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App developers say ‘future proofing is a loser’s game’

by Carol Pinchefsky

November 27 2013

Mike Barad of Morningstar (right) makes a point during a session at TabletBiz as Jonathan Kay of Apptopia and Michael Singer of TabTimes look on. (Photo: Jeffrey Holmes Photography).
Mike Barad of Morningstar (right) makes a point during a session at TabletBiz as Jonathan Kay of Apptopia and Michael Singer of TabTimes look on. (Photo: Jeffrey Holmes Photography).

In the fruit fly lifecycle of an app, keep your eye on the real future: the users. 

That was some of the advise given in the “App Strategy - A tablet first view of your business” panel at the recent TabletBiz conference & expo in New York.

In the panel, "A 'tablet first' view of your business," Jonathan Kay, Founder of Apptopia, and Mike Barad, Program Director of Mobile Solutions at Morningstar, spoke about the future of apps.

Moderator Michael Singer, business editor of TabTimes, kicked things off by asking, "The lifespan of an app is one to two years, I think we can agree. How do you future proof your application?

"You don't," said Mike Barad, Program Director of Mobile Solutions at Morningstar. "Future proofing is a loser's game."

Barad elaborated. "How do you see down the road? You need to focus on your users, where your users are going to be for the next year or two, rather than [where] will technology be in a few years." Of course, Barad said, you need to keep an eye on risk assessment at the same time.

Kay disagreed about the lifespan of an app. "One or two years is bullxxxx. It's more like two of three months. "Go to the app store and look at the publish dates. There's probably 15 to 20 copycats in three weeks."

Kay also noted that games tend to have an even shorter lifespan.

(To be informed about our future tablet and app conferences, sign up for the TabTimes Events mailing list)

Understand users

Ironically, Kay said that the visionaries and developers who create apps aren't the best people for the job.

"They don't understand their users. They understand their technology. It's why you can't get an app built for less than $10,000."

And apparently they’re not the only ones with a lack of understanding.

Barad said, "The C-level execs I deal with all think they're mobile experts because they all have iPads and smartphones, and because they've graduated from Blackberry to something else, they're experts. Our strategy needs to focus on our users, not our executives."

However, there is one way to future proof your app, particularly against clueless C-suite denizens, mono-minded developers, or even quick-on-the-draw copycats: Have an advantage.

Although he acknowledges that apps may have a two-to-three month lifecycle, Barad said, "The way we build something longer lasting is to build it around the pieces of our IP that are hard to replicate. You can build a competing app, but [Morningstar] has 100 analysts. That's a competitive advantage. That's the basis of a strong foundation."

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