Monday, March 1, 2010
Flashback! Device pre-loads on Android
Flashback a few years in the mobile industry and the absolute Holy Grail of any mobile application business was landing a coveted slot pre-loaded on the device. The difference in sales potential for a pre-load vs. app/game in the storefront was immense. Landing a pre-load involved having a great relationship with the operator and strong ties with the handset manufacturer. The individuals with these skills and relationships were surprisingly few in number which is probably why if you picked up a feature phone in the years 2004-2009 you probably were greeted by titles like Jewel Quest, Tetris or Bejeweled. (Note: This business still exists and is critically important to guys like Glu, Gameloft and EA Mobile).
Along comes the iPhone and the game changed completely. No pre-loads and operator relationships didn't make any difference in the world. For it while, in the press, it started to sound like operator relationships did mean anything.
Now wait a minute....
Take a look at the recent announcement by AT&T regarding their first Android phone the Backflip (see Engadget video below). Pre-loaded on the device are AT&T apps including AllSport GPS, AT&T Maps, AT&T Music (which takes the place of the standard Music app), AT&T Navigator, AT&T Wi-Fi Hotspots, Mobile Banking, MobiTV, MusicID, Where, and YPmobile.
Hmmm now wait a minute, who is choosing these apps???? You better believe it is the operator. It is not surprising to see companies with strong operator relationships making the cut (MobiTV and Where for example). You can see similar examples going on over at Sprint.
For those of you who've discounted the position of the operators in the new App world, clearly they aren't going to go down without a fight. Moves like these to dictate what is shipped pre-loaded on the device clearly show the operators aren't given up their power as kingmaker easily. Congrats to MobiTV and Where for making the cut and for all you mid-sized developers out there....time to find someone who knows the operators if you really want to add rocket fuel to your user acquisition.