While at the GSMA MWC the other week, I had the opportunity to check out two of the new mobile platforms that were unveiled – Samsung’s Bada, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. Both platforms looked to be quite impressive, and I’m certain that their release has created much excitement amongst developers that are eager to get started on building new apps for these platforms. However, while the release of new platforms is exciting to some, I’m almost certain that it spells nightmare and confusion for those on the business side that are looking to reach a wide target market through mobile applications and solutions. With the sheer number of app stores that have followed from Apple’s, and the number of platforms being introduced, it’s only natural for one to be overwhelmed. Also revealed at the GSMA is that several mobile operators have banded together to introduce a joint application platform with the goal to create application standards that will enable developers to create apps that will work across a wide variety of phones. A standardized approach is good, because it simplifies things for the business and allows the roll-out of one app that should work across many phones – therefore enabling the application for a larger target market. But anything that is created for such a wide array of phones by virtue cannot be created to take advantage of any particular phone’s differentiating features, therefore ‘standardizing’ (or dumbing down) user experienceMeanwhile, apps that are created for specific phones can take advantage of features of that specific phone and can therefore result in enhanced user experience. If you know that your target market uses a specific type of phone – definitely go with this approach. It is tough though to narrow your market down to a specific phone type, and therefore it remains necessary to create a version for each platform and type of phone if you want to create a compelling application for a large base of users. If pure function is the most important factor, then a standardized approach that extends your reach to a larger number of devices will be a wise choice. However, in many cases you will still need to multiple versions of your application so that the nuances of each phone can be addressed.Perhaps in the future, application standards will prevail and the world of mobile application development will be simplified, but for now, reaching a wide target continues to increase in difficulty with the introduction of new platforms.
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