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A successful friend and I were chatting recently.

A friend and I were chatting recently. He’s a big name in the games industry and said that he’s getting into mobile gaming. He’s going to do iPhone games. So  I thought “welcome to my industry”, I started to think about what advice he needed, and there was none.  He didn’t need to know about JSRs and the different levels of compatibility: that just having JSR82 meant you could support all the Bluetooth features that you expected. He didn’t need to worry about the complex matrices of screen sizes and compatibility.

But even better he didn’t need to worry about negotiating lots of different business models in different territories, dealing with aggregators where you have to let someone else, often a competitor, sell your work for you or worst of all operators that want to take 80% of the revenue for doing 0% of the work.

The need to cater for the vast number of different phones is linked to the low revenues operators are prepared to pay. If there was more money to be made from a game the software houses could target better and produce a game optimised for a single phone. Phones sell in millions so that should be possible but the operators see to it that it isn’t. And this means that the games are compromised.

Ok so Apple takes 30% but they provide a complete route to market. They supply amazing, flexible tools. Android talks about being open but it’s more talk than fact. You only get the SDK if you are in the clique. Apple gives you an elegant integrated development environment with an emulator and the ability to develop for iPhone or Mac in Java, C, C++ or C#. Android only lets you develop in Dalvik.

Whenever the computer industry has tried its luck in mobile it has failed, but Apple is different. Apple managed to sell the device it wanted to build, not something that conformed to the operators list of non-negotiable terms. Apple managed to get a share of the revenue from the services on the devices it sold. Now Apple has changed the route to market for application developers.

I hope that at last we’ll see the mobile games market grow the way it should. The iPhone will be the success the nGage never was. Nokia failed at selling games on memory cards to circumvent the operator, but Apple with it’s established iTunes mechanism has a much better way around the operators, and you know what, when people start playing multi-player games that generate over the air traffic more and more people will sign up for bundled data tariffs and ultimately the operators will do better from it.

If you are a regular reader you may have noticed the button for the Computer Weekly awards. I’m up against some much more established blogs so I would really appreciate it if you could vote for me in the wireless and mobile blogs category.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.


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Vodafone is a smart company but occasionally falls prey to stock market insecurity.

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The Egyptian network Orascom, in conjunction with Globalive, has won the new Canadian  licence.

I’m not the only one who thinks the operators are taking too much for mobile applications. Motorola’s Steve Baker claims Mobile Apps Are 'Balls-Achingly Difficult.


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