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Develop for Apple, Android or Windows? There's room for everyone at the table

Andrew Till, senior vice president, Mobile & Connected Devices Division, Symphony Teleca | Oct. 16, 2012
There has been much debate about the preferred wireless platform for application developers. Every platform has its own advantages and challenges, and there are key points developers need to keep in mind when choosing the most appropriate platform for their applications.

However, from a developer's point of view, maximizing the reach of consumer and enterprise applications is far more complex on Android given the fragmented devices landscape compared to Apple/iOS. Developing applications that work across most deployed Android devices requires a deep understanding of the different device types, as well as some thoughtful consideration in terms of what may be the best release to use for development. This also has hidden costs for issues such as maintenance of multiple application variants.

But amid all the hype and hearsay, it's clear that the current most widely used platforms all have distinct benefits and challenges for end users, developers and mobile network operators (MNO) alike. What is key is understanding what these are and what will best meet the needs of your organization.

Apple iOS: Apple had an early lead in the market and no doubt has become the de facto standard in "coolness." For end users, it's intuitive and user-friendly, with simple instructions and a large range of applications to choose from that are tied to the Apple device ecosystem locking in lifetime users. For the developer, Apple offers a huge market, a sizable base of consumers willing to pay for apps, an excellent toolset and continuous development opportunities at very low cost.

While MNOs receive a large portion of their revenue from the popularity of the iPhone and the ability to offer an assortment of data packages, it brings several challenges to the MNO, including a loss of application and content revenue, high costs for data usage and the prime billing relationship going directly to Apple through the user's AppleID.

Android: While Android has been nipping at the heels of Apple devices for a while, it has always been among the most mature gaming platforms -- still the largest segment for app sales both in terms of the hardware performance and the range of options for software development. With the added support for in-app purchasing -- one of the key monetization vehicles for application developers -- there has been a boost in app revenues. Android is also at the forefront of pushing HTML5 as an open application platform, and bringing the full Chrome browser to Android through the new 4.1 release which will further attract developers.

Getting applications up on Google Play for Android is deemed to be more straightforward than for Apple/iOS. Apple would say its testing is more stringent than Google's but application developers know and are increasingly acting upon the knowledge that if they release poor-quality apps then consumers won't repeat buy.

Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8: Microsoft is going through a massive resurrection. The company is dominant in the desktop/laptop OS market, but has been behind in the smartphone market. It has realized that providing common technologies and the typical "Microsoft" experience across form factors is key to its survival. Now, you will see it moving forward as a company toward the vision that it shared some time back on its 3-screen (i.e., Desktop/Laptop, Mobile Phones, TVs) and cloud strategy.


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