After a three year hiatus, I'll be visiting the Mobile World Congress 2012 (MWC) from next Tuesday to see how the landscape has changed after the "app revolution".
MWC, the mobile industry's annual get-together, starts on Monday, February 27th. About 60,000 people will descend on Barcelona from all parts of the globe hoping to hawk their wares, find suppliers, establish new relationships or renew old ones. It's like a week of corporate speed dating.
For small developers, especially those who self-fund and lack the deep pockets necessary to set up a stand, MWC represents a yearly dilemma.
- Attending MWC can be expensive (see my earlier post on avoiding extortion).
- It's a huge stage for a small developer so it's easy to blend into the background.
- Even if you do get there, most people on stands are there to sell, not to be sold to.
So what's the point in turning up?
When Airsource started 5 years ago, it was virtually impossible to make money selling software directly to consumers. The only hope you had was to establish a relationship with an operator or a handset manufacturer. There were so many people trying to do this that only the well-funded - with significant sales teams - could hope to endure the year-long sales cycle.
Today, app stores allow developers to find customers and sell to them without needing to engage with either operators or device manufacturers. What makes or breaks a device for a consumer is less about the whizzbang hardware features and more about how users can extend the experience of ownership by buying apps. The balance of power is shifting away from the few organisations who can license radio spectrum or build mass-market mobile phones and towards the developers who write the apps.
The last time I attended MWC was 2009. Apple's appstore was growing fast. The iPad did not exist. Small software companies were viewed with mild amusement and general skepticism.
Today I can tell my barber that my company writes apps and he understands me. Everybody seems to have ideas for apps. An explosion of creativity is taking place. Possibilities seem endless.
So I want to see how this new reality is changing things. Over the next week I'll be posting regularly as I investigate the effects on both the mobile behemoths and the little guys, Airsource included.