iPhone apps rush = fools gold, cross platform development the solution

Infoworld has just published a cautionary tale for developers thinking of joining the iPhone gold rush: there may not be real gold in them thar hills.

Despite the tales of success often proclaimed loudly from many news sites, it seems most iPhone App developers are not having such an easy time of it. Like casinos which publicize every million dollar win but ignore the millions that lose, one need to look beyond the layers of propaganda.

Peter Tenereillo, founder and president of Trapster, shared his experience with Infoworld. His first lesson is that, unlike the percieved wisdom, apps in the iPhone do not sell themselves. Marketing, marketing and still more marketing is needed. Secondly, its quite possible to have many, many users but not make any money off them. The many ad-driven applications common in the app store will just not make any significant money of the small iPhone user base.

The iPhone also brings with it limitations, such as not being able to multi-task applications, a particular problem for apps which need to run constantly, such as Tenereillo’s Trapster, which warns motorists of traffic speed cameras.

A key part of Tenereillo’s strategy is to run on a variety of platforms; Trapster supports 10, including Symbian, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry. After all, the installed base of the iPhone is measured in just the tens of millions, a fraction of mobile users worldwide. Companies which ignore the need for a large cross section user base, such as Njection Mobile were forced to cut prices on Apple’s App Store from $9.99 to 99 cents, says founder Shannon Atkinson. Atkinson founded Njection Mobile with his own money. “Right now, it’s flying out the window,” he says ruefully.

The app store is certainly making a lot of money for Apple, but developers late to the rush should consider carefully if placing all their eggs in Apple’s basket is the best thing.

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