Mobile Roadie has made a name for itself providing a platform for content owners to publish mobile apps for Android and iOS devices without needing any special expertise. “If you can type an email, you can make an app,” is how Michael Schneider, the CEO speaking from LeWeb in Paris, describes the service. Today Mobile Roadie is expanding to make those apps available on BlackBerry devices – a much-needed tweak, says Schneider, because developing for RIM’s App World has been a challenge.
Mobile Roadie, as the name might suggest, has built out its customer base with an emphasis on performers, particularly music performers.
“We started in music because we had connections, and saw a lot of demand from [smaller] labels that couldn’t afford to put money into app development.” Although the big winners have actually been from big acts that probably could afford a bit of in-house app development: Recent hits have included, in the UK, the Take That app, which had 150,000 downloads in 10 days.
RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) apps available from today include those from Diddy, Taylor Swift, Madonna,
Bill Cosby and the Miami Dolphins. “But it can works for any brand with a fanbase or customer base, even a church.” Prices for the service range from £399 ($630) to set up the app in the basic edition, plus £25 ($40) for 1,000 installs of the app; to £3,999 ($6,319) for unlimited installs of the pro edition of the service.
To date, 800 unique apps have been created through the service, with about 1,300 overall if you count those on multiple platforms.
– The RIM app opportunity: Schneider believes there is “pent up demand among consumers” for more apps in the App World. He says that BlackBerry users fall into two camps: “It’s a cross between ‘I don’t know what these things called apps are’ and ‘I’m jealous and wish there were more apps for my BlackBerry.”
Research indicates that in the U.S. Blackberry devices led in mobile internet usage in November: again this could be down to that lack of compelling consumer apps in the RIM app store.
Developing for the BlackBerry platform, says Schneider, has been more complicated, which he says comes down to the SDK for the App World being more complex than SDKs for, say, the iPhone or Android platforms. He says this might get easier in future iterations of the App World, noting that the PlayBook SDK will incorporate Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) Air.
– Conservative on future platforms: “I think the mobile web is a tremendous opportunity, but users don’t really care about mobile web vs native apps. And by far the best experience is still on the native app.” On Windows: “Windows Phone 7 is definitely interesting although I don’t know how many more platorms the world can support,” he says. Like others, he believes the next 12-18 months will see further consolidation around two or three platforms: iPhone (iOS), Android and maybe one other. “But I don’t see six or seven operating systems.”
How does Mobile Roadie get around the fragmentation in apps, particularly the Android platform? He says the service tries to create a balance between lowest common denominator and best user experience: so certain features like push notifications only turn on when devices support them.
For now, the apps are divided between paid and free, with the majority being free and subsequently selling related merchandise and music via third-parties like the iTunes store. Advertising is next on the cards: Schneider says they expect to announce partnerships for this in January.