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February 22, 2012

Which App Ecosystem Will Bring In The Big Bucks?


When most developers are asked which of the various “App” ecosystems they should write for, a well-known few seem to always be at the tip of our tongues.

Of course there is the iOS ecosystem with more than 300 million devices on the streets of the world targeting that platform will get you the single largest user base in which to market your wares.  But with 556,793 total apps in the iTunes app store, you’re going to have to come up with something pretty amazing to get noticed.  And keep in mind, Angry Birds has been done.

The second runner up and seizing more and more market share with each passing quarter is the Android Marketplace.  Currently surpassing 250 million devices, this market is quickly rivaling the older and more restrictive iOS market.  The Android Market currently has more than 400,000 total apps so once again you’re going to have to make a big splash to stand out from the crowd.  However, the Android device market suffers from one problem that the iOS market doesn’t which is the sheer number of different devices available.  As any veteran of the browser wars knows, your code is often left with the chore of managing the differences in execution environment.
Following a distant third is the Windows Phone 7 market.  The numbers here are much harder to grasp since Microsoft isn’t publishing the total devices activated the way Apple and Google do.  But Nokia did sell an estimated 1.3 million units just in Q4 of 2012 and with it’s latest Windows Phone 7 devices launching in the USA now that number should be poised to go up.  What’s more, IDC and Gartner have predicted that Windows Phone 7 will surpass iOS devices by 2015 eventually coming into 2nd place behind Android.  And with the Windows Phone Marketplace standing at a relatively low 50,000+ apps there’s still ample room for some big hits in that market.
But if you happened to attend this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, you will have seen that app ecosystems are popping up everywhere.  From browsers (Chrome, Opera) to network hardware (NetGear, Cisco) to mobile carriers (Verizon, AT&T) to even watches and other previously mostly analog items.  But without a doubt, the most hype of CES went to apps on your TV.  Nearly all of the major high-definition television makers are pushing their own app stores including Samsung, Panasonic, and LG to say nothing of the big Internet players who are also trying to get into the television market like Google and Apple.

So with this sort of fragmentation of markets and devices, differences in technologies, and literally billions of dollars at stake, the question of the day is “Where do you invest your development time for the most reward?”  And don’t forget to hit us up with comments on why you chose the option you did.

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About the Author

is a Chief Architect specializing in large scale distributed system development and enterprise software processes. Paul has more than twenty years of development experience including being a former Microsoft MVP, a speaker at technical conferences such as Microsoft Tech-Ed and VSLive, and a published author. Prior to working on the Windows platform, he built software using a vast array of technologies including Java, Unix, C, and even OS/2.