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August 13, 2009

Build it and, well, who knows who will come?

BOSTON, USA – One thing every company in the world believes that what they do is the greatest and the whole world wants them. There’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, companies pop up to meet a gap in the market, or to try to make something better than the incumbent. Just look at the number of mobile phones and manufacturers out there.

But I think there are times when you can have a great product, offer it the way the market demands you to offer it, and then nothing happens. It’s like building the best mouse trap and no one beats a path to your door. Or, more often, you take the time and effort to create something and folks use it in ways you never expected. Sometimes that’s a delight, like SMS, and sometimes it’s an embarrassment, like, well, read on below.

It’s a cut and slash sorta world
I’m going to poke at a competitor and poke at ourselves. The first poke comes from a funny article by Charlie Brooker, of the Guardian. In an article about paying for content, he spends a lot of time joking about “iPhone apps he’d like to see.” Despite Apple’s latest string of diligent app-slashing (Jordan Golson has a nice list, as well), many apps that make it into the app store are frivolous (can I say “fart” on this site?).

It’s not really Apple’s fart fault. They built an amazing app distribution system and all developers really want to make are beer-guzzling, gun-shooting, fart-making apps. And people are buying them.

Just a disclaimer, I really don’t know what’s going on inside the Ovi Store approval process, but they have one just the same. You have to, if you want a proper app channel. But Nokia sometimes gets hit with the opposite problem.

(H)Open for business
From what I have heard, the Ovi Store has been growing well (like I said way back when, the Ovi Store folks are shy and haven’t shared any stats with me in a while). And there are a ton of great apps for Nokia phones, some of which are only on Nokia devices. Still, that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to point out that despite S60 being “open to possibilities,” it really depends on the developers to close any gaps there might be. So, sometimes I think there are decisions to leave something out of an S60 device, with expectations of a partner (like Mail for Exchange) or a clever independent developer (like Gravity) creating something that’s needed.

I feel that the whole SIP client story is one of those (no flames, please). Nokia took out the client expecting IT departments and independent developers to create a better SIP client. Sure, there are VoIP clients, which cover the majority of folks. But the folks who want a proper SIP client on their phone ended up not having any developer make anything for them.

Usually, independent developers drive innovations in a platform, whether it be Windows or Symbian or whatnot. In the case of SIP, when Nokia built a phone, with all the foundation needed for SIP, no one came – no Cisco, no IBM, no one.

I suppose device manufacturers, like Apple and Nokia, need to keep cajoling and encouraging developers to innovate and fill functionality gaps that are present in all devices. In my many years in the industry, I have heard many stories of how independent developers have transformed a platform in ways the original creator never thought.

As the new app stores take the mobile app market to a new level, it’s even more important that the selection be rich and plentiful. And useful, too.

What do you think? What are the gaps that frustrate you (SIP, folks, no need to repeat yourselves)? How will you find what you need and sort through the chaff?

Image from laffy4k