July 24, 2014

Yet More Android Business Models

Back in September, I ran a series of five blog posts on different Android business models, where selling individual apps to individual users through the Android Market (and kin) was just one of the models.

On Saturday (March 6th), I will be speaking at Chicago’s Day of Mobile conference on this topic. I figured it was time to toss out another 9 business models for you to consider.

Again, the goal is to demonstrate that there are many, many ways to try to build a business in mobile, particularly with Android — engineers who focus exclusively on the Android Market are missing out!

Most of these models are focused consulting specialties — not just claiming to be an Android developer, but places where you might become world-renowned in a specific niche.

Model #41: Porting Specialist

Rather than just advertise yourself as a generic Android consultant, become expert in helping firms port existing mobile applications to Android. You might specialize in iPhone->Android, to help firms who jumped on the iPhone bandwagon catch up on Android faster. You might specialize in Windows Mobile->Android, to help firms worried that their legacy WinMo code will not work on the new Windows Phone platform. And so on.

Model #42: Native-izer

Android’s Native Development Kit (NDK) provides a gateway to native code, written in C/C++, implemented as extension libraries for traditional Android Java-based apps. Many applications could take advantage of the NDK to speed up algorithms: signal processing, game physics, encryption, and so on. However, many Android developers are comfortable in Java and less comfortable in C/C++, particularly for mobile. Develop the expertise, then promote your ability to help firms accelerate their Android apps by converting key portions of Java code to native code.

Model #43: Mobile Web Guru

Let’s face it: despite more and more platforms standardizing on WebKit, there are still plenty of idiosyncrasies when developing Web content for mobile. These range from WebKit version differences to trying to adapt desktop browser libraries to work better on the small screen and over mobile broadband connections. You could aim to become an expert in this process, helping firms tweak their Web sites’ mobile editions to work well on Android and other mobile platforms. This could easily extend to helping them create applications using tools like PhoneGap, that allow you to write cross-platform mobile apps using traditional WebKit-hosted HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Or, you might work on the techniques to create offline-capable Web apps using HTML5 and help clients implement those for Android and other HTML5-capable platforms.

Model #44: Accessibility Maven

Android offers text-to-speech and speech-to-text (a.k.a., voice recognition), haptic response, and other technologies designed to help with accessibility. However, it is easy for developers to skip over these features — after all, some of us are still climbing the hill towards internationalization and localization. Top-notch Android apps, though, will make themselves accessible, providing access to new markets begging for this sort of support. You could become an expert in accessibility on Android, helping developers (through code, training, or consulting) make their applications more accessible.

Model #45: Talent Agent

A lot of focus has been placed on firms using various techniques, like off-shoring, to reduce the salaries of their programming staff. However, some firms are realizing that, for the right talent, paying top dollar (or euro or yuan or whatever) makes some sense. Some developers are simply more productive than others, particularly when it comes to new technologies that existing staff lacks experience in. We are not far from a world where “rock star” developers might actually want to retain agents to help negotiate contracts. Such agents will need to know enough about the technology to “speak the language” while also being able to strike deals, while earning an agent’s commission along the way.

Model #46: Enterprise Customizer

Over time, more and more enterprises will be interested in Android. Some of them will want handsets tailored to their specifications, not so much in terms of hardware, but in terms of firmware and software. Some may want phones without the ability for users to install software, or phones that have “call home” capabilities if they are reported lost (that cannot be readily disabled), or phones that store all modifiable data in encrypted partitions.

Android, out of the box, is a consumer operating system today. However, it is open source, and in partnership with the right device manufacturers, Android could be tailored for enterprise use. However, device manufacturers may not have the staff or expertise to do that customizing themselves, turning to outside consultants who can spend the time to learn enterprises’ needs and adapt handsets to match.

Model #47: Sync Specialist

Android 2.0 introduced the notion of syncing contacts with third-party contact registries, ranging from Exchange to Facebook. Creating such synchronization code is no picnic, either on the handset or on the server. You might aim to become expert in helping firms needing such synchronization — whether to public social networks or proprietary enterprise systems — enable such synchronization for Android devices.

Model #48: App Generator

A lot of noise is created about the gap in catalog sizes between the iPhone App Store and the Android Market. A substantial portion of that gap comes from “generated apps”, ebooks being the most prominent. There are some 20,000 books available for iPhone on the App Store and far fewer than that for Android on the Market. These are not custom-written applications, but rather generated from existing content (e.g., EPUB).

You could create app generators designed to allow non-technical people to get their ebooks, audiobooks, RSS feeds, or other off-the-shelf content into the Android Market. Create a site that accepts the content as input and spits out a signed APK as output for the customer to upload from their Market account. You would be selling access to the app generators, or perhaps for specific generation capabilities (e.g., different prices for simple ebooks or ebook+audiobook combination apps).

Model #49: Augmented Reality Layer-er

As augmented reality (AR) apps continue to grow in popularity and power, different firms or groups may want to have their data represented in AR layers, but lack the time and expertise to do so. This is especially true so long as there are no standards for what such layers should look like, requiring custom work for different AR engines. You could become expert in these AR engines and in layer creation, to help cities or activists or whoever get their data out in this new visualization technology.