BetaCity: Windows Phone, Android, iOS and the shape of the mobile landscape

Last week I had a great hands-on demo of Mango, the forthcoming update to Windows 7 Phone. The user interface is stunning. The integration of social media into the user experience is fast and intuitive. The incorporation of functions like OCR, barcode scanning and even speech-to-text is seamless. I love how you can “pin” information to the home screen for fast access.
Meanwhile, a developer close to me is running the Apple iOS 5 beta on an iPhone 4 and an iPad. This beta doesn’t have a cute name like Mango, but the user experience is also considerably improved, with pop-up notifications, scroll-down alerts and lots of other cool stuff. You can learn about some of those features in Victoria Reitano’s story, “Top five features iOS 5 brings to the table.”
I’ve not had any hands-on exposure to the forthcoming Android version—codenamed “Ice Cream Sandwich.” But when it comes to features for both users and developers, the current version of Android has a good head start over the current iPhone software. You can see why in Dave Smith’s story, “Six areas where Android leads iOS.”
The upshot of this is that we’re living in a time of very rapid evolution of our mobile operating systems. It’s reminiscent, in many ways, of the very rapid evolution in browsers a decade ago.
Now, more than ever, your dev team should not be locked into one platform. Whether you’re cutting native code, using cross-platform frameworks or building mobile Web apps with HTML5, you need to be supporting Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Yes, Android has zoomed past iOS in terms of sales. Yes, Apple, even in the post-Jobs area, has the best mind-share. And yes, Microsoft is coming from behind. But this isn’t a three-horse race, because that would imply that there’s going to be one winner and two losers. Rather, this is like when the U.S. had the Big Three Automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) or the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). Unless something truly unforeseen happens, we’re going to be having these three platforms coexisting and overlapping for many years to come, dominating the industry.
Don’t bet on one. Support all three. That’s the way to your customers’, partners’ and employees’ hearts.
Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
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