Mittwoch, 10. Oktober 2012

What is the current state of mobile app development as of 2012?

Mobile apps are the new kids in town when it comes to software development. Most of us - including myself - come from a corporate business background. We know how to design, build, test, deploy line of business apps. They usually get paid reasonably and we don't see ourself in discussions around the way and art of selling the software, designing it or choosing a platform. The mayority either builds web application, where your platform choice does not affect your end user, since all web server spit out HTML and Javascript, or desktop application, where Windows is the dominant platform that rules them all.

With the introduction of the mobile apps store concept, we are being handed a hot, new opportunity to get our hands dirty and a lot of questions that comes with them. In this post I am trying to paint a picture of the current state of mobile app development as of 2012 and will try to find some possible opportunities or duties for us as an industry to work on in the near future.

Let's start with the complexity about deciding for which platform you are going to build apps. There are basically two alleys you can take; either create native or browser apps. The native approach leads to another  even more religiously debated question: which app store do you choose.

Native app development

To make a reasonable decision for which platform to develop, each of us has to decide for itself what are her or his goals. If you love your platform your are currently on, go ahead and stick to it. If you want to try something new, go the other way - invest a bit in hardware if that is necessary - and pick the platform you would like to try. For all the rest, I would say it is save to go with the figures and decide based on the numbers what the most attractive platform is right now. No one wants to see his investment going down the sink, because the platform has died away - as Blackberry as of 2012 is appearing.

The IDC [1] has a pretty compelling statistic about market share and sold units - which I find even more interesting as those numbers seem to predict the market share for the next 6 - 12 months going forward.

Operating System Q2 2012 Shipments (Million units) Q2 2012 Market Share Q2 2011 Shipments (Million units) Q2 2011 Market Share Year-over-year Change
Android 104,8 68.1% 50,8 46.9% 106.5%
iOS 26 16.9% 20,4 18.8% 27.5%
BlackBerry OS 7,4 4.8% 12,5 11.5% -40.9%
Symbian 6,8 4.4% 18,3 16.9% -62.9%
Windows Phone 7 / Windows Mobile 5,4 3.5% 2,5 2.3% 115.3%
Linux 3,5 2.3% 3,3 3.0% 6.3%
Others 0,1 0.1% 0,6 0.5% -80.0%
Grand Total 154 100.0% 108,3 100.0% 42.2%

If we break that out into the market share as of Q2 2012 and the Year-over-Year change from 2011 to 2012 in percentage, we can see 3 main platforms coming out of that: Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Especially the year-over-year change from 2011 to 2012 creates a clear statement that Blackberry, Symbian and all the rest is just dying out at the moment and Android, iOS and Windows Phone gain a lot of traction.

It is a pretty good bet to go with either Android, iOS or Windows Phone, although the latter only has a good prospective as growth is high. The market share still lacks behind Android and iOS.

All stores platforms take for a revenue cap care of payment, infrastructure, marketing and - arguably - discoverability.

Browser app development

The story of browser apps is told very quickly. They are ubiquitous as all laptops and smartphones come with a browser to run HTML and Javascript. Since there is no store concept for browser apps, we as a developer have to do the heavy lifting ourself and don't get the features of a common app store like payment, infrastructure, marketing and discoverability.

This is an ongoing series of posts about the current state of mobile app development. The following articles will cover topics including revenue model, app marketing, lack of current app stores and resulting possibilities for developers and regional differences.