Sat, 30 Jan 10

gClouds and iDevices

The recent unveiling of the Apple iPad is portent for the evolution for Mac OS X towards the iPhone OS. Existing iPhone apps will run on the iPad, with presumably the same App Store model. Apple has also (carefully, purposely) not included Adobe Flash support for the iPhone and now the iPad. This implies that Apple is deadly serious about creating a third party developer ecosystem that is tied to its own SDK, licensing, runtime and payment mechanism.

While Webkit and Safari remain at the forefront of web, HTML5 and Javascript support, given the evolution of Apple devices and custom interface gestures (e.g. pinch, expand, hold, etc.) as well as new revenue models through App Store downloads and in-app purchases, there is an emerging Dilemma for software developers and small companies to consider.

Do you want to be in the cloud or on the device?

Let me elaborate. Large companies rarely bet. They hedge. They will “continue to leverage their core website operations in creating and nurturing a viable consumer touchpoint through their iPhone applications strategy”. But competent developers know that platforms and tools shape your thinking. When you live and breathe a world-view, you are more likely to be productive and create something worthwhile.

Being in the cloud is hardly revolutionary, since everyone is already in the cloud, or talking about being in the cloud. We are talking about specializing in the cloud. Sure, there will be ways to deliver your service front-end to multiple devices using general purpose browser technology, but the winning devices will offer specialized experiences and you will not have the time or expertise to invest in them while defending yourself from Google-grabs and other pure-play cloud competitors.

Today, making an iPhone app is a few weeks of work. Figure another two weeks for doing an Android version. But, the devices are going to be richer, there will be more bells and whistles and knobs on the platform, more hoops to jump through to get into the app stores, all the while thinking of more hooks to keep your users engaged.

You might be able to do both, a rare possibility. A three-person-minimum company can emulate Apple - one guy doing the cloud part, another doing the device app, and the third channeling Jobs, exercising taste and overall control.

Here is another thing to ponder about and wager on. In a future with separate cloud and device ecosystems, would the total opportunity space for independent players shrink or grow?

Where are you placing your bets?

Sat, 30 Jan 10