Why Android, iOS App Development is No Zero Sum Game

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-04-18 Print this article Print

For those interested in Google's Android platform, you must read Fred Vogelstein's latest piece in Wired when he calls attention to a number of points.

My light bulb moment in reading the article, which rehashes a lot of what has been reported by myself and others who follow Google vs. Apple in the mobile space, is this passage:

During the OS wars of a generation ago, it was hard to write software for one platform, let alone two, and developers were pressured to pick either Mac or PC, and quickly. But today, user-friendly software development tools make it easier to churn out apps. In other words, software companies will feel less compelled to choose sides.

This point is well met. Research shows developers are picking both. Baird analyst William Power surveyed 250 developers and found that 70 percent of the iOS developers claimed they also develop for Android, with 63 percent of Android developers also developing for iOS.

In other words, while Microsoft versus Mac was pretty much an either-or proposition for developers on the desktop, today's mobile ecosystem allows for developers to write for both.

So that means programmers can enjoy both platforms, which is incredibly fruitful, according to this Wired chart:

Wired chart.png

Almost 200 Android devices to develop apps for, but don't be fooled by the 5 iOS devices -- there are more than 100 million iPhones sold and soon to be tens of millions of iPads.

Moreover, iOS development is where the real revenue is as I write this, with more than $3 billion paid out to Apple App Store developers. Android has to get better in this area if it wants to compete successfully.

Even so the glut of devices makes it hard to developers to ignore, especially because consumers keep snapping them up. Well, at least the phones. The Android tablet situation has yet to be sorted out.

Currently, developing for both platforms is a no-brainer... unless you subscribe to Vogelstein's conclusion:

But once the market is saturated--say, in three to five years--sales will slow. Then the only growth opportunity will lie in poaching customers from other companies. The company with the largest and most loyal user base is likely to win that fight, and that's what both Apple and Google are currently trying to establish. But make no mistake: As is often the case in technology, only one platform will prevail.

Does anybody really believe Apple iPhone or Android devices will cease to exist? That's like saying there are only enough soda drinkers for Coke to corral, and that Pepsi will eventually go under. That's total BS and fails to account for RIM Blackberry, Windows Phone and webOS.

I don't see this happening at all for at least the next 10 years. And if it doesn't happen by then, it won't happen at all. I expect Android to be the OS powering lots of TVs, refrigerators and microwaves, perhaps even cars. Apple will expand iOS to TVs and other consumers devices, too.

Tell me why I'm wrong.

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