Survival tips from Orange Partner Camp

I'm writing this column from Cape Canaveral, Fla., site of this week's Orange Partner Camp, the multinational operator's semiannual conference for its developer associates. It's not described as a camp for nothing: Orange Partner program head Steve Glagow kicked off Monday's festivities clad in camouflage fatigues, taking an island stage setting festooned with a campfire, jungle masks and stuffed exotic birds. (There was also a healthy dose of camp in the kitschy, Susan Sontag-defined sense of the term--e.g., magicians, dancers, Santa Claus and a memorably bizarre figure best described as The Gimp from Pulp Fiction re-imagined by fashion designer Bob Mackie. But I digress...)

The underlying theme of this Orange event, clearly, is survival. With that in mind, here are some survival tips I picked up during various sessions and briefings on Monday--not tied to any specific service provider, operating system or device platform per se, but rather words of wisdom to consider in the course of the mobile application development process.

Technology has to fade behind services for the benefit of everyone. Consumers need to understand the benefits of mobile services, which means products must be simple. Simplicity hinges on four major elements: Applications must be easy to install, they must be interesting, they must be useful and they must be designed for everyday life.

Applications are fueled by services. The most compelling apps mash together Internet and operator services.

Good function and good design does not necessarily equal a good user experience. Instead, the user experience depends on the particular consumer and their unique needs and context--their surroundings, circumstances and environment.

Consumers are fickle. Killer apps seem to come out of left field--consider the emergence of something like Twitter. It's virtually impossible to accurately forecast which mobile apps are going to catch on with subscribers. So don't even try--instead, make sure you're in position to capitalize when the newest next big thing catches on.

Operators must personalize each subscriber segment, no matter how narrow. A small minority of wireless subscribers still make up the vast majority of mobile application users. Turning the tide means convincing all customers that there exists an application that will change their life for the better. -Jason