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Mobile App Developers Speak: 'Stick to One Platform'

With three major mobile platforms to choose from, what is an ambitious mobile app developer to do?

There are Android and iOS, with 700,000 available apps each and huge market exposure-and the fierce developer competition that comes with it.

On the other hand, there is the Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 combination with its smaller base of developers to compete with but the promise of a tenfold increase in apps in the next few months. The Windows Store currently hosts approximately 10,000 apps, with plans to have 100,000 in the store by the end of January. Microsoft has promised to have 400 million Windows 8 devices in customer hands by next July.

Microsoft also promises Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 compatibility across multiple devices. The same Windows 8 app with the same code will run on a PC, a tablet and a smartphone, allowing developers to reach an army of users.

The Windows 8 financial incentives are nothing to sneeze at, either. Microsoft will give developers 70 percent of an app's selling price, but then increase that amount to 80 percent once the app earns over $25,000. Apple only recently raised the cut for iOS developers to 70 percent. Google pays Android developers a 70 percent share as well.

Yet these are all Windows 8 promises and are not yet a reality. If you want to commit to a mobile app platform that has a thriving audience and serious market traction right now, then iOS and Android are your best bet and you should wait and see on Windows 8.

If you're eager to get in on the ground floor of a platform that could potentially explode in the next 12 to 18 months, though, then Windows 8 merits a serious inspection, say two mobile developers CIO.com spoke with recently who have decided to focus on using Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Here are some of their additional insights on how to choose the mobile platform that's right for you.

Tom Verhoeff, app developer and partner at Holland-based Methylium, which created the Windows 8 app for Booking.com, a popular online hotel reservation site

"What I always recommend is to focus on one platform because every platform has its own tricks and quirks. I don't think it's a good idea to build an iOS app on Monday, an Android app on Tuesday and a Windows 8 app on Wednesday because each one is a totally different experience.

"You really have to use the platform in your daily life to develop well on it. I develop for Windows 8 and I've been carrying a Windows Phone around for three years now. I don't use an iPhone on a regular basis and you really need to have the OS with you day-in and day-out.

"You see some companies that are just taking developers who are working on Android full-time and moving them to Windows 8 or Windows Phone or vice versa because a customer is asking for it. That app might end up looking OK but you can immediately notice that the developer did not know the platform as well as he should."

Steve Isabelle, independent developer and creator of the Jack of Tools app for Windows 8 (and Windows Phone)

"I would follow your skillset rather than follow the demand. If you've already worked day-to-day with iOS and the iPhone and iPad or with Android devices you might want to target that platform. You just don't have time as an independent developer to live with every platform.

"The ease of use of the 'Metro' style of Windows 8 does create an opportunity. It is clean and simple and easier for developers to work with. There's a lot of skeoumorphic stuff on iOS that requires a lot of art assets and skills involved in making apps work with the iPhone and iPad."

"The cost is another thing. Microsoft Visual Studio Express is free. Microsoft is doing a lot to encourage app development and they are making it inexpensive.

"But people don't like change and can be finicky, so it's really hard to say how long it will take for Windows 8 to break through. I think the Windows 8 platform can do well, but I wonder how long it will take for Windows Phone 8 to dig in. They really have to make them seamless companions."

Shane O'Neill is the Assistant Managing Editor for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Shane at soneill@cio.com

Read more about mobile/wireless in CIO's Mobile/Wireless Drilldown.

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