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Should You Market Apps on BlackBerry and Win7?

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Developers looking for ways to expand their app reach often ask whether they should port their iPhone and Android apps to Blackberry, Win7, or elsewhere. Jeff Hughes shows you why you should go where the handset sales are to see more success.
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By Jeff Hughes

Some developers are looking to expand the reach of their apps and are looking at porting their apps to other platforms. Most developers who start out with an iPhone app look to develop their app on the Android platform as well. It's never as easy as doing a simple port, however.

Games, for example, present unique challenges such as screen sizes for graphics and other technical issues that don't make it a fast process to port apps from one operating system to another. Sure, there are game engines that promise cross platform support, but it's never as simple as it sounds.

Contributing to the challenge are the many varieties of the Android operating system running on many different phones.

So the first thing most developers understand is that porting an app to another device is usually not cut and dried.

Beyond the Android OS, some developers are also looking to migrate their apps on the BlackBerry or Win7 platforms. I'm often asked whether it makes sense to do this.

Is there money to be made selling apps on these platforms? What should be the marketing approach? To answer these questions, let's look at some statistics for the BlackBerry and Win7 phones and apps.

Distimo Research (http://www.distimo.com) recently published its July 2011 report, in which it shared the information shown in the following graph.

"The above graph shows the growth rate of games and other apps from January to June 2011. It reveals that despite the popularity and potential of games, the growth rate of the number of applications other than games is higher than the growth rate of the number of games in most stores.

The difference between the growth of games and other applications is the largest in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace: the number of available games increased by 149% while applications other than games increased by 266%. This is quite remarkable especially considering the popularity of games on this platform: 43% of the 300 most popular free and paid applications are games, and among the most popular paid apps, the first 19 most popular apps are all games."

Reading these stats might lead you to believe that it makes sense to sell on these platforms because of the strong growth in apps on these platforms, including game apps. But I would use caution when launching a development project on any platforms other than Apple and Google.

A report from Gartner Research in August 2011 shows that Apple and Google now account for 62% of the global smartphone market. In North America, Apple and Google have recently accounted for 83.5% of smartphone sales.

BlackBerry sales have declined to 11.7% of total phones sold, and Microsoft Win7 has slipped to 1.6% of total smartphones sold just over the last quarter.

In its report Gartner also states that "Gartner analysts observed that these two OSs [iOS and Android] have the usability that consumers enjoy, the apps that consumers feel they need, and increasingly a portfolio of services delivered by the platform owner as well."

While it's possible to make money on these other platforms such as BlackBerry and Win7 because you think you have a lot less competition, you also have many fewer buyers. These mobile platforms have less momentum in phone sales and fewer downloads of apps.

It's like setting up a business on a busy intersection or placing it in some hard-to-find spot: You may have a great app and attract buyers, but you'll have more buyers if you go to where they are.

Notice, too, that many of the large game developers tend to be pretty cautious about moving their apps onto different mobile platforms even when they've seen enormous success on the iPhone or Android. Some developers are even cautious about moving from the iPhone to Android because of the huge commitment in terms of support and development.

Conclusion

Unless you have a clear idea for an innovative app that is currently not for sale on the BlackBerry or Win7 platforms, I would be very careful about developing for them.

As a smaller independent developer you probably won't have the development cycles, money, or support staff to migrate your app to one of these platforms. You're better off staying put on the iPhone/iPad and Android platforms and spend your funds on new apps or marketing your existing apps.

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