There are a couple of trends in mobile software development that I don’t understand: 1) the over-focus on iPhone and 2) the over-emphasis on locally-running (native) applications.
iPhone or Die
On point #1, don’t get me wrong. I use an iPhone, it’s a great product and platform and clearly has mental share in the market. But it’s 10% of the smartphone customers. RIM has twice the market share with BlackBerry; Symbian four times that sell in plus a large installed base.
Maybe Yahoo! isn’t the best example, as it’s a consumer-oriented service, but apparently they have stopped developing a BlackBerry app to focus on their iPhone app. Is that a reasonable decision? Maybe. If I’m deciding, though, I look at who my customers are first. Making an enterprise or government sale? Better focus on BlackBerry first. Apple’s App Store isn’t even set up to handle large corporate purchases. Are your customers mainly in Europe? Better focus on Symbian, which is dominating the EU.
What’s a Website?
The second trend that’s bothering me is the plethora of websites pretending to be applications. The most amazing thing about the iPhone is the web browser. And yet all these sites are making native applications that are nothing more than a web site. The data still has to be downloaded to make them work, so it’s not like “offline” has any meaning to them.
Do I really need a Wikipedia app? A Google app? A Netflix app? All they do is connect me back to the web site anyway. Heck, if Twitter had a half-decent interface then I’d use their website instead. I’d much rather see time spent on making these websites really mobile-enabled. For a great example, check out ESPN’s mobile site. They’ve done an incredible job of making it look-and-feel iPhone while keeping it on the web.
Some good points Elia. I think one reason ppl are so enamored w/ the iPhone are the superior hardware capabilities that can make apps that much cooler. That said, from my experience at Opera, there are apps that can be revolutionary on any platform (like Opera Mini). I’m sure we’ll see continued cross platform app successes down the road.
Symbian is big in the EU, but Symbian software sales are not big anywhere. Ovi (Nokia’s App Store) might fix this. Now for some proper anti-piracy measures.
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in regards to your website vs. the app point… Don’t you think that at the end of the day, it’s about the easiest interface to get at the functionality / information? I will pick the app over web site every time as a user.
Thank you all for contributing. Dan, to address your question directly, I wasn’t trying to say that all apps should be web-based but instead that there are a number that don’t need to be native. Ours, of course, is one that needs to be resident on the device. (Even if I’d prefer that not to be the case.)
This post hit home for me. Personally, I’d prefer the iPhone but our corporate IT standards are locked into the Blackberry.
On a related note, any plans in the near term for user generated templates in a Blackberry app? I loved this capability in Powerone Graph, but can’t justify carrying my old palm V just for the calculator.