2. Only a few platforms can thrive - but several will do so.
Platform diversity is a little different from form factor diversity. Why? Because any given platform needs to attract software developers to support it with apps.
Today, different platforms dominate on different form factors, as data from our Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey demonstrates for information workers. But we see the big three -- Windows, Android, and Apple's iOS -- capturing the lion's share.
Figure: Platform Dominance Varies By Form Factor
So there's platform fragmentation already, but how many more (net new) platforms can emerge? I would say very few. Why? Because:
- Few vendors have the resources to launch a new platform. Looking back at the recent graveyard of operating systems, we see how hard it can be to launch a new one (even a Linux-based OS that leverages existing developer talent). Intel (Moblin), Nokia (Maemo), Intel/Nokia (MeeGo), Palm (WebOS), HP (WebOS) ... all these experiments yielded little. The only global player with pockets deep enough might be Samsung (which, to be fair, also has the Bada and Tizen operating systems in its pocket) - but Samsung seems content to dominate Android and participate in Windows.
- There's a developer-defined limit to the number of client platforms that can coexist. But it's a tough road, insofar as we're discussing proprietary client platforms that require native apps to create the best user experience. The struggles that Blackberry (with its 10 OS) and Windows (with Windows Phone 8) have had getting developers to support their platforms the way they support iOS and Android demonstrate the challenge. While developers are moving to a scalable, cross-platform, omnichannel approach, native apps remain key to the success of iOS and Android. There just aren't sufficient developer resources to create native apps for more than a handful of platforms (if that many).
So prepare for a world of platform diversity over the next three years. For Infrastructure and Operations professionals, CIOs, and others (even marketers!) who care about these issues, prepare yourselves for a world in which the current platforms persist (Windows on PCs; Apple's iOS on phones and tablets; Android on phones) and grow (Windows and Android on tablets). Where new platforms emerge, they will be related to radically different experiences (like Google Glass) or the aforementioned open standards (Chrome OS, FirefoxOS). Brace yourself for a world of platform diversity -- but not platform chaos -- over the next three years.
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