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Apps are the lock-in


Thursday, July 28, 2011

In the past couple of weeks, I bought a Windows Phone 7 device for the purpose of doing some development on this platform (and of course also for my geek curiosity). I also bought an Android tablet for the purpose of testing our mobile web controls (for IntraWeb and ASP.NET). Surprisingly, neither the Windows Phone 7 nor the Android tablet device could convince me to swap my iPhone or iPad for it. While I think the Windows Phone 7 still has many weird behaviors, flaws, bad UI design it is a huge step forward from Windows Mobile 6.5. The hardware of the Samsung Omnia 7 is really very nice and fast. Android has its own quirks but at the same time it's nice to have so much more freedom on this device compared to iOS. But still, that's not enough a reason to get me over. The main issue is that I have meanwhile so many apps (paid and free) I frequently rely on on my iOS devices that I feel uneasy on a device without them. I'm thinking about WhatsApp, Echofon or Skype on iPhone not available on Windows Phone 7. Or NewsTap newsgroup reader, Flipboard, Feedler RSS reader, my favourite TV guide, Mercedes TV and countless others only available on iOS.
Even when all would be available on either Android or Windows Phone 7, why would I be inclined to purchase many of them again for another OS?
This whole situation looks very similar to me as the DOS apps and Windows apps lock-in that Microsoft enjoyed for so long. No one was really able to break in this territory for so long. I remember discussions more than 10 years ago with a colleague about purchasing a Mac. How could we justify buying the machine while we still needed a Windows box next to it to run the Windows apps we needed on a daily basis. Admitted, we have VMs these days that help a lot but still it is a hassle and a friction.
Having been the first significant & accepted mover with the App Store and having made people rely on a wide range of apps is in my opinion the crucial element guaranteeing a continued success for Apples iOS business.
Talking about app lock-in, I'm starting to increasingly feel a similar dependency with the Google Chrome browser. The Chrome web store offerings are becoming more interesting all the time. I feel uncomfortable with a browser without my precious set of apps & extensions like Speeddial2, iMacros, Screen Capture, ChromeItLater,, Adblock, I don't see myself moving quickly to another browser when I would have to miss all this.
Are you also feeling app locked-in?

Bruno Fierens


This blog post has received 8 comments.

1. Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 10:43:07 AM

Couldn''t agree more Bruno. I''m by no means an Apple fan, but I have an iPhone and it''s nothing short of brilliant. I have confidence in the apps I download because I know they''ve been quality tested and approved.

I also have an Android tablet, mainly for browsing when I can''t be bothered to fire up the laptop and the iPhone is too small. Like you, I enjoy the relative openness of the Android device, but it is light years away from the quality and assurredness of the iPhone.

I WANT to like the Windows Phone but I just know they''ve still got some catching up to do. I could see myself switching eventually, it seems the Mango release is a big step forward, but they''re still behind Apple at this stage.

Sweby Jason

2. Friday, July 29, 2011 at 5:14:38 AM

Yes it is a lockin maybe. I am not totally sure.

Honestly I think the apps are here but to make money with ... The mobiles also had such things ... most of them became free ... this was very unattractive on a long term. I see the appstores somehow as deoployemnt infrastructure financed by others than the vendor, with a certain sales opportunity for both. Prviate apps, none of them are vital ...

I investigated the whole topic and I very soon came to the point, that it is maybe more wise to go via the iWebkit available with Topstyle (this was before you launched your mobile stuff). For Information retrieval a ''WebKit'' of any kind based approach is the better choice in the bitter end. There is no decision currently, how the tablets or Pads will evolve, in how far the PC and notebooks will benefit from having no harddisk - this can lead to completly different form factors ... and a local webserver is built into Opera too ... and extensions are availle to turn the embeddded into a real one ... this is the beginning I think.

Michael Thuma

3. Friday, July 29, 2011 at 3:00:17 PM

greetings from a TouchPad :-!


4. Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 9:30:05 AM

Apps dependent ? Try a rehab treatment : the web.
Apps are only a way to make money for Apple. Now that they have shown their strategy (rule the world), WebApps will replace Apps. So forget this error of the History. Buy terminals compatible with the True Web (no more iOS).

REYNS Grégoire

5. Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 4:10:43 PM

I definitely feel it. I have numerous apps that are iOS specific that I''d be miserable without. With all duevrespect to the previous poster, I''ll take a well written web enabled Native app over web pages any day. Web pages suck. And I don''t always have the Internet available. Our iPad is WiFi only for example and cell coverage isn''t always there for a phone. Long live native apps!

Ron Grove

6. Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 5:00:36 PM

How can you call Windows Phone 7''s UI design bad?? Is it better to have a screen full of icons (as in iPhone) where nothing is integrated and you need to switch apps for everything? No thanks.. When WP7 came, I switched and have never looked back. And now that Mango (WP 7.5) will be released, there is even less reason to look back..

Apple products? Never again..

Petersson Johan

7. Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 5:24:23 PM

it''s full of UI idiosyncracies I really can''t understand supposedly "smart" people at MS "designed"
just a four things that irritate me most
1) partial visible text hinting there is more on right yet it doesn''t offer scroll to right
2) popup actions on a list after long tap is just text items barely distinguishable from items in a list itself
3) apps list is just an alphabetical long list, no grouping, no organisation at all
4) Marketplace menu text keeps showing in french here while my device language is english and I want to see english and if that''s too hard Dutch as I live in a dutch speaking region and not french!

Wrt icons, the saying is an image speaks more than thousand words. Everyone is familiar with visuals for weather, RSS, twitter, email and so much more rather than all kinds of weird short app names developers dream up these days.

I''m not an Apple fanboy and I''m not saying Apple products are perfect, but seriously, Microsoft has a lot of homework still to do on WP7 before people will wait in lines in front of Microsoft stores to buy their products and even then, Microsoft will need to subsidize the hardware.

Bruno Fierens

8. Monday, August 01, 2011 at 2:43:11 PM

I think on this world there are so many people with different taste ... beside Burno''s points

The advantage of the iPhone and Apple Hardware is simply more or less ''one'' model. Device diversity is interesting but with the time devices will start behaving different because of competing each other ... I am not sure if this will be a very successful way on a mid term. Same counts for Android ... MS will very likely start to respond with the ''Partner'' concept ... then limited Software on divers devices ... I am not sure.

On the PC the same problem ... but we are used to it. A normal office PC .. ok. The moment people work with not office only devices things become complicated. In the world of the Smartphones and tablets/pads people expect install works. I personally do not write off the HP Touch PAD also if on their own WebOS. People simply want that things work ... this is why they use the mobile stuff and not the PC for apps.

Michael Thuma

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