Japanese social network Mixi (TYO:2121) doesn’t often do business beyond its home market, so I was pretty intrigued recently to get a preview of a relatively new project from its innovation team that is making an effort to go after global users. DeployGate initially launched last year, promising an easier way to distribute test versions of Android applications as part of the development process, all without an SDK. That service is getting an update today, one which expands its focus past just developers, placing more emphasis on the users. With this shift, it moves in on the territory of Test Flight, although its focus is still heavily on the development process.
DeployGate initially came about as a result of the Mixi in-house developers scratching their own itch. As the were developing Mixi Android clients they often ran into problems, finding they had a need for easier deployment of apps to test users. DeployGate is the solution they came up with, eventually becoming a product that The Mixi innovation team would ship as a product, spun off from the Mixi development team.
The process looks simple enough from a developer’s point of view. Your app is uploaded, and then you can create a unique deployment page (or distribution panel) for that iteration which can then be circulated to whomever you wish, typically via email. It can be password protected too if you like. The amount of users you can reach depends on your payment plan. After deployment over-the-air, a developer can then monitor error and crash reports from the web dashboard (pictured below), push updates, debug remotely, or even cancel privileges remotely if they choose.
The ability to deploy different app versions to different groups means that the newer version of DeployGate makes AB testing a little easier than before.
The new version of DeployGate has a number of new features, most notably a new pricing plan that makes it more accessible to more people. The pricing plans are listed below. As you can see, the new version follows a freemium model, although paid plans are reasonably priced.
|Number of apps||4||10||50||100|
|Number of developers/collaborators||2||5||25||100|
|Monthly fee (yen) ||0||525||3,650||9,975|
With this new version, the hope is that developers and marketers will use the free plan and want to do more, eventually upgrading to paid plans. So far the team has mainly used Google Adwords for marketing, so this should give the product an extra push now that more people can try it out. But the advantages for any individual developers are obvious.
The team has high hopes for DeployGate too, saying they want to become the de facto solution for developing Android applications. That’s a lofty goal, but it looks like they have some prominent clients already. So far, notable companies who use DeployGate are Baidu (Japan), Kayac, Zaim , and Tokyo Otaku Mode. I’m told that currently the service has enough paid customers to sustain their current ecosystem, and that’s certainly promising.
So far they have users in 90 countries, with 3,400 apps distributed in total. And surprisingly their customers appear to be more global that than I’d have expected from anything associated with Mixi, with 76% of usage in English, and 24% in Japanese.
It will be interesting to see if this service from the innovation team can break free of the stagnation that has been hampering Mixi as a whole in recent years. But with DeployGate, along with the recently launched Nohana camera app, it’s certainly great to see them try.