Of Android, iPhone and Mobile Development

The launch of Google’s Nexus One phone is great news for mobile developers. Now that Android can show the kind of functional and market presence as the iPhone, the market for mobile applications is quickly coalescing around these two platforms and they will likely dominate mobile computing for the vast majority of consumers and prosumers.*

First I want to comment that when I talk about mobile computing I’m not just talking about smartphones. I’m actually talking about the rise of an array of mobile computing machines that includes smartphones but also includes other notebook-sized devices traditionally called tablets. (It’s only a matter of time before we start replacing spiral bound notebooks with some sort of computing device. Microsoft is expected to show one today at CES, Apple has an announcement coming up in late January, and don’t let anyone fool you into believing that we won’t see Android/ChromeOS-powered notepads real soon.)

The beauty is that, in order to support all of these devices, developers will have to be an expert in only a couple of development languages and device-specific APIs. And with the market forming around two platforms we will start to see real innovation around third-party development tools that allow us to write once, use everywhere as these tools can be honed for a small group of devices and screen sizes.

Will 2010 be the year of mobile computing? I think so. I think this is the year where standardized form factors become the norm, where a couple of platforms take control and become the thought and market leaders in the space, and where consumers start to adopt these devices en masse.

* This is not a comment about enterprise devices, where BlackBerry and Windows Mobile are still dominant. I still believe RIM can catch up in prosumer but they have a lot of work to do. I also think that we naturally expect touch and this is something that RIM just doesn’t do well yet. The fact that RIM is primarily a non-touchscreen device company also makes it hard for developers. We build expertise in an interaction model and that model, with iPhone and Android leading the way, is touch screens.

6 thoughts on “Of Android, iPhone and Mobile Development

  1. Wake me when Google has a coherent API and accompanying documentation. (e.g. OpenGL ES 1.1 stinks, but it stinks even worse on Android 1.5)

    A viable Marketplace would be nice too, although I understand that just being able to touch the greatness of Google is enough reward for most developers. Who needs to make money, anyway?

    Developer business model issues aside, it still has the technical flaws as the MOTO device that was going to “kill the iPhone” in November- the HTC phone demonstrated yesterday still has a 190M limit for all code and data.

  2. But you forget about Symbian, which happens to be the OS with biggest market share in the world. But you’re American, right? Typical “not invented here” line of thought..

    • You make me smile, David! I haven’t forgotten about Symbian. The problem for a developer is that most customers don’t know they are running Symbian. There’s a sales problem there for us. (It also happens to be a dwindling market share whose primary device provider, Nokia, is also working on the Maemo operating system. That raises even more concerns.) It feels a lot like Windows Mobile at this point — still there and on many device but not a topic of conversation in the developer community.


  3. You write that iPhone has only got one carrier per country. Simply put, this is not correct. In my own country, Denmark, we have four carriers three of whom are selling iPhones. And since iPhones are only bound for six months, people are using the fourth carrier with iPhone too …

    The main reason for the iPhone, only using one carrier in the USA is because the AT&T seem to be the only coast-to-coast carrier that uses the international GSM standard. In the rest of the world, we don’t have that problem.

    • Thanks. Very good point. We actually have two companies here with national presence and GSM (T-Mobile being the other). It’s hard to know what will happen here as 4G networks come online and all the US carriers use the same standard.


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