The mobile first strategy is where the mobile version of your product takes precedence over all other platforms, e.g. Web, desktop, etc. You code for it first and it takes your primary focus and design efforts. It's like when people used to code to Windows before porting to Mac or for IE before porting to Firefox.
I see a lot of angel pitches from companies pursuing this mobile first strategy. Leaving aside the bigger question of whether the future of software will be dominated by mobile applications, I have a particular problem with most of these pitches: distribution. Namely, coherent distribution strategies are often missing.
Without distribution, how is anyone going to find your app? You're going to take off virally or not. And if not, what then? Not all apps can be featured on Apple TV commercials.
Of course there are plenty of possible mobile distribution strategies:
- Build something parallel on the Web and leverage that user base, which can be grown through SEO/SEM/Social media and other Web distribution channels.
- Make an API that can be embedded in apps and leads to downloads.
- Partner with large Web properties and get them to push your app.
- Tie your app to off-line interactions.
- Build inherent mobile virality into the app, i.e. mobile to mobile invites/shares.
- Buy downloads in the app store as well as in-app ads and monetize enough where this is worthwhile.