Saturday, August 28, 2010

Java mobile apps today - a technology/weapon misunderstood

When you look at the present landscape of available mobile technologies to develop apps with, you'll see an abundant offering. Depending on what platform you're developing for, you'll see a mix of native applications, web technologies and similar. These are all cool and powerful, but what is not often talked about is the scope of the applications written and how choice of these technologies is linked with business models. What am I talking about here ? People working with J2ME will be eager to point out that there are several hundred million phones capable of running such apps and that phones that have that as the primary application platform are still going strong (for example Nokia's S40 phones). Others will say that means nothing  as owners of such phones are unlikely to pay for apps and that their hardware is so limited that you couldn't make something impressive anyway. Both are right in a way, but the story doesn't end here. What is often overlooked that shiny, flashy apps, sold as a product are not the only business model here even though originally most of the J2ME offering were just that - games. Think about SMS for a moment here. It is a super simple service, basically a specialized application, that earns huge amounts of money. But is the money in selling this 'SMS application' as it would be in selling 'Angry Birds' ? No, it's in the services it supports. It's somewhat similar to the problem that some people first encountering Open Source business models have - if you give your app away, how do you make money ? And this is why Java mobile app programming of today is misunderstood - it should not be viewed as a competitor to the write-app-sell-app-...-profit business models of iOS, Android or Symbian, but as a gateway that allows addressing a huge user base otherwise currently unreachable with other technologies. You don't need super-high technologies and sophisticated devices to check for a public transport schedule, arrange reservations, inventory/availability checks, etc. In that light, it's far from dead and/or useless. It's just about realizing that you have a business that CAN benefit from such a userbase.

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