Editor’s Preface: iOS4 app developers have contacted iMedicalApps informing us that Microsoft has been actively recruiting them to port their applications to the Windows Phone 7 operating system. Overall, we feel it’s great Microsoft is making a concerted effort to recruit medical app developers – this shows they are serious about having a vibrant mobile medical ecosystem. However, the following post by Marc-Emile, a second year physician resident in Kingston, Ontario and the creator of the medical app, MD on Call,  and Benoit Essiambre (iOS 4 developer) shows how porting an app to a different platform isn’t an obvious choice – highlight some of the issues Microsoft will have to creating a vibrant medical app store.  Marc-Emile was recently called by Microsoft, asking him to port his application to the Windows Phone 7 operating system.  Benoit Essiambre is an iOS 4 developer and helped develop MD on Call and developed Speed Muscles MD.

By: Marc-Emile, MD and Benoit Essiambre

In the following article, we try to explain why there is such a big difference in the amount of medical apps for three major mobile platforms: iOS 4, Android, and now WP7 (Widows Phone 7) ; and our decisions to port our applications to Windows Phone 7 after some of the incentives Microsoft has given us.

Money and Return on Investment:

Either money or fame. Let’s face it: most people develop apps with the hope of making a few bucks.

We’ve seen the stories about the AppStore gold rush: single developers working for 3-4 weeks in their basement, releasing an app and making $1 million the next month. Well, it doesn’t usually happens this way, especially not with medical apps! The volume of Medical apps sold is nowhere near the level of the Games section (Greater than 40% of apps sold in the App Store are games).  To give you a general idea, in order to get into the top 100 downloads in the medical section of the US AppStore, you need to sell around 10-15 apps per day. If you charge $0.99 for your app, with Apple’s 30% cut, that’s about $10 per day in your pocket. Getting a programmer to build your app will cost you at the very least $5000 – You do the math.

Now, that’s for the most popular store (iOS4 App Store). From experience, in the Android Market, the revenues of paid apps are less than 50% of what they are  in Apple’s App Store. Since these are are totally different mobile operating platforms, code needs to be written from scratch, doubling the software development cost for less than a 50% increase in revenues.  It can be justified that your time is better suited doing a new iOS 4 app than porting an application to Android.

Now, for Microsoft. The first phones were just released a few days ago. Basically, there’s no phone on the market right now, verse the more than 100 million iOS devices).  No one knows how successful this new platform will be – remember Palm and how they are currently on life support.  Let’s do the math once again: minimum $5000 investment, and no one to buy your app.  It doesn’t take a MBA to figure it’s a risky business move.

Microsoft is aware of this major problem. They’re trying really hard to attract developers to their platform. They even contacted me personally by phone to ask if I would be willing to port MD on Call to Windows Phone 7. They offered a few perks as well: Free testing device and free “membership” for a year.  After some thought, I declined.  I’d rather put my limited time into making MD on Call better, or porting it to Android.

However, we’ll be keeping a close eye on them: you never know. Next year, we might be having a totally different discussion. Things are moving extremely fast in the mobile business right now.

Overall, like almost everything in life, the decision to port an app to a different platform is mostly based on money.  Many factors are involved in this new and quickly evolving business, so expect to see a lot of exciting new apps, on new and exciting platforms.

In part 2 of this post Benoit and Marc-Emile will be discussing the developemental issues related to porting their apps to Android and Windows Phone 7