Question: What is the best way to get your mobile platform to be adopted by developers and subsequently end-users?
Answer: Pay off the developers
And that is just what Google is doing with their Android SDK. A total of $10 million dollars will be awarded to the best applications in a contest Google recently announced..
Having lived through the application wars of Apple vs. PC and then Microsoft Windows vs. IBM OS/2 I can recall just how important it is the have the application developers behind your platform.
For example in the publishing industry a popular software package for desktop publishers was Quark Express and the company was a loyal Apple developer. In the early nineties I asked company executives if they would be developing their program for the PC and they would say with confidence that they would never do this.
Of course the company changed direction a bit later and TMC currently uses Quark on PCs but at the time, it was bad news for me as I oversaw technology purchases at this company.
The videogame market is another area where application developers can make a big difference. A look at Halo 3 shows you just how important applications can be.
But in the mobile market it is a different story at the moment. I have a mobile device and I rarely download software beyond speech recognition and the Adobe Acrobat Reader.
I have tried the occasional mapping application mind you and certainly this would be more useful to me if I didn’t have a Garmin GPS unit with me constantly.
I suppose what I am getting at is there is no killer app in the mobile space today and I am not sure there is any dire need that comes to mind. This is exactly the reason Google has launched their contest because if the company can come up with a single killer application they could turn the entire mobile world upside down over night.
Recently I discussed exactly how Google and Sprint could merge and in the article I mentioned: “I do wish someone would cross the chasm between my desires and my surroundings.”
And perhaps this is the area where a killer application will emerge. If a software package is able to effectively keep me up to date on my surroundings as they relate to my needs, I will be forever in its debt. For example, I may be a huge coffee fan but hate Starbucks. It would be beyond annoying to have to search for a coffee shop every few minutes on my mobile device. Instead, I would prefer to be alerted when a popular non-Starbucks coffee shop is nearby.
This is the area where applications developers could provide the glue to make my life easier.
It should be worth noting that Apples’s iPhone has an incredible browser embedded in it and as such from a graphical perspective it will be tough to beat this device. I mention this because any application which can be developed on Android can effectively be ported to SaaS on an iPhone.
So the issue here is the killer app for Google’s Android may not be anything superior to what can be provided to an iPhone. After all, most SaaS applications which aren’t even designed for the iPhone run on it effectively already.
But where the iPhone comes up short is in having a software architecture allowing SaaS applications to run when there is no Internet connectivity. This is where Google Gears comes into play as it allows SaaS applications to run with no web access.
It should be noted that Android is based on Java but parts ways with it by allowing it to be even more open, allowing developers more granular control. This CNET article has more details.
The point is that Google has a new approach to mobile device programming platforms and has shaken things up quite a bit. Developers seem interested in developing exciting new applications on Android and it remains to be seen if the true mobile killer application is around the corner.