From the experts: Advice for building a better app business

With the recent releases of updated iPhone and Android operating systems as well as the introduction of Palm's fledgling webOS platform, there are more opportunities for aspiring mobile developers than ever before--and more challenges. Compatibility issues are already brewing for iPhone 3G S apps--in addition, analysts contend that Android faces mounting fragmentation threats while the scarcity of apps for the Palm Pre is also cause for concern. Factor into the equation the glacial evolutionary pace of Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, concerns about buggy BlackBerry devices and Symbian's continuing struggle to gain a foothold in the U.S. market, and it becomes more difficult than ever for neophyte developers to pinpoint which OS best serves their creative and commercial aspirations.

FierceDeveloper asked a range of mobile software executives and thought leaders to offer their best advice for developers looking to enter the business:

Focus on web runtimes and open standards. This business is about a short path--focus on investing in areas where you have a short path to market. Don't build for scenarios where you have a lot of taxation, or no influence over the future development of the platform. And to Apple developers, I would say ‘Be wary.' Don't just consider the short term revenues--focus on the mid- to long-term." --Lee Williams, executive director, Symbian Foundation


Craig Cumberland, Director of WRT Tools and Technologies, Nokia All developers recognize that the mobile space is one where growth is exponential--the challenge is that we've always catered to native application developers. We [need] to give Web developers the right tools that they're familiar with and create the kind of professional development environment they're used to. Developers should be able to use what they know to build what they want." --Craig Cumberland, Director of WRT Tools and Technologies, Nokia


--Joel Comm, CEO, InfoMediaIf you have an idea, pursue it--but make sure you do the market research to make sure there's a need and consumer demand. We have whiteboards full of ideas--we've thought of 50 ideas for mobile applications, but we have to be careful picking which ones we'll do. A good spur-of-the-moment idea won't necessarily sell." --Joel Comm, CEO, InfoMedia


Chee Wong, COO, ShazamAlways start with a clear story you can tell. People who make movies talk about storyboarding, where you break down the plot and action. In the application development world, it's the same thing. Keep it simple--don't throw the kitchen sink of features into one application. It will confuse users and make the application unnecessarily complicated." --Chee Wong, COO, Shazam


Mark Ruddock, CEO, Viigo You need to start everything with the user--ask yourself the question of what the user will find really useful or fun, and what you have to do to optimize that experience. Ultimately, that's who you're selling to. You need to build something that someone really, really wants. In addition, you need to understand the platform carefully. It's impossible for a startup to try to be all things to all platforms--that's a very difficult and expensive task." --Mark Ruddock, CEO, Viigo


Mike Davis, Co-Founder, Meet Now LiveBe prepared to go at it alone. There's a lack of funding out there, so be prepared to have some revenue coming in. We haven't gone after funding and we're generating revenue. Also, stay current on different codes and devices--you have to be able to move quickly. We're always catching up on new codes and devices. If someone accesses the site from a different device, we have to be ready to offer them a user experience comparable to what you get on other phones." --Mike Davis, co-founder, Meet Now Live


Jordan Christensen, Product Manager, Shortcovers Write for a platform you love. All of our developers carry and use and love the devices they work on. As soon as our Palm team got their hands on the Pre, they couldn't put it down. If you develop for a platform you love, you'll build a better app." --Jordan Christensen, product manager, Shortcovers

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