Laridian VIP Ed Hansberry posts the following on InformationWeek.com: Too Many Mobile OS’s Limiting Development For Companies.
Ed writes, “…there are a bewildering number of platforms and variations within the platforms to develop for. Enterprises will take the easy way out and just stick to one platform and a precious few models. Software developers that are selling their apps will have to have enough penetration for each platform to make development worthwhile. Each platform requires its own development team or at least a dedicated development process that takes time away from other supported platforms…. While phone carriers may support six or more mobile platforms, I am not sure the software industry will.”
We’ve been talking about this problem for some time:
- Palm Pre
- On the Problems of Designing User-Friendly Software for PDAs and Smart Phones
- The Hidden Complexity of the Cell Phone Market
- When is a Smartphone Not a Smartphone?
- …and any number of posts when the iPhone first came out.
Ed makes a good observation: There are at least six major mobile platforms. What if there were six desktop platforms? The software industry would be a significantly different place as companies tried to solve the huge problem of cross-platform development, multiple-platform development, and having enough market on any one platform to justify the incremental cost of maintaining or entering the market on that platform.
One thing you can say about Windows: By dominating the market Microsoft makes it easy for developers on desktop platforms. You can focus your development on one operating system. If you make it there you can consider Mac if you have enough users to justify the expense. Once you’ve covered Windows you have 80%-90% of the market. Whether you go for the 10%-15% represented by the Mac OS is a big decision, but at least it’s the only decision you’ll have to make.
For those of us writing software for mobile platforms there’s not only the issue of supporting a large number of platforms, but there’s the fact that the relative mix of market share on these platforms changes over time. Palm OS used to be our largest platform. Today the Palm OS is dead. Palm and Windows Mobile used to dominate the market; today iPhone and Windows Mobile hold the dominant share of customers. Deciding how we allocate development time and money is an ongoing process that changes a couple times every year.
Meanwhile Apple doesn’t make it easy to develop for the iPhone. I am having a major problem with getting the XCode programming tools to talk to my new 3G iPhone. The information at the Apple developer site is insufficient, and the developer forums they provide have numerous questions identical to mine that have gone unanswered for months. When you call “developer support” at Apple you get a guy in Great Britain who admits he has absolutely no idea how to solve the problem because he’s not a programmer and knows nothing about programming. He points me to the documentation, which is what I’ve been following to get me into the predicament I’m in.
It’s actually encouraging to see a major company like Yahoo make the decision to abandon all other platforms but the iPhone. (Actually, they’re supporting other platforms through customizations to their Web-based products.) It makes it easier for us to consider similar options.