Mobile Software Development: 3 Predictions on the Evolution of the Apps-on-demand Business

This is the third and last article in a series of 3 on developing software for the mobile market. In the first article of this series, I gave my view on the evolution in the mobile apps space, from amateur apps to professional agencies. The second article discussed why we don't see that much startups launching killer apps. In this last article I'll make 3 predictions on how the apps-on-demand business will evolve.

The market for mobile apps is booming, that is clear. Demand for developers of mobile apps booms equally. Many new agencies and apps-on-demand type of companies are entering the market. The competition between agencies will increase, putting pressure on prices and margins. Give it a couple more years, and mobile development will become a "commodity".

This will change how many of the apps-on-demand businesses work. Here are 3 predictions of mine on how some of the apps-on-demand businesses will evolve over the coming years. (Hint: we saw a similar evolution in web development.)

1. Apps-on-demand turning product companies. Some apps-on-demand businesses will develop similar applications over and over again for different customers. For example: they developed mobile apps that publish relatively static content in an iPad friendly format. After having done some similar projects in that space, the apps-on-demand company might start to wonder if it is possible to "productize" those apps in an attempt to brake out of the pure project business. With such a product, the company hopes to create some scaling effect through product sales. A variation on this theme are project companies building "internal products" (often frameworks or components) that are reused across projects. They hope to deliver their projects faster thanks to these internal products.

2. Climbing the value chain with additional services. While initially exclusively focusing on the development of mobile apps, some apps-on-demand companies might realize that their customers do need more than just the mobile app; they actually need help with understanding the possibilities that mobile technology might offer them. Apps-on-demand companies that go through this path will aim at becoming a partner rather than a supplier for their customers: they will help their customers innovate! Rather then just being a developer, companies following this scenario will adopt a on-stop-shop approach towards their customers, helping them with all aspects of going mobile: planning campaigns, copywriting, change management, development, deployment and follow up once the app is live.

3. Specialization. While initially taking all projects that have the word mobile in them, some apps-on-demand builders will focus more and more on certain technologies and will try to build a reputation as the experts in technology XYZ. Examples could be: experts in iOS or Android (which, I admit, is a rather broad technology domain), experts in augmented reality, experts in usability and design for mobile, NFC, mobile payment, etc. For those companies, R&D (research and development) will become more important, since they will want to be at the bleeding edge within their area of expertise, following, or better, shaping the trends and future.

What do you think? Do these predictions make sense? Do you already see signs that some apps-on-demand companies are shifting their focus? Looking forward to your comments.