I tend not to treat new platforms as serious or viable business opportunities.
My reasoning goes like this...
I'm wondering if I'm making a mistake by dismissing these platforms.
I mean, it's likely that some of them, though immature now, will eventually grow into something bigger (as yet unknown), offering therefore great business opportunities to the early adopters. I'm sure people dismissed platforms such as the PC, the mobile phone, the web, the IPod as being gimmicks at some point in their evolution.
I guess the trick (and my question) is... When do we adopt these platforms? Is a degree of skepticism a good thing with regards to platforms such as the above, or are we missing once in a lifetime changes (e.g. mobile and social networking) that we are crazy not to capitalise on? What are you guys personally doing with these platforms? Would you view it as madness to build a business on any one of these, or is it a wide open opportunity to those who can execute well?
A lot of it comes down to the degree of risk you consider development, and the degree of risk you want to take.
If you love writing code, have an idea for a Twitter app, and have a decent amount of free time, then why not give it a go? Worst case scenario, you learned a new platform had fun writing an application. And who knows, you might get extremely lucky and build a Tweet Deck, and sell it for some preposterous amount of money.
However, I don't believe you're making a mistake by dismissing these gimmicky and fad-like platforms, especially if you're making a serious go at business. Sure, they might take off and, if they do, the application that you didn't develop could be "worth" millions. But they probably won't, and there's no way of predicting which platform will be a hit at the beginning.
Keep in mind that the same thing is true about a lottery ticket. If you had just bought that mega lotto with the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42, you'd be rich!
It may make sense to target these alternative platforms just to have a presence there.
I feel you are asking from the point of view of "will I make money off of it," but there is a whole other dimension to using these platforms.
If you have some product, let's say some kind of niche sales force management online app, then it is to your advantage to compliment your core product and build your brand by being present in these other avenues. Go ahead and make the iPhone app, but see it from the POV of "how does this make my offering better," or "how do I provide more value." As to the Facebook app, if you can figure out how to make it interesting (let's say you make it a sales quiz, or some game whose goal is to out-negotiate a salesman), then it's worth it because the silly/useless app gives you exposure.
So that is the other dimension to the issue. It's not just direct sales and profits you are talking about, it's exposure and legitimizing your company in the eyes of your customers and potential customers, and possibly adding value to your existing product.
Of course, it all has to be part of a well-crafted marketing strategy. A MySpace Music page will do nothing for the hypothetical sales force management app.
A third possible use for this is to eventually up-sell to your $1 customers. If you make a useful iPhone app, then you can tell them that you have the PC version with such and such added capabilities for $X. As a customer of your iPhone app, they get a $Y discount.
In the end, it's all about mindshare.
In addition to being able to make money in the opportunity or venture, I consider based on abilities whether my business could be the best at that and if I am passionate about it. Here are the three questions from Good to Great by Jim Collins that I find helpful with what you are asking.
• What can you be the best at based on your abilities?
• What drives your economic engine?
• What are you deeply passionate about?
Other than the iPhone (broad range of uses), you haven't listed the platforms that were intended for business/serious software.
I would judge these on:
A) will it stick around
B) can it handle my needs in scale and functionality
C) How hard will it be to learn how to develope on it?
D) After all the above, will customers trust it?
Define serious business? There are quite a few companies that exist and turn a nice profit only due to the App store. (Your not limited to selling at 1$ either)
Likewise the same can be said about face book games which with monetization can be hugely profitable (Which is why many of your game businesses are buying companies that make face book games or hiring/converting personnel, and getting in that space.)
Also these gimmicks are so far surviving for several years, and not showing a down swing in growth, but instead a continual growth.