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Mobile : Which platform to go for? As a developer.

24 Aug

xcodegraniteincon

P.S. – This post was inspired by this post on Mashable which made me think on this topic.  Since iOS and Android are the dominant platforms I am only bringing these two into the discussion for now. 

In my earlier post I had covered about which platform to go for as a consumer. But from a business perspective, stakes are more high when you are a developer and thinking of extending your existing software or creating a new one for the mobile devices. Making mobile apps and a good one at that takes a lot of time, energy and money(tangible, intangible) so its important to figure out the canvas before you start building.

Choosing that canvas is what I would delve into.

Just to share, I am not a mobile developer, at-least not yet, but I am interested in technology, the mobile space and being a very heavy user of apps on a everyday basis I am very inquisitive of the business side and the scope of innovation it has to offer.

The world of software is rapidly getting replaced by Apps be it on Mobile or on the Browser as extensions.  And more and more people are moving away from Computing on their desktops/laptops and using their mobiles/tablets for all their computing needs.

So its imperative for software developers to also think of having presence on mobile or else their relevance in today’s fast evolving technology will rapidly fade. And it’s no mystery that all things be equal among software providers, it the value addition, its who gives you more value for the buck, which ultimately decides which software provider will be in business and thrive, or even survive to begin with.

The question is fairly simple – iOS or Android?

Sub-question even more simpler – Mobile or Tablet or Both.

I think once you have answered the main question, the sub-question shouldn’t be very difficult.

From my point of view, I would require the following to even begin contemplating to answer the first one,  iOS vs Android, should I choose –

  1. Target market region – continent, country, state : This will help you get some idea of which platform your customers or potential customers are on or will be. For example, if majority of your customers are already using iOS on at-least one device, building an Android app will exclude them right from their start and vice-versa.
  2. User Personas of your existing customers  : These will give you some idea of what devices they are on and whether they own multiples devices such as tablets and if yes then which one.
  3. Your plans of the extent of presence on mobile/tablet : You need to be reasonably clear as to how much are willing to invest in building your app and to what level. If all you want is basic functionality to extend the existing PC software, then there is a chance that you can build on multiple platforms right from the start. If something deeper then you should have as much clarity as possible in choosing a platform.
  4. Your team as it stands or are you willing to outsource the development work(part or in full) : If you plan to build your app in-house then you must assess which platform your developers are comfortable on and why. Since they are ones who will be slogging it out, having their consensus is critical. Even if they are not well versed with the platform being chosen from a business perspective, you may want to have some kind of training sessions to get them going. If you plan to outsource a part or a chunk of it then you need to do some homework on existing developers and shortlist a few to start a conversation. Their history of building apps, coding capabilities, support capabilities need to be looked into before bringing them on-board.
  5. The latest trend as far as usage on mobiles go :
    • Dominant mobile platform region wise along with version statistics – This is to further breakdown which version is in use. Whether majority in iOS are on the latest version or not. If Android then there are multiple versions still running. Why is this important is because, if you are building on the latest version of any platform but if your customers are using old versions then chances are some functionality which you spent so much time on may not even usable on their versions. This needs to be correlated with the regions as per your customer profile.
    • Paid vs free app usage stats on each platform – Which platform is able to sell more paid apps than free ones. You can also have a category wise breakdown, say your category is Arcade Games, then whether more people are ready to pay on iOS or Android for a particular game. It may also help to have usage statistics, for example, whats the % of people who have downloaded the app, but have not come back in terms of using it. How many % of them are on old app versions even when you have updated your app. Whether people update paid apps more frequently than free ones.
    • Developers statistics – Are developers earning more on a particular platform, compared to other platform, is there any particular category where earnings is more even though overall earnings may be less. Like for example, in Games category Android developers are earning more, but within Games, Arcade games developers are earning more on iOS.
    • Commerce statistics on the platform  : Reflects spending habits. A lot of transactions are taking place on mobiles. Whether it is buying movie tickets, shopping, buying travel tickets packages etc. This gives an indication of the user persona of the platform customers. If more transactions happen on iOS, then this info can be useful in certain decision makings viz-a-viz your app. For example if you want to have in-app purchase or your app is a paid one, this info can be very useful.

These are fairly comprehensive data to help you in your decision making.

Some other decisions you will have to make at some point or pivot as need be –

  • Start with Phone or designed not scaled for Tablet or both at the same time.
  • Free or paid ?
  • If paid, should we start with promotions.
  • When to have promotions if at all?
  • App road-map, how often to release updates, release notes.
  • Ads or without ads
  • Marketing the app(a whole new subject of discussion all-together and may be a blog post)
  • Other topics like UX, UI which is more of going into the blueprint, design etc.

Hope the above info gives helps you in some way to start your app journey to the mobile/tablet. Let me know if I have missed something or if something needs to be fixed/updated in terms of content.

Anirudh

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Mobile : Which phone or rather which platform to go for? As a consumer.

22 Aug

ios5-vs-android

P.S. – Since iOS and Android are the dominant platforms, I am only taking these two into the discussion, for now. Also since I am an Apple fan and love every moment of my iPhone, there is a very reasonable possibility of bias, but I would do my best to be as objective as possible. 

I like technology and I like the word of mobile phones. Now I also like the world of mobile platforms as it creates so many new layers of devices. Android being open offers ton of scope for innovation for various manufactures(Samsung, HTC, LG, Nexus, etc)

On and off I get a lot of similar questions personally and also similar questions crop up on many forums/twitter/facebook etc.

  • Should I buy iPhone or should I buy S4?
  • Should I go for Apple or Samsung.

For me both questions are flawed and if your basic premise of question is flawed, no matter what the answer be it will flawed.

The very first question one should ideally ask should be –

Which platform should I go for? Should it be iOS or should it be Android. 

That’s the question Ladies and Gentlemen which will make sure you don’t feel cheated on spending on your smartphone and that it meets your usage requirements.

It is not only the manufacturer/hardware which is responsible for what you get with your smartphone, it is primarily the platform which provides the experience on your phone.

If your choice is iOS then you have just saved yourself from decision fatigue and all you need to do is decide between the latest model(iPhone 5) or the one previous(iPhone 4S) to it.  I wouldn’t really go to the 3rd level of iPhone 4. Once you have chosen that its literally choosing between black or white and storage capacity, These are fairly easy decisions to make compared to what you will be making if you choose and the plethora of brands and models they offer.

Now I am not saying that you go for iOS. This is where it gets interesting. When advising/suggesting/advocating mobile preferences, people get personal and start defending the one they own, which technically applies to the majority of us. But then if you are looking for advise, you would want a rounded one and not the bias of the person giving the advise influence the advise and eventually the decision making you will have to do based on that advise.

Frankly, I don’t care what mobile others use as long it they don’t start shouting on how awesome it is. Mobile is a very personal device, its usage is very unique to each user and what may work for me may not work for others and vice-versa. Also appearance plays a crucial part and since its nothing but design which is obviously very subjective, enforcing what you feel is beautiful is stretching it too far.  Same goes for the experience or user experience in tech jargon. So may want how iOS functions, some may like Android.

So if its not iOS and Android for you, you need to decide on a budget. If budget is not an issue, then you have less of choice as I would not look below the top 2-3 models of each brand. If the budget is an issue and you are looking at the entire spectrum right Rs. 5000 to say Rs. 20000, then God bless you as a roller-coaster awaits you.

Thanks to Samsung’s $300 million ad-marketing budget, its easy to go for their flagship phone which at present is Galaxy S4. These ads are everywhere and specially on full front page ad on major newspapers. Add to it the offers(free this, free that), the EMI scheme and this is easily getting Samsung the numbers it wants.

But do seriously look at other Android phones in the top range like HTC One, Samsung Note-2 , LG Optimus G-Pro E-988, Nexus-4(brilliant VFM) as these are worthy contenders as well. Make sure these are all on the latest version of Android and get a look and feel in your hands. This is super important.

You can also go for “stock” edition of S4 and HTC One, which means the software/os updates comes directly from Google and the user experience is by far the most in sync with Google’s own Nexus range of devices.

Considering everything be equal in iOS and Android, there are two major differences –

  1. iOS experience is same across all devices including Tablets. Whether you buy iphone 5 or 4S or 4, majority of the user experience is same. And the updates come directly from Apple once or twice a year. No erratic updates, no faulty updates. A major issue in Android is that besides their Nexus range, its in the manufacturer’s arena to roll out the updates. So even if Google has brought out a latest update, there is absolutely no guarantee that the same will be available on your top-end phone. And this dilutes the user experience from device to device. Also since Android is open platform, manufacturers play with the interface to differentiate from other manufacturer’s.
  2. Quality of Apps. If you remove apps from the smartphone, its hardly smart and basically just like any ordinary phone. So Apps are very very important. This is the only reason why I am not talking about Blackberry and Nokia. Apple controls/monitors/restricts what goes in the App store like a bank to ensure its users gets the best experience. No faulty apps, no bugs, no fishy stuff, no virus etc. But Android anyone can upload an app. And this is a key difference. On iOS the app eco-system is much superior, way better apps in every possible way than Android. Though a lot of say top-20 apps are present on both platforms, going down the app quality in Android gets messy, very messy.

I can go on and on getting into the details more, but it would be diluting from my main intent.

So to repeat, think about the platform before getting to the brand.

Anirudh

iOS App for the week(now free) : Rise alarm clock

10 Aug

 

From last week I have been giving a shot at Alarm clock apps to see if I can make my waking-up moments  a bit different. Though  I am reasonably happy with the default Alarm which comes with iOS, the interface looks a bit jaded and boring. To put a disclaimer I have been trying these apps as they were free. I usually refrain from buying apps which I haven’t tried or which I have a doubt I will use to justify that spending however small it may be.

Surprisingly there are very few good Alarm apps which are free. So when I came across Rise as the free Alarm clock this week I was very eager to give it a try. For what’s worth my first morning with the new app wasn’t quite a success. I didn’t get up as on the scheduled time and overused the “snooze” button! 🙂

But that’s in no way reflective of the App but more of my will power and laziness. But let’s not get carried away here.

So when you open the App for the first time, it shows you a quick tutorial in the form of 8 screens to get a feel of how the App functions.  So lets see what each screen has to offer –

photo 1

Its always good to see different ways of using the touch functionality. Here you should drag your finger up/down to choose the time you want to wake up. And to provide a context as you go up and down the background image changes as per the time of the day. So as you can see in the image above, 6 :00 AM gives you an image when the Sun is just about to rise(no pun intended). Setting the alarm is a delight in Rise.

 

photo 2

Once you have set the time, you can also fine-tune it by tapping above or below the time. It will work in 5 minutes interval, so you cannot set a time like 5:14 AM which iOS allows you to do! But I doubt anyone will mind the absence of this precision!

 

photo 3

To On/Off the alarm its a simple swipe left/right. Again, good use of the touch/gestures.

 

photo 5

It also provides you a function to help you get sleepy! Since I have no problem sleeping…yet, I am yet to try this.

 

photo 6

For putting on  Snooze(which everyone who is a human will do at-least once!) all you need to do is Shake or if you want to go the next level, just turn the alarm off! 🙂

 

photo 7

You can also change the current display style by holding on to the time and it will give you 3 options. One option also gives you to add your own image as a background. 

 

photo 8

There are other options too –  the tune to be played for the alarm, changing the duration of the snooze, alarm volume, etc

Overall Rise is quite a good Alarm app and has used the touch functionality quite nicely. How long I continue to use and have fun with it is remain to be seen.

Free only for a limited time, do try it! apple images

Disrupting The Business Software Industry

7 Aug

Couldn’t agree more with Aaron!

Enterprise software segment is currently dominated by big players who are in it since quite a long time. And this may inhibit new players from entering fearing that the relationship which existing software players have built over the years will be difficult to break away with. Even though relationships are no doubt important and does have a say in renewing contracts, but its not the only thing. A business is all about money and how an application can help the enterprise better utilize their resources. And this is the want or rather the need on an ongoing basis.

More often than not, it is the fear of the challenges and the learning associated with a new enterprise software which prohibits companies from changing their existing ones. To a large extent this is true. But this also shows the complexity involved and this needs to be simplified. The cost(tangible/in-tangible) of running an enterprise software seems more than the cost of acquiring it and this has to be changed and is changing. See how Google with their Google Apps totally disrupted a lot many things even though people were used to the old way of doing for years. But Google made it simple, added value, users saw benefit and they switched!

Recently there was a news that Bharti which had given a massive contract to IBM in 2004 and which is now up for renewal, may not renew the existing contract in its entirety only to IBM. Many new vendors are expected to be included, which will clearly bite into IBM’s share compared to what they got(everything) way back in 2004. This is a classic example of the state of things!

From a user/enterprise point of view, things will only get better. From a software vendor point of view, things will get more competitive and challenging!

As always, the best is yet to come!

5 questions for Microsoft

1 Aug

Do a Google search with the string “Microsoft surface sales” and you will see that the Surface has drowned and continues to drown! Need more facts? How about this –

  1. Microsoft has sold just 1.7 million Surface, whereas in the same period Apple sold 57 million iPads! iPad sold 33X times Surface.
  2. Microsoft earned $853 million and has written-off $900 million due to unsold inventory!

The figures reveal everything. For a tablet which came out as the next iPad competitor, its anything but that.

Since Apple created this category, dominated and continues to do so, many manufacturers have entered, many have exited. This is innovation at best and some may also say first-mover advantage. Though Microsoft had experimented with Surface few years prior to release of iPad, just that Apple innovated and rest is history. Apart from iPad, its the like of Samsung and Google with its range of Nexus which is actually selling quantifiable amount of Tablets. Rest like Blackberry, Asus, Lenovo to name a few just have a presence but haven’t been able to reach a mass scale. Their lack of success or that of abundance of failure can be attributed to many factors. Except Apple and Blackberry who had their own OS, rest all were based on Android.

Then a year back, Microsoft entered the fray with its “Surface” range of Tablets based on their flagship Windows 8 platform. I saw the launch event video and I felt this had promise. The hardware design and specs were quiet good, the keyboard in the cover was a neat value add and their OS being Windows which was used by millions of computers both personal and enterprise, their existed a certain level of familiarity. One small glitch, during the launch event itself, one of the tablets on which Steven Sinfosky was giving a demo on, stopped working and he calmly(kudos) replaced with another one. When you are Microsoft, launching a product and that too as an iPad competitor, these types of glitches is unacceptable. Shows callousness in preparing for the event. Steve Ballmer the face of Microsoft as its CEO was unimpressive.

Anyways…overall it was a well received event.

And then…few days after Steven Sinofsky the brain behind Windows 8 quit! Questions/speculations/rumors started floating. Then news came that one variant of Surface wont have this, one wont have that. Delays in shipping, delays in production.Then there were rumors that on old mobile phones(2011, 2012), there wont be updates and so on. These kind of news are not the best way to get or build trust or to sustain an already depleting trust bank.

So here are my 5 questions for Microsoft –

Why Steve Ballmer still?

Microsoft, you were a legend in computing for almost two decades. Things have changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Ballmer is unable to accept and acknowledge this change. You need to change him with some one else to continue being the legend, however remote that may sound. He is not only out of sync, but he comes across as an arrogant and a rigid person too! You deserve a better face of your brand!

Why not a good app-ecosystem? 

Lets face it, I have more apps on my phone (iPhone incidentally) than software on my laptop running Windows 7! And if you want to be in the tablet/mobile OS space, you need to have a solid app-catalog! Like what Apple and Google have. That’s the reason why these two are doing well and that’s the reason why Apple is still more favored due to its awesome solid App store! And considering your clout in the industry, why is it so difficult to reach out to say top-100 apps developers and get them to your app-store! You are good with business and earning money. Build a good economic model for the developers.

Why so blind?

In a developing country like India, desktop/laptop sales grew meager 1% whereas sales of Tablets grew 400%. This is the golden age of Tablets! This is the age of mobile devices. This is the age of devices other than desktops/laptops. If you are unable to gain traction with your Windows platform why not bite the bullet and join hands with Android and offer a choice on your Surface! Or build a kick-ass mobile device yourself! Do something, stop wearing shades which are showing a world which doesn’t exist anymore.

Why not rethink the hardware business?

There was a time when Microsoft hardware was looked as a premium device. All my mouse be at work or home are all Microsoft ones! My keyboard is Microsoft! Surface showed what you are capable of it! Capitalize on it, go beyond. Why not build a really cool phone, why not build variations of Surface with different screen sizes! Why not a Microsoft Smart Watch or a device like a JawBone Up. I am saying use the powerhouse of talent you have at your disposable, not to forget deep pockets!

Why forgetting your past?

For whatever reason, almost everyone I know is using Windows on their desktops/laptops. They may have second devices running Mac, tablets on Android/iOS, but they do interact with Windows on a daily basis. Microsoft, you have brought computing to the world. You have been instrumental in putting computers on everyone’s desk. You have a glorious legacy. Yes your present is gloomy and the future even more so, but if you can thrive for the last 20 years I am sure you can thrive for many more. Windows is by far the most complex application ever developed on this planet. Who doesn’t know of MS Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint! I recall there was an interview of Steve Jobs in 2010 when he was asked how does he feel when Apple took over Microsoft in market cap and he said it feels surreal! This is what you are made of. Reclaim your past and build a future like you did many years back!

 

Anirudh

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