Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mobile Zealotry

"You're either with me or against me!"
Does this feel like the rhetoric coming out of Google and Apple lately? Sometimes I wonder if Russell from Survivor is working for these guys. I was at Google I/O last week, and I have to admit that Vic Gundotra delivered a great keynote. It really got the troops excited.
"One man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice ... Not the Future We Want"
Indeed. But before you go out and get an Android tattoo, and toss your iPhone off of the Golden Gate Bridge, take a deep breath and remember: You don't work for Google (unless you do, in which case I assume you've already got said tattoo.) You should not care who wins this jihad -- but make sure that you aren't collateral damage.

If you are a mobile developer, what you should most care about is delivering the best and most useful experience to your users. So first and foremost, you need to care about what kind of devices your users are using. If they are all iPhone users and you really want to build Android apps, well sorry. Further, if they are all Blackberry users, then you can just ignore the drama going on here in the Valley.

Of course the device of choice for your users today is quite possibly not what they will be using tomorrow. Former Android engineer Cedric Beust makes the point that the iPhone may well have peaked. Things look great when you're at your peak, especially if you don't realize that the descent has begun. So you might build a killer iPhone app this year, only to find that your users have moved on next year. Nobody ever said that this was an easy game.

Hedging your bets and investing in multiple platforms seems like the safe thing to do, if it's practical. But don't forget the other factor: delivering a great app. If you can't deliver a great app on Android, then don't bother. If you can't deliver on the iPhone, then don't bother. Both Apple and Google have gone out of their way to provide developers with fantastic tools and platforms for creating great apps, so this may be a moot point. There are definitely types of apps that are better suited for one platform than the other. For example, the iPhone seems to be superior for games. If you look at the success of consoles, you can see why that kind of environment where hardware and software are highly standardized, translates well to the iPhone. Similarly, the lack of background processing on the iPhone (and don't believe any hype about iPhone OS 4 changing this, it does not except in a few special cases) cripples the capabilities of many iPhone apps.

The most important thing to keep in mind in all of this is that it is in Apple and Google's best interests to be as divisive as possible. If they can convince you that they are "right" and that you should only develop for their platform, this is a huge win for them. So expect the rhetoric to only get worse. How many days until WWDC?


Brian Dickens said...

Hello Michael...wanted to inform you that your article has been defaced by a somewhat amusing non-local image from "funkyspacemonkey". You might want to fix that!

But yes, as with most Jihads, extremism leads to problems. And while Google has had much better policies than Apple lately (imo) these things can turn on a dime.

As Jon Stewart said when he went off on Apple:

"It wasn't supposed to be this way. Microsoft was supposed to be the evil one. But now you guys are busting down doors in Palo Alto, while commandant Gates is ridding the world of mosquitoes. What the f**k is going on? It is all mixed up. I don't know which end is up anymore. Black is white. Cats are dogs." :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the note on the image. It's fixed now.

Yeah, I saw the Jon Stewart bit, it's absolutely brilliant. I think the iPhone 4 will buy Apple months of being above criticism again.