Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Did BlackBerry miss the 'App Store' boat?

With all the hype around the new BlackBerry 10 O/S, I think a bigger and more important question isn't being asked. How many Operating Systems can one developer support? As an independent developer I can tell you that it would be simply a waste of time for me to support 4 O/S. Two is doable, three is unmanageable, and four is ridiculous.

The Windows O/S has maintained a huge portion of market share, not because it's amazing but because it has a strong application base. Developers know Windows, they know the APIs, and most importantly they know that it provides the best opportunity for a return on their work.

Software development can be a very risky investment of time and resources. Many projects have hundreds of hours of work put in to them and never get off the ground. You never know if people will actually use the software once it's built, but you can never find out unless you build it. BlackBerry is up against the perception that there is already good return in existing application markets and are faced with the challenge of convincing developer's that putting the time and energy into supporting their platform can yield a return equal to if not greater than existing returns; not an easy task to accomplish.

For a small developer like me, any application I write will support at most 2 of the major mobile operating systems. Quite likely these would be Windows and Android due to the easy access the API requires, open application stores, and the ability to develop without having to go and buy new hardware. There is plenty of support, plenty of libraries, and most importantly: plenty of users.

As a Canadian who believes in our own ability to be productive I *really really* want to use BlackBerry, but from an investment standpoint it's all risk and no reward. Maybe large development houses can shoulder that risk, but independents can not.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

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