Here today, gone tomorrow

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Ancient ruins in Anbar

We still have several months to go, but one thing is certain: we’ll remember 2011 as the year that major mobile platforms started going extinct.

Six months ago, Nokia’s CEO announced that their entire Symbian software stack was a burning platform. RIP Symbian.

Just last week, HP discontinued the Touchpad. The fate of WebOS is unclear, but judging by their forum traffic (18 folks online as I type this) the writing’s on the wall.

When two of the largest companies in the world throw in the towel, you have to wonder who’s next. You would have thought that Symbian and WebOS were “too big to fail” given the companies that were backing them.

But that’s the thing about platforms. Building one is really really tough.

Even Apple back in the 90’s was near its death because they forgot what it meant to build a great platform. They mistreated their developers; they asked developers to adopt new technologies only to kill them the next day; they cared more about building market share through clones than building great products.

And here’s the rub. The vision, the code, the achitecture — that’s actually the easy part. The hard part is earning the trust and respect of developers, helping them build careers from using the platform, fostering a real ecosystem of 3rd party tools that complement the platform, and creating a community where developers are answering each others questions, sharing code, etc.

Wired Magazine, June 1997

That takes real work. That takes a commitment to navigate the stormy waters, a deep passionate commitment to grind it out day after day, even in the face of great adversity (it took Apple a decade). And in the end, to constantly be thinking how platform decisions affect the lives of developers.

These are the standards to which we hold ourselves and the Corona platform, so we expect nothing less out of other device OEM’s and OS vendors.

You’ve seen us work on other platforms besides iOS and Android, but we haven’t announced official support. For example, our WebOS prototype demo video that we “leaked” last week and there was also some porting of apps to the NOOK Color. Now, we’re very deliberate about supporting a new device or OS. Seeing how many technologies come and go over the years, one of our biggest yardsticks is whether we think that platform will be around tomorrow.

After all, Corona is the oldest 2.5D mobile app platform out there. During that time, we’ve evolved Corona to what it is today. The more amazing thing is that we’ve never wavered from our initial vision.

So when folks ask us what’s the next device or OS we are going to support, we ask ourselves the standard questions around product quality and market traction. We also consider the likelihood that the company will be committed to a technology next year — or if the company/technology will even be around!

Consider Flash. Just a few years ago, Adobe was unquestionably committed to the technology. Today, they seem to be hedging their bets on open standards. Now if a company like Adobe whose DNA is all about software platforms can change their minds so quickly, it certainly makes you think twice about the commitment of brick and mortar companies entering the apps space!

The bottom line: when we support a new platform, we’re going to make sure it’s worth your while.

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This entry has 7 replies

  1. WauloK says:

    Windows Phone 7/8 … Here we come! 🙂

  2. Keith says:

    Well, you guys just need to make your own mobile OS, given what you have done with Corona it would be fantastic! I am sure you have time to develop that :0)

    Seriously, you guys are amazing and I am endlessly impressed with the community you are creating and how you connect with your developers. It’s practically unheard of. I feel like I could have you over for dinner like an old friend, and BTW would you mind watching my dogs while I am out of town this weekend? ;0)

    OK so let the big monster corporations crumble and lose touch with their developers and their audience, but you guys just keep doing what you are doing and I don’t know how you do it must not sleep at all. Hopefully things will stay the same when Apple or Adobe comes to buy you.

  3. Paul Osburn says:

    I definitely respect your approach. It’s one thing for you to get our apps working on a different platform. It’s another thing to support and extend that new platform for the next several years. I think deciding which platforms to support will, to a significant degree, dictate how well Ansca Mobile will do. Spreading your resources too thin will most likely have dire consequences, while not taking advantage of the right platforms means missed opportunity for Ansca and for all of us.

    Challenging and exciting times, to be sure!

  4. Americo Savinon says:

    Amen to that.

  5. XenonBL says:

    Sometimes the writing is on the wall (Symbian is dead, duh), sometimes not (webOS? already??), and sometimes the writing is just plain wrong (Apple, circa 1997, “RIP”). Predicting the future of other companies to generate marching orders for your business is risky.

    You already support two successful platforms, but there are still features Corona is lacking for your customers to make certain classes of apps on even those. It seems like improving and expanding the support of the proven platforms would bring in more Ansca customers (hobby programmers and pro developers for the most part?) than, say, being first to support an OS with 0.1% market share. And there are existing successful platforms you haven’t even touched, such as OSX, Windows, and web.

    That said, I think the next big OS will be GridOS from fusiongarage, so get to work 😉

  6. furiousApps says:

    With everything so fluid in this environment and these small OS’s making up such a TINY market share of the app dev environment…I echo some of the thoughts above that too much time is spent expanding the platform support while there are still buggy, unfinished and missing APIs for iOS and Android to do.

    Things are moving in every direction in the “auxiliary” and “ancillary” platforms and NO ONE knows which platforms will emerge…if any. I suspect the most lucrative platforms to expand into are offshoots of the leaders…such as MAC store or Google Chrome (HTML5). Why chase that last 10% of the marketplace when the other 90% is not fully supported or optimized for full access and capability.

    I still feel Corona is starting to be stretched too thin and needs to refocus and become more polished to expand and develop around missing APIs…not missing OS systems.

    Supporting Nook is exciting…I guess…but I checked out the device and to be brutally honest…its terrible. Its underpowered…sucks batteries…and lags and hiccups terribly. Not to mention the screen is too small and the touch sensors are subpar.

    So why spend all that energy developing for a platform that has no track record, is designed for books (not apps) and for a device that on first glance…was obsolete before it was even released…unless these 3rd party wannabees are paying Ansca big $$$ to open doors for them…which makes me want to ask…who are they building Corona for then…indie devs or Silicon Valley gurus? Maybe its both…but that seems like a stretch right now since Ansca is still a new company with a “work in progress” product.

    If the gurus are paying the bills…then by all means…appease them. But if the devs are paying the bills…then keep the product benchmarks moving forward because lately (since iPad support and inApp support)…it seems a little stagnant and slow going in the “feature” dept.

    Anyway…just some constructively critical food for thought.

  7. I agree with FuriousApps 100%. Focus should be on iOS and Android. Every spare resource should be aimed at these two platforms. The first (iOS) is bar-none the leader, and the second (Android) might not be all that the pundits predicted (not yet, maybe someday, perhaps never, who knows?), but at least it has a proven track record, growing app market, and massive financial backing.

    The consumer market has clearly started to weed out the lame ducks in this “me too!” tablet/phone industry. TouchPad and WebOS? Dead. HP wouldn’t have killed it if it had promise. Blackberry PlayBook? Selling horribly; some are predicting that RIMM will be gone in a year; Blackberry was “it” for a time but they failed to innovate while Apple/Google surpassed them. Nook Color or Amazon’s rumored tablet? I guess Nook runs AndroidOS and so likely would Amazon’s tablet, so they get lumped into the two leaders. Windows7/8 Phone? Hard to say, but if I HAD to bet on a future platform for Corona, I’d put my wager on the 100,000 pound gorilla sitting quietly in the corner on a mountain of cash.

    As “furiousApps” says, if some company is pushing money your way to develop Corona for their platform, by all means, do it. But if it’s Corona developers funding the growth of Ansca, then we NEED iOS and Android, and we need them to be as cutting-edge as possible.

    That said, all the support in the world Ansca. We love what you’ve done, we adore the product, and we are firmly on board for the future!