Understanding Developer Psychology

I recently moderated the “Go to Market” panel at Mobile 2.0 last week. I took the path of pretending to be a developer and asking my panelists what I should do.

I started by asking the panel what platform should I build for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I was expecting a very rationale answer based on either monetization or distribution (eg If your want high volume, choose platform X, if you want monetization, choose platform Y, if you want in-app…).

To my surprise, the answers were quite different:

1. Peter at AngryBirds chose iPhone first because they felt that if they couldn’t win on iPhone, then they wouldn’t on any other platform? Basically, they wanted to start in the most competitive marketplace.

2. An audience member chose Android first because he wanted to learn Java (but another said they chose Android first because they knew Java). It’s been so long since I have developed that I forgot how much of choosing a first framework or environment is starting with what you know or the opportunity to learn a new language.

3. Surprisingly or not surprisingly, the majority of the audience hadn’t built an app for a 2nd platform. They built for their initial platform and then of course planned to build and/or port to a 2nd platform but they haven’t yet done so. And this brings up an interesting point, most long-tail developers don’t have the resources to build and maintain for two platforms so the first platform they build for will likely be the platform they will stay with (and this was the case with even a Symbian developer in the audience)

4. This should be obvious but a fair number of folks in the audience chose their first platform based on which phones they own. I’ve been spoiled by living in the Bay Area and do not normally think of access to phone to being the inhibitor but with the broader long-tail, this is absolutely a factor.

5. Most surprising, it was me who mentioned choosing a platform based on monetization and distribution which seemed most rationale to the business person but not necessarily to the long-tail developer community (and psychology).

What criteria do you use to choose your first platform?

Over the Air and Emerging Markets

Two weeks ago in London, I presented at Over the Air on Emerging Market Opps. I thought I’d highlight a couple of the case studies here and embed the presentation (that I hastily put together on the plane 🙂

SMS GupShup – I was amazed to learn that this social network of only 2 years, now represents 7-8% of all SMS volume in India – insane! Who says it’s too late to start a social network? Given Orkut’s and Facebook’s strong presence in India, you’d be skeptical that a new social network would be able to make a dent but SMS GupShups unique approach by making SMS the primary interface worked. Users can chat over SMS and subscribe to various SMS content feeds. SMS GupShup generates revenue primarily through SMS ads appended to each message and/or via sponsored SMS messages sent by SMS GupShup groups.

Nokia Comes with Music – Anyone who has ever worked in the music industry knows that the intersection of music and technology has been an up-hill battle in terms of generating revenue. Numerous startups have died at the will of the labels and others live on a shoe-string trying to make their business model work. In any case, most labels/publishers do not generate any revenue in emerging markets let alone many advanced markets. These markets thrive on piracy apparently with micro-economies of shops that can install pirated music onto your phone for a fee. In an attempt to solve this, Nokia launches Comes with Music which basically means if you buy this specific Nokia phone, you get unlimited full-track download which is naturally restricted by the amount of available storage on your device (but you can of course delete and download more). The cost of the unlimited full-track download service is baked into the cost of the device (estimated to be a $50 premium over the same phone without Comes with Music). Nokia takes a portion of this $50 and returns the remainder to the labels/publishers. Fascinating model and no idea how well it’s working and whether ad-supported music streaming will impact full-track download?

Full presentation with many more use cases below:

The real interesting question out of the Over the Air group was weather these solutions were only stop-gaps and not sustainable in the long-term. For example, SMS as the primary interface or as the communication layer makes sense but once data becomes cheaper and more pervasive and smartphones begin to penetrate, users will flock to the mobile web and apps? The counter argument is that these companies will obviously adapt and leverage their brand accordingly.