It was not that long ago that one of the top factors determining your technology purchases would be the range of programs available on a particular OS. Would you be able to run your favourite spreadsheet? Could you get access to the best word processor? Were the most entertaining games going to be available?
But times have changed. Many applications are available on all the major operating systems. If, for example, you wanted to read an Amazon eBook, you don’t have to have a Kindle, since the Kindle reading application is generally available regardless of the system your device runs. Likewise, if you want to play Angry Birds the program is available on pretty much any system. Many applications also now have web versions, so that even if there is no native application, you still have access to the software through your phone’s browser.
While some companies still pump money into developing software specifically for their operating system, increasingly it is an open market. OS-specific apps are outnumbered by programs that are available on all the major tablet and smartphone platforms, simply because the demand is there.
If we look at this shift from the perspective of those trying to sell their apps, the boom in multi-platform software is not terribly surprising. Developers generally want as many people as possible to use their software. For many of those responsible for creating and maintaining these applications, producing software for a single OS just doesn’t make for a good business model. Certainly, the ability to produce software for a range of platforms will depend on developers having sufficient time, tools and money to make separate versions, but if enough users want to use the app, developers will usually find a way to make their programs accessible. Software is becoming more agnostic to reach the widest possible audience. Exclusivity is not a strategy that works any more.
The makers of BlackBerry smartphones are a good example of this shift. One of the features of their new OS, BlackBerry 10, is that it will allow users to install applications from the vast Android library. Sure, right now BlackBerry 10 only allows older Android applications to be installed, but BlackBerry have stated that the next update will allow apps designed for the latest version of Android to run on their OS. BlackBerry’s own application market is still nascent, so it makes sense to supplement with Android in the meantime.
This open approach offers users more choice. As smartphones and tablets become even more affordable, popular, and accessible, consumers will become more informed and sophisticated in their demands. In giving tech users greater choice and access to the apps they most want and need manufacturers are making their own operating systems more functional and appealing for consumers.
Of course, this all means that we will no longer be able to use the range of available applications as a factor in deciding what device we want to buy. But don’t worry technology fans – there will always be new aspects of smartphone hardware and software for you to compare!