The Digital Vibes

Mobile applications
August 4, 2008, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Mobile web | Tags: , , ,

I guess I’m still on the subject of mobile phones. I think the 3.5G iPhone and its surrounding hype left a strong wake for mobile web developers to dovetail.

Nokia recently announced that it’s more than doubling the size of its direct venture investment fund, with an injection of $150 million of which some will specifically be to use in India and China. This is certainly great news for mobile apps developers in Asia.

The New York Times has some great advice here:

Startups should “intelligently hedge their bets across multiple platforms,” advised Richard Wong of Accel Partners. His firm has invested in mobile games and application site GetJar, “the store for the other 3 billion phones that aren’t iPhones,” as Mr. Wong put it.

Rick Segal of Blackberry Partners Fund and JLA Ventures reminded developers that the iPhone only accounts for a tiny share of the worldwide market. In India, for example, Nokia has 70 percent market share. “You must think multi-platform,” he said.

Some investors insisted that multiple mobile platforms — whether Apple’s, Google’s, Research in Motion’s or others — will thrive. Matt Murphy, head of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ $100 million iFund, said most entrepreneurs who pitch him have iPhone applications, but that the platform war “is not a winner-take-all game.”

David Sokolic of Battery Ventures disagrees. He predicts a shakeout akin to the PC market and Microsoft’s Windows, with a clear leader emerging.

So what’s a mobile start-up to do? One solution: introduce new features and applications on the iPhone, then push them out to other types of phones if customers like them. That’s what location-based mobile service Loopt does, said its chief executive, Sam Altman.

Mr. Murphy likes that approach. It takes so little money to roll out an application on the iPhone that “it changes the game for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to see if you have something,” he said.

Another piece of advice: don’t create a mobile version of a Web site that already exists, said Mr. Segal. Instead, figure out a need that is unique to mobile users, like getting directions when you’re lost.

With mobile coming of age, it’s apt to start thinking about marketing and PR strategies that can leverage on this platform once mobile web adoption hits critical mass. If it helps, you may like to know that a few of the most popular new uses for mobile phones are – games, roadside assistance and *drumroll* porn. Big surprise ha?


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