2: Another New Frontier

In the history of the software industry, many relatively young people have amassed great fortunes by developing software that served their own needs, then packaging it for sale to others. With each new platform, or with each significant upgrade to system software, it becomes a "new frontier" - very little software exists, and it's fairly easy for a small firm to rush in by providing capabilities to the users.

Successful software for the mobile platform isn't merely a port of functionality, such as a Windows word processor that is reprogrammed slightly to run on a newer version of windows, or "ported" to Macintosh. Those who dominate the industry easily make such transitions, but their size and stodginess makes it difficult for them to respond nimbly when there is a significant change that requires them to rethink their entire approach, rather than merely adapt what has already been invented.

And this is exactly the kind of new frontier that has been created by the iPhone.


The author relates a number of stories of individuals who developed iPhone apps that were successful. And because they were able to act quickly (sometimes developing a simple game in less than a week). He also mentions some of the sillier bits of software (virtual bubble wrap) that were a surprising success, and otherwise "normal" people mimicked the behavior of computer nerds - showing off the latest app they discovered and found useful or amusing.

The Competition

Google's Android device followed a few years behind Apple, but to lukewarm reception: it has yet to be as widely adopted, or as widely supported by the developer community.

Notqably, Google has taken the opposuite approach to Apple: the platform is open-soruce without cerntalized control, which was done to capitalize on the promise of open-source development: many manufacturers could buuild phones on the Android platform. However, the effect has been "hardware fragemetation," such that developers cannot develop a single application to run on any Android phone (as was the intent), but must create several ifferent manufacturer-specitic applications, and the alck of a centralize market for Android applications makes the software more difficult forr users to find.

Microsoft also atempted to enter the market, and its initial efforts failed so miserably that the entire project was "rebooted" - that is, scrapped and started over, redesigining the device and implementing programs to make it more attractive to developers and consumers. The author asserts that the "rebooted" Windows phone "has the potential to srpass the Android platform in the next few years." (EN; Presently, there is no data on this, and Microsoft is being tight-lipped, but usage statistics on mobile sites suggest a rather embarrassingly low market share. Even so, I'd consider it "too soon to tell," and consdiering that Internet Explorer browser did very poorly for several years before eventually taking market dominance, I wouldn't be hasty to write their phone off as a failure.)

Above and Beyond Phones

The potential for growth in the mobile data communications market goes beyond the smart phone to devices that do not have callign capabiliteis at all. Apple hs had significant success with its iPod touch, which for all intents and purposes is identical to its phone but without voice communication capabilituies, and the iPad device has garnered significant attention.

There's also the consideration of the use of networked devices that are not carried by the user. Since capabilities aren't necessarily married to the device, it is possible in theory for a person to use a range of devices in his environment (a "panel" on a bedside table, another in the kitchen, another in his car's dashboard, another a public location, and so on) to access data and services available over the network. However, this has been a consideration since before wireless networking, and it has shown little progress.

The onl;y exceptiosn the author notes is the use of networked decvices in conjunction with a television such as the Netflix service that streams entertainment to the television, the delviery f game software to gaming consoles via the network rather than hard media, and the inclusion of networked GPS systems in automobiles to provide drivers with maps and directions. (EN: I don't conisder these to be the equivalent of general-purpose networked devices, as the functionality is very limited to a specific purpose of the television as an enteretainment device and the car as a mode of transportation. It seems highly unlikely that consumers will utilize these devices for other tasks.)