Obstacles in Mobile App Development and Chipping Away at the Wall

At the Telco 2.0 New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm in Palo Alto last month (The EMEA version takes place this week in London), the focus was more on the barriers between different telcos all having a relatively more standard system in relation to mobile apps  – and more importantly to telcos, how can they monetize the app world.  There was discussion regarding programming differences between iOS and Android, but it was more focused on the sharing of basic information that can make development and deployment easier across the telco spectrum.

At the conference, I posed the rhetorical question of what it would take to tear down the walls that are put in the way of developers as they try to deploy apps across multiple carriers and mltiple platforms.  Not surprisingly, there was not much of an attempt to answer – but that’s not the biggest concern…

The golden egg that is yet to be developed is the magic technology that allows solid porting from iOS developed apps to Android and vice-versa AND solves the versioning issue across all Android devices.

What most clients (or people in general) don’t realize is that its not a matter of flipping a switch to release a product on all mobile operating system and all devices – there’s a bit of coding difference and a lot of tracking to make sure that the product is updated with all operating system and handset updates.

This latest report on smartphones tells only part of the story from both the clients and developer’s POV:

  1. Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone platform continue to gain on Research In Motion in the smartphone market in the U.S., according to ComScore. Google’s Android smartphone share rose to 34.7% in March, up from 33% in Feb., while Apple’s remained flat at 25% of the market.
     
    Top Smartphone Platforms ­- Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers Ages 13+
    3 Month Avg. Ending Mar. 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Dec. 2010
                                     Share (%) of Smartphone Subscribers
                                            Dec-10  Mar-11  Point Change­________
    Total Smartphone Subs     100.0%   100.0%       N/A
    Google                               28.7%    34.7%        6.0
    RIM                                    31.6%   27.1%       -4.5
    Apple                                 25.0%    25.5%        0.5
    Microsoft                              8.4%     7.5%       -0.9
    Palm                                    3.7%      2.8%      -0.9
    Source: comScore MobiLens

iPhone is 25% of the market and Android is now 34.7%.  That would be easier to deal with if that 34.7% of androids were all the same – but they are sometimes completely different.  There are certainly differences between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 (not to mention the unknowns in the upcoming iPhone 5) that the developers need to continue development on throughout the app or product’s lifespan, but at this point, that upkeep is much easier.

The cost of doing something across all platforms is a chellenge that will continue for the foreseeable future and, with that, companies should plan ahead.  They should plan ahead by realizing that the development is not one-size-fits-all and prepare for the additional costs that come with that. And, unless they want to show off their app to someone and risk having it not work because it wasn’t updated, they need to assume that there will be incremental costs for as long as the product exists.

There are definitely other opstacles in Mobile App Development, but the knowledge about development costs and maintenance can remove one of the biggest ones – even if it really is just chipping through until a bigger and better solution comes along…

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