iQtransit Inc

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Mobile is Looking more like the Web

It’s funny. The Web just can’t be kept down, and it’s spirit and character are still alive. But things are definitely different after the mobile revolution started.

Here’s a few things I’m seeing:

Developers are worn out trying to make apps work everywhere.

It’s amazing to think that when you said “app” 8 years ago, you meant “iPhone”. There was simply nothing else that mattered. Here were my thoughts in 2010, still on my Blackberry (admittedly a bit frustrated with the iPhone “thing”).

The growth of Android has been phenomenal and this changes things a lot. The “serious app” today must include an IOS client UI and an Android client UI, both linking to a common RESTFUL back-end usually Rails, .NET or Java Servlets.

But even having done all that work, developers are uneasy. What will a 3rd growing platform mean, maybe Windows Phone, Tizen, Firefox OS becoming more successful? It’s a huge pain point.

In this climate, when new functionality is needed, where are developers going to add it?

I think a lot of them are choosing the back-end.

Of course, they could use a low-level C++ layer for core functionality and recompile it into their apps.  They could also use cross-platform languages like Javascript or Java for canonical functionality.

Adding functionality to the back-end is going to come at the expense of additional network calls and offline capability.

People really miss hyperlinks and want them back.

I’m seeing more emphasis on “deep linking” between apps.

The two major initiatives are Facebook’s AppsLinks and Google’s App Indexing. This technology will be very important in making it easier to jump between apps – similar to how links work on the web.

I’m sure there will be at least a few startups that ride the wave of deep linking and indexing to success.
More mixed cross-platform (HTML5) use, but native UI is still where it’s at. 
I’ve been writing about HTML5 for a long time. It’s coming along. But the progress is slow, and it’s fraught with new technology that can collapse beneath your feet when new versions come out – or whole swaths of devices that aren’t compatible. Finally, people still associate a great UI with native and that isn’t changing for a long time. Maybe it will never change. Native still rules.

More ongoing maintenance.

The appealing idea of apps for developers was that you could launch a $.99 app in 2008, make money and never have to bother with it again.

That’s not what’s happening now. Because back-end is becoming more important, you’re going to have upgrades, backward compatibility, changes to 3rd party APIs and libraries, and it’s all going to come at the wrong time (like when you are launching another product/site etc). It’s the kind of stuff you have to pay to get done, and is weeding out a lot of first-generation apps.

Take the transportation apps developed for the MBTA in Boston. The first generation were done around 2008-2010, mostly done by college kids. No one has made much money on these apps. So today, about 1/4 of these that are broken, outdated, or just no longer maintained. Keeping up with the API changes on two platforms is really, really time-consuming (I speak from experience – I’ve been doing it).

Let us know what your seeing out there (in the comments)