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A silver lining for developers

Like gold bullion, Treasury bonds and the booze industry, the new mobile application stores that are beginning to surface may actually benefit from Wall Street’s implosion.
Like many of the rest of us, application developers are gnawing fingernails as they watch the financial meltdown and plot their futures. Developers’ blogs are rife with warnings to stop chasing long-term waterfall models and costly front-end models and in favor of cheaper, more modest endeavors.
Which makes the wireless path look pretty good. The App Store and Android Market have removed nearly all barriers to entry for developers, effectively removing network operators and their cumbersome certification processes and allowing developers to sell their wares directly to consumers with minimal – or perhaps no – regulation. And there are other reasons wireless is becoming more attractive to the guys in the garage:
–Open source. Businesses will increasingly shy away from paying expensive licensing fees to proprietary vendors as the financial turbulence continues, while open source-based efforts like Android and Symbian may thrive.
–Application price points. While I may not be as likely to buy my favorite baseball sim on the PC as I was a few months ago, I’m still don’t mind shelling out a couple of dollars for a mobile game that keeps me amused for an hour or two at the airport.
The cloud. On-demand, cloud-based services offer an opportunity for cheap deployment, ramping up costs as traffic increases.
Smartphone prices continue to fall even as their functionality increases. And while some consumers may lower their rate plans as they look for ways to make ends meet, nobody is going to ditch the phone to save a few bucks.
There is plenty of cloud accompanying this sliver lining, of course. Many developers will have fewer resources to address the ever-fragmenting market of mobile platforms, forcing them to build to just one or two of the offerings on the market – and, perhaps, speeding the consolidation of a space that has just begun to expand. Also, the free applications that have gained substantial traction in Apple’s App Store may dwindle as developers spend more time trying to pay the rent and less time building giveaways.
But there’s enormous room for growth in the space: Figures released from Accenture this week indicate that 79% of U.S. consumers never use their phones to play games on the go, and that 18- to 24-year-old users are far more willing to embrace social networking and pay for mobile goodies than their parents.
Enticing consumers to pay for frivolous mobile content won’t be easy, of course, as the financial tremors are increasingly felt by mainstream consumers. For developers, though, mobile users may be the lowest-hanging fruit around.


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