Friday, June 10, 2005


Building mobile applications

I was thinking the other day, how do software shops that only build Tablet PC applications survive? If Microsoft just passed the 1 million mark on tablet pcs sold, how many tablet pc only applications are really being sold? I'm thinking of apps like Math Journal, Math Calculator, Tablet Calendar, TEO, etc?

I'm convinced that the future is not in building the next tablet pc killer app. If it were, companies like TEO and xThink would be being bought out. We've seen plenty of standalone Tablet PC apps come out, but nothing ever seems to stick.

I am convinced, however, that companies must be ink-enabling or at least be programming in context awareness into their applications. If they don't, they are giving away a key competitive advantage to their competitors. Companies like Buzz Bruggerman's ActiveWords gets it. He is doing a fantastic job of using Tablet PC technology to tap into an already stellar keyboard driven program. Another company that gets it is MindJet. They took an already impressive and productive app in MindManager, and made it even more productive for Tablet PC users.

What are some applications that need to be ink-enabled? Full-featured bible study applications like Libronix. Web research tools, like Onfolio. Electronic book readers like Microsoft Outlook for goodness sakes. And here is the worst: Acrobat. Of all the products on this list that need true ink-enabling, its' Acrobat.

Its' been close to three years since the launch of the Tablet PC. Shouldn't we be seeing some progress in this area already? If we are not, is this saying something of the Tablet PC market, or is it saying something about the software development companies?

The software business is a tough one. A company cannot survive on selling $39 downloads, unless they are Microsoft or Adobe. A company needs to seek any competitive advantage it can to differentiate their product from the masses - ink enabling your applications will do that. In addition, building applications that work well with the keyboard and the pen is certainly the better route to go, rather than building pen only applications. I just don't see much of a future for pen only applications. The convertible tablet pc will drive the tablet pc market.

If you have questions about any of this, post a comment or visit the Tablet PC Partners site.
I guess it depends on what you mean by "survive". TEO sells enough to pay all my bills while I work on other higher ticket products like I'm doing with VoIP. And also there is going to be another TEO version. But my expenses are low, I don't have employees, and my support burden is low (and can and should be lower if I would just get off my butt and automate some things).

In fact, I wonder what has happened to the old fashioned Shareware developer that sustains himself off of his software sales? It can't be that hard anymore, can it? Find a niche and fill it.
Brett Simmons from Netnewswire 'survives' on his application, too.
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