iPhone App Speed-Builder Caters to SMBs

There are more than 65,000 applications on the iPhone App Store, but the small business market, which totals hundreds of thousands of companies in the U.S., has barely been scratched. Sweb Apps thinks it can help change that.

San Antonio, Texas-based Sweb Apps this week launched a service for the iPhone that’s designed to let companies or individuals create applications for the popular mobile device without any programming expertise.

The service also includes what it calls App Tracker analytics to see how often the applications are used, right down to which buttons are pressed and how often.

A version for the BlackBerry is planned for next year.

Sweb Apps founder and CEO Magaly Chocano said the idea for the service grew out of her own frustration.

“I’ve had to dish out a ton of money on development because I don’t know programming,” she told InternetNews.com. “So I thought, ‘Why can’t I build something that lets me create my own applications myself and that other small-to-medium sized businesses can use, too?'”

What started then as Sweb Development, building iPhone applications for local businesses, grew into a separate venture for Sweb Apps.

The system is not designed to help anyone create games or the next great social network application. Essentially, it’s limited to the kind of standard things a local business might want to provide on a mobile device to attract and retain customers. These include menu items and specials for restaurants, special savings alerts and inventory listings for retailers and event listings for bands and other performers.

Business owners select their industry or type of business from specific categories, or they can create one. Next, Sweb Apps offers a choice of buttons that will appear on the iPhone app (e.g. Contact, Photo Gallery, Menu, etc.). A company can also submit a custom button as long as it meets Sweb Apps guidelines. The next step is submitting the relevant information such as sale prices, menu items and the like.

With these steps completed, the app is submitted to Sweb Apps which essentially does the heavy lifting of getting the app loaded to the iPhone App Store and notifying the creator once it’s live.

Price? $50 per button with a 4-button minimum. There’s also a $25 per month hosting fee which includes all the analytics information. Once you’ve created the application, you have access to the Sweb Apps content management system to update any changes yourself — so, for example, new sales prices can be entered and almost immediately go live to anyone who has the app running.

“For non-programmers or companies that need these kind of applications and don’t have the staff or resources to create them, this sounds like a godsend,” Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com. “This could be really helpful to small businesses that want to get exposure on the iPhone.”

Button, button, premium buttons

Already, Chocano said more than 40 new companies signed up for the app on Tuesday’s launch day. “We’ve been getting customers from all over including London and India,” she said.

Up next is a version for Research In Motion’s line of BlackBerry smartphones next year, as well as devices running the Google-backed Android operating system. Sweb Apps also plans to build on its current iPhone service.

One likely addition will be transaction capabilities, so retailers and others can sell their goods and services online rather than just display or showcase information.

Another will be “premium buttons,” which Chocano said would take advantage of the iPhone’s accelerometer.

“It’ll be more game-like stuff, so you can do things like shake a wine bottle and some of the other cool things the iPhone lets you do,” she said.

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