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Why choosing a mobile platform is like choosing a soft drink

With Adobe’s recent announcement essentially killing Flash as a mobile platform and throwing everything behind HTML5, it will no doubt ignite the fire under HTML5 as the platform of choice for anyone wanting to develop a mobile service. However, if you are a mobile developer – or any company thinking of developing a mobile offering, you should think through your choices a bit more carefully.

Mobile guru Volker Hirsch tackled the question in his blog, where he argues against all doomsayers of mobile apps. Yes, apps are hard, but have an edge in user experience and performance which will not go away anytime soon.  Always brilliant Vision Mobile make the following points on HTML5 in their recent report ‘Mobile Platforms: The Clash of Ecosystems‘:

“In reality, however, HTML5 is still far from becoming a replacement for native applications. Multiple technical gaps still exist, such as incompatibilities between different web browsers, poor performance on mobile devices and a lack of 3D graphics.  More importantly, HTML5 lacks the properties of a complete application platform. The HTML5 specification merely defines programming interfaces for web run-times (i.e., “browsers”). HTML5 does not address key areas an application platform would need to challenge iOS and Android, namely application discovery, distribution, monetisation and retailing.”

Of course, the choice goes far beyond web vs app. Australian mobile experts Tigerspike recently released a very good report in June on what brands and developers should consider when choosing mobile platform. Among the key very good points that Tigerspike mention are:

  • Know your audience
  • What objectives are you trying to achieve with your service
  • Understand the importance of what is a compelling user experience
  • Know the route to market

There is a point that Tigerspike overlooks though: They mention that app stores are key for app discovery. This is a truth with modifications.  With several hundreds of thousand of apps available, dropping an app is ZERO guarantee for making money, and any mobile provider/developer needs to start developing some savvy in marketing their app/service.

Tigerspike also makes a good point that if you do choose to develop an application, using a multi-platform development framework is usually a good way to go. They point out however, that the platforms often make testing difficult and that few support all the major platforms. If you are looking for a multi-platform framework, this needs to be a key decision criteria. You will not realize your revenue expectations unless you maximize distribution.

On that last point, developers who are unhappy with the revenues made on iTunes should consider that feature phones are not dead, and data plans are rolling out even in less advanced market, making it a potential target to earn some hard needed revenue:

So how do you choose what to develop for? In the end, the choice of platform was summarized quite brilliantly by Paul Marshal from Australian company Lasoo at the recent “Planet of the Apps” conference in Sydney. He said it is not about “good vs evil”, “easy vs hard” etc. He said it is kind of like asking a consumer would you like your Coke in a can or a bottle. In the end the consumer decides, and you need to understand and cater to this to maximize uptake and usage.

Posted in The Business of Mobile.

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