VLAB/Exploring the Mobile Ecosystem


It was standing room only last night as hundreds huddled in Stanford’s Bishop Auditorium to get the lowdown on the exploding mobile ecosystem, learn best practices for charting the iPhone apps store, find out about write once, run anywhere platforms, and secure an invite to the Palm Pre SDK private beta. Gracing the MIT/Stanford VLAB stage were: Tom Krazit, CNET, Matt Murphy, iFund Manager, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Pam Deziel, VP Developer Marketing, Palm, Tyler Lessard, Director, Developer Relations, RIM, Adam Blum, CEO, Rhomobile, Steve Demeter, Trism iPhone app developer.  Del Daix of the Examiner has a great review here:  http://www.examiner.com/x-10741-San-Jose-Media-Industry-Examiner~y2009m6d19-Mobile-application-development-platform-who-will-the-developers-crown.  Below are some of the gems we picked up:

Tom Krazit, CNET
– Go Mobile, Young Developer
– iPhone the game changer, now everything is all new
– We’ve only just begun, there’s never been a better time to jump in
– Consumers are just starting to get it
– Personalization is key, niches galore
– Billions are being spent on device and OS innovation
– WW leading OS (1Q09):  Symbian, RIM, Windows Mobile, Apple, Palm, Android
– NA leading OS (1Q09):  RIM, Apple, Windows Mobile, Android, Palm, Symbian
– Choices abound for developers:  One OS, One Phone, One OS, Many Phones, Many OS, Many Phones
– Apple’s pros – hit device, sleek UI, iTunes distribution model, cons – control, crowded marketplace,
wild card, noone knows yet how 3G will handle 3G S apps
– 6 Mobile OS – might fragment more before consolidation, incumbents way too invested in OS, pie is still getting bigger, expect new entrants
– Role of the operators (ATT, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) – provide end user support, own customer data and billing relationship, they feature and promote what they want, they have great power but must pass frictionless test, stores (e.g. V Cast, SprintPCS) sold on average 2.5 apps per over the life of the customer vs. 30 on the iPhone, likely see a hybrid model of platform/carrier app stores, unlikely off deck stores will do as well as users migrate to store on device, carriers are experimenting and learning, still early days, they recognize its a shared customer but also need to keep in mind that developers need to earn a living, why would developers go with the carriers for 50% when they can earn 70% (Apple, Android, MS, Ovi) or 80% (BB)
– Nokia Ovi is going after music in a big way 
– right now smart phones are 20-30% of US market but there is definitely a conversion of feature phones to smartphones, its where the monetization is, the plans might be slightly more expensive ($70 v $50) but the extra $20 delivers a lot of extra value, the data plan on app centric devices is key 
– Japan has flash in the browser and is a browser market, US is going to be a download market for awhile even as Flash ubiquity takes hold 

Adam Blum, CEO, Rhomobile
 – Rhomobile’s open source mobile framework Rhodes allows developers to quickly build native mobile applications for all smartphone OS:  iPhone, BB, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android (and soon Pre)
– Write once, run anywhere
– Approach device diversity by integrating common features – camera, SMS, LBS, contacts
– Laughs that Objective C, basis of iPhone games, is 20 years old.  
– To work with Apple, app must do what it said it would do and nothing more, see www.rhomobile.com/blog 
– Here’s a list of apps that have already ported cross-platform with Rhodes:  http://rhomobile.com/customers

Matt Murphy, iFund Manager, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
– $100mm+ iFund launched with Apple 14 months ago soon after the SDK was released
– Now 1B apps have been downloaded, 50,ooo apps in the apps store
– VCs invest in ideas that companies can be built upon, not just products
– You can get VC returns in mobile, look at the $800mm outcome from JAMDAT, Zynga is rumored to be doing $100mm in virtual goods, who knows what returns we’ll see with in-app transactions from iPhone 3.0
– currently there are 40mm iPhones, at the end of another year maybe 80mm, 100mm is a massive market
– don’t look at the $250,000 fart app, look at the new behavior, new models (virtual goods, content..)
– KPCB iFund companies do not compete against each other:  ngmoco, GOGII, booyah, iControl, Pelago (2 more soon to be announced), $100mm not a hard cap, mobile ecosystem moving at faster pace than expected
– GOGII launched 2 weeks ago, now at #3, that’s 60,000 downloads/day with no Apple features and 5-10 pickups by the press, 3 iFund companies are in the top 20
– Develop what you know, what you’re passionate about, apps that Apple will like, look at Apple Design Awards, what would Apple love to show off this is what makes Apple shine, new user experience, new user design, new things you can do with iPhone, analyze audience, with 50,000 apps see what’s working
– Write small first, get core value proposition out, seek audience feedback, 80/20 features/effort rule
– How to chart – make name/icon understandable, short, descriptive like TextPlus, when you get the RSS feed seek good reviews for initial pop, to get charted in the first 100 need 4500 downloads/day.  Need to be visible in first 100 stack to climb the charts.  Apple feature can give it a 10x pop, fantastic developer relations group, features decided by a democratic committee
– Keep it simple, lightweight, immediately engaging utility, not too complex out of the gate, enough to get going to get an audience, ok to have a massive ambition behind that.  
– Free/paid models:  giveaway 10 Lite for every 1 Pro sold, free offers a free ad network to promote the paid game instead of paying AdMob $.50 – $1 per user, $0.99 is the disposable price point, big drop off and virtually no price sensitivity $1.99-$5.99, start at $5.99 then gradually drop to free to promote next game 
– FYI, Here is the deck to Matt’s Web 2.0 Summit presentation, 11/08:   http://www.kpcb.com/team/index.php?Matt Murphy 

Pam Deziel, VP Developer Marketing, Palm
– Palm Pre shipped 6/6, fabulous reception considering just out of stealth mode 
– CES spurred fantastic user/developer reaction
– Reinvigorating developer community, reaching out to the 100mm web-centric developer community
– currently scaling infrastructure for distribution; merchandising, discoverability will evolve
– SDK not out yet, in private beta 
– will be looking for compelling user experience, integration, device navigation, instant gratification, nature of app is driver of the value equation, high levels of regular engagement, sub-content refreshed regularly
– Synergy WebOS platform, deep integration across core apps, offers greater degree of control, universal search, a real keyboard
Tyler Lessard, Director, Developer Relations, RIM
– Eventhough BB has been around 8 years, the mobile space is still in its infancy
– 3 years ago BB was pure enterprise
– seeking high frequency (daily) apps that showcase the platform, nail the user experience, apps must feel native to the user like it shipped out of the box, makes platform shine, integrate LBS, camera
– user base relies heavily upon BB, RIM focusing on long battery life, data traffic, security requirements
– differentiated by removable memory (SD card) and removable batteries (big oohs aahs from audience), apps can run all the time, are multithreaded, running at startup, push allows weather to change, seamless experience, user gets information without proactively seeking it, baking in APIs, apps feel native, integrated
– BB monthly developer challenge, win one week feature in BB App World
– looking for consistency across devices, great experience/high quality, good reviews and brand behind it
– looking for a mix of utility like expense tracker, media/music apps, games, news and content that appeal to an enterprise base, localizing US, Canada, UK (small market, brand not as mature)
– BB app models include freemium, or free/premium for value-add features, free trial/$0.99 subscription or in-app microtransactions

Steve Demeter, Trism iPhone app developer
– developed a game he knew he could write in
 4 months in time for the launch of the apps store, priced at $5, earned $250,000 first 2 months and quit his day job, dropped to $3 but CNN coverage kept price in bubble 
– Never bought an ad for it, shopped demo at GDC, iPhone was too new, then uploaded a YouTube video, got 100,000 hits first 4 days, it went viral and after 3 weeks Apple featured it
– Developed for iPhone because it felts like a gaming device, snappy enough, the others felt like a cell phone 
– Trism is a lifestyle business, can pursue passion and no longer work 9-5, not an empire guy with a magnify construct, an artist who needs to get head in the space
Android version out soon, considering BB Storm  

MIT/Stanford VLAB
The Stanford campus is a myriad of twists and turns with parking intrigue, so when you arrive, you really have.  Its great to be greeted with a drink, some sushi, and smiles from a swath of dedicated volunteers.  In the crowd were Dr. Jaeyong  Lee & Peter Simpson of Vidiator who followed up with me after my question to the panel as to whether Qik would finally be available for 3G and whether there would be an issue of 3G S apps running on 3G.  I dined with Todd Parker, Managing Director, Hidden River, mobile app vc firm.  He was thrilled to hear about Content NOW’s coverage of mobile advertising CTR at EconSM and CONNECTIONS. And I sat with my press colleagues Del Daix of the Examiner and Alain Baritault of Volnay Publication France.  Looking forward to the next one:  September 2009 – Artificial Intelligence.  See ya there!

2 Responses to “VLAB/Exploring the Mobile Ecosystem”

  1. 1 James

    Thanks for the information, I’m an Apple geek at heart so I’ll think I’ll be buying iPhone’s for the next while!

  2. 2 noel

    Ok Nice! Check this out!

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