Another method of monetizing through advertising is using revenue generated through a search engine. This has been Mozilla's model with Firefox and could just as easily be applied to mobile apps as well. Whenever a user executes a Web search via Firefox's native search box, a certain percentage of ad revenue generated from the search goes back to Mozilla through an affiliate program.
The downside to this approach is that it lends itself only to applications that have some search component -- such as a mobile browser -- which make up a very small segment of the existing app mix. That said, it's entirely possible that creative methods of integrating search with mobile apps will make search-engine revenue that much more viable a choice.
Because the current incarnation of the mobile apps market is still so new and only just now experiencing a flowering of cross-platform competition and innovation, the ways apps can be monetized and sold are likely to enjoy as much of a period of experimentation as the apps themselves.
What's clearest is that the processes of selling and monetizing apps have to be as convenient as possible, for customers and developers alike. "To reach as wide an audience as possible, you have to be able to go cross-platform," says Mork. "You need some sort of business model where you can reach different audiences depending on whether or not they have data plans or smartphones." This goes double for apps that spread virally, by word-of-mouth or by direct exposure: If your friend has it on his iPhone, you're going to want it on your Android as well.
To that end, those who can make the monetization process as seamless as possible are set to reap rewards of their own -- along with those who write apps that are worth monetizing, of course.
Serdar Yegulalp has been writing about computers and information technology for over 15 years for a variety of publications, including InformationWeek and Windows Magazine.
This story, "Making money with mobile apps" was originally published by Computerworld.