If I could get paid for each time I’ve been asked which UX technology/platform should one bet on in order to produce the next generation of software in day to day business – I’d be quite well paid!
I don’t have an answer, and what’s really sad about that is that I should have a few answers not just a single one.
Today, you’re spoiled for a choice of technologies to help you produce some user experience namely for mobility. Since the introduction of the iPhone and iPad it’s arguably put something we’ve all kind of known into the mainstream hands, which is “experience matters”. Businesses are now keen to ensure that the next piece of software they produce works like it would on an iPad or iPhone (the amount of times I’ve been given a brief that uses that as its baseline for success is almost 90%+).
Why the issue in selecting today then? Well let’s look at the brands in question.
You cannot disagree that Apple’s influence on the UX discussion has been quite loud and obvious. Almost all phones and tablet devices have pretty much copied the entire existence of their products to the point where even though they hadn’t invented some of the ideas, they now look as if they did. Having said that, Apple still is a prescribed existence in that in order to play on their hardware you have to develop & design to their standards. You also have a limited amount of agility in order to take the device and slot it into various enterprise/industry verticals (mining, finance etc).
Distributing your solutions via a closed private cloud like existence can be done with iPad/iPhones but its still a bit messy in deployment. Furthermore inside almost all large organizations your cubicles of developers don’t have “Objective-C” in their resumes.
Whilst it has become the baseline for what a device driven UI should look like in the eyes of most business and technical decision makers, it’s still got a lot of latency and turbulence around its software development life cycle (i.e. it’s fast become a specialist skill not so much as a mainstream one).
Google / Android.
Google have managed to hold strong with their device platform story, that is to say their entire development and design pipeline isn’t that bad. Having said that I’ve seen, heard and been in enough meetings to see it being instantly rejected and it has to do with versioning and security as the core reasons for rejection (right or wrong).
Furthermore Java development at its core isn’t something you see go hand in hand with design focused teams, so again you have this issue with as stated by Apple around specialist skills vs. mainstream skills mixed with some market acceptance issues.
Just read my blog for a few pages you’ll see a theme emerge. Microsoft had a few ideas around what the UX space should look like, they put some bets on the table around these ideas, they got some semi-successful acceptance worldwide on these ideas but now they’ve kind of hit reset on the said ideas, taking two steps back and pissed the developer base off in the process.
To summarize, Microsoft has a whole new round of trust issues around long-term decision making, their tooling is good enough to build large enterprise applications with and lastly they still have a healthy developer base that have mainstream skills in C# & XAML.
The downside is their entire strategy around what you should or shouldn’t do going forward is out of control and requires a focused mind to unravel.
What I would say though is that Windows 7 is likely to be around and in a healthy state over the next 3-5 years and I think the hardware market will still look into ways in how to socket Windows 7 as their native OS when possible (for business, not so much for consumers). Given Windows 8 Surface is making their own hardware it could also be a negative for Microsoft, so whilst the only real option for hardware makers is to adopt Windows 7 or other, this in turn puts a long-term question mark around whether or not Silverlight or WPF should be something you double down on?
I often praise Adobe more than I have in the past as despite how close they came to overtaking HTML as rich media technology platform, they have managed to regroup nicely around being focused on tooling.
Given the turbulence above this company may solve the problem through tooling so it could even abstract the decision making process around which is the next bet by simply saying “it doesn’t matter, just use Adobe XTool”.
It’s still a long way off before that idea is realized, but none the less Adobe Flex / Flash aren’t something one should ignore outright. It still has some legs and although its clear Adobe Flash and iOS will never meet, they do meet however on Android and potentially Microsoft Windows device(s).
Despite Silverlight’s attempt to knock Adobe Flash out of the decision process if anything Silverlight’s demise has strengthens the runtime’s position further.
That’s all argumentative, so who’d you pick?
There the above working summaries overall and it really comes back to the question of making a decision. A decision like this is important and still necessary as when you start making architectural bets for the life of your next industrial grade solution, you need to line up how you’re going to present your connectivity to its vast user base.
Walking into a meeting and saying “all of the above” won’t fly, walking in and holding the posture of “right tool, right job” mantra also may make you feel like you’re a software mountain sage it does little for productizing ideas/solutions to a customer base who have a variety of IT environment(s) that are looking to your company as a lifeline to making the said decision.
Bottom line is someone somewhere has to be the one that says let’s go with “X, because…”
If I was asked today which one I’d pick out of the lot, given I’ve worked in all the above.
My bet for enterprise would be WPF for one simple reason – Windows 7.
Microsoft spent all of last year praising how successful Windows 7 was in terms of sales, record profits and so on. What I got from all that bravado was that whilst Windows 7 was stomping on Windows XP wind pipe, it also was replacing the old problem with a new. That is it won’t be something in which gets deleted from Enterprise machines that cubicle workers and field agents use today anytime soon.
That for me has a much further and greater ubiquity story than most either realize or choose to acknowledge.
iPads are definitely something that may get some traction going further in large business but ultimately it’s such a specialized decision that I think having those devices do anything outside of a HTML app in its first generation of solutions in the enterprise is something that I’d say isn’t a worthwhile bet (it’s still in pioneering mode).
WPF and WinForms will still have a much longer usage than most will also care to agree outloud but I think once Silverlights engines get shut down more and more the retreat position for most will be back to WPF whilst they wait for the whole WinRT story to stabilize.
Adopting WPF today gives you also some healthy amount of skills to target WinRT later on, but it also gets you into a position where there is a likely chance of some additional changes / upgrades should the WinRT vision fall flat (Which I’m thinking it may very well).
That’s what I’d say out loud, as I’d say this based simply on your HR recruitment potential, tooling story and lastly ubiquity related decisions that are made in organizations where little patience is given to solutions built in HTML of the past.
My opinion has now been noted, so what would you bet on and why?
I’m not looking to pick a fight, I do however have some basic questions around what Success vs Fail looks like for an average Wp7 Developer. That is to say, I’ve worked in a few Wp7 App/Game teams in the past two years and I’ve not seen these folks talk up their revenue or commercial success.
Having recently just finished the first beta of an upcoming game, I’m now spending majority of my effort trying to settle on a price and revenue model that will accompany it. I’m also thinking about what my marketing spend should be and where etc.
My research into finding answers to questions around market size, target audience and lastly what a safe price tag should be has come up quite empty . I’ve asked various Windows Phone 7 community “experts” to which I’ve gotten blank responses or some minor links to a blog post from indie developers talking up their Ad Revenue stream(s).
I’ve also asked some Microsoft staffers internally who don’t mind giving me a leak or two of information and they too came back with answers like “come to think of it, I haven’t seen anything internally either. Just lots of adoption metrics but not actual hard revenue related data”.
This now begs the question, which is despite the market share of Windows Phone 7 what exactly does success and fail look like for those looking to target the device?
60 minutes in Australia last Sunday ran a similar interview with iPhone developer(s) and they had a guy from Brisbane on who’s made around $10million off his game(s). Ok, much larger audience but at the same time iPhone marketplace is quite a competitive and saturated user base to target, so to make $10million isn’t an easy thing but at the same time that’s a carrot we can all jump at.
Looking at the various launches / keynotes around Windows Phone, I’ve also not seen someone on stage that has come from a position of “until Windows Phone 7, I was homeless but now, I drive a Ferrari and I have two hot girlfriends” style success.
Ad Revenue is the success metric.
If I cast my browser searches on the interwebz, the likely response to the above questions is simply ad revenue. To me that’s great, it’s I guess a profitable approach but for me I’d rather not make my creation into a digital NASCAR whereby I’m hocking Viagra in-game. Instead, I’d like to either enable in-game purchasing (Windows Phone 8) and/or once-off purchase with additional seasons/expansion packs later (should the audience feel that the game is rewarding enough to invest in).
Today, there is no actual capability for in-game purchasing (ie buy gems/gemstones etc) so you have to rely on your initial once-off purchase. You also are encouraged to provide a trial version of your creation as well, so again, not sure that’s a great revenue model for developer(s) but at the same time it’s a great thing for consumers.
Metrics you can count on.
This probably boils down to bankable metrics that Microsoft is quite cagey in giving specifics around. I doubt anyone will get a clear and concise answer here around what the adoption vs active user metrics are on any given quarter with regards to the Phone(s). If that were to occur I think Nokia’s price would drop and most likely impact on Microsoft’s fumbling share price as well.
That’s of course a pity though, as being a developer you want to size your market, figure out what your potential financially looks like and given we can’t get those specific metrics from Microsoft (in a consistent manner, they do drips and drabs of random stats but they rely on a lot of external inference to size collectively) then the alternative is to come up with another position.
Create a Dust Cloud.
I’ve already committed to the creation of my game, it’s done (almost). I’m ready to hit the launch button and try my luck so right now, I’m a candidate for easy convincing given I already took the leap of faith a month ago. I need confidence that my energy and time wasn’t just a complete waste of time, I want something to hang my hat on and mirror or expand upon around success for the Windows Phone 7 market place.
I want to look at someone’s success, learn from it and expand on it in the hope I can generate my own Windows Phone 7 after glow.
Microsoft simply needs to create what I call a “dust cloud” in that just like in many war novels whereby the horses on the horizon have created such a vast dust cloud that the attacking army looks and sounds a lot bigger/worse than it actually is. Microsoft needs to create a similar affect, that is to bring a few success stories out into the light and shower them in marketing love, followed by infomercial like stories of “Look, he was poor, but now he’s worth $10million USD!!!”
Given there is no in-game purchasing today and yes it appears Windows Phone 8 will fix this, it’s clear to see why a lot of the iPhone game developer(s) haven’t likely ported their success over to the marketplace (Excluding Microsoft investing in this companies via seed funding to do so). That’s a problem and was always one that I think would become a negative for reasons to invest in Windows Phone 7 marketplace. It’s fixed though, well soon to be so I’ll not dwell to much on that one.
Not seeing success around Windows Phone 7 and more importantly getting hints or glimpses of what a commercial reality / viability of spending your time making for the device(s) to me is something that is either really bad or one of the best kept secrets that has the worst reasons for doing so.
I hopefully assume there is a revenue model beyond just ad impressions for Windows Phone 7 marketplace success, I want to see or read a story or two on an indie game developer making their annual wage and more on a single game’s success. I want to see part two of the movie “Indie Game: The Movie” whereby instead of following the success of an XBOX game developer we see the tablet/mobile phone developer.
I genuinely want to believe there’s gold in these Microsoft hills. Show me the money!