Mobile ecosystems and underdogs

More often than not, mobile operating systems in the underdog category are chastised for their lacklustre ecosystem. Reviewers usually cite the unavailability of apps in these various app stores as part of the reasons why consumers should have a second thought before the purchase of certain devices running these operating systems. BlackBerry 10 OS and Windows Phone are two of the mobile operating systems that currently face this predicament, primarily.

Now, are the reviewers right when they cite this as a drawback? I think yes, considering that a large chunk of readers or viewers they serve are buying customers. However, my gripe is that a number of these reviewers over simplify the issue – in the sense that they totally disregard that a number of these apps on the major platforms (Android and IOS), which most users need to function are very much available on these underdog platforms. Yes, they might not be official apps, but most third party offerings still offer decent (and sometimes better) functionality, thus leaving no gap as such.

mobile platforms

Anyone who follows the mobile landscape knows that the Windows Phone app store is growing at a decent rate. Most consumer apps such as Instagram and Vine are now available on the platform. Their absence earlier was obvious deal breakers for most prospective buyers – regardless of how short sighted that may seem to other prospects who achieved buyer status on these ‘underdog ‘ platforms.

Other manufacturers have incorporated other strategies in bridging this eco system gap even further. BlackBerry for instance is incorporating the Amazon app store on the latest 10.3 update, which went live with the introduction of the Passport. In addition the operating system allows for side loading of android apps from other sources. Furthermore, third party developers are dishing out competent alternatives – which are appealing, considering they are written in accordance to the BlackBerry rules (Check for the ‘Designed for BlackBerry’ mark on the app, in the BlackBerry store).

This eco system gap has been a factor that affects device adoption rates, translating to fewer sales; especially in the consumer segment. However I think these underdog platforms still stand a chance if they keep their focus longterm, like BlackBerry is doing now under John Chen. BlackBerry is focusing on its enterprise competence; this in no way means that they are neglecting the consumer segment. These type of strategy is better suited, especially when revenue generation and profitability are interim challenges.

The mobile technology industry is characterised by quick shifts as a result of rapid innovation rates. At the moment, being proactive is the way to stay ahead the curve. As far as I know, both Microsoft and BlackBerry are trying to achieve this. Yes; it comes with its challenges. However, if implemented right, this will result in not just market share growing over time, but a more solid cult following for the brands.

Imagine a scenario with the same amount of apps across all platforms, and BlackBerry owning the enterprise game with a decent hold on the ‘Internet of Things’ space, and Windows Phone with camera-centric devices – being the go to platform for photography oriented consumers. Now, that kind of competition will be exciting to see! It may take longer to achieve, or not happen exactly like I’ve stated, but a time will come when these platforms will not loose sales as a result of lacklustre app ecosystems.

I personally use devices across multiple platforms, and usually my app needs are met. Do you find that you can’t function using these devices that run any of the underdog operating systems as a result of lack of apps? How do you solve this issue? Do you think a time will come when almost every app will be available on all platforms? Please share your views with us.

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2 comments

  1. personally I think the app gap issue is overemphasized. for the average user, almost every app you use is available on all 4 platforms or there’s a 3P alternative available.

    but it’s a catch 22 situation. low sales because of reviewers harp on poor app selection, poor app selection because more developers can’t be bothered to pander to a market with small figures.

    this problem is especially amusing with WP. there’s a developer Rudi Huyn who makes some excellent 3P apps eg 6tag (Instagram), 6snap (Snapchat), etc and the apps always get hit with copyright/API infringement. I mean it would cost these companies less than $100,000/year to get Huyn to write, develop and maintain WP apps for them.

  2. I honestly don’t think the average smartphone user even focuses on apps. I had a work colleague recently trade in her Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini for a Lumia 630. I was surprised and asked why she hadn’t gone for another phone. Her response was “I wanted a cheap phone, so long as I can use WhatsApp and send texts, I don’t really care about anything else”.

    We would like to think the average user cares about Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp etc but in truth, so long as the app they want to use is available in whatever form and works well, they don’t care about flagships or how many apps populate any ecosystem.

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