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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

One step back, two steps forward


As other companies start winding down for Christmas - not so at Mippin HQ. Yesterday marked the launch of our Android application and it's generated a buzz around the office.

The figures have been impressive (we recently passed 3000 downloads in less than 12 hours) and highlight just how important these channels are for everyone involved in the consumer mobile space. (To get the technical details from our Head of Development go here).

Certainly, there are challenges and I'm sure we're not the only ones to have wrestled with the 'should we/shouldn't we?' question of devoting significant time and resource away from our core browser-based offering. For us it's an interesting debate and particularly pertinent given our past experience in producing "Mobizines", a suite of rich downloadable applications for mobile (more about that if you're interested, here). But as the app v browser debate rages on, it's vital to remember the single undeniable piece of good news that underpins the conversation: it's now easier than ever to reach an engaged & dynamic mobile audience.

For us the answer to the 'should we/shouldn't we?' question turned out to be pretty straightforward; the risks of not being part of the new mobile ecosphere far outweigh any potential development costs. In fact, the period of consideration gave us an opportunity to sit back and pick through our product roadmap. If you're considering a similar move, take a look at yours now and ask yourself the following: "Will the features we've planned for our next development sprint/scrum achieve similar returns in terms of reach, market share, influence and product marketing?" I'm reasonably certain I can answer that one for you - they won't, or at least, you'll be extremely lucky if they do.

Despite the fact that the rumours of 1.5m pre-order sales figures for the G1 turned out to be a little shaky, we do know this: that G1 users love mobile. Perhaps even more than iPhone users, they're influencers who live, work and play in the mobile space. So can you really afford not to be a part of their world? We know that iPhone users have already downloaded over 100m apps via the App Store and the data usage is unprecedented. And while we can only guess what the figures will be for Android going forwards, we can take an educated guess that they'll be remarkably similar, if not better.

The app v's browser debate will certainly continue, but in the meantime the reality is this: your product strategy must now take into account the value of both. There are no guarantees and it remains a resourcing headache, but if you're about getting your product into the hands of users as easily as possible then it's a challenge you should relish.

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