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July 10, 2011

Haters Gonna Hate: The Argument Against Fanboys

I’m tired of the iOS vs. Android debate. Not tired because I think my iPhone 4 is superior or because my friends from home won’t stop mentioning the fact that Google+ is out on Android and I can’t join their “Huddle.” I’m tired of the argument because really…it doesn’t matter.

Most people engaging in the debate between mobile operating systems are doing so because history tells us this is necessary. The desktop wars were only a few decades ago, ending with Microsoft running almost all the world’s computers while Apple was left to the “creative” market. Naturally, there are plenty of parallels between that rivalry and the one being seen now between Apple and Google (I will not include RIM because….well being a Blackberry fan boy in 2011 is like denying global warming; everyone knows you’re wrong at this point and can’t really be bothered to hear your “counterarguments.”).

But making parallels between these platform wars largely fails to acknowledge the last 20+ years of innovation. We are no longer living in a world where having a desktop computer is a sign of wealth or intellect. There are laptops that can be purchased for under $300 at Walmart. Our phones have more memory than we know what to do with. But most importantly, programming software has become much easier to develop with and barriers to entry for aspiring developers have vanished.

In the past developers have had to make choices when releasing their software. Burned onto a CD and sold in physical stores, they had to pick a platform, develop for it, and stick with that cliental. It was just easier for everyone to pick one OS to work with. Anyone who has seen the explosion of the various app stores knows this logic no longer applies. I recently visited a startup to help them test an upcoming update to their iOS app and was surprised to learn that they were working on a Windows Phone 7 app. They already had developed for Android and had a user base with steady growth, but still felt the need to expand to a third platform. This is because the potential for new users outweighed the development costs.

I understand many will passionately argue against a lot of what I’ve said. “It’s about usability! I hate Android because it’s ugly.” The reality is people get defensive about their phones because they think there can only be one winner, and it’s simply not true. We are just scratching the surface of the mobile revolution and are possibly looking at even more platforms to develop for. Windows Phone 7 is gaining traction and possibly could become much more main stream once Nokia begins shipping their new devices. HP has made it abundantly clear that they are going to be pushing WebOS into all of their devices. Hell, maybe RIM will pull a Steve Jobs and their Playbook OS, QNX, will be the next big thing (though I doubt it).

I own a laptop running Windows, a Chrome OS notebook, an iPhone 4, and have a Boxee Box. Integrating your hardware by running common software is great and Apple has shown it can lead to a seamless connected experience… but choice is important. Android excels at customization and has widgets. iOS has amazing developer tools that lead to very polished looking apps. Windows Phone 7 has the most gorgeous minimalist UI I’ve ever seen. WebOS has mastered how multitasking should work on phones and tablets. Can’t we all just use whatever suits our tastes and let others pick as well?

this argument doesn’t take into account the potential of HTML as a development platform. Eventually we’ll all be running web apps…