Drew Ianni, the former chairman for the worldwide Ad:tech events, has left that franchise to start what he sees as the next big conference opportunity: a serious look at apps. There have been middling industry events here and there, but Ianni is pitching AppNation as the first “major league” show solely about apps and the business ecosystem that supports them. The inaugural AppNation event will be Sept. 13-14 at Moscone North Convention Center in downtown San Francisco.
Q. Why did you feel that yet another developer conference was necessary?
I don’t believe that another technical developer conference is necessary. This show will not be about coding or anything technical or engineering related. There are no conferences out there right now that are discussing with developers how they’re going to make money. This is clearly a business related show. We’ll certainly talk about product road maps, and technology road maps. We want the value chain to talk about their overall products, but in a business sense of how that’s going to affect the overall marketplace and what that’s going to mean for the consumers options of apps and in turn, what that will mean for developers. We just thought developers need a show that’s going to help them monetize and earn a living, regardless of whether they’re two guys in a garage or the largest technology company in the world.
Q. If you had to name one thing, what do you hope to accomplish with the AppNation show?
We want to move the industry forward and the best way to do that is to educate, inform and inspire people to make money, to monetize and build a viable business. That’s our goal. We all win if the industry continues to move forward and make money.
Q. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing developers going forward?
I think developers face a variety of challenges. First and foremost is monetization. We’ve sort of passed through the time when two guys in a garage can come up with something and maybe it’s not so difficult to break through. Two years ago, there were say 10,000 apps out there, and it was a lot easier to come up with something that found its way virally into the marketplace. Now I just read a report that projects a million apps by 2012. So there’s monetization, and then there’s discoverability, which is related to monetization. If you can’t break through, then you’re not going to be able to sell it or get eyeballs in the first place.
I think the business challenges for developers have only become greater. I think the second challenge is certainly fragmentation. If you just take Android, and you have multiple flavors of Droid, and then you also have all the different devices to take into account, and then you can even take that further into emerging devices like television and gaming consoles.
Q. What do you think about WAC and JIL, and will they be successful in reducing fragmentation?
Well, I guess the jury’s still out. They certainly seemed designed to do just that, to reduce fragmentation. If they can, I wish them all the luck in the world. I certainly hope they can, because the industry needs it. I will say this, the more cooks you get in the kitchen the more difficult it’s going to be. I think it’s an inspiring effort to bring all those companies together. I mean, essentially they’re trying to fight Apple. It seems like a monumental challenge to get all those companies to agree on something, even if at the end the day they know that it’s the best thing for their market and the best thing for their businesses, I still think it’s going to be a monumental challenge. I wish them the best of luck.
Q. Is HTML5 combined with the cloud a real solution for fragmentation?
I think it’s very much an ongoing conversation, and apps versus the mobile Web is one of those things we’re going to be talking about for awhile. I do not subscribe to the theory that apps are just a stop along the way and three to five years from now we’re going to be in a complete mobile Web environment. I think it depends on the technical capabilities of HTML5, as well as the rollout of 4G. But even if you fast forward into the perfect HTML5, 4G world, there are plenty of applications that don’t need to be run on the mobile Web, in fact they’d probably be more efficient as client-side, limited-functionality applications. I think for content companies, it’s very likely that many of those companies will go to a mobile Web scenario. But in the future, I think it’s a going to be a mix of mobile Web and client-side applications.
Q. Who should attend the AppNation conference?
We’re a value chain show, and we believe all of those that have a vested interest at stake in the business of applications should attend. Clearly, first and foremost, we’re going after developers of all shapes and sizes and saying here, ‘Learn how to monetize.’ We’ll have a strong consumer insights and analytics track. Whether you’re a media company, an agency, a small developer, a brand, the press, you can gain something from this show. Understanding the latest consumer insights and what they’re downloading, off what device, when and where is going to be extremely important going forward for anyone in the applications business.