However, despite this being a well known “fact of life” within the industry I still often read articles around how one day we will be able to access content and services irrespective of platform, device or location. But if we can’t even get it right on mobile, what happens when you add other devices to the mix? When you consider the colliding worlds of tablets, e-readers, netbooks, set-top boxes and other web-enabled devices coming to market (Samsung unveils fridge with built-in Internet); this undertaking becomes even more complex. Delivering a consistent user experience seems almost impossible.
This is why some developers are looking to a new model based on cloud computing – one in which applications are hosted remotely from centralized servers – a promising alternative, especially for enterprise solutions where multi-platform support is essential. This route to market has the potential to completely flip the way mobile applications are developed, acquired and even used. There are, however, some major hurdles, such as concerns around storing data in the cloud and dealing with data management law across country boundaries. However the promise of a consistent user experience across platforms has an obvious attraction for the end-user and the developer.
That’s one possible future, but coming back to the present, ubiquitous hi-speed data connectivity and widespread mobile cloud apps are still a very long way off. Right now consumers are “voting with their feet” and choosing downloadable apps. As long as it works well and is not prohibitively expensive, consumers will continue to opt to download apps for the foreseeable future. That means the immediate priority is for developers to continue to develop where they will see the greatest return, meaning downloadable apps across multiple platforms. People may not like it, but fragmentation is the current reality for developers and, at least for the next few years, that means splitting their focus across iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and the rest of the gang.