Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Experts == Idiots?

Posted by Hidayat Hidayat at 8:30 AM
It's sad, really, the state of technology journalism. But you knew that, already. I should know to enough ignore link-baiting crappy journalism, especially those that do little more than republish some company's press release. Most days, I do.

Not today, though.

Computerworld posted an article with this headline today: Devs bet big on Android over Apple's iOS.

Wow, really? That seems surprising. What could possibly justify such a claim? Some proof that developers are leaving iOS in droves? Some new data about the Android Marketplace is actually making decent money for a substantial portion of Android developers? No, though it is encouraging to see that the Marketplace opened up to 13 new countries today. Still another 60 or so to go, but it's a step in the right direction. But that fact's not even mentioned in this article.

So what justifies such a grandiose claim? A survey of Appcelerator Titanium developers commissioned by Appcelerator. Now, if you don't know, Appcelerator Titanium is a cross-platform framework that allows you to develop an app once and generate applications for multiple paltforms: iOS, Android, Linux, Mac OS, and Windows.

Leaving aside my personal opinions about cross-platform tools, the article has already strayed from the headline. Devs? Well, sure, they're devs, but they're not representative of devs in general as the headline would imply. They're developers who have specifically chosen one option, and it's an option that doesn't tie them to a platform at all. We're talking about a group of people that have already shown their willingness to hedge their bets and who aren't about to take the risk of hitching their wagon to a single platform.

It's an inherently skewed sample. If you ran that same survey past 15,000 dedicated iOS developers, or dedicated Android or Blackberry or .Net developers, you'd get drastically different results.

In other words, this survey has no value whatsoever except to Accelerator. To them, it's perhaps useful for helping them decide where to devote their resources in the future to keep their clients happy.

But for the world at large? Worthless.

Oh, and what constitutes "betting big" in the context of the article? Well, it's not actually addressed, but their idea of "betting big" doesn't seem to match mine. There's nothing about investments, or exclusive agreements, or anything else that involves any sort of risk whatsoever. Developers were just asked things like "how interested are you in a platform X". The "betting" didn't involve monetary investments, or time investments. These developers did nothing more than state an opinion. An anonymous opinion. Oh… those crazy rebels.

Well, I'm "betting big" that the author of this post is a hack and his soi-disant "expert" is fucking clueless.

Let's face it, nobody knows for sure where the mobile market is headed, and being a Titanium Dev doesn't make your opinion any more informed or valuable than anyone else's. Personally, I suspect Android will continue to grow in market share unless Windows Phone 7 is better than great or else Microsoft manages to one-up Google's relationship with Verizon. But, any way you cut it, this is not a replay of the PC battles. There are too many companies still in the game and who have the potential to grow market share, profit share, or whatever other metric by which you want to judge.

Despite what you may read, there is no clear market leader. Nokia is still in the lead based on total handsets, Blackberry is still in the lead based on smartphone handsets sold, Apple is kicking ass in the profits department, and Android is doing gangbusters in new sales unit, if you lump all the 100+ models of Android phones together and count free phones as sales. Plus, the market is still growing. Apple, for example, didn't increase their market share at all year over year, but they increased their units sold considerably.

Understandably, many people are counting Microsoft out of the mobile game, but I'm not. Though I'm no fan of their technology stack or their approach to business, I think the sheer size of Microsoft's advertising budget, their Enterprise-savvy sales force, and the enormous pool of existing .Net developer talent they can draw on gives them an opportunity for huge inroads. They may not capitalize on it, but it's certainly there and counting Microsoft out of the wireless market would be as foolish as counting Apple out of the game 12 years ago was. And over at HP, lots of money and time is being invested into the Pre platform, which has not been a huge commercial success, but got pretty good grades with many developers who worked with it.

The game's afoot. It's going to be fun to watch, but if you are truly a betting person, this is what you might call a high-risk scenario.

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