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Application Signing: How to make it pay off

Created: 29 Jul 2013 • Updated: 29 Jul 2013
Andy Horbury's picture
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Nick D'Aloisio hit the headlines recently by selling his Summly app to Yahoo for an estimated £18 million, which is not bad at all when you consider he is still a teenager.

So now you are hoping to emulate him. Fine. But first, although this may be stating the blindingly obvious, you need an idea. Let me rephrase that: you need a very good idea. But that doesn’t mean it’s just a very good idea to you. Other people need to think so, too, and not just your best mates, your parents, or devoted partner. I mean people you don’t know who would be willing to fork out their money for your app only after you’d convinced them it was worth every penny and a bit more. That, after all, is the ultimate test of anyone’s sincerity when it comes to doing business.

They do like it and would buy it? Great. But have you found out if someone else has already got there before you. Are there hundreds, even thousands, of people already happily using an app that’s all but identical to yours? No? Then time to move up the apps ladder to the next level.

Now, while your app should be exceptional to truly succeed, it should also be fairly easy to create. Anything intricate and complicated is likely to backfire: too expensive, with much reduced prospects of even breaking even, never mind setting you up for life. Speak to someone who has been through the experience. Find out what went wrong and why. That will set you in good stead.

What about the start-up capital? In the current climate it’s unlikely any bank will start throwing cash at you, but friends and family are a natural starting point.

Okay, time to roll up your sleeves, which could be literal or metaphorical. In other words, are you the one with the actual IT skills to create the app yourself of are you going to have to invest in the services of a computer engineer. When you find out what they charge per day – anything up to £1,000 a day is not that uncommon – you may well decide to invest in yourself and develop the required skills. But you don’t have to be all alone in this task. Several online and real-world code academies can help you. Some simple desk research and Google will typically show names such as Steer and Code Academy.

Then there is the matter of confidence… of your potential customers…. in you. How can they be absolutely sure that your app is coming from a risk-free source? Packaged software, of course, uses branding and trusted sales outlets to assure users of its integrity. But these are not available when code is transmitted on the Internet. Also, there is no guarantee that the code hasn't been altered while being downloaded. So you need to be able to assure everyone from the outset that you – and your apps – are to be trusted.

On which note, it’s worth taking a look at Microsoft's solution to these issues – Microsoft Authenticode. This allows developers to include information about themselves and their code with their programs through the use of digital signatures. And while Authenticode itself cannot guarantee that signed code is safe to run, it tells users quite clearly that the software publisher is participating in an infrastructure of trusted entities. That way, it serves the needs of both software publishers and users who rely upon the Internet for the downloading of software. Digital signatures ensure accountability, just as a manufacturer's brand name does on packaged software.

So, now you have an app to tell people about, and they know it’s trustworthy across multiple platforms from Windows OS to Android to Windows Phone, how do you market and make some real money out of it? Sadly, there’s no magic formula. You app may be exceptional, but so, too, will be many of the countless other apps out there, clamouring for attention. So you want to make sure that your claim to fame, all things being equal, is un-equalled!

To which end, I came across some useful pointers recently on how to get this right – from the development and marketing team at Telerik Radcontrols for Windows Phone. Their ‘How to promote your Windows phone app on a tight budget’ guide contains a number of tips to help make you a savvy app entrepreneur. Just as helpful, if you go to: http://www.telerik.com/products/windows-phone/getting-started/resources.aspx, you can download a Windows app for free that allows you to browse through more than 100 examples to help inspire you.

Oh, and good luck!