The Mobile Developer Journey

I have not abandoned this blog. I have in fact been helping a local company here with their product development. I’ll write further about them in the future, but for now, let’s just say I’m on what Vision Mobile would call the Mobile Developer Journey. The graphic summary of this journey was good enough for me to share.  I wish they had spent a bit more time discussing the monetization challenges, but maybe that’s just my fault for not yet reading their report.

I’ll be back soon with more about my work. In the meantime, enjoy the pretty pictures.

The Mobile Developer Journey

The Real Customer

I enjoyed reading Steve Johnson’s post on who the real customer is over on his Product Marketing blog. I’m not sure if Steve has a Telco background or not, but his comment regarding the person who uses your device being your customer, is spot on for this industry. The  manufacturers who maintain direct contact with their end users tend to be the most successful. There are some who attempt to make their living catering to operator (distributor) wishes like LG and ZTE, but none ever seem to really garner significant mindshare.

Let’s review those that do.


I think we all know this story already. They are the poster child for making operators look like “dumb pipes”. Having completely flanked operators with their retail stores, music and app business, and line of personal devices, they’ve been able over the years to develop strong ties with their consumers. Globally, they’ve never been market share leaders, but those they served were passionate users. Their message rarely has been distorted by middle-men. What is the result? Operators bending over backwards to access that user base, breaking their internal rules and giving up revenue streams.


For years has been the de-facto choice for business users, offering services that other manufacturers either avoided or refused to compete on. So while they are struggling now, they built their success around “Crackberry” addicts. Operators couldn’t help but stock their products for fear of user revolts at their enterprise accounts. Even in the midst of their current troubles, the press and consumers still follow them without fail.


Obviously this story has not finished, but they do seem to be gaining traction at a rapid pace. Whether they continue to do that is still up for debate, however, their recent success is built once again on having a dedicated user base dependent on services that were not developed on the operator level. A “semi-open”approach  versus the walled gardens that operators are famous for have served them well recently.


I hesitate to put them here due to their recent issues with delivering a compelling smartphone. However, they still command close to 40% of the global market. And in markets with less operator control, Nokia is still the standard. Their broad portfolio, targeted to multiple income levels and consumer segments, still has them as a force to be recognized. While not obvious in the US, there are still Nokia fanatics in plenty of other countries.

Manufacturer success is never guaranteed, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that devotion to end-users will be any less successful in the future. It’s sad to think how many operators consider themselves the most important person in the value chain. Obviously they have their own roadmaps to manage, but more often than not, it appears as though they forget who they actually while frustrating their manufacturing partners in the process.

Is Apple Letting Android Live?

In short, no. Android lives on regardless of Apple.

Earlier today, I actually deleted a potential post about what would have happened if there been a CDMA version of the iPhone. After messing around with it for a while I came to the conclusion it doesn’t really matter, the past is past and who knows what would have really happened.

And then TechCrunch runs the article, “Is Android Only Surging Because Apple Is Letting It?

Head-smacking ensued.

They don’t take the revisionist history approach I was going for, but they did lightly touch upon some of the areas I wanted to cover. Namely, why do people choose Android and what would have happened had Verizon been able to get their own iPhone? There were more areas for sure, but since I couldn’t get the post to be anywhere near coherent, I gave it a swift death. In retrospect, maybe I should have just slimmed it down like TechCrunch did.

But if you enjoy thinking about these things, here are some of the areas I was thinking about:

  1. How does one explain the growth of Android in non-U.S. markets like China?
  2. Also, if Apple really wanted to win China, should they do a TD-SCDMA version?
  3. Did people really choose Apple over Android or did the strength of each operator’s channel determine the majority of the choices?
  4. If a CDMA version had existed and therefore no exclusivity with ATT, would Android have been used as a pawn by both ATT and Verizon to gain concessions from Apple? You have to admit, their hardware IS expensive. And I’m sure they’ve been eye-balling the App store of Apple for some time…
  5. Apple famously attempts to defend it’s consumer experience, so could they have effectively supported both a VZW and ATT platform? And if not, how would they prioritize without aggravating the other partner?
  6. With CDMA typically being a more expensive technology, would Apple have accepted the margin hit on their hardware?
  7. Is Apple just sticking around at ATT until LTE comes to Verizon?

Obviously, I have my opinion on these questions, but there is no point in going through them. In the end of my now-deleted piece, I couldn’t think of a compelling reason for why Apple would have ever gone to (or will go to) Verizon before LTE. I just wasn’t comfortable enough to say it with confidence. So what am I getting at with all this? Basically…there is a lot at play, especially in the U.S. market and it wouldn’t be wise to try and simplify Android’s growth around only one or two factors.

MediaTek-Android Deal to Grow Shanzhai Further?

According to a Network World article, Taiwanese firm MediaTek has struck a deal with Google to release low-cost chipsets specifically for Android. For those familiar with the Shanzhai concept and market (read here for more info), this could be a game changer in developing markets where this approach continues to grow in strength.

For those that don’t know, MediaTek has for years been the supplier of a “system on a chip” that many China-based handset manufacturers have used to eat away at the market shares of many mobile giants like Nokia, Moto, and Samsung. Collectively, they are labeled as “Shanzhai” and are as much a culture as a business. Some of them are the source of fake name-brand phones, but many develop their own (creative and hilarious) designs. When you have a company like MediaTek who can provide a cheap hardware solution, it becomes easy for new companies to put out their own phone model.

So how does this new announcement affect the Shanzhai ecosystem?

Even though MediaTek partnered with Microsoft, a lower-cost Android platform provides a real weapon. Not only do they make a significant jump in terms of UI and functionality, they get access to a growing developer base. On some metrics, this could allow them to stay on par with other big-brands using Android, and maybe even ahead of Nokia/Symbian. Obviously they lack the marketing and distribution to really go big, but 1000 little guys each carrying a pretty big gun has the potential to do serious damage to existing players.

Not only is the Shanzhai movement strong in China, but their products are making inroads into India and Africa, which are strongholds of companies like Nokia. Africa is a rapidly growing mobile market, one that is still not yet one. If any of the Chinese manufactures (even a Shanzhai one) were to overcome the perceived issue of Chinese-made products, things could change. And in markets like India, where once again Nokia has a huge brand preference, a Shanzhai-Android combination could start tilting the market. As a market that values new features at an extremely low price, this new type of competitor could sway over many of the locals.

If I had a Hammer…

Google is quickly catching up to Apple’s iOS in terms of professional developer mindshare, so with the introduction of the App Inventor for Android they may have opened up the market to the hobbyist-developer.  It’ll be interesting to see if this tool has the support and flexibility to make this a success, while keeping bloated apps and potential security issues down to a minimum. Regardless, it has to be more capable than the RSS-to-App alternatives.

Good job Google! Here’s hoping for a few heart-warming, garage-entrepreneur stories coming from this announcement…

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