Apple, Google and RIM May Battle but the Smart Money is in All Three

Smartphone operating system makers want you to buy their smartphones. Not only that, they want you to buy apps for their smartphones. While Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) make their own smartphones and write the operating systems for them, Google only makes its Android OS and then lets manufacturers like Motorola and HTC put it on smartphones that they make.

All three of the big players (iOS, Android and BlackBerry) have impressive market shares right now and while Android has been surging ahead, iOS and BlackBerry have managed to hold their own despite the limitations they are stuck with. Where does that leave us, the consumers who just want a solid smartphone experience and some cool apps to use? At the mercy of the developers who make the apps.

Too often people are excited about a new app their friend has, only to find out that it isn’t on their smartphone platform. Microsoft was thoroughly embarrassed the other day when they “accidentally” put the Angry Birds logo on their site under Windows Phone 7 (WP7) apps. The problem? There is no Angry Birds being worked on right now for WP7. Needless to say, the developer was a little ticked off but admitted a version for WP7 might be made at a later date.

Because there simply are so many smartphone platforms, or operating systems, depending on how you want to say it, developers have a very difficult time getting their apps to work on all of them. Cue Rhomobile Inc. This company develops Rhodes—a smartphone app development framework that is actually multi-platform—and has just released version 2.2.

Rhodes 2.2 brings new features like Bluetooth functions, Android cloud to device messaging and calendar support. What is unique about Rhodes is that apps developed with it work on more than one platform. The hurdles that developers have to jump just to get their apps onto more than platform have been greatly reduced. You know what that means? More apps for every platform.

I had an opportunity to ask Rhomobile’s CEO—Adam Blum—a few questions about Rhodes and the accompanying RhoSync and RhoHub cloud services that the company offers:

Q: Why Cloud based smartphone app development and how does it improve development workflow?

A: “By offering Development-as-a-Service, RhoHub reduces the overhead of getting started as well as streamlining ongoing development effort. Developers are able to build native smartphone applications for all leading smartphones without having to install every smartphone OS SDK locally. Using RhoHub’s build cloud, Windows-based developers can even write iPhone applications from their Windows machines. Developers are able to use their own preferred local editor or IDE while performing hosted builds. Moreover, every app in RhoHub is stored as a git repo and developers can easily version their projects and collaborate with other developers on their team.

“RhoHub also features RhoSync in SaaS form – developers have the option of adding the most scalable sync server ever created to their Rhodes apps.”

Q: I understand that Wikipedia’s iOS app was developed with Rhodes. Why did Wikipedia decide to go with Rhodes for its development?

A: “Wikipedia was able to create their iPhone app in Rhodes with 20% of the code of their previous mobile app written in Objective C and within weeks it hit the top 100 free apps in the App Store.”

Q: How does Apple’s recent change in rules for submissions allowing 3rd party development tools to the Apple iTunes App Store affect Rhodes?

A: “It’s great to see Apple listening to their customers and developers and being responsive for the good of the Apple community at large and we are pleased that Apple even took the step of calling us directly to give us the news. To some extent this is anticlimactic because Rhodes apps have never been rejected, even after the proposed iPhone 4 Terms of Service were introduced. Once iPhone 4.0 was released and Rhodes apps continued to be accepted this issue essentially went away with customers.”

Q: Is Rhodes interested in Research In Motion’s coming QNX BlackBerry Tablet OS as a possible supported development platform in the future?

A: “Rhomobile will continue to support development platforms as they appear and developers target them.”

So there you have it, besides just Adobe and its AIR platform, other options are available for developers to start targeting every smartphone platform at once. While Mr. Blum didn’t drop any hints about the coming QNX based BlackBerry Tablet OS, which is also expected to appear on the Storm 4 next year, he did note something quite interesting about Apple’s iTunes App Store submission guidelines. Was it just Adobe who was not allowed in because Apple CEO Steve Jobs hates Flash (the basis for Adobe’s AIR)? Food for thought.

Let’s face it. Android, iOS and BlackBerry are not going anywhere anytime soon. Millions of people use each platform and all of them want apps. Why not target them all at once? The larger the potential user base for an app developer, the more potential for profits.

Let me know what you think. Will smartphone operating systems no longer matter in the future? Is everything going cloud-based now? I hope so, because I’m app greedy.

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