John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · 18 December 2003
Educating the Mobile Applications Consumer
Industry has long been anticipating surging growth in the wireless applications arena, but buying software for a cell phone does not seem to have caught on with the average consumer yet. Part of the reason seems to be a lack of education--consumers either don't know it's possible or more likely just have not gotten into that way of doing things. When consumer microwaves first came out in the early 1960s they languished for years for the simple reason that people were used to cooking with ovens and sheer inertia prevented them from using the microwave even though it was more convenient. Eventually that changed and the momentum shifted in favor of the microwave which took off. Mobile operators are hoping the same thing will happen on a shorter time scale with mobile applications.

Sun has been ramping up support for mobile applications. They are inviting developers to submit applications to their revamped mobile applications portal which has improved greatly. Originally the Java site featured trashy models and advertised cheesy games. Now they have a much better organized site that features adults clad in business garb and productivity and messaging applications get equal billing with games--an important change.

I have commented before on what a distraction the obsession with "games" has been for the mobile carriers. They just don't get that the customers who shell out $400 for a phone aren't interested in playing sokoban. Using email or a spreadsheet, and that is a different story. Sun seems to have finally clued in to this basic fact and now divides their mobile portal into four sections: games, productivity, messaging & sharing, and news. Hopefully mobile carriers will also start to figure out that there are computer programs other than games eventually.

The reason that Sun has been investing strongly in their mobile portal (which actually allows consumers to buy applications) is that this is a growing revenue source for them. Java on the desktop is given away free, but when Java is installed on a phone Sun gets a license fee for every phone. They have been staring at charts showing their hardware sales going down and their mobile licensing fees going up and finally even the bean counters are saying, "Hey, maybe we should invest more in this Java thing." Good for them.

Unfortunately you cannot buy mobile apps from Sun you just get redirected to the vendors web site who then directs you to the carriers they sell through, but its a start. The important thing is that Sun is improving the visibility of cell phone applications and bringing them into the mainstream. There are a lot more phones than computers. Maybe one day software sales will reflect that.

Developer Diary · · bio · Revised 18 December 2003 · Pure Content