The Apprentice does mobile apps
The eyes of the technology world were on The Apprentice last night as the contestants created two compelling mobile apps. Actually, lets be honest, the eyes of London-based technology journalists were glued to the screen last night, watching with mirth, horror and some envy as a clutch of their colleagues snagged parts as extras in a reality show where two teams competed to make the worst app. (Spoiler alert - if you're a fan of the show and haven't seen the episode yet, read no further until you have visited the BBC iPlayer.)
The male team came up with something called Slangatang, an app which allows you to annoy your friends by shouting out catchphrases in a variety of unconvincing regional accents. "Who'd want that on their phone?" I hear you cry, but to be fair there are a lot of dafter apps - think iFart - which have done really well. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that it might be just dumb enough to work.
And Mike Butcher, writing on Techcrunch all the way back in October, seemed mildly impressed:
"If they get it right and introduce the features they plan, it's the kind of thing that could go viral, especially if celebrities get involved."
The chaps at Wired were less convinced, worried that the app might prove offensive
But if Slangatang looked weak, the female team's effort had me - and plenty of my fellow viewers - slapping my head in despair. They came up with another audio idea - Ampi App - with sounds to shock and noises to nuisance, though for the life of me I couldn't work out what users were supposed to do with a series of pig, elephant and other animal noises.
With only the chaps at Wired backing Ampi App, and the boys proving far better at presenting their work, the techies and most of the huge Twitter audience agreed that Slangatang was home and dry.
Then the results came in. The apps were made available for free download for Nokia, Blackberry and Android phones, though you may not be surprised to hear that Apple didn't agree to rush them into its App Store. More astonishing was the fact that thousands downloaded both apps, with Ampi Apps and its lame noises the clear winner.
What we learned was a few simple lessons. That people will try anything if it's free. That in a global marketplace, something that's stupid in any language - like a phone that makes animal noises - is a better bet than an app that speaks to a local sense of humour in a cod Welsh accent.
And that marketing and metadata are vital in getting your app seen amongst the millions competing for attention. The women may have been rubbish at presenting to an audience, but they somehow managed to get noticed on the global stage.
The real winners from last nights Apprentice were not the Venture team and their Ampi App, but Grapple, the software firm which built the two apps in a big hurry. There is an interesting piece about the firm on the Pocket-Lint site, and it can't harm their business to have been exposed to a television audience of eight million.
What would be nice now would be to have a rerun of the contest, with both Slangatang and Ampi Apps available for download again. Sadly, it appears that is unlikely to happen. Perhaps Lord Sugar thinks we have all suffered enough.
PSAs some have pointed out, "hundreds of thousands" did not download the apps, as I originally said. In fact, the female team had 10,000 downloads, compared to 3,000 for the boys.