Mobile Platform Predictions

You want to do an app? What platform are you creating it for – Android, iPhone, Blackberry? Oh, and remember there are multiple platforms on blackberry too. It’s a hard decision for businesses to make. The irony is that businesses are challenged to put marketing dollars toward anything new, let alone an app. Some marketing professionals may tell you to do all three platforms at the same time. That may not be necessary. Certainly, each platform has its own following, and some people are diehard loyalists to their platform. iPhone users are more loyal to their platform than android users, for example. You’ll have converts on both sides, but overall this doesn’t affect your choice of platform for development. Here is a graph of the leading OS by application revenue http://mobeeler.com/?p=29 which clearly shows the iPhone at 47%, Android at 36% and RIM at 7%.

If the question is “what platform should your company build an app for?” – ask your audience. Ask them what their devices are. Look at your email campaigns. Email campaigns can measure open rates by the device that was used to open an email. Run a few mobile competitions – txt to win/enters, and learn the source of your clients’ key clicking. There is no sure fire way to know which platform would be right for your development, but these certainly help choose a direction. Eventually, if you’re successful, you should be developing on all the platforms to engage all audiences.

B to C (business to consumer) will typically have to release on all leading platforms and usually from the launch depending on advertising campaigns behind the launch. Any significant investment in a blitz advertising campaign is in great part wasted if you’ve selected only one OS which, as seen above, regardless of which one, will not even capture half the mobile audience.

B to B (business to business) can oftentimes release on a single platform and use the knowledge from that launch to improve and continue development for future launches. One platform is feasible for development because B to B advertising can be targeted and is less expensive overall. One platform is more successful in this marketspace for a few reasons; it’s easier to identify the targets’ device preferences upfront, adoption of the app is more clearly known, and sometimes, gradual release of the app (free version, pay, super-pay) provides ongoing engagement/advertising opportunities and even development recommendations post initial launch.

It is a hard choice. One of my predictions is that Blackberry which operates on RIM OS diminishes over the next couple years. Without a doubt, it needs to reinvent itself. For developers it’s a more difficult environment to program in, it’s inconsistent from device to device within their own OS, and even the user experience is not overly positive. I state this despite their rise in quarterly earnings. The last quarter earnings results released June 30, reflected $4.2 bil. RIM’s revenues are actually still growing. However, they continue to fall short of analysts’ expectations and grow at a much slower rate each quarter. You’ll also notice they no longer report on the new subscribers – one can only speculate why. At $4.2 billion I would hope you could still turn a profit. Mind you, they also have $3 billion cash on hand. Even with all this, I suspect they have an uphill battle ahead of them. We should probably compare their cash on hand with Apple’s $75 bil.

More CEO’s and executive level players are demanding their IT departments accommodate the iPhone and Android platforms. Without getting detailed there are important items to note about this trend. This is a fundamental shift in how email and data access is handled, more with the iPhone, but for both platforms overall in regard to security. The “cloud’ is making it easier for these departments to comply with the requests and to do so more easily in some cases. Surely, as security walls continue to be hacked and even worse – targeted, executives will need to be smart in their demand for IT departments to adopt these other platforms. The demands will still be made, but the implementation time will be longer. The executive suite will drive the direction of IT and if they want access through their iPhone or iPad, they will get it. It’s not my intent to imply these devices are not secure. They simply haven’t been the standards on which most IT infrastructures have been built.

Blackberry is paying attention. This is clear by their recent inclusion in the purchase of trademarks and patents made available at the auction of Nortel Networks. They participated with six companies, led by Microsoft and Apple, in acquiring the patents and IP of the now defunct Nortel Networks. Total acquisition was a mere $4.5 billion. Not a bad value for a defunct company. There are many reasons to purchase these patents. Some companies will use the patents to initiate law suits against potential infringements, others to prevent potential infringements, and of course the obvious, but ironically probably least important reason of actually using the value of the patents for development.

Some people probably hope the internet and public will ultimately create a single standard platform for development. The cloud, which is all too loosely a used term, will help in creating web based standards, but the advantage of apps running local to a device will prevent a standard from being implemented. Not to mention the driving factor of good ole worldly capitalism.

There are pluses and minuses to each platform and these will continue to be developed and exploited. Consumers like selection and to make choices based on their own personal needs. Each platform will continue to adopt its primary audience – gamers, business executives, general consumers, lifestyle enthusiasts, etc. while of course trying to steal a few of the others.

As I look around the coffee shop I’m working in, I see a plethora of devices. While the iPhone appears to be dominant in this chic little spot of NYC, it’s not always. The burgeoning market for smartphones clearly states – get mobile. If you’re struggling with the platform requirements and costs of an app then at least make a web based mobile version of what you’d put in an app. These sites are widely popular and extremely successful. Some may say the ability to point to them in email campaigns to introduce your audience is even more easily achieved and successful than trying to get users to download an app. Ultimately, the app still wins. After all, it gets to sit on the apps page of your mobile device where you will visit everyday.

Think twice, but jump in the mobile waters.

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