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TechCrunch: In Mobile, Fragmentation is forever. Deal with it

Following on from my rant on the widgets, Richard Wong – venture capitalist and guest TechCrunch blogger – makes the point with more finesse, although we disagree in technology beliefs.

In his post ‘In Mobile, Fragmentation is Forever. Deal With It’, Wong lays out the issues of the mobile marketplace and why we aren’t going to see it simplified with ‘common standards’. He also spells out how to approach a mobile application project in a pragmatic manner. Here are the first two items from his list of five things you do to overcome this complexity:

 

    • Don’t wait for the Magic Bullet.  The first step towards progress is acceptance of reality. I actually do believe that Webkit browsers, HTML5, continued progression of J2ME, Android and iPhone are all positive trends that will help make things easier for many developers, but none of them will be a single-threaded answer. There are too many markets where these solutions are insufficient. For example, India, one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets is still dominated by Nokia, which has 70%+ market share. I don’t think developing only for iPhones will be enough to dominate the India market given their < 5% share.
    • Bound The Problem & Get Down the User Learning Curve.  So, the critical next step is to limit the boundaries of the problem so you can actually solve it. Are you pursuing an enterprise app or a consumer app? Does your success require broad scale viral use, or is it perfectly good to have 2000 profitable users? Many developers focused on the consumer market are going to find that a blend of mobile web, and prototyping on iPhone-only or Android-only is the right first step and only then expand to broader platforms. Blackberry and WindowsMobile are similarly important in business applications. Rather than the costly efforts of chasing 4-5 platforms at once, focus in on the first one or two, prove your model, then expanding will help to bound the complexity.

 

Playing to Wong’s article we have the recent announcement of Windows Phone 7 Series, and more specifically last night the announcement of some of the key application platforms within Windows Phone 7 Series namely Silverlight and XNA.

I disagree outright with Wong’s belief that Webklits, HTML and J2ME are going to deliver the user experience people want on their devices. The same as with Widgets, the depth of capability just isn’t there, they are ‘lowest common denominator’ technologies. Consumers flock to the best experiences e.g. the iPhone effect. Those that don’t want to or simply can’t afford to, don’t purchase good application platform devices they buy phones, and I believe are not likely to purchase applications in any great volume. Unlike those that do purchase good application platform devices -  who, having got this technological wonder, want to push it and see what more it can do. There is simply a different level of expectation between these two types of device purchaser; an expectation that is fed by excellent user experience.

Now I have always been in the client application camp. I don’t see network services as reliable, I don’t see web only technologies as being capable of delivering the user experience a user wants. But I know I can mitigate all of these things by using a well designed client application. This is why I subscribe to the Software + Services strategy at Microsoft. The ability to have a smart client application on the device and external services in the network and/or in the cloud gives me all the capabilities I need to build the best user experience and deliver the highest levels functionality.

That’s why you need to bite the bullet and go with a single platform that can best deliver on your application ideas. This is why Windows Phone 7 Series, using the key Microsoft assets of Silverlight and XNA coupled with the ability to consume anybodies cloud services, is going to change the game in mobile.

With its emphasis on the user experience, and an app + cloud technology platform full of capability, Windows Phone 7 Series applications are going to deliver the best for users.

Take the time before Mix to explore the key technologies of Silverlight and XNA and imagine utilising these on a mobile platform built to deliver them. Webkit solutions by comparison are going to suck.

Once again its ‘All change!’ in the land of mobile.

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