We’re proud to present our latest infographic, The Mobile Platform Race, showcasing some of the most important findings and insights from our Developer Economics 2011 report (free download here).
Developer Economics is the definitive report on mobile developers, apps and brands going mobile. Developer Economics was created by VisionMobile and sponsored by BlueVia. We hope you enjoy the infographic – and feel free to embed it in your own website. Comments welcome, as always.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) legal representation has stated the company turned down an offer to pay $100 million in royalties in exchange for using elements of the Java programming language in the development of its Android mobile operating system. Google attorney Robert Van Nest said during a federal court hearing Thursday that the 2006 offer from Sun Microsystems outlined a three-year, “all-in” deal to jointly build Android, not a patent licensing agreement.
“There wasn’t any specific discussion of patents,” Van Nest said after U.S. District Judge William Alsup requested an explanation for why Google and Sun entered talks. Van Nest stated that while a few lines of code in Android are “identical” to Java, the code likely came from a third party, adding “We are investigating that.”
Oracle, which acquired Sun in April 2009, is now seeking as much as $6.1 billion in damages over claims that Android “directly copied” elements of Java. According to court filings submitted late last month, Oracle wants Google to pay $0.9 billion to $1.4 billion upfront for infringing on its patents. Oracle also wants 15 percent of mobile advertising revenues generated across the Android platform. Late last year, Google said its mobile ad business operates at a run rate of $1 billion annually.
On Thursday, Oracle separately won permission to question Google CEO Larry Page to determine his knowledge of the situation. Oracle seeks to depose Page about Google’s discussions with Sun over licensing Java as well as Android’s strategic value, according to a court filing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu ruled that Oracle may depose Page for two hours “solely on topics relevant to the willfulness of defendant’s alleged patent infringement, and the value of Android.”
Oracle states that “approximately one-third of Android’s Application Programmer Interface (API) packages” are “derivative of Oracle’s copyrighted Java API packages” and related documents. “The infringed elements of Oracle America’s copyrighted work include Java method and class names, definitions, organization, and parameters; the structure, organization and content of Java class libraries; and the content and organization of Java’s documentation,” the Oracle suit alleges. “In at least several instances, Android computer program code also was directly copied from copyrighted Oracle America code.”
Intellectual property activist Florian Mueller believes the Oracle lawsuit could force Google to restructure its Android business in both economic and technical terms. “It could very well be that a defeat in court would require Google to make fundamental changes to its Dalvik virtual machine–changes that would likely affect many if not all existing Dalvik-based (.DEX) applications,”
Remember the social messaging app, Zlango, which was launched last week? Well it looks like the company behind the app has managed to stir up quite a bit of interest, as Vringo, a provider of software platforms for mobile social and video apps has signed a letter of intent to acquire and merge with Zlango.
Vringo, Zlango and two leading venture capital firms: Benchmark Capital and DAG Ventures, plan to take Zlango’s rich media messaging services, combined with Vringo’s strong social and video apps to create a new leader in the mobile social arena. It wasn’t mentioned what the coalition be planning to do next, but with the backing of Benchmark Capital (investors in eBay, Twitter and Red Hat Software), and DAG Ventures (investors in AdMob, Plaxo and Yelp) it’s probably going to be something big.
Open-source software development initiative Mozilla has launched an effort to develop a complete, standalone open web-based operating system optimized for mobile devices. In a post to the mozilla.dev.platform wiki page, Mozilla researcher Andreas Gal explains that the initiative, dubbed Boot to Gecko, will “find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are–in every way–the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android and [Windows Phone 7].”
Gal states that the Boot to Gecko build is still in its infancy, and will require work across a number of segments, including development of new web APIs to expose device and OS capabilities. Engineers must also make sure these capabilities are safely exposed to pages and applications. In addition, Mozilla plans to prototype a low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device and must port or build applications to prove out the system.
Gal promises that Mozilla will perform all Boot to Gecko work “in the open,” releasing source code in real time, presenting all successful additions to the appropriate standards body and tracking all resulting changes. We aren’t trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we’re trying to have them run on the web,” Gal states, adding in a subsequent post that the project’s ultimate goal is “breaking the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world.”
Mozilla vice president of technical strategy Mike Shaver states the organization will integrate elements of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile OS in Boot to Gecko, but adds “We intend to use as little of Android as possible, in fact. Really, we want to use the kernel + drivers, plus libc and ancillary stuff. It’s not likely that we’ll use the Android Java-wrapped graphics APIs, for example.”
Google created Android as an open-source platform, and the approach is credited as a primary catalyst behind the operating system’s enormous growth. But Oracle is now seeking billions in damages from Google over claims that Android “directly copied” elements of the Java programming language, acquired by Oracle when it purchased rival Sun Microsystems in April 2009. In addition, some developers have expressed frustration that Google often does not issue readable Android source code until months after new versions are given to manufacturing partners.
[Developers are currently the hottest property in the mobile industry. Tens of developer programs have sprung up, aiming to woo developers. However, besides Apple, Google and perhaps Microsoft, other developer programs have had at best a lukewarm response. Guest author Gyanee Dewnarain investigates what makes developers tick and the faux-pas to avoid.]
Have you been ramping up your developer marketing efforts lately with a view to attracting more developers to your programme? How are your efforts faring? Let’s have a look at what works and what does not.
First and foremost – who to target?
Before you set out on your quest, it is important to know who you are targeting. We have all come across the perennial cliché of a developer as being the unshaven geeky guy with long hair and sandals. This image is outdated: developers nowadays are a rapidly expanding community that includes software engineers (architects, implementers, discoverers, thinkers, inventors) within small, medium and large enterprises, hobbyists or indie developers (working on open source or proprietary software), high school kids aspiring to go to MIT, commissioned developers, brands developing B2C apps, system integrators targeting B2B apps, investors funding mobile development and 100s of start-ups.
Each developer segment has varying goals and incentives and the ways of engaging with them vary too. It pays to do your research first and understand who you are targeting and how to do so. However, irrespective of the segment you are targeting, there are a few key ingredients (so-called hygiene factors) that need to be in place in your developer program for the greatest chances of success. These hygiene factors are covered extensively in VisionMobile’s Developer Economics 2010 and 2011 reports. This post focuses more on developer marketing strategies and tactics.
First Impressions Matter
The first step in a developer marketing program is to create a solid first impression. Developers expect you to invest considerable effort in the way you present your tools, APIs and documentation to them as well as the way you present their applications to your customers. This is a competitive marketplace and if you want to stand any chance of getting noticed, your offering needs to stand out from the other developer programs which are vying for developers’ attention.
It is equally very important that your messaging and your branding are consistent across all your digital assets – website, blog, storefront etc. If your branding and messaging is confused, developers’ confidence in your developer program will erode rapidly.
Developers also have an aversion to long, convoluted, legal terminologies; don’t make them read and sign long T&C’s before they can access any of the exciting stuff (code, APIs, tools and documentation). Second opportunities come seldom in this market.
The “coolness” factor
Developers like cool companies (think slide, smoothie bar, collectable pins) and cool brands and if you appear stuck-up, they will run a mile. If you want to engage with them, you have to think about the image you and your company project – you have to speak their language and dress like them. The language on your website should be simple and straightforward (cut back the marketing blurb).
While more technically inclined, developers still like devices which have mass market appeal (both from the perspective of personal interest and also from the perspective of user reach and revenue generation). Engage with other brands and channels to increase the desirability of your device, your storefront or your cloud platform.
In addition, make sure that your products are able to get developers excited (from the development tools, emulators and documentation through the storefront to the actual devices that you are selling in the market).
Encourage openness and interaction
Do not bind your developers into contracts and NDAs that forbid them from sharing useful hints and tips. Even Apple realised the mistake it was making by preventing discussions amongst its developers and had to retract its NDA three months after the launch of its iPhone developer program. You should encourage your developers to share their experiences, best practices and code snippets by creating places and opportunities for them to meet and interact with each other.
Online forums, blogs, mailing lists (both on your own website and on popular 3rd party fan websites) are must-haves. Such communication amongst developers helps build a sense of community. Developer events are equally de rigueur in any developer program. Your events should ideally favour hands-on code oriented tutorials and workshops as opposed to marketing presentations.
Learn the art of listening
Building communities means extending bridges. The mantra is – communicate, communicate, communicate; whether it’s through one to one e-mails, social media, developer forums or third party developer events. Keep in touch with your most loyal developers, as much as you can, and in a personalised manner. Formulate your message in such a way that you make them feel important; the focus should not be on your company but on them.
The worst thing you can do is have a big developer bash and disappear off the radar for a while. That might have worked a few years back but in the current market, with everyone competing for your developers’ attention, if you do not constantly keep in touch, someone else will snatch your developers away in the blink of an eye.
Honesty is the best policy
Changes to existing APIs and introduction of new APIs are a natural part of software development. However, be as transparent as you can with your developer community. Inform them about the changes that you have made to your APIs and try to have a sensible upgrade path so that there are no rude awakenings. Ensure compatibility with previous versions; this would show that you are respectful of the time and effort that developers are committing to your program. Despite facing a lot of criticism with regards to fragmentation risks across its multiple releases, Google has gone to great lengths toexplain API updates to new Android releases.
Share your vision of the future
Sharing your vision for the future is a critical part of engaging with developers. It is therefore essential that you communicate the rationale behind your business strategies, technology decisions (e.g. moving from native to web) and the future direction of your program very clearly to your developer following. Endeavour to provide your developers with the opportunity to provide their feedback, comments and suggestions. Arguably, developer programs such as BONDI and JIL failed due to their inability to communicate any tangible vision to developers. Unfortunately, WAC seems to be following a similar path.
Favour substance over style
If your platform does not ship; if your tools look good but do not deliver; if your code samples are too difficult to learn and use, your developers will churn to greener pastures. This means:
If you are going down the route of having your own platform, then you have to ensure that the tools that you provide are easy to learn and your programming paradigms enable quick coding and prototyping.
Provide APIs that are rich and that offer developers the opportunity to go the extra mile in creating truly innovative applications. These could include select hardware APIs (that are normally hidden) and in some cases network APIs such as billing, location, user profile etc.
Provide debuggers and emulators that are fast and provide accurate target device mirroring.
Make sure that your development environment includes an app porting framework and solid emulator integration.
Choice is good – provide options for advanced use cases for example both a basic command line text editor and a web based IDE.
Moreover, if you get lethargic and do not constantly look at ways of evolving your tools, being innovative with your business models, and seeking newer markets, boredom is likely to set in and your developers may start looking at other alternatives. Therefore, continuously check how your program is faring against competition. Several operators dismissed Apple and Google for more than 2 years until it was too late to figure out a positioning strategy.
Bridges to developers need constant maintenance
You’ll need to set aside a significant budget to finance various types of seed programs as well as developer competitions. Seed programs include many incentives for developing such as:
Releasing early builds of your platform/ SDK version to developers, both to get feedback about bugs and other issues as well as to give developers lead time to test software or experiment with adding new features.
Commissioning developers to develop apps specifically for your platform or port existing apps from other platforms.
Fast tracking the certification of apps for a select group of your target developers (especially useful when you need to get an app ported from a competitive platform to your own)
Distribution of free reference hardware or commercial devices to your installed base of developers in order to build loyalty.
Show me the money
Many of the developers that you want onboard (especially those with a commercial role) want to see a return on their investment. From the outset, it should be clear in your own mind how your developers are going to make money from their apps and you should communicate this in a very clear manner to them – what are the devices that you support, how many people are using those devices, how do they get their apps on those devices, how do customers find, download and pay for the apps and how, when and how much do developers get paid.
The other thing to note is that developers are smart and discerning consumers who will fact-check you before they can trust you – make sure you have the figures to back your marketing assertions.
One of the critical issues facing developers currently is “discovery” of their apps by customers. The developer programs which come up with the most original ideas to improve discovery and present new business models for increased monetisation are likely to gain traction with the largest number of developers.
Casual settings work better
When socialising with your developers, small informal events work much better than large formal conferences. Make sure that the developers and software engineers from within your company get the opportunity to interact with each and every developer, answering their questions, listening to their issues, encouraging them to interact regularly and share experiences and difficulties. So far, BlueVia has been amongst the operator developer programs that have most successfully embraced this philosophy by holding small developer events in pubs around London.
Jump onto the social bandwagon – Facebook It, Tweet It
Studies show that over 60% of people within the 15-35 age group (and that includes the vast majority of your developers) spend on average 20 hours per month on social networking websites. This is where you are likely to find them and this is the medium they will use to spread the word about you if they like you enough (viral marketing). Social media is where you need to advertise your events, inform developers about the availability of the latest release of your SDK or the latest device you are planning to launch.
Locate your Evangelists
Find out who are the people who believe in your platform – the fans, the early adopters– the people who would be willing to fly the flag for you. Check the people who write favourable blog posts about you, who comment on your blog posts, tweets, participate in your forums and Facebook or LinkedIn discussion groups. Approach them and provide them further incentives to spread the good word.
Developers listen to their fellow developers – therefore, get your early adopter developers to talk about how easy it is to create apps using your APIs and SDKs and how fast it is to certify the apps and get them published.
Reward your successful developers – promote their apps in the media, ask them to come and talk about their success stories at your events; publish their success stories on your website and in your marketing collaterals; encourage them to publish stats about number of downloads and the amount of money they’ve made.
Putting it all together
In summary – decide who you want to target, make sure the hygiene factors are in place, keep your messaging and branding consistent, keep legal blurb to a minimum, be a cool brand, encourage your developers to share experiences and best practices, value feedback from your developers, be transparent about changes to APIs and code, communicate your vision and roadmap, provide high quality tools that are on par with competitive offerings, prepare to invest, show developers the return on their investment, interact frequently with your developers preferably via small informal events and via social networks, locate and draw upon your evangelists and last but not least, reward your successful developers. Many have tried and many have failed over the years. Sometimes, a few decisions can make or break your program. Be quick to learn both from the failures and the success stories!
So many mobile applications are being developed—especially for Apple‘s iPhone—that deserving apps are languishing unnoticed in the App Store, according to app developers who gathered in Chicago Thursday.
“Discoverability is a big problem in the App Store,” said Ashish Rangnekar of Benchprep, a Chicago startup whose app helps students study for admissions exams like the SAT and GRE.
“There are a million apps now. What is becoming a problem is not building the greatest app ever but making sure the customer finds the app you’ve built.”
Rangnekar was one of about 25 mobile technology developers who gathered in a Chicago skyscraper at a meeting sponsored by eFactor, a social network for entrepreneurs. Because of the number of apps now available in the App Store, Rangnekar said, an app’s name, icon, and screenshots may be more immediately important to sales than its content or performance.
My colleague Brian Caulfield reported earlier this month on Apple’s announcement that it had sold 15 billion copies of the 425,000 apps developed for iPhone and iPad (and more recently for Macs):
Which is why the app store is packed with more software than you can possibly use — and it’s only going to get more packed in the years ahead. It’s Apple’s response to competitors who are flooding the marketplace with scores of variations on the touch-screen, media-friendly phone it first introduced four years ago.
Apple can’t fight them all with hardware, but it can do a little spamming of its own with software.
via With 15 Billion Apps Served, Apple Is Just Getting Started – Brian Caulfield – Shiny Objects – Forbes.
It’s a lesson Apple learned from Microsoft, no doubt, in the 1990s, but Apple isn’t responsible for developing every app in this avalanche, individual developers are, and the “spam” of apps, as Brian calls it, is becoming a headache for many of them.
Rangnekar advised app developers to “be smart about picking icons and names” and urged them to:
Focus on optimizing results when potential customers search the App Store, using search engine optimization techniques and careful messaging in the brief text allotted to each app
Within the app, develop features, hooks, and tools that create buzz in the media
Elsewhere, try to generate news, particularly from popular bloggers and industry newsletters on topics relevant to your app.
Benchprep tried many other common ways of popularizing its app, such as advertising on Google and cultivating user reviews, but found it’s most important to get noticed in the App Store.
iPad Goads Apple Further Beyond Android in App Development, Developers Say
Most of the developers who gathered in Chicago Thursday offer cross-platform apps, but they agreed Apple has vastly increased its dominance of the mobile technology software market.
The iPhone is the most important device to app developers right now, said Carson Conant of Mediafly.
‘I think the iPad was the killer,” said Kilton Hopkins of the App House, which helps people develop ideas into Apps.
Others said the expect Android to catch up and that Apple and Android will dominate the mobile market for years to come.
Look at what we have here, leaking clearly out of a development factory in either China or Hong Kong (forgive us, it’s 2am), we get a nice clear look at the Nokia N9, cough, ‘Sea Ray’ for Windows Phone 7. We can finally see the buttons near the bottom, putting to rest the ”virtual button “speculation from earlier.
Watch as halfway through the video the device even boots up with a new “7″ logo screen and it pops in a build of Mango (check out the Mango lock screen, natch). The camera also boots up quickly and we get the first glimpse of what that will be like.
Growth in US software patent lawsuits means independent developers are turning away from it as a place to do business – as Indian software company sends warning to tech giants (updated)
British app developers are withdrawing products from US app stores because of fears over patent lawsuits. Photograph: Sergey Ponomarev/AP
App developers are withdrawing their products for sale from the US versions of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market for fear of being sued by companies which own software patents – just as a Mumbai-based company has made a wide-ranging claim against Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and a number of other companies over Twitter-style feeds, for which it claims it has applied for a patent.
Software patent owners in the US have latched onto potential revenue streams to be earned from independent developers by suing over perceived infringements of their intellectual property – which can be expensive for developers to defend even if they are successful.
Now developers in Europe are retreating from the US to avoid the expense and concern such “patent trolls” are causing.
Simon Maddox, a UK developer, has removed all his apps from US app stores on both iOS and Android for fear of being sued by Lodsys, a company which has already sued a number of iOS and Android developers which it says infringe its software patent.
Simon Maddox vents his opinion of Lodsys on TwitterShaun Austin, another app developer based in Cheltenham, said that “selling software in the US has already reached the non-viable tipping point”.
And Fraser Speirs, a Scottish developer who has written apps for the Mac and iOS, remarked that he was “starting to get seriously concerned about my future as a software developer due to these patent issues”.
The growth of patent lawsuits over apps raises serious issues for all the emerging smartphone platforms, because none of the principal companies involved – Apple, Google or Microsoft – can guarantee to protect developers from them. Even when the mobile OS developer has signed a patent licence – as Apple has with at least one company currently pursuing patent lawsuits – it is not clear that it has any legal standing to defend developers.
That has led developers to take evasive action. On Wednesday Maddoxtweeted that he was removing his apps from US app stores and putting 0.575% of total revenue into a spare bank account. “Screw you, Lodsys”, he commented.
He told the Guardian that it’s “far too dangerous to do business” in the US because of the risk of software patent lawsuits.
But for US-based developers, the problems remain. Craig Hockenberry of Iconfactory, developer of Twitterrific, remarked that “Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, they do and tweeted that “I became an independent developer to control my own destiny. I no longer do”. Iconfactory is among those being targeted by Lodsys, but earlier this week was granted a 30-day extension to reply to Lodsys’s claim.
Meawhile Kootol Software of Mumbai announced that it has sent a notice to Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, IBM, Research in Motion, LinkedIn, MySpace, Research in Motion and a number of other companies – including Iconfactory – claiming that they infringe US patent application 11/995,343 – “A Method and System for Communication, Advertising, Searching, Sharing and Dynamically Providing a Journal Feed” – which it said has also been applied for in India, Canada and Europe.
It says that patent it is seeking is an invention which “allows the user to publish and send messages using one way or two way messaging and by subscribing to posts of other users of a network. By indexing each message of each user the system provides real time search capabilities to users of the network in turn creating a unique form of communication.”
The company claims that it covers core messaging, publication and real-time searching, and that the named companies “may violate [our] intellectual property by using it for their website, networks, applications, services, platforms, operating systems and devices.”
Because the patent has not apparently been granted by the US Patent Office or any other patent office, the warning message may give the companies involved the chance to contact the relevant examiners and have the claim invalidated because “prior art” – implementations which predate the application – already exist, notes Florian Mueller, who has followed the development of the field.
Mobile Streams has announced that it has roped in Huawei for distributing its Appitalism app catalogue in selected regions. The former is a mobile content distributor looking to reach out to Huawei’s network across Asia and the Middle East.
There more than five million apps, songs, books, games and videos that can be accessed using a number of devices like smartphones, tablets, PCs as well as eBook readers, harbored in the Appitalism library. Under the umbrella of the deal, Huawei will have access, in addition to the distribution rights to the Appitalism library.
According to Simon Buckingham, CEO of Mobile Streams, they are optimistic about Huawei’s partnering them in ensuring that their app catalogue is in the hands of Asia’s top mobile operator, poised for widespread distribution in the Middle East – a region which was not previously part of Mobile Streams’ network.
Amazon.com will release a tablet product in the coming months running Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a move that would bring Amazon into closer competition with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and its iPad.
The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said Amazon will release the as-yet-unnamed product before October. The device will sport a 9-inch display but will not have a camera, and will be designed by an Asian manufacturer. Consumers will be able to use the tablet to access videos, music and digital books they purchase from Amazon, which will allow Amazon to better compete with Apple’s iTunes and iBooks offerings.
It’s unclear if the device will feature built-in wireless connections. Amazon is closely tied to the wireless industry; the company’s first Kindle ereader launched with built-in support for Sprint Nextel’s (NYSE:S) network. ABI Research recently reported that 25 percent of Apple’s iPads in the first quarter shipped with built-in cellular wireless connections.
An Amazon spokesman cold not immediately be reached for comment, the Journal said.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos strongly hinted in May that his company will release a tablet based on Android. In an interview with Consumer Reports, Bezos said to “stay tuned” on the company’s plans for a multipurpose tablet product. He suggested that such a device would supplement but not replace the popular Kindle.
Although there has been some speculation that Amazon might license webOS from Hewlett-Packard, Amazon has given multiple indications this year that it is backing Android. Amazon formally launched its Amazon Appstore for Android in late March, offering consumers a new channel to download applications optimized for Android smartphones and tablets. Shortly after the Appstore launched, Amazon unveiled a cloud-based music service called Cloud Drive that initially targeted Android devices.
Interestingly, the WSJ report also said Amazon will release two updated versions of its popular Kindle electronic reader in the third quarter. One will have a touchscreen display and the other will not, but will be an improved and cheaper version of the current Kindle.
AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said on Wednesday it will supply mobile broadband service to a $139 Kindle 3G, which will come with AT&T-sponsored ads and screensavers. The regular Kindle 3G will remain $189.