Paul Myers, CEO, Bappz

The fight for dominance in the battle of the apps is one of the most hotly fought technology contests of recent times. The Apple App Store is seen as the reigning incumbent and Android Marketplace the challenger.

Indeed, many see apps as the battleground on which the next mobile war will be fought as consumers increasingly look to rich-media services, rather than telephone calls, in their choice of handset.

However, Android isn’t just facing the iPhone in its fight for supremacy. As well as the second-tier app platforms, such as BlackBerry and Ovi, the iPad also stands in Android’s way.

The battle has many fronts, such as usability, pricing and charging mechanisms. However, the major fight is for volume of quality apps. What users want, it’s argued, is the biggest choice of good quality apps to download, and it’s here that Android could face problems.

All of the major app players are working hard to encourage developers onto their platforms, and one of the most important developer audiences is brands. Brand-funded apps are generally free and highly developed by agencies - exactly the sort of content an app store wants to provide to keep its customers satisfied.

The problem for Android is the cost structure facing a brand when it develops an app. The iPhone and Android platforms don’t enable much interoperability. For a brand to develop an app for both platforms, it’ll cost nearly twice as much as for iPhone alone. Porting the app from iPhone to iPad, however, only commands around a 20% premium.

For the brand the decision is simple: an iPhone app is a must and the extension to iPad is a good-value way of building on that investment. Indeed, given the relative paucity of apps developed specially for iPad, it opens up a less-competitive marketplace for brand content.

In this equation, Android fails to secure the brand’s investment, simply because the economics of app development dictate that the shared iPhone/iPad operating systems make more sense. This is a shame on many levels. Platform diversity is healthy in any marketplace for innovation and consumer pricing.

Moreover, there’s a huge opportunity to target the many millions of Android users which is being missed because of this market distortion.

This problem could be solved by new development environments or an unprecedented outbreak of co-operation between those involved. Until then, consumers, brands, developers and the Android platform itself will all have to accept something of a missed opportunity.

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Published 18 November, 2010 by NMA Staff

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