DevJuice: Should I develop cross platform?

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DevJuice: Should I develop cross platform?

App Store. Android. Amazon. If you're a developer, there are lots of possible venues competing for your attention. So which one is worth your time and energy? I turned to Avatron Founder and CEO Dave Howell for the answer.

Avatron makes Air Display, a popular app that allows you to use a mobile device like an iPad or phone as an extra display for your computer. When you're on the road, it's nice to be able to offload a Twitter stream, for example, onto a secondary screen so your laptop can be dedicated more to your work.

Air Display is now available across a number of platforms, including the following stores:

  • Apple iOS App Store (iOS)
  • Apple Mac App Store (Mac)
  • Google Android Market (Android)
  • Amazon Appstore (Android)
  • Samsung Apps (Bada)
  • Intel AppUp (Windows netbooks)

Given the time investment, the overhead, and general work involved in developing cross platform, where has Avatron seen its strongest sales? You won't be surprised by the answer: in the iOS App Store.

Like many other developers, Avatron has found that the App Store delivers customers and product interest in ways that other platforms have been unable to match. Howell lays out the sales as follows:

iOS App Store: Strong sales

Mac App Store: 1/10 of the sales of the iOS App Store

Android Market: 1/2 of the Mac App Store sales

Samsung Apps: 1/5 of Android Market

Amazon App Store: 1/10 of Android Market

Intel AppUp: "4 copies in over an entire year" and Howell bought one of those copies.

Each store has its strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, but Howell is clear about one thing -- No matter how we App Store developers complain, "iOS is the most painless of the bunch. And this is coming from a developer whose latest iOS app was pulled by Apple without any credible justification."

Avatron retired Air Dictate this January. "Our most recent submission of Air Dictate did not break any rules, or use any private APIs," Howell said, discussing the background of that situation. "Apple pulled it because it bizarrely claimed that apps that "relate to Siri" are infringing Apple's Siri trademark or copyright. I sent them the email addresses to three Apple IP lawyers so the app review team could get a tutorial on what exactly trademarks and copyrights are, but my helpful suggestion have proved fruitless so far."

Compared to other stores, however, Apple's App Store offers the simplest road to market and the best logistics. "The latest move by Google requires Android Market sales to go through Google Wallet. No more PayPal, Zong, or Boku. And now Android Market is called Google Play," Howell explained. "I can't keep up with the thrashing. And Google still offers no way to give out promo codes, or even to purchase a copy of an app for somebody else. Apple's way, way ahead in this kind of logistics."

Howell pointed out that Amazon remains US-only. "Amazon does let us buy gift cards for people, which is nice. As long as they're in the US and they don't mind getting their apps through Amazon Appstore. Amazon's review process is no faster than Apple's, and strangely it's much slower to get an app approved for Amazon's own Kindle Fire than for other devices. So their own customers get our apps later than everybody else."

Despite low sales in Samsung Apps and Intel AppUp, Howell reports that the recruiting process and submission was pleasant enough.

So should you invest time going cross platform? Hopefully Avatron's experience gives you a hint as to the market possibilities.

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