Mike Rowehl runs ThisIsMobility.com, a blog that focuses on “Ripping mobility from the clutches of telecom”. He is also a developer with 9 years of experience, and in a very interesting article tells how Nokia/Symbian and other manufacturers and stakeholders held the mobile development scen down till Apple stepped up to the plate.
I’ve been working, for years and years. And years and years and years and years, trying to get out to all those handsets, trying to build applications or websites that were able to hit a critical mass of users on all those handsets out there. Or at least enough users to run a profitable business. Lots of us have been trying to.
And generally we’ve been working at it alone. There’s been little help from handset manufacturers, little help from operating system providers, and really no help at all from carriers (though they’ll be very quick to tell you otherwise). Whenever us developers would complain about it or attempt to change the way things worked there was always some excuse about why things aren’t better. We would ask for more capable browsers and the response was that battery life and network constraints make it impossible to create a browser of near desktop capability on a mobile device. We would ask for development tools that would make it easier to get started developing and make it easier to debug and we were told that mobile development is just too complex to try to make it simple. We would ask for a simple payment system that didn’t result in massive checkout dropoff and everyone would just laugh.
The entire system was deadlocked cause no one with the power to was really interested in shaking it up. We kept getting fed excuse after excuse justifying the general lack of forward progress on all fronts. But then something comes along that makes it easy, often profitable, and frequently even fun to develop for mobile again. Apple has exposed the fact that the lack of progress in mobile wasn’t something inherent in the system. That someone with the right motivation can really shake things up and get the train moving again.