Lessons Learned at the GamesBeat and MobileBeat Conferences

July 15, 2011 - by badnima

This week, the Joyent Cloud team, including General Manager Steve Tuck and I attended the MobileBeat and GamesBeat conferences here in San Francisco. Held at the Palace Hotel, it was an amazing opportunity to meet the growing community of developers, entrepreneurs and business folks in the mobile and gaming space. As we dashed madly between the various conferences and breakout sessions, it became plain to us that the lines between mobile and gaming had never been so blurry. Conferences on the mobile track covered games, and vice versa, leaving me to realize that you can't think about creating and promoting games without mobile in mind, and if you're making mobile apps, you'd better spend time to learn the engagement, virility, monetization and user adoption tricks from the gaming folks.

Without going into too many details, I just wanted to share the highlights I took away from the conference:

"There is a panic to go mobile"

Everybody had mobile on the brain, whether building games or social apps or enterprise-focused tools, the ubiquitous request was "can I use it on my iPhone?" Developers in the audience were split 50/50 between designing for the mobile web via HTML5 (easier for cross platform development) or natively (better performance, better UX, better user experience). It's still too early to tell if one approach will win over the other, but one thing is for sure:  Whatever you develop, it's going to have to have a mobile version too.

"Don't believe everything you hear about iOS and Android"

Numbers on conversion, engagement and monetization on the two platforms were often confusing and contradictory. The velocity of growth in both platforms sometimes probably leads to lagging and stale info, which leads to FUD. If you develop mobile apps, you're going to have to develop on both. So figure out how you can leverage development platforms that are suited to your needs and support one or both lead platforms.

"If you have 4 minutes to demo your game/app, don't waste 3 of it on how great your team is."

I sat in on the gaming and mobile demos, and if I took only one thing away, it was the look of boredom on the judge's faces when presenters wasted time talking about their "bench strength" or a long winded story about why they're doing what they're doing. The few demos that were done well followed a simple model: 15 seconds to tell us who you are and what you do, 45 seconds on what the product is, 45 seconds why its important and how its different, 15 seconds on who uses the app and how/why, and 2 minutes showing a demo or screen shots of your application. The best "new idea" presentation I've ever seen wasn't powerpoint -- it was Ryan Dahl's 5 minute live demo showing how to write a working chat app in less than 150 lines of code.

"Hiring super talent is expensive, so leverage who and what you can, especially platforms"

Everyone was talking about Peter Thiel's "how do you hire employee #20" and grumbling about the high cost of talent in the Bay Area. That's okay, because the conference was also buzzing with companies developing mobile and gaming platforms that could significantly reduce the cost, skill set required and time needed to develop, launch and market new ideas. One day IBM's Watson may learn to code - until then, I'm going to put my money on platforms that simplify, automate and accelerate mobile/games development.

After two days of intense sessions, meetings and "socializing", Steve and I left the conference with two big takeaways.

One: Doing mobile is hard and developers really need some tools to simplify and automate a lot of the back-end components such as messaging, API integration, email, single-signon, social network integration, synchronization, GEO-location and data storage.

Two: The major cloud vendors haven't done a good job helping mobile developers find a good home in the cloud. In 4 years, there will be more mobile screens interfacing with cloud based apps than desktop/laptop devices. There is a HUGE opportunity here.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to take some significant steps to address the shortcomings we see in the marketplace relating to mobile development and hosting. Until then, keep your RSS reader firmly pointed to www.joyeur.com.

Photo by VentureBeat's Chris Peri.