iOS vs. Android

Let’s say you’re a mobile developer and you’re trying to decide whether to put your eggs in the Android or the iOS basket. Recent articles suggest that it’s not going to be an easy decision, and it’s not even clear if it’s an argument worth having.

There are a number of factors coming together that have triggered these arguments over the last couple of weeks. First of all, recent news reports like this one from Engadget suggest that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) could be tightening control over Android, trying to restrict the fragmentation that has been a consistent criticism of the operating system.

Meanwhile, you have Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) opening up an App store with some hints that it might actually be building an Android device, which would combine the retail power of Amazon with the development power of Google.

That’s one powerful one-two punch, folks, and it could change the entire market dynamic. Why wouldn’t you go with Android in the context of that news?

Good question, but there’s conflicting evidence further confusing the situation. Phillip Elmer-DeWitt has thrown a wrench in all those Android plans with his recent post suggesting that the OS’s development is “a mess.”

Elmer-DeWitt looks at a survey that suggests developers might have a problem with Android, including the fragmentation issues, app visibility within the App Store, and getting paid (which apparently isn’t one of Google’s special strengths).

Tristan Lewis adds some more fuel to the debate when he suggests Android really is the best bet here, followed by mobile browsers and iOS.

That’s a lot of contradictory advice, but it seems clear one of the chief issues of the moment for Android is fragmentation of the OS and the problems that seems to be causing in the development ecosystem as well as for consumers looking for a consistent experience.

On one hand, getting that fragmentation under control would appear to be job one for Google, but it will no doubt alienate many open-source proponents, who have held up Android as the anti-iOS. We all know about Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)’s control-freak reputation. Developers have to be wondering how far this anti-fragmentation campaign is going to go and how much control it will take from the development community.

And then of course we have the whole idea of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), which you can’t dismiss from the equation here. When we see experts making hard and fast recommendations in an area that is clearly fluid, and throwing out arguments to make you, well, uncertain, you have to view these arguments through your skeptic filter.

And none of this (except perhaps Lewis’s recommendations) takes into account the ongoing apps versus browser argument — that is, forgetting about apps altogether and simply developing for the mobile browser experience — which is another level that mobile developers have to take into consideration.

I’m not here to advocate on behalf of either OS or the browser. That choice is up to you, but the arguments are getting louder as the stakes grow higher.

What you have in the end is a lot of information, which you have to interpret through the lens of your own projects and potential user base, knowing that whichever way you go, you probably have time to recover, because none of these options is going away anytime soon.

Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor, and contributing editor at EContent magazine.

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