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Monday 7 January 2013

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In the world of app development, there are very few absolutes.

Unlike the preceding major waves of technological change, this time the landscape is changing almost too rapidly to call.

The figures are a blur. So the emerging trends are more useful. And among the more useful trends are:
  • Smartphones rule;
  • Android will dominate Apple; and
  • Tablets will make PCs redundant.

It’s a global, manufacturer-led frenzy of innovation and counter-innovation, mass marketing, mass production and mass sales.

The whole point of it is to sell fast-moving consumer goods. A need is perceived (or created). A product is made and sold. Full stop.

Very little thought has gone into what comes next – how these devices are used.

And this is challenging for those of us in the digital communications business.

World-wide standards meant that web developers could finally (after two decades) produce beautiful, accessible work that rendered in just about every known browser. It was a case of build it once, but built it well.

But the introduction of iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system) and Android (Google’s version) means that we have gone back to the starting point – building software specifically for particular devices. (Microsoft has started on the long-road back to relevance too.)

An insight into where this is heading can be found in advice from Apple to developer about the seemingly simple task of providing an icon for an app. There are now dozens of different sizes required, depending on the device. Even iPads have different resolutions, and it is only going to get worse.

Common standards are the last thing of the minds of the device manufacturers. The push is in the opposite direction – exclusive features are the holy grail.

For businesses wishing to communicate with existing and potential new customers, the trend translates into more costs as software is re-made to suit particular platforms and devices.

And, in a fast-moving market, picking which devices to develop for is only going to become harder.

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