panel. I’m glad to report that the panel will consist of Josh Clark, Davide Di Cillo, Jen Gordon, and David Barnard. These folks are simply stellar when it comes to the business, strategy, design, and marketing side of the App Store.
The kind organizers of 360iDev are also offering you a 15% discount by using promo code, “appsavvy.” So, go sign up now…I look forward to seeing you there.
One of the big questions iOS developers continue to ask is when they can safely stop supporting older iOS versions. Currently, that question is focused on supporting iOS 3.x. I’ve seen stats for iOS 4 market share vary from over 90% of devices still running iOS 3.x to over 90% running iOS 4.x. The problem is that these stats are anecdotal. Since most developers build apps that are often in the same category/genre, the patterns identified in their own analytics can be completely misleading and representative of a particular demographic.
As part of a larger project I’m working on, which will help iOS developers understand various market trends by learning from each other, I’ve put together a very brief survey asking developers to share what iOS usage patterns they are seeing in the analytics of their applications. To make the data a bit more reliable, I’ll need a broader representation of developers participating. Once I receive a sampling across a number of categories, I’ll detail the results of the survey in a post.
Over time, I’ve seen and heard dozens and dozens of inaccurate beliefs about what’s involved in building iPad and iPhone apps. I decided that I wanted to start debunking some of those myths and thus created the talk called, “9 Myths About Building iPad/iPhone Apps” to complement my book.
I was fortunate enough to present this talk to a great group of folks on an O’Reilly webcast. As part of that webcast, I promised to address some of their unanswered questions in this post. Since I flew threw most of the questions during the Q&A, I don’t have much to add at this point. If anyone has a question, however, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll either respond directly or update this post if it would be helpful to a larger audience.
Note: When viewed on SlideShare, these slides also include notes.
I haven’t written about it much here but if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been working on my first book, an iPhone and iPad strategy and marketing book called App Savvy (O’Reilly). Well, today is launch day and since it’s no longer just a pipe dream, I’m happy to share more about it.
Why App Savvy?
App Savvy started with a simple vision: be the guide for launching iPhone and iPad apps. There are many iPhone and iPad books available but the large majority of them are focused on design and development. Even ones that are more business-centric are simply not written by applying a disciplined and practical approach to building iPhone and iPad apps…because other authors do not have that background.
After working with new ventures and startups for the last decade as a product strategist, I successfully applied the principles I used in that work to the App Store. That approach is why I’ve been to create apps that are still bestsellers a year after their launch, even with 300,000 apps available. I don’t write that to gloat but to share that the process in App Savvy is not a framework provided by an author but rather a field guide detailed by a practitioner.
In addition, because I know I don’t have the market cornered on a proven approach to creating apps, I interviewed close to thirty of today’s best app creators including Smule, tap tap tap, Tapbots, Sophia Teutschler, and Mike Rundle. The full list of interviews and table of contents is available on the App Savvy website.
Who needs App Savvy?
The focus of App Savvy appeals to a broad audience including entrepreneurs, marketers, product managers, designers, and developers alike, across various industries. It’s possible that a solopreneur could use to it help estimate development costs and hire a team. But a developer may also want insight on the business, strategy, and marketing side of apps. Similarly, someone in a corporate setting may look to the book for assistance with concepts like beta testing and how to actually submit an app to Apple.
Advanced reviewers have told me and written that the reason they love App Savvy is because the content is immediately practical. It’s not a treatise on apps and it’s not meant to convince you apps are important. It’s a step-by-step guide for how to take an idea, vet it, and incorporate customers—from the outset—to make it successful.
How You Can Help
If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know that I’ve never asked for much…today, I could use your support. Whether you buy a book or not (please do!), blog posts, tweets, Facebook likes, Amazon reviews, and similar contributions are extremely important for App Savvy to be successful.
Writing App Savvy would not have been possible without many people’s help. I can’t detail that here (I had a hard enough time in the Acknowledgments) but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that writing this book was a sacrifice and labor of love for many others besides me. For that and for any part you’ve had in helping get it into people’s hands, during the production process or now, with it available to the public, I’m extremely humbled and grateful.
Scenario: A Windows Phone 7 product manager responds off the record to a personal media contact. The inquiry is about Gartner’s prediction of Windows Phone 7 having a minimal impact on Microsoft’s mobile market share.
The last year has been a tough one for us. We were surprised by how quickly Apple began to dominate the U.S. smartphone market. But it really was Google that kicked us while we were down. To go from peddling a “superphone” back in January through its now defunct and unneeded web store, to the top selling smartphone platform in less than a year, has been exceptionally discouraging for me and my colleagues on the Windows Phone 7 team.
We know it’s not because “Android is open.” The carriers and device manufacturers knew that too. This perception was one of the reasons they were so excited about using Android. They could get a mobile operating system that was “good enough,” modify it as they pleased, and control its distribution while still marketing it as the open alternative. Of course, the ideologues will sing the song of Android openness all day, and that’s fine. We are pretty sure that the majority of consumers are not buying Android devices because of philosophical reasons.
That’s no more evident than with Cupertino. Whether it’s on the desktop, with DRM content, or more recently, with mobile, staying closed has been a winning strategy for Apple. They’ve got 100M+ iOS devices on the market and the iPad is flying off their shelves. We obviously know that their app store, with more than 250,000 apps, is a big part of that. At the same time, they were still selling plenty of devices before their app store opened.
Aside from us, obviously RIM has been seriously impacted by the rise of Apple and Google. Even with their declining market share, RIM remains a top player with a considerably weaker and less appealing app store. Clearly, there’s a segment of the market that still is asking for a device focused on e-mail, basic web browsing, and wait for it…making calls.
Similarly, although there’s an impressive catalog, our experience with the apps in the Android Market is that they are significantly less refined than those in Apple’s App Store. This leads us to believe several possibilities: 1) Consumers aren’t purchasing Android devices because of apps (despite what Verizon’s Droid commercials would suggest). 2) Consumers care more about the availability of apps than they do about their design (to Job’s dismay). 3) Consumers are purchasing Android devices because of their association with Google and integration with Google services.
While not turning our back on apps, we’d be most comfortable if the first observation were true. To mitigate the availability issue, however, we’ll have some flagship apps like Twitter, Netflix, and Travelocity in our app store as part of our launch. Going forward, I think we’ve proven over the years that we can excite the developer community. And yes, we all have, “Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,…” tattooed on our backs. We may not be able to immediately support or entice independent developers like with iOS and Android but that’s OK. We have enough developer traction in corporate and enterprise segments where we think there will be some very interesting and even unique business-centric apps available in the Windows 7 Marketplace that aren’t on other platforms.
The third possibility, the purchase of an Android device because of its association with and integration to Google is more complex; it’s a challenge and an opportunity. We aren’t seen as exciting as Google. We are the company and the mobile operating system of yesteryear. At the same time, many of our products are still today’s products. In particular, our Office suite and e-mail services (Exchange anyone?) and client (Outlook for Mac!) are generally unrivaled. So, our new offerings might be seen as slightly less evil than the “don’t be evil” company. We don’t have massive server facilities that index your life. We’ll still offer you the opportunity to use your favorite Google services (so that they can track your every move) while also providing a comparable or better experience with the products you love.
Then there’s the tablet. We know the end game for mobile is not smartphones. It’s smart devices of various screen sizes that are enabled by touch. Apple had to rebrand it’s operating system from iPhone to iOS since it also powers the iPad. We may have to do the same but we’re planning on leveraging our new OS on tablet devices from the start. We’d be stupid not to; we’re also being stupid to not learn from Apple’s mistake but we have bigger issues to deal with right now.
We can sort of wave our hands through these issues. At the end of the day though, we know our future is going to come down to the number of devices we can ship. We need an Android-like appeal to carriers and manufacturing partners or we’ll face the same issue as Palm (HP): not having enough distribution. That’s why we are launching with nine devices in the U.S. Our partners need to continue to be excited about the Windows Phone 7 approach. Our devices won’t have an app-driven Apple interface but they will have apps. They won’t be as integrated with Google services as Android but they will be integrated. They won’t tout messaging like RIM’s Blackberry but they will be have a familiar e-mail client in Outlook.
It’s possible that we have erred on any one of these aspects. We could have mistakenly decided to only adapt what we consider to be the best experience of these features instead of master one specifically. We really don’t have a choice though. We can either offer an alternative to Apple, Google, and RIM or simply copy them and likely fail by trying to do so. We may still fail and we’re very aware of that thanks to Gartner—but we are at least committed to going down with a fight. See you in 2014 (hopefully).
I’ve been a big proponent of Mozilla’s Firefox and unlike many others, never made the jump to Chrome. Aside from some very cool recent innovations on the desktop side (e.g., Firefox Panorama), Firefox Mobile for Android has just moved from alpha to beta.
Having used the new beta on my Nexus One (see my brief video below), it’s exceptionally more stable than the previous alpha builds. Although there are still some issues with over-responsive navigation controls, it’s getting closer to being ready for prime time use. What really excites me about the new beta though, is that there are hints that Firefox’s vision of mobile browsing just might offer the best experience available.
That conclusion comes from trying nearly every standard or third-party browser across various mobile devices and platforms. For example, on iOS, Safari’s severely crippled with the maximum pages that can be opened, no download support, and most importantly, not allowing the content of the page to be the focus. That’s especially true on the iPad, where the URL bar and navigation controls are always present. It’s why I often will use third-party browsers like iCab Mobile or Grazing, which offer these other features.
What’s different about Firefox Mobile for Android? Aside from the myriad of reasons Mozilla engineer Matt Brubeck details, he and his colleagues have created a mobile browsing experience that most successfully overcomes the major challenge when designing for a mobile device: limited screen real estate. This challenge is really twofold. The first aspect was alluded to above, which is to the keep the content front and center. The second is less obvious and can even result from smartly approach the first: not burying navigation controls.
I initially saw Mozilla’s navigation concept when I demoed what was then called “Fennec” on a simulator well over a year ago. Reviewing my notes from that time, I wasn’t convinced of their paradigm, which consists of swiping right or left to access tabs and page back/forward. I liked the maximized screen real estate but it seemed the implementation of the navigation was too slow and did not provide for an easy enough way to get back and forth between web pages. I can safely write that they’ve now delivered on their original concept.
While this version of Firefox is initially only available on Android and the Nokia N900, I’d really be interested to see this run on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab. Further, with Apple’s loosening of App Store restrictions, let’s get Firefox onto iOS already!
Kudos to the Mozilla team. As I concluded in my video, Firefox Mobile is a most welcome addition to any Android device.