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Do Not Lock In To One Device Lest You Kill Your Company

It’s funny. Comical even. A few weeks ago, I wrote that The iPhone is to Smartphones as IE6 was to Browsers. Most of the readers of that article agreed with me but almost all had a “but, but, but…” argument. This is because the iPhone is one sexy beast to users, even though AT&T can’t seem to support the iPhone, as we also noted.

This is a comical observation because my position was endorsed (if not directly) by Peter-Paul Koch who daintily comments that “[He] will shout at web developers who think that delicately inserting an iPhone up their ass is the same as mobile web development.” He goes on to slam the web development community to catering to the iPhone in the same broken-record way that web developers catered to IE6 ten years ago.

Photo by Matt Buchanan

And adding insult to injury, the Guardian also picked up that story and offered their own ringing endorsement for both Peter-Paul and my perspectives.

I just got off the phone with an unnamed entrepreneur who wants to build a product that, while looking to the future and planning to diversify over a variety of products, looks at Apple’s forthcoming iPad as the launch device. I will offer you the same advice I offered him as well as the same advice I offer to iPhone only products like Gowalla.

If you want to start on the iPad, fine. You better be damn sure you’re ready to diversify quickly. I don’t care if you put it on a non-touch device like, oh I don’t know, the web with a normal browser on a normal computer… do not disenfranchise users. Peter-Paul Koch notes, in the article I linked to above, that the iPhone carries only 15% of the worldwide mobile market. Yet it gets an insane amount of attention as if it was the most important product ever created.

Newsflash… it’s not. It’s not even close.

In fact, it’s still not a business class phone (with rare exception). And in fact, developers continue to ignore other platforms… like the BlackBerry.

Sidenote: It’s okay to have a mobile web interface but don’t lose the forest through the trees. Users will feel like second-hand citizens if you don’t pay attention to their needs.

Mobile developers: Think before you develop only for the iPhone or only for the iPad. Entrepreneurs: Think before you start a company or launch a product made exclusively, or designed with a business model only for the iPhone or the iPad.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

One thought on “Do Not Lock In To One Device Lest You Kill Your Company”

  1. While the story of Jack Tramiel would initially support this argument, I’m not sure I’m as in agreement as I am with the previous post. When doing web development, you’re developing for the Web and its constraints and benefits. That means you don’t target a single device, and hopefully you gracefully degrade so that all devices and user agents can access your content.

    But targeting a specific platform for application development is not the same thing. Very lucrative careers have been made developing just for the Classic Mac OS, for example, or for Mac app development now. The iPhone has famously made people a buck or two, even as lots of others have made little or nothing–but then again, that’s true with every class of entrepreneur.

    Different devices have different strengths, and an app envisioned for the iPad might not work on whatever tossed-off tablet MS is pushing these days. While supporting the Web means supporting more devices, it also limits the scope of technology you have to master and support. Supporting two devices through native APIs to achieve the same app is likely a lot harder.

    So there’s a balancing act, between spreading your risk and spreading yourself too thin. I wouldn’t put eliminating single-platform development as a rule equivalent to don’t develop Web apps for one device–the Web is also a single platform, albeit with wide support.

    I’m pretty sure Rich Siegel is doing OK these days…he’s not Bill Gates, but then nobody but Bill Gates is Bill Gates–not even Steve Jobs.

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