Danger Will Robinson - Engaging the Elephant Top Down
The Elephant Just Acquired Your Competitor… Yikes!

What are you waiting for? Are you still just developing desktop apps?

Do you have a Cloud and Mobile strategy?  Are you making measured investments developing Cloud and Mobile apps – learning the technology and learning what is attractive to your customers?

Every day I talk to small developers who are still focused on the desktop.  Sure their desktop apps are their bread and butter today – predictably paying the bills year in and year out. 


Every day they put themselves at risk of being made irrelevant by a competitor or start-up building a Cloud or Mobile based app that delights their same customers – creating a beach head if not a downright revolution – that upsets their ongoing business forever.

Due to the rapid scalability of Cloud and Mobile apps, by the time the “desktop” market leader notices the upstart Cloud or Mobile solution provider, it will likely be too late to recover.  Have no doubt this is an existential threat for every desktop app developer.

Cloud mobile desktopEvery desktop app developer needs to have Cloud and Mobile offerings too – even though the Cloud and Mobile offerings may not yet pay for themselves.  Even if you don’t yet know how to monetize your Cloud and Mobile offerings.  It’s like a farmer planting seeds in the spring when they’ll harvest and make their money in the fall.  If you never plant those seeds in the spring, and a competitor does, when fall comes around you’ll be on the side line with empty hands watching your competition harvest the rewards.  Look at the once king of the hill Microsoft – who was late to Cloud and Mobile and is now struggling to keep up (unsuccessfully?).  Look at the large established ERP companies like Oracle and SAP who are seeing their market share decrease every day – lost to Cloud based salesforce.com and NetSuite.  And it’s not just large companies.  Its numerous small desktop app providers who are finding themselves running for their lives because they were late to market with a Cloud and Mobile offering.

Too busy to invest time in Cloud or Mobile apps?

You don’t need to recreate your current desktop app on the Cloud or Mobile.  You can start by cherry picking customer needs that the Cloud and Mobile deliver best – Collaboration, Big Data, Compute Intensive and Exploratory quickly evolving solutions.  This could be repackaging a small piece of your current desktop app – or building a small utility app that meets a need your customers have been asking about for ages.  Make it easy.  Make it fast.  Develop both a simple Cloud and Mobile app you believe you can go from first line of code to customer beta in just a week.  I have a team of engineers that have done this numerous times… one week to develop and demo their first Cloud or Mobile app… and then just four hours to develop a new small proof of concept Cloud and Mobile app.  Sure it will end up being a few weeks of development to release a simple Cloud or Mobile app you can tell your customers is “production ready” – but what is a few man weeks investment compare to the 50 man weeks you (or each of your developers) is currently spending on your desktop app?  You need to make this modest investment to “secure your future”.  And you just might “hit it out of the ballpark” too.  I know a few Autodesk software partners that built a simple small Cloud app two years ago – and now get over 50% of all their sales are driven by their Cloud based solution (which has also got them out of the treadmill of having to sell new users to pay the bills – as their Cloud based customers pay every year to stay connected).  I even know one in China that made this transition!

Design and engineering apps too heavy for Cloud and Mobile?

Not true.  Spend some time on the Android Marketplace or Apple’s App Store browsing design and engineering apps.  Autodesk alone has several design apps – some supporting 3D models – as do a growing number of members of the Autodesk Developer Network.

You can blow away your customers by developing a very cool WebGL based 3D design and engineering app that will run in a variety of browsers and on Android and iOS devices in less than a week.  See http://adndevblog.typepad.com/cloud_and_mobile/ for proof.  See a simple browser based 3D app built by a member of the Autodesk Developer Network that makes customers say “wow” - http://www.sparepartsplace.com/home-73.html http://www.sparepartsplace.com/home-73.html.  Check out Autodesk’s 3D free form modeling app for your Android or iOS device in the Marketplace or App Store – 123D Sculpt.

It’s going to take more than a few man weeks to develop your first Cloud or Mobile app?

No it won’t.  Think small.  Think learning.  Think simple and quick customer delight.  Think delivering a single focused “utility” capability that will attract and delight your target customers.  You can easily justify the time if you view this first simple Cloud or Mobile app as a marketing tool that will help you find – and develop a positive relationship with – new customers that you can sell your desktop app too.  Again think about customer needs that leverage the strengths of Cloud and Mobile - Collaboration, Big Data, Compute Intensive and Exploratory quickly evolving solutions.

It’s true.

When is the last time you purchased a “new to you” desktop app?  How many desktop apps have you purchased in the last few years?  Ask anyone under 30 years old what they think of desktop apps (do they even own one?).  If you can, take yourself back to when you first started your business and re-imagine how you would start it today – when you developed that first simple app that people told you they wanted to buy. 

Its late clockAt Autodesk, we have over 60 million people using our Cloud and Mobile apps – with a bit over 10 million people using our desktop apps.  Sure much of our revenue today is coming from those desktops – but the Cloud and Mobile apps are already creating tens of millions dollars in revenue – and growing at a rapid pace.  Growth that is accelerating.  If your competitors, existing or new, get on this accelerating Cloud and Mobile growth path before you do, it’s “over” and just a matter of time before your customers start leaving you.

Still have doubts? 

Ask the youngest person on your team what they think about desktop versus Cloud and Mobile apps.  If you have a family, just ask your kids.  Listen closely to what they have to say.  Ask them “why”.

It’s time. It’s past time.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Lee Harding

Good topic, Jim! Doubts are healthy, particularly when an ISV is considering such a substantial change:


The comments to this entry are closed.