Mobile Platforms: The Truth About Third Place

In software development, being the #3 platform in the mobile market is as good as being last.

Andrew Binstock, Editor-in-chief, Dr. Dobb's Journal

November 20, 2014

2 Min Read

During the days when BlackBerry was fighting for its place at the app development table, I met several times with the company's head of developer outreach. An energetic man, he had many views to express, most of which made a lot of sense. There were good reasons to code for the BlackBerry platform: It was easier, in some senses, to develop for than other platforms; and users were more willing to pay for BlackBerry apps than for Apple iOS and Android apps, where the notion of "everything should be free" had already taken root.

However, as he clearly articulated one afternoon, none of these benefits meant much if app developers chose to write for the BlackBerry after writing for Android. The dynamic, he explained, went like this: Companies coming out with new apps almost always wrote the iOS app first. This was generally a native app because Apple users are finicky enough that they tend not to be satisfied with apps that don't exactly fit their guidelines.

After writing the iPhone/iPad app, there comes the moment of decision. The worst decision for the #3 player is that the vendor chooses to develop for Android next. Android development is a black hole due to the vast number of form factors and OS versions that must be accommodated. Said the fellow from BlackBerry, organizations don't ever truly exit the Android development process. They keep porting and testing the app on an endless list of devices until they finally decide they've covered enough of them to meet their goals. Only then do they stop porting on Android. In other words, the decision to stop is a purely economic one, rather than the naturally occurring end of project when all desired devices have the app.

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Binstock

Editor-in-chief, Dr. Dobb's Journal

Prior to joining Dr. Dobb's Journal, Andrew Binstock worked as a technology analyst, as well as a columnist for SD Times, a reviewer for InfoWorld, and the editor of UNIX Review. Before that, he was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse. He began his career in software development.

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