What kind of fish do you want to be?
I’ve been wanting to get back into development for a while now and I’m been mulling over what platform to target and I’ve decided on Window Phone. Now some of you maybe wondering why would I target a platform with few customers and limited market share, there are two driving factors behind my decision.
The first is the learning hurdle, two years ago I used to be a .net developer, creating superawesomesauce applications for teaching and learning and although this was in VB.net (dont throw things). This means that although C# is a different (and vastly superior) language, it isn’t too much of a leap.
The second reason is more pragmatic, namely App discovery.
I meet a lot of developers in my day job as a developer evangelist and they are all beginning to face the same problem, standing out for from the crowd. At time of writing the most popular App store have over five hundred thousand Apps available for download, how does a developer get noticed? More importantly how does a customer notice a developers work?
Sure if you’re lucky you might get featured on the front page of an App store, but the odds are slim. If you’ve got a lot of VC funding (or a big company behind you), you can afford to pay for advertising and marketing, but this is difficult path with no guarantees of success. If you’re really lucky you might get social media working for you, that quintessential business driver, word of mouth. I trust my friends more than I do advertising (even though they themselves may be recommending based on awareness created by an advert), as there is little chance of their recommendation being anything but genuine.
Indeed Matt Mills co founder of usTwo, creators of Whale Trail spoke to the Guardian on the importance of word of mouth for their revenue model now that Apple’s ‘New Game Of The Week’ promotion has finished:
“We’re hoping that if somebody’s downloading it, they’ll be talking about it, and there are 2-3 big updates planned over the next 6-8 weeks,” says Mills. “We need to get to the people in the pub. Game Of The Week is fantastic: it tells us we’ve made something special. But my wife, mum, dad or sisters don’t really look at the App Store in that way. They find out about new apps when somebody tells them.”
But getting people to talk about your App is very, very hard (but not impossible) so most developers have no choice but to upload and cross their fingers.
So my question to you is this If you are working on your own, is being another item in an overstocked store the best way to get noticed?
I don’t think it is, certainly if you are just getting started in the App industry.
Which is why I am looking at Windows Phone, yes it may only have 5% market share at time of writing and an under developed App store but I see that as an opportunity. The recent Mango update, the Windows Platform has had numerous improvements and it has been well received by industry pundits and consumers alike. The most notable addition has been Nokia’s conversion from Symbian, which has now begun to energise both Windows Phone developers and, perhaps more importantly other hardware partners. Indeed, on watching the unveiling of the Lumia 800 and 710, and the subsequent revelation that these phones would have Nokia’s largest marketing budget ever HTC and Samsung confirmed that they would increase their marketing budgets to compete. Which means that we’ll be seeing a lot more Windows Phone devices around, especially if they can get the price point so that they can offer most Windows Phones free on contract.
But thats the future, in the short term there is still an App store that needs developers, customers that wants to buy Apps and most importantly a provider that is actively promoting developers.
In the end it comes down to this, do you want to be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond?