Lately I’ve been developing for the mobile app stores (iOS, Play, App World) so all the coolness and problems alike are pretty fresh in my mind. It also means I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently discussing the current state of the mobile landscape.
I thought I’d get my thoughts down while I have the time (I’ve been smacked in the face by a big fat cold virus that’s forcing me to have a break from climbing and well everything. Not nice over the long Easter weekend!).
First up RIM
I thought it might be wise for one to kick off with RIM sense it’s entirely possible that by the time I’ve finished writing this little piece that they will no longer exist. OK maybe I’m being a bit facetious to say it won’t exist but I can guarantee that it will have continued further along it’s downward trend.
It’s funny to think how far RIM has fallen in the years preceding the iPhone and shortly thereafter Android. I personally thought that they had a brilliant place from which to wage war; that being the absolute centre of enterprise. Somehow they managed to lose it. I say somehow, you can actually pretty much chalk it up to the consumerisation of IT in the enterprise gaining momentum and RIMs inability to ride the wave.
Example. My most recent mobile app was for a client who wanted the app in BlackBerry’s App World as well as the App Store and Marketplace (now known as Play). Thing is the app was designed specifically for modern smartphone screens which we defined as about 3.5 inch with a decent resolution. Not having had to look into RIMs line up for a while I couldn’t recall their devices of the top of my head so I headed over to their product listing page.
What did I find? A product listing that looked like it was from a few months after iPhone and Android emerged. There was only one model that had a minimum of 3.5 inch screen (it actually had a 3.7″) with a decent resolution. ONE MODEL! It’s been clear that people want a big ass slab of glass for their smartphone’s today. There’s a reason why iPhone, Android and even Windows Phone 7 are all (with the exception of a few Android models I’m sure) slabs of glass.
Now I find it hard to believe that RIM’s CEO didn’t know these two facts; the trend of consumerisation of IT and the majority of people’s taste in relation to smartphone’s. So the only thing I can think that happened is that he couldn’t put one and one together and extrapolate.
There isn’t much more to say on this. RIM is losing market share, mind share, developers and staff month over month. The only good thing I’ve heard from them recently is an admission that they really have screwed up these last few years, btw that was from the new CEO.
I think the best thing for RIM to do is to get out of or trim down massively their hardware line and license their OS and services to other manufacturers. I think some other HW vendors would be interested in at least exploring the opportunity to offer a compelling counter balance to Apple and Google.
From a developer point of view. Well I wouldn’t shed a tear should RIM disappear.
Next up choice/fragmentation in Android
Depending on your view it’s either consumer choice or platform fragmentation. Well here’s the thing as a consumer I’m sort of sitting on the fence as to what I’d call it. I might be leaning toward consumer choice in relation to the HW but fragmentation in relation to the platform.
As a developer however it’s a clear cut decision. It’s fragmentation and a whole lot of work! And it ain’t quick iteration thanks to the painful sluggishness of the Android emulator. Of course as I finished the project and get my thoughts out here a new rev of the emulator has been released with the major improvement being hardware acceleration. I haven’t had a chance to update my development machine so can’t comment first hand on how well this works but I have seen some demo’s on youtube and it does look good.
Here’s an example of the fragmentation that we developers face. Take for Google’s mobile homepage for search. How do you think it holds up when viewed across a range of browsers.
You can see higher quality versions of the image here.
Keep in mind this example is only across browsers and not devices and OS versions. I like the openness and flexibility of Android but I really do wish that it was far more consistent.
Lastly; Adobe might be getting back to its ‘we build kick ass tools’ roots with Shadow
As a quick last point I want to highlight a new app from Adobe. It’s called Shadow and it allows you to pair mobile devices with your dev machine and test web apps on the mobile device.
Besides from me liking the tool, it really can speed up workflow, I’m heartened to see Adobe returning to it’s tools heritage. Originally before getting caught up in Flash Adobe made tools and not platforms. I think this is the direction they need to continue.
Adobe I’d love to see more releases such as Shadow that solve real problems.
Update: Adobe have released an update of Shadow that solves some of the major problems I encountered while playing with it. Loving the quick iteration Adobe! Instead of me re hashing the details you can find out more on the release here http://thenextweb.com/dd/2012/04/13/adobe-updates-web-app-development-tool-shadow-with-labs-release-2/