I'm not a developer (yet), but there's one thing I definitely know. The mobile app development phenomenon is quickly catching on, and software programmers (developers) are now aiming for the mobile platforms.
The question remains: which platform to go for? Each mobile platform has its own pros and cons. Not to mention, each of them has its own development environment. Even though the basic concepts might be the same, but the programmer has to learn quite a variety of languages in order to be able to develop for all platforms. So which platform to choose? That is the question.
This in turn, creates a new challenge at the other end of the spectrum. The customer has to make the decision of choosing between different platforms, so that they can get the best variety of apps possible.
Whether it's iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or even Blackberry OS, the developer tends to choose the platform with a larger user share, and the user normally chooses one with the best variety of apps. So, what exactly defines which mobile platform is right for you?
The initial market share in most circumstances preempts what the future holds for most products. Take iOS for instance. When Apple unveiled the App Store and a Software Development Kit (SDK) for apps, developers went crazy over it (not to mention, people were already drooling over the iPhone’s design and interface). A large number of apps were developed in a very small period of time.
Then came Android, and gained a large market share, because it was open, and available in all sizes (as opposed to Apple’s one size fits all strategy). As the platform started growing, more and more developers started creating apps for it. Apps for Android were made available through Android Market.
Existing developers started developing Android counterparts of their iOS apps, and as soon as it came close to the App store, Android Market was overhauled and converted to target a broader spectrum. It even got a new name - "Google Play". Now both of them are amid intense competition, while a new player is emerging, Microsoft (using its mobile OS Windows Phone and Windows RT).
Keeping this in mind, it would be really simple to forecast what would be the next OS that mobile app developers will target. You guessed it right; Microsoft's Windows Phone and Windows RT platforms. The reason is pretty simple. It’s quite attractive and allegedly performs more efficiently than iOS and Android. As still, I would not rush to get a Windows Phone just yet. The key reason would be because of the lack of apps. The Windows Phone Store (app hub for Windows Phone) does seem to have the essential apps, but considering my move from a platform with an app for just about anything, I would feel something missing.
Not every new player manages to attract developers towards it. Blackberry for instance has its own OS, its own app market, but not a big market share. This is one of the reasons developers don't invest in creating apps for this platform - because they won't be able to reach out to a lot of consumers. However, if the new blackberry 10 devices manage to turn things around, developers would rush to them, and so will the customers.
If you’re a developer looking for a platform to develop apps, or a potential customer wanting to switch to a mobile platform, consider this - when a mobile platform is becoming increasingly popular among consumers, it's an indication for the developers to do what they are known to do.
The reasons for initial popularity will always be among the functionality, efficiency and design because at least initially, there won’t be a lot of apps for that platform.
Once the customer base is developed, it’s time for phase two. I think developers should initially target the OS with the largest or quickest growing customer share. Then they'll go for any competitors that are a part of the game.
Once that’s done, the third phase will be the return of the consumer. Consumers assess which platform has the best apps, and start switching to it.
When all things are said and done, it’s still a matter of personal preference. If you are used to and satisfied with any platform, there is normally not enough motivation for you to switch. As a customer, you should be satisfied with the mobile platform that you use. If not, consider a switch. As a developer, try to reach out to all the platforms, increase your target audience and learn from case studies like Rovio.
After all, both consumer and provider are in it for some sort of personal gain.