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Free iPhone Business Apps?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on June 11, 2008

Analyst Gene Munster recently surveyed 20 developers attending Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWCD). He found that half of the developers were working on enterprise applications for the iPhone, and that 71% of all applications they were working on will be made available to consumers for free. What this means is that many developers will be making business applications for the iPhone available for free.

That make one think furiously. Until now, most mobile application developers have charged users for business applications such as fancy scheduling and customer relationship management software. But what if that were to change, and these applications were to become free? For companies watching their budgets, that may increase iPhone’s appeal quite a bit. After all, if you pay $20 a person for a particular application, and you have 1,000 mobile workers, those costs do add up. The move could hurt software companies that currently sell mobile software. It could also hurt mobile software retailers that share into revenues from business applications.

The big question is: How can developers make money on free mobile software for businesses? Unlike consumers, business users aren't likely to agree to view ads. Still, I think business users won't object to sponsorships -- say, a sponsor's name displayed in the corner of a cell-phone screen. Some developers may also want to offer free iPhone applications as part of their own marketing, as a gesture of goodwill. Others may simply bundle mobile into their PC licensing fee.

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Reader Comments


June 13, 2008 01:28 AM

Umm... 20 developers? Maybe Gene Munster should figure out how to take an accurate sample size so we can get reliable statistics.

Makes 71% understandably unbelievable.


June 13, 2008 08:54 AM

Just like the gaming industries' growing philosophy 'Free 2 play' games, 'Free 2 use' apps for iPhone like, Tsheets' time tracking software is the way to go.

The concept is simple enough, the software is free to use, but if you want additional content (in the gaming world) or features (in the business world), that's where you've got to start forking it over.


June 13, 2008 01:27 PM

I think a lot of developers will switch from free to a freemium model. It seems to be the way a lot of Web 2.0 companies are moving. Offer some benefits for free, and then work upwards in price to true enterprise functionality.

I don't think its possible to maintain and develop strong enterprise applications in the long run on sponsorships. Its just not enough money, and it doesn't scale. Companies using a sponsorship model will be constantly scratching for cash instead of having an income stream to put towards new development.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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