Is the business of Making Native Apps for Mobile Devices Dying?
Michael Mace has published a new editorial on his Mobile Opportunity blog. The fascinating piece is less editorial and more of an up-to-the-minute analysis of the ailing mobile software industry from the perspective of a seasoned mobile tech executive. Long-time Palm watchers will recognize Mr. Mace as the former CCO and VP of Product Planning at Palm, Inc. as well as VP of Strategic Marketing at PalmSource and director of Mac Platform Marketing at Apple.
While I highly recommend anyone with even a passing interest to not only the Palm-conomy but the wireless industry in general read the full piece, Mr. Mace’s summary analysis is that he feels the influence of the carriers is choking what little momentum native mobile apps possessed in the halcyon days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. In short, Mr. Mace advocates any remaining mobile developer to move to web-based services due to the myriad of competing carriers, numerous semi-interoperable standards, and a glut of feuding OSes.
A major portion of the article contains a compelling summary by Elia Freedman, CEO of Infinity Softworks (giving consent to Michael Mace to present this information) of the difficulties facing mobile software developer in today’s market. Infinity Softworks will most likely be familiar to long-term Palm OS users via their superb PowerOne calculator app that was regularly bundled with nearly all new devices from Palm in the earlier part of this decade. Mr. Freedman has now decided to exit the mobile software business based on the overwhelming obstacles facing developers in the carrier-dominated age of today.
“The business of making native apps for mobile devices is dying, crushed by a fragmented market and restrictive business practices. The problems are so bad that the mobile web, despite its many technical drawbacks, is now a better way to deliver new functionality to mobiles.”
While Mace does touch upon his time at Palm, he unfortunately does not go into a great amount of detail about product or carrier-specific discussions, aside from pointing out the brief flurry of “unofficial” activity surrounding the iPhone after its launch last year. Also discussed by Mr. Freedman via Mr. Mace is the downfall of the retail market, the encroaching greed of online resellers, the disappearance of the major freeware web sites (definitely more of an affliction of the Palm OS market than any other mobile platform) and even the crackdown on “backdoor” bundling with select hardware partners by the carriers.
A recent, tangible example of the trend in carrier-sourced, carrier-approved “trialware” can be found on both GSM and CDMA versions of the new Palm Centro. This device ships with a hodge-podge of various AT&T and Sprint-approved software and subscription-based services that cannot be deleted from the devices’ ROM even if the user has no desire to use these applications or services. AT&T has even gone so far as to remove the streaming audio feature from the bundled version of Pocket Tunes Deluxe, neutering the “Deluxe” bundled version into a shell of the same program found on Sprint’s version of the Centro or available to registered users of the app. While not as brazen as Sprint and AT&T, Verizon continues to ship their Palm OS Treos with Palm’s VersaMail CD on the bundled software CD, clogging the device’s ROM with their own Wireless Sync e-mail solution.
For anyone still clinging to the outdated opinion that the mobile computing market is just a pocket-sized of the desktop market, this Mobile Opportunity piece is certain to be an opinion-changer.
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