A wealth of different platforms, from Nokia to Windows Mobile to Android to the iPhone, place the mobile space among the rapidly growing greenfields for developers. New platforms, such as Android from Google, will challenge Nokia and its SymbianOS in the smart phone space.
NEW YORK -- The mobile market offers vast and varied opportunities
for developers, with platforms such as Nokia's Symbian, Windows Mobile
and Linux-based technologies vying for developer mindshare.
However, as a group of leaders at a recent meeting of the NYSIA (New
York Software Industry Association) here said, developers are most
likely to go to the platform that makes things efficient for them and
where they can make the most money building applications. Right now,
Symbian is the mobile market leader with the largest number of smart
phones based on the SymbianOS, but as the market evolves, that could
"We want to enable developers to take what they know and build what
they want," said Eric John, director of marketing for Forum Nokia,
Nokia's global development community. "We're not talking about just the
C++ and Java developers, but even Web designers and others who want to
create applications to run on top of the Nokia handset."
John, who was part of a July 14 NYSIA panel entitled "Mobile -- The
Opportunity for Developers and Business People," said the mobile space
shows where the power of Web services and applications are merging. And
Nokia is pushing three primary types of applications: Web applications,
ad-enabled applications and location-based applications.
"New York is a development town, but it's more of an advertising
town," John said. "We're looking at applications as a way to bring
consumers together with advertisers via widgets."
Meanwhile, Vishy Gopalakrishnan, founder and CTO at Mobility
Partners, a wireless and mobility consultant to Fortune 1,000
companies, said the merging of location capability with other features
allow targeting to be done and enables the intersection of payments via
mobile. "We see location as something that factors into decisions for
building applications," he said.
Gopalakrishnan said that "developers will flock to environments that
provide them an easy way to develop mobile and wireless applications
and to distribute them and make money. Apple has made things easy as
long as it's for the iPhone. Nokia has 60-plus percent market share ...
But how can I make money off of that and then take that to RIM
[Research in Motion] and other environments? It's not going to get
easier in the next couple of years."
Tyler Lessard, director of the BlackBerry ISV alliances and
developer relations programs within RIM's Global Alliances team, spoke
on the perceived iPhone threat to RIM.
"It's been interesting to see the growth of the market overall; it's
a great bolster to the entire community," Lessard said. "What's great
for all of us here is as Apple and the rest raise the ante, they're
also raising the opportunity for mobile developers. We had challenges
in the mobile market because it was business only for a long time. The
overall smart phone market is big enough for a number of players."
For his part, Gopalakrishnan said, "If I'm a developer, I'm asking
where am I going to have my applications seen? What's interesting about
the technology and what's going to get me into the next curve," he said
about which platform developers should look to.
"Linux is an interesting operating system ... so explain the
Android," he said of the Linux-based mobile phone software stack being
developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance. "Google's intention
is to monetize all these [Android] applications. Yes, Android has been
doing an incredible job of raising the profile of mobile application
development, but their challenge is in hitting the critical mass of
applications in the market for developers to make money."
Gopalakrishnan said look at the mobile devices themselves, and at
Nokia going the Symbian route and commoditizing the platform. "Look at
what Nokia is doing and how they are moving from being a devices
company to a software and services company and what Apple is doing with
Apple MobileMe -- there is a lot of money to be made," he said.
"From Nokia's perspective, we've always viewed the distribution and
the platform as virtually interlocked," John said. "With Symbian, HTML
and widgets we want to make it easy for developers and make it possible
for you to write and distribute your applications globally. We will
enable developers to build applications that run on the desktop, move
to the cloud and onto the device," he said.
Meanwhile, RIM's Lessard said RIM focused on making all of its
handsets based on the same Java Virtual Machine. "One of the challenges
we face is awareness and distribution and the sales channel," he said.
"We could open up a great 'app store' but the problem is that the
carriers are the first line of support. So we focused on working with
our carriers and helping them build up catalogs."
Lessard also discussed RIM's use of Java on its devices. "Java is
alive on our devices 100 percent," he said. "If we didn't have Java on
our devices we wouldn't be in many of the enterprise accounts that
we're in. We're 100 percent committed to Java and the JVM."