In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Amadeus Consulting was working to create custom software for some of the first consumer mobile devices. This was many years before the ubiquitous “app,” and right at the immergence of the “Smartphone.” This was the age of the personal digital assistant, also known as a PDA.
Back then, software development for mobile devices was pretty much a matter of trying to move the standard desktop software into a mobile device. In fact, most PDAs and mobile devices basically mimicked a desktop computer interface, and most software for mobile devices was a reconfigured version of their desktop counterpart.
This created many usability experience and performance issues as the software was configured, rather than customized, to fit the device. Users quickly found that word processing on a PDA was neither fun nor effective, and people became hesitant to adopt a new technology that only provided mobility at the cost of usability.
In its beginning, it was simply a mismatch of designing the right software to fit the hardware. Since that time however, mobile applications have changed tremendously. In the last 10 years programs for small devices have become better designed to fit the hardware, and enterprises have learned which types of software are best suited for mobile devices. Software applications have become smaller in scope and more targeted in the functions that they provide.
Now, in terms of mobile applications and mobile application development, Amadeus Consulting is in a great place. The technology is still rapidly evolving and improving, and the market for mobile software is doing very well. But more importantly, the industry has a much better understanding of how to create software for small Smartphone type devices, such as the iPhoneTM.
However now that tiny apps have become commonplace, we are seeing the opposite issue. Instead of desktop applications being configured to fit on smaller mobile device, Smartphone apps are being configured to work on larger slate and tablet devices.
Unfortunately, in the same way that simply scaling down applications from the desktop to a Smartphone does not produce optimal results, scaling up applications from a Smartphone to a tablet device also does not produce the best results.
With the launch of the iPadTM this month, and many more Android-based tablet devices coming out this year, applications designed for smaller Smartphones are being scaled to work on larger devices. Scaling usually just involves making the graphics and interface larger to take advantage of the larger screen space, and can be an automatic process, as in the iPad’s™ pixel scaling, or a manual graphical redesign.
In some ways, this can be a good thing. It means that you get more life out of a single application, as it can be used on multiple devices. iPhone apps can run on the iPad, and Droid® and Nexus One® apps will run on most of the other slate tablets being released this year.
However, graphics are not the only aspect to an app, and by only taking graphical elements into account, the user suffers. For example, most people do not use the iPad in the same way that they would use an iPhone. They hold it differently, use it for different things, and they have different expectations for each device.
The problem is that when you are looking at developing an application initially, there are significant differences and considerations that can help or hurt the success of your application.
This means that if you absolutely know that you want an iPhone application, for example, you should be flexible on the design of the software so that it optimally fits the platform. Or inversely, if you have a great software application idea, you may need to be flexible on the platform so that it adequately fits your needs.
This also indicates that when moving apps from one platform to another, you should be flexible in making appropriate changes to the software in order to maintain a proper user experience.
Platforms vary in size, compatibility, power and purpose. They range from a standard desktop computer, to Microsoft’s® multi-touch and multi-user Surface™, to mobile devices, to information terminals. Each has its own distinct benefits and drawbacks, which can have a large impact on the results of a project, as well as the implementation, use and financial return for your company.
To learn more about choosing the right platform, contact our experienced software and technology consultants. Stay tuned for Part II of this blog, which will cover 4 Tips for Finding the right Platform, out later this week.