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App Porting May Finally be Dead - Yipee

by User Not Found | Dec 10, 2015

The desire for ported apps is the sign of a desperate platform. BlackBerry – in its death throes as a consumer brand - tried this and failed. They weren’t the first and they won’t be the last. But Microsoft’s decision to cancel half (the Android portion) of its app porting strategy may finally put the final nail in the coffin of the porting scheme. So, why is porting a mistake?

  1. There are only two platforms that matter. Just a few years ago when we forecast the apps market we factored in iOS, Android, up-and-coming Windows Mobile/Phone/Mobile/Phone/Windows, a still relevant BlackBerry, the nearly dead but still-warm Symbian and Palm and up and coming OSes such as Tizen, Sailfish and Firefox OS. For those wanting to support all platforms, porting apps presented a good opportunity for developers to extend to other platforms with minimal efforts and other platforms to tout large libraries on-par with the bigger stores. But a funny thing happened – iOS and Android won – definitively thus mitigating the need to port to other platforms.
  2. Ported apps are inferior on secondary platforms. Innovation makes native apps more compelling. Apple’s 3D touch (and a pending rumored rival from Android), fingerprint scanning and smart assistant integration are just small examples of technology innovation that make native apps unique. While porting solutions may support some of these features they don’t support them all because the final platform may not offer these features leading to inherently non-functional or certainly less functional apps. Further, ported apps don’t take advantage of the unique hardware capabilities on other platforms – such as Live Tiles - on Windows. Yes, developers can retrofit their apps to become more capable on these platforms but the point of porting is to make an app easily transferrable – limiting the time and effort demanded by a developer. And this dynamic will not change – Apple and Google continue to innovate with each new OS update and hardware launch.
  3. The iOS & Android ecosystems demands more time. When smartphones were still emerging they were the primary and/or only platform for developers. Today though there are tablets, watches, PC/Mac and other devices to not only build unique apps for but to extend an app to. These ecosystem evolutions demand more time and effort from developers leaving less opportunity to engage in app porting.

One reason for the cancellation of the Android porting was likely due to significant overlap between Android and iOS apps. Microsoft probably realized their effort was redundant. However, it would be wise of Microsoft and other platforms to recognize that a porting strategy is a mistake.

It exposes a platform as second-rate that cannot earn the time and attention of the top developers. Second, the app experience will surely suffer creating negative impressions of the platform and the associated apps. Finally, big brands can easily reach these users through capable HTML5 web apps or simply mobile optimized sites. Instead of trying to replicate apps on another platform those OSes still struggling should either pay for the top apps to support the platform and update regularly (the latter part is imperative) or focus on a niche area that is under-represented on other platforms. But the answer is not porting.

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