September 9, 2010, 4:18 PM

Magento offers retailers an iPhone app and help getting it approved

The e-commerce software provider is charging a $799 setup fee and $699 per year.

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E-commerce software provider Magento this week began offering to its retailer clients the ability to create a commerce-enabled iPhone app.

The new offering, Magento Mobile, is in effect a product and a service, says CEO Roy Rubin, as Magento shepherds a retailer’s iPhone app through the sometimes arduous process of getting an app approved by Apple Inc., a requirement to have the app made available to iPhone users.

A retailer installs the Magento Mobile extension to the core Magento e-commerce software, then makes a number of configuration decisions that determine how the app will look and function. “They send the configuration data to us and we do the rest,” Rubin says.

“Magento Mobile allowed us to roll out an iPhone commerce app in just a few days at a low cost, and even completed the approval process for us, saving valuable time and resources,” says Rick Schwartz, president of online skateboarding retailer OK Skate. “Customer feedback has been great so far, as the app makes it simple for mobile users to search, order and pay for goods through our site.”

Magento charges a $799 setup fee for the mobile app, plus a maintenance fee of $699 per year or $69 per month.

The mobile app represents a step toward Magento developing a revenue stream from its base of 70,000 clients, 98-99% of whom use the free Community edition of Magento’s e-commerce software, Rubin says.

“We are monetizing very little of our mass merchant base and we plan to continue to offer products and services that will allow them to transact better,” Rubin says. “We will offer more complementary products like Magento Mobile to our Community users.”

The Magento Mobile technology currently supports English, French, German and Spanish; Magento plans to add more than a dozen other languages, including Italian, Chinese, Dutch and Japanese.

And while the platform only provides an iPhone app today, Magento says it plans to offer soon apps for the Apple iPad  tablet computer and for mobile phones that use Google’s Android software.

Other retailers using the Magento Mobile platform include apparel merchants The North Face and ’47 Brand and the Miami Dolphins professional football team.

Besides the Community edition of its e-commerce software, Magento offers a Professional edition, that is largely sold through and supported by systems integrators, and an Enterprise edition that has the most functionality and is supported directly by Magento.

Magento offers the Community edition software with an open source license that not only allows retailers to see and change the source code but to distribute it at will. Magento offers no support or warranty on that product.

The vendor offers the Professional and Commercial edition under a commercial license, which includes warranties, support and protection from patent claims, and charges for those products. Retailers are provided with the source code for those versions of the Magento software, but they are not free to distribute it, Rubin says.

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