2013: The year of mobile market fragmentation?
On my desk are devices from four players that changed the mobile space and could potentially do so even more in 2013. I have an iPhone that runs iOS, a Nexus 7 tablet running Android, a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha smartphone, and a notebook running Microsoft Windows 8. (Well, OK. Three mobile devices and one notebook. I am still looking for an excuse to buy a Microsoft Surface tablet.)
For the last few years, we have been constantly hearing from developers about the fragmentation in the mobile world. Yes, it was fragmented. There was iOS for the iPhone, iOS for the iPad, Android for Nexus, Android for the Kindle Fire, Android for the Nook, and…. In reality, there were only two viable vendors but with OS variants. That was all.
Double the options, double the challenges for developers
This year could potentially change all of that. Windows 8 and, more importantly, Windows Phone 8 are here. When BlackBerry 10 comes out, then we will have real fragmentation. Users will ask for apps on all four platforms: iOS, Android, Windows 8, BlackBerry 10. Although developers and companies that develop apps to sell can choose which platforms they support, large enterprises might not have that luxury. Can you really say that you will not support a mobile platform if even 10% of your customers use it? If you work for a bank, for example, offering mobile access provides a critical interface between your company and your customers. So you really have no choice.
The fragmentation will happen only if BlackBerry and Windows Phone 8 catch on and get a significant market share. Even though it might be shrinking faster than I can say "BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha Device," BlackBerry still has a large market share, especially in developing nations where Apple and Android phones are still out of reach for most citizens. Microsoft has the distinct story to tell about Windows 8 being really seamless from desktop, to tablet, to phone, plus Windows being the primary desktop OS in the market. Apple can say "seamless" too, but they are still way behind in desktop adoption. I would not put my money on BlackBerry (the Dev Alpha device is free to pretty much any developer who asks). But I firmly believe that Windows Phone 8 has a chance to get significant market share. It will gain market share not only because of the consistent UI experience that makes switching from one device to another easier for customers, but because the Microsoft team really does have a new and innovative product.
The answer: Hybrid apps
Although they're new, with little market penetration, Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone 8 offer up exciting opportunities for single developers and small development shops. That's because there are hardly any apps developed for them yet. This is a potential gold mine! Which sounds easier:
· Marketing your app to iPhone users where (allegedly) over 40,000 new apps get submitted for review each month?
· Or pitching it to the Microsoft app store, where they (apparently) have only 75,000 apps as of January.
Which to choose, hybrid or native?
About the Author
Sanjeev is a 18 year veteran of the software industry. For the past 15+ years he has been with the Rational Brand, coming to IBM via the Rational acquisition. He is currently a Rational Specialty Architect in the Mid-Atlantic Business Unit in the United States. His current area of expertise includes Mobile, DevOps, Agile Transformation and Application Lifecycle Management. He has spoken at several international industry conferences, including IBM Innovate and written multiple internal and external articles. He blogs at