Numbers that Count

For those of you who know me, I can still get a little freakish about numbers. So, from a really interesting article about mobile devices and Java ME I saw over the last week, two numbers stood out for me. For developers trying to figure out how to reach a wide audience for their application, those numbers are: 2.7 million and zero.

2.7 million is the number of mobile phones that were sold, on average, every single day in 2007 around the world. Now, I \*heart\* my iPhone, its a wonderful device, but the iPhone reached the million mark 74 days after its launch. That's 74 days to sell as many iPhones as it took just 9 hours to sell as many mobile devices.

Zero is the cost of entry to develop an application for Java ME, which is deployed today on many of that staggering number of devices (for a complete list, see here). No complicated agreements to get the Java ME SDK, the development of the platform is out in the open, so everyone sees it unfold at the same time. Better still, the free visual development environment for Java ME has been pretty great for some time now.

Two numbers that add up to a great way to reach a lot of people.


Your "zero" does not count the cost of paying ridiculous amounts of money to the Unified Testing Initiative if you want to obtain a certificate to access most of the useful APIs. Plus manual purchase of certificates for the older handsets that don't support UTI. More complaining

Posted by Sam Halliday on August 21, 2008 at 09:07 PM PDT #

That's a fair point but a very single sided view. To put forward a good case you need to consider all factors such as:

1) The percentage of the market that you as a developer can secure. For example, say, 20% of iPhone customers have installed an App and there is a culture of paying for Apps. On the other hand, what percentage of the 2.7 million "others" have actually ever installed an App? Maybe the number of users willing to install your App is larger on iPhone?

2) Barrier to \*complete\* development. The upfront "cost" may be zero, but usually tooling/access/certification costs are dwarfed by actual development time-to-market costs. If I'm going to develop a solution for the 2.7 million "other" devices, do I have to spend a fortune testing on different devices, screen sizes, and produce a compromized lowest-common-denominator solution? Maybe zero cost on day one, but who cares about $99 when I'll have to spend thousands on porting and testing. The iPhone offers one big advantage here... one platform, one code base (at least at the moment).

3) Barrier to market. If I developer an iPhone app, I can throw it on App Store and could start making money within hours. How much is it going to cost me in marketing costs to get the same access/exposure in the "other" market?

I'd encourage you to think more about this. Try a little thought experiment: Take the top five applications in the iPhone App Store and consider:

\* Can I actually port these to Java ME devices? IF so, what actual percentages of devices would have the features/grunt to run them?

\* If I did do the development (and porting), how much would it cost me to market the app and get the same market exposure?

\* Would the developer make more money if it was targeted at the 2.7 million other devices. Or if money is not your goal, then would I end up with more users?

I think the answer would be no on all accounts for most applications.

The point is that you cannot selectively pick a few "numbers" and make an argument. You need all the numbers to solve the equation.

IMHO it's imperative that Sun, the Java Community, (and the lobbyists, etc.) do the work to get Java on the iPhone. Lets just do the work or what ever is required. Sitting around patting ourself on the back lulling ourself into a false sense of security in the meantime is not going to help.

Posted by Chris on August 25, 2008 at 02:30 PM PDT #

The figures you cite for the iPhone refer to the "old" model. The iPhone 3G sold 30 millions in the first month.

Posted by guest on August 25, 2008 at 05:48 PM PDT #

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