3/22/10

iPhone App is Nice... if your law firm's intention is to exclude everyone else

There are now at least two major law firms that have now launched their own iPhone Apps. Canadian law firm Torys LLP and Morrison Foerster (MoFo2Go) both have new iPhone apps that I think are great public relations tools and will get a lot of attention as early adopters of a new technology.  Apart from the great PR, however, I'm not sure if approaching the market through an iPhone app is really the best way for firms to get to their clients smart phones.  I, for one, own an Android phone... Toby and Lisa each have a BlackBerry... so; there are 3 Geeks already that are shut out from using the app.  I guess we could all cut our contracts with Verizon or Sprint and jump over to AT&T to get an iPhone, but I really don't think any of us are going to.  Toby will also have to add a caveat to his saying of "my Blackberry can do anything your iPhone can... only slower" and now add "except access your firm's iPhone app."

I've mentioned before that iPhone Apps (and Android Apps... and Palm Apps) contribute to what is being called the "Splinternet".  That is the fracturing of what used to be a somewhat organized way of putting information out on the web without having to write a different code for every application that accesses the information.  Firms that create iPhone (or any other smart phone 'app') are basically telling their clients that the firm prefers a specific technology.  What kind of message does this sent to your clients who don't have this technology??

Q: Why not just build a mobile web page that works for all smart phones?

Jeff Richardson (iPhone J.D.) thinks that MoFo's app is a marketing tool that has been "done right."  I actually agree with Jeff on the fact that MoFo2Go, and even Torys iPhone apps are actually good resources for iPhone users, but at the expense of excluding everyone else.  Doug Cornelius also reviewed the MoFo2Go app and brings up the same point I'm trying to make.  Why in the world would you develop something like this and exclude a large portion of the marketplace?  Contributing to the Splinternet is going to be a massive headache sometime down the road.  But, I assume that the 'flash' of an iPhone app for some firms may be too hard to resist.  I think that having a great mobile web site that works on all phones is a much better way to go.

Granted, it may mean that the MoFo Maze game may have to go away, but really... do your clients need a game to play?  Do your clients really need to buy an iPhone in order to feel connect to your firm?  Developing apps for specific smart phones will get you some press, but what are you going to do when you go into a meeting with your clients and tell them to download your new iPhone App and they all whip out their Blackberrys and ask when are you going to release the app for their phone?  Welcome to the world of the Splinternet... your contribution has been noted.


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10 comments:

Roger said...

I agree that application development for just one platform will tend to exclude people. I assume the iPad will create some of this with custom applications. I hope it doesn't happen with services organizations like law firms, law libraries and the like.

At the very least, a solution like Phonegap looks promising where you can write one application and port it to multiple platforms. It may not be as "pure" as dedicated application development, but it bodes well to know that you could port things to iPhone, Android, WebOS (Palm), and even Blackberry (and Symbian!?) platforms.

Greg Lambert said...

It would be great if a magic portability application came along to help connect all of the smart phone apps, but I'm a little skeptical that it will actually happen. I remember that Java was supposed to help unify all PC and Mac platforms, now Adobe Air is trying to do it... Unfortunately, each mobile platform will always be one step ahead of the porting programs. But, maybe I'm wrong this time around.

cleondann said...

yes i satisfy with you application development for only one activity will avoid many other people, i think it should be recovered, well very nice post , thanks for the exclusive and the informative information you have posted.

Anonymous said...

Well I believe Apple is a major client of the Firm and MoFo handles all the patent work on the iPhone. So it makes sense to me to have an iPhone app for the Firm's clients. You are being too negative to say it's at the exclusion of others. I believe the Firm uses blackberry's and not iPhones but a fun/helpful app never hurts.

Greg Lambert said...

Don't get me wrong... I like the App and think that it is a useful resource for everyone that has an iPhone. However, almost everything that the iPhone app does, could have been set up as a mobile web page and been accessible to everyone. By picking only the iPhone as the place to get this "fun/helpful" information, you are essentially excluding anyone with a Blackberry, Android, Palm, etc. I would suggest that if you do build an iPhone app, that you at least make an effort to duplicate as much of the "fun/helpful" parts of it so that everyone can take advantage of it... not just a select few.

Toby Brown said...

Wait a tick .... so MoFo uses BBs but builds an iPhone app?

Which means their own people can't use it.

Priceless.

Doug Cornelius said...

Wait another tick.... They made a mobile friendly version of MoFo.com for the blackberry, but not for the iPhone!?!?

So they expect iPhone users to use the app instead of MoFo.com?!?! Links to the content go to the website not the app.

MoFo2Go is cute marketing toy. They should also make the website friendly for the iPhone.

Greg Lambert said...

I guess they assume that iPhone users are advanced enough to work around the website formatting issues. Just download that other browser for the iPhone and everything will format just fine... wha?? There isn't another browser yet for the iPhone?? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of apps started out on one platform and then expanded to others. I wouldn't be surprised if we see firms launching a variety of apps for BB, Android and iPhone in the future.

Also, I don't think it's fair to say that MoFo or Torys are intentionally "excluding" BB or Android users and favoring iPhone users anymore than you can say that firms without any app are "excluding" all smart phone users.

Mike Kinney said...

As a developer for iPhone applications, I started out on the iPhone platform. I have looked into Blackberry development, but could not justify the effort. When I started down the Android path, the iPad was announced and that took most of my time. Now that all of our apps are universal binaries (work on iPhone and iPad), I'm evaluating the Android platform. See http://iphoneappsbymike.blogspot.com/ for more info.

I am targeting mainly people that want to take the statutes "with-them". (no internet connection required)

Feel free to ask any questions.

 

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