- January 12th, 2011
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The challenges we face this year will be the same challenges we face next year. The players may change a bit, but it will still be the same. Fragmentation has been a part of our lives as developers and designers since the computer was born. Nothing is going to change that. As long as Company A thinks that it can do it better, different than Company B, we’ll have different runtimes, different os, different whatever that will make our lives more challenging as design and develop. Its our job as designers and developers to help our clients navigate these problems and provide solutions. Bitching about them is something we can do in our free time, because there is no changing the situation.
Ok.. some quick thoughts on web and mobile for the year:
H264 vs WebM: Yesterday, Google announced they were dropping H264 support from Google Chrome. More power to them. They paid for and released WebM as open source, and they have a vested interest in seeing it taken up as the new web video format. Google likes to make money (and they have lots to be made on YouTube and other areas) and not spend it. There is a lot of distrust for the MPEG LA even though they said there would not be a license fee for end-user and only for manufacturers building encoders/decoders. Apple and MS are firmly behind H264, and its being used everywhere. WebM on the other hand is free, free, free. I have no idea how this will pan out, or if it will ever. So if you are targeting video playback everywhere, be prepared to encode and host multiple copies of your video source. And you are already probably doing that or using Flash Player for clients that dont’ support H264.
Android vs iOS: Android will grow and grow and eventually be everywhere that iOS is not. Does that mean Androids win? Far from it. iOS isn’t going anywhere, and its not like Apple is going to sit still. Both iOS and Android will continue to “battle”, but ultimately the consumer and your clients will pick one or the other based on personal bias, whats cool, whats cheap, what has the game they want, whatever.. and you’ll be designing or developing for one of them, or both of them. This is the new Mac vs PC. Both have benefits, both have disadvantages, but both are viable solutions for both end user and developer. I look at Android and iOS like having dinner at your relatives house. Android is like eating at your cool uncles house where everything goes, but its always a bit messy. Yeah.. he’s got the cool toys, playstation, xbox, but you keep uncovering little tidbits of dirt and unpolished gunk in the corners. Dinner with iOS is like being at your aunt’s house who is always prim and proper. Full of rules. You feel confined at times, always afraid to do something wrong, but when you look around, you had an awesome meal, got some culture, and still had a good time.
RIM Playbook and other tablets: Lots of cool tablets were shown off at CES this year. Most of them were running Android Honeycomb, and then there was RIM. The RIM Playbook is very interesting to me. Its hardware specs are very good, the price will supposedly be sub-$500, and the OS (QNX) is running Adobe AIR. As a Flash Platform developer, that makes the Playbook a near perfect device, right? Potentially. However, I don’t have faith in RIM yet. The Playbook will be marketed towards business. It has the strong suit of RIM and they have a good foothold with their Blackberry. But I believe to be very successful, you need to embrace the consumer market, and I just don’t know if RIM has the experience or desire to do that. Unless they are devoted to this, I don’t see it growing organically. I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time (or the last). As for all the Honeycomb-based tablets shown at CES, like the Motorola Xoom, very impressive hardware and they should sell well. The total success of the tablet market will come down to apps. Phones will always sell because people need to make calls. Tablets, on the other hand, needs apps. They are mini-computers and will be used as such. If we start to see really great apps for Honeycomb that aren’t just re-sized phone apps, and start to see some big names get behind app development, then I think Android-based tablets will take off.
Apple: I expect Apple to continue doing what its always done. Take a bold hard line approach to its design and development of new hardware and software. You either love them or hate them. Seems most of that split seems to fall around what you think of Flash and HTML5. Apple isn’t going anywhere, and they’ll continue to sell their products and provide a very good consumer experience. I would have think that 2011 will bring us a new iPhone, some advancements with iOS (4.5? 5.0?), and of course, OS X 10.7 Lion. The more I look at what Apple is doing with Lion and iOS, the more I think we’ll see a convergence soon enough, at least with software.
I love to bitch and complain about Adobe and Flash. I do this because I’m passionate about what I do and Adobe and Flash are a big part of my professional life and I always want them to be better. I also love my Apple products. None of them are perfect, but I have a room for each in my career. I see 2011 being the year that I get off my butt and start doing some real iOS development, instead of turning the work away like I had done in the past. I also see myself continue to do Flash work for both the desktop and mobile. All this “fragmentation” is opportunity. Enjoy 2011.