After listening to Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm talk about where they are focusing, which unsurprisingly includes health care and remote patient monitoring, the panel at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit on who is making money in the mobile space went off into much more interesting business models. They convinced me we have only begun to see money made on mobile platforms — ANY mobile platforms.
Moderated by Mark Newhall, co-founder of IdeaWave Solutions and INmobile.org, the panel consisted of Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous,, which develops social games for the iPhone; Simon Khalaf, CEO of Flurry, a mobile analytics firm; Matt Murphy, a KPCB partner in the space; Dorian Porter, CEO of Mozes, a text company; and Purnima Kochikar, a VP at Nokia. Yes, I knew mobile was coming, and has been coming for a decade, but a lot of my assumptions were outdated.
First of all, as you may have expected, the iPhone changed everything. People now pay for things they wouldn’t pay for before on the web. Music was obviously first, but Bart Decrem said that although he thought a million users in a year was an audacious goal, Tapulous is now in its second year and has 15 million unique installs and about 10 million users. Its revenue has doubled every twelve months. And that’s “just” a gaming application–TapTap Revenge. He thinks he will get to be a $100m company.
He also noted an amazing engagement on the Apple platform, which means people actually keep the apps on the phone and interact with them. That’s important because it makes way for in-application ecommerce and advertising. And every time he releases a new product now, his revenue spikes.
So clearly mobile is a disruptive platform, and application developers are already making money. There are 64,000 apps in the App store now, and $.99 can be a profitable price point. The app store is actually growing at 25x the rate of iTunes, and even the paid apps part is growing at 7X ITunes. A lot of money will be made in software.
Who is not making money right now? Carriers. Formerly in control of the show, they are now buying business, hoping to make it up in volume later, as big brands enable online marketing strategies and they can take a piece of the revenue. That kind of direct marketing through mobile devices is still in its infancy.
After all the talk about iPhones, it was fascinating to hear Purinima talk about Nokia. She’s got the global view outside of smart phones, and she said Nokia has realized two areas that people will pay for, even in developing countries whose populations do not have smart phones.
1) Complete indulgences – games, efarts, etc. Ads work here, on premium game content. Video ads inside gaming content are much better targeted, and pull good CPMs and different CPMs. So different that the Army uses in-game ads for recruiting tools and find them extremely effective. The Army’s entire business process has been altered by its use of mobile gaming applications.
2)Self-improvement – the bottom of the pyramid really wants to pay for this, and they are the long tail. There are entire
populations discovering things on the phone instead of the PC. Their three high priority needs: Get ahead in life, get more money, get a wife. They will pay for this, usually on a cash subscription model. Smart phones are only 10% of the market globally, the rest still being feature phones. Feature phones can be enabled to give access to lots of apps through proxy browsing, and that will teach many young people in developing countries to move up to smart phones, which are aspirational to them today.
FCarriers, out of power in the new environment, are now interested in supporting multiple app stores. Similar business interests around mobile ads, mobile marketing, mobile payments will encourage carriers to move fast and participate in direct-to-consumer economy. They can participate by setting up open stores. They can’t control anything. (Decrem: For iPhone, Apple controls the carriers and app developers don’t even have to deal with carriers anymore.)
Final words of advice to would-be successors to Tapulous: develop first for the iPhone, and then for Android. Blackberry’s a distant third that needs to get its act together, and for Palm, it’s too early to tell. It is, however, a land grab right now in the mobile space.