Kevin McMahon


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Thoughts on the Day of Mobile conference

Here is a collection of thoughts that I had about the Day of Mobile conference held at IIT last Saturday. This was the inaugural conference put together by the Tech in the Middle guys, and I thought that they did a great job. I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Overall Themes

Two main themes that emerged during the sessions: the future of mobile is web-based apps rather than device specific apps, and the road to mobile riches probably doesn’t run through an app store.

Multi-platform development is hard

Certainly scenarios exist where multi-platform apps make sense, but it is imperative that the risk/reward ratio be in your favor to have a chance to be successful. Don’t underestimate the amount of effort and headaches that developing and supporting multi-platform apps will create. Going the mobile web app route has it’s limitations, but it is the closest thing to “write once, run anywhere” that mobile has.

Cool Tools

Really cool tools like PhoneGap and jQTouch are out there that help lower the barriers to making apps and, in the case of PhoneGap, multi-platform apps. Both tools have been released under MIT licenses and are free to use.

One Man’s Secret Sauce for Success

David Whatley gave a funny presentation that provided a lot of laughs and some great insights into how the iPhone app store works. Even better was his ability to back up what he was saying with some real sales data and numbers. His secret sauce for success: PR, code re-use, and playing to your strengths.

App stores are glorified catalogs

Standing out or even being noticed amongst all the other apps is extremely difficult. Relying only on the app catalog to drive sales is effectively a “post and pray” strategy akin to trying to win the lottery. Try to find a niche and solve a problem. Focus on creating value for markets not just an app for it. Mark Murphy described many ways to make money in mobile other than direct app sales during his talk and in a series of blog posts about Android Business Models.

Overall, the signal-to-noise ratio at the conference was good but not great. I did manage to glean at least one or two new ideas from most of the sessions I attended, and it was great to see the enthusiasm that the Chicago tech community has for events like this.