This past weekend I had the good fortune to talk with another mobile developer – but not a developer for iOS or Android, but rather from a mobile era already gone by.
I was sitting and talking with Josh because we’re both involved in enterprise mobile development. As we were relaxing and enjoying our coffee, I asked if he was aware that I made mobile apps for consumers in addition to enterprise mobile apps – he wasn’t. So I showed him Wizard’s Orb and he had fun walking through the first few levels. Then he mentioned that he wanted to get back into consumer apps again.
“Oh?” I asked “What do you mean ‘again’ – have you made some apps already?”
“Yes, but not for iPhones. My apps were made before we were calling them ‘apps’, they were still ‘programs’ back then. Did you ever do any development for the Palm OS?”
I thought for a second and then replied, “yes, actually I have. The program that I made for Palm OS was a two-way calendar sync connector; it kept the calendar on your Palm OS device in sync with your calendar at work. I sold a few copies of that program, but really the sales volumes were insubstantial.”
“Well I made programs for Palm OS and Pocket PC. Small games and novelty programs like ‘spin the bottle’. It was great!” Josh was beaming at this point in our trip down memory lane. “I formed a company in 1999 and called it BittySoft – you know, because I was making itty bitty programs. But I haven’t made anything since about 2005.”
So I brought up his web site on my iphone while he was talking, and I stared in wonder:
“Hey your site is still up!” I exclaimed.
“Oh yeah, I still get a few sales each month.”
When I looked at one of the product pages, my jaw dropped a little.
“Wow, $15 for a mobile app… um, I mean program. What does it do?”
“Mobile Moods? It plays relaxing sounds, and you can set a timer so that you can fall asleep listening to those sounds.”
I was still in awe, staring at the screen on my iPhone. I didn’t want to insult his work, but I told him that $15 seemed pretty steep by today’s standards. He laughed and agreed.
“However,” he said, “mobile development was a LOT harder back then. The vendors didn’t supply us with slick drag-and-drop IDE’s, their APIs would change and break things a lot, and they also didn’t have an app store with huge market exposure. The price was fair at the time.”
I wondered what a “typical” current iOS developer’s web site would look like a number of years from today. If they didn’t keep it current, the effect might be about the same as it has been to the BittySoft web site – stuck in time, and a glimpse into mobile development from an era already largely forgotten.
Its not really past though .. 95% of the enterprise (industrial) market is still Windows Mobile or industrialized ‘Pocket PC’ devices .. and this market VERY active. The remaining 5% of this industrial (not consumer) seems to be (mostly) new Palm devices.