John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Wednesday 4 February 2004
Shrinking Screen, Shrinking Revenue
Originally I thought wireless Java MIDlet sales were slow because the public needed to be educated how to install and use them, but now I am not so sure. I am beginning to suspect that there may be a law of computers which can be summarized: shrinking screen, shrinking revenue. The idea here is the smaller the screen, the less revenue the software developer makes. You would think convenience applications and easy games would be popular on cell phones, but for some reason people just aren't buying them. The wireless companies are investing hundreds of millions on promotions like ATT's Tomb Raider initiative and Nokia's crazy discounts and software giveaways. They gave away 70,000 copies of Tomb Raider at the Rose Bowl this winter. If Tomb Raider is so great why is everybody giving it away?

The irony is that Eidos is making money because ATT and Nokia are paying them, but the rest of the small wireless developers (like me) are left out in the cold. Just look at Handango. There are hundreds of J2ME applications none of which have any sales. Every week I get an email from Handango that reads like this:

There were no sales transactions recorded in the last week at Handango.
If you find this an error, please contact us at
I don't know how I would find out if there was an error. Maybe if I bought a copy of my own software and they didn't report it. In any case I keep all these emails in their own folder--dozens and dozens of emails that all say exactly the same thing.

Software for the Palm Pilot does seem to sell copies. Not a lot, but some. Good applications seem to the able to sell 1-10 thousand copies. I think this is because the Palm screens are bigger. Bigger screens more money. Makes sense doesn't it? I can just see the "consumer" weighing a cell phone purchase in their mind, "Well, this shur is a nice program but since the screen is only an inch high I will pay only 11 cents for it." You show the same guy a playstation, "Wow, this screen is big let me get out my credit card."

Is it consumer education or size bigotry (or smallotry)? You be the judge.

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