Mobile Apps – Gold in Them There Hills?

For those of us waiting outside the Finnish Embassy earlier this week to get in for Mobile Monday (a.k.a. dcMOMO)””all that was missing was the velvet rope. “œOkay, we’re only going to let 20 more people in””to the rest of you, we’re sorry.” Me lucky.

Geez. You’d think it was a not new club. Well, to some, it is. Many attendants were prospectors with apps in their back pocket . . . and the prospect of generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in download revenue for an iPhone app is just too exciting to pass up. Forget Facebook and MySpace apps. This is real cheese.

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Cheese indeed. Everyone knows the story of iFart, and no doubt many were there Monday night to hear Ken Burge (president of InfoMedia, creator of said gaseous phenom) tell his story. Download revenue to date: $490,000. Yet Burge’s electronic alter-ego (he attended from Colorado via Skype) actually let some, er, wind out of the sails: “œThe days of throwing something into the AppStore and getting traction””if they ever existed””are over.” Even with iFart, he acknowledged, they shilled for Mashable and TechCrunch. “œPlan your costs based on a 50/50 mix of development and marketing.”

Ouch. Them windows of opportunity just seem to get smaller and smaller, don’t they? And what with development costs running a minimum of $10k to $20k per native app (according to panel moderator Viq Hussain, recently of Intridea, now launching his own media marketing effort at Kongruent), mobile launches start to get a little daunting. Panelist Isaac Mosquera of PointAbout, a DC firm that mobilizes sites, said it’s going to be a lot more, “œbecause your first version is probably not going to be successful.” Multiple platforms, too. And don’t forget the server component. As Burge pointed out, you not only going to want to know who downloaded the app, but analyze and capitalize on all that valuable data.

Okay””enough of that negativism . . . let’s put on the pink glasses.

According to another dcMOMO panelist, Jason Siegel of Qorvis Communications (they built WashPost’s popular Going Out Guide for the iPhone””get it, it’s free), revenue from mobile platforms is destined to explode. “œMobile ad revenue will grow 36% to $200M in 2009, and by 2011 it will double to $400M.” Okay, peanuts compared to the billions in TV and online . . . but that’s a helluva ramp. Siegel is psyched because he’s seeing first-hand the movement of traditional advertising to the third screen””Qorvis is currently developing apps for, among others, AAMCO (the transmission folks).

Beep, beep . . . ring a bell? If it doesn’t, then you’re likely among the Millenials, who only register a 10% to 20% recall rate on the brand””vs. 90% for Boomers. Which is why all the panelists admonished “œChoose your platform . . . wisely.” Blackberry, not iPhone, might be the place to start. (To some, the iPhone is still not a business phone.)

Still, it’s hard not to get excited about the potential for mobile apps. First of all, the platform is . . . mobile. You got it with you, right? So geolocation has a lot of buzz. Qorvis has partnered with PointAbout to do the kind of cool stuff you’d expect from a computer that knows where you are. “œStep right into this Mall, son””and I’ll give you half off your second entrée at your favorite restaurant.” (And we know which is your favorite). Personal couponing, Siegel called it. Sweet. (Still, he creeped folks out a bit talking up Bluecasting“”drive by, and your [mandatory] Bluetooth headset chirps “œC’mon in, Ray . . . $10 off on an oil change for your Lexus today!”

Shades of Minority Report. Good afternoon, Mr. Takagawa . . .

Anyway, the future is bright through these glasses. Panelist Samuli Hanninen, the Director and Head of Ovi Product Marketing at Nokia (hey, it was the Finnish embassy, who’d you expect””Motorola?) got the geeks worked up a bit with visions of phones (sorry, mobile devices) supporting web runtime, and yes””Flash. “œWe currently have 300 million phones in the market that support Flash,” he noted, “œand we’re working closely with Adobe to do more.” (Stick that in your pipe, Steve.)

The iPhone AppStore has generated in the range of $100M in revenue, according to InfoMedia’s Ken Burge. (Lightspeed Ventures’ Jeremy Liew has an interesting take on Apple’s take here.) Not huge, but then it’s really a driver of hardware sales.

Burge and others expect Android to eventually eclipse the iPhone (Google was to be represented on the panel, but got waylaid in travel).

All in all, a great evening, upbeat discussion””and extremely well moderated by Hussain.

Here are some salient bullets, in my view. (For another view, see the Top 10 Tweets)

  • Stretch your dev dollars by developing in-house, and incentivize your stars by offering a revenue share.””KB
  • Cloud computing will play more and more into the architecture, taking over processing and storage once bandwidth (4G?) is sufficient, rendering mobile devices little more than thin clients.
  • Make sure your mobile app has “˜share’ functionality””help spread it, duh.
  • Try to figure out ways to be paid when your audience makes use of your content, as in couponing. “œBake revenue into your content.”””JS
  • Stay focused on the business model.””KB
  • Make sure you have the right people on your team. “œGreat thinkers, yes . . . but also flexible, and with a sense of humor.”””KB
  • Context is key. “œRemember to keep it personal.”””SH
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. “œCreate several apps””if one takes off, your others can feed off its success.”””KB
  • Be ever mindful of privacy issues. “œIt has to be good for the consumer.”””SH
  • And stick with it. “Stay stubborn.”””SH

Not motivated enough? Check out Entrepreneur magazine’s roundup of iPhone moneymakers.