One of the many reasons for the success of SaaS in the desktop world is that it frees users from the restrictions put on by the OS vendors. Whether it is Apple’s OSX or Microsoft’s Windows OS, there are some inherent restrictions imposed on both the users and developers due to the proprietary nature of these operating systems. The open source Linux based operating systems helped developers to a certain extent but they were still handicapped by the lack of mass adoption and other issues associated with these operating systems. Add to this the issue of porting the apps to different operating systems. There is a reason why we don’t see all the apps to work on top of all the desktop operating systems. Unless some developer has lots of time in his/her hands and has the ability to develop apps across many different platforms, it is difficult to develop native apps that will seamlessly run on Windows, Mac and Linux machines. The move to web based applications and the change in the perspective of the users about user experience, in general, has helped developers break open the restrictions imposed by the desktop OS vendors. We are still in the early days of SaaS but this approach has the potential to be a game changer in the future.
The mobile OS vendors are no different when it comes to imposing restrictions. Take the case of iPhone and every single developer, irrespective of whether they are an one person shop or big companies like Amazon or Google, has to agree to the terms imposed by Apple. Often, this results in cutting down on the features which are otherwise available. It is the same case with other mobile OSes too. Sometimes app vendors compromise and cut down some of the features before their app is even accepted by the mobile OS vendor.
Mobile app developers also face the same problem of how to port their apps to many different operating systems used by different handsets. Unlike the desktop field where Windows has runaway marketshare, followed by Mac and a tiny portion by Linux, mobile landscape is much more competitive than the desktop world. The choices in the mobile world are much higher and it forces the developers to waste their time and resources in trying to get their apps work across all the mobile operating systems. There is no uniform and straightforward way to get these apps work on all the handsets.
Michelle Megna, writing on Internetnews.com, talks about a recent report by ABI Research titled “Mobile Cloud Computing” that talks about how developers are tapping into the Cloud to get around the restrictive policies of Mobile OS vendors and to overcome the need to develop for multiple OSes.
Currently, mobile application developers face the challenge of how to address multiple mobile operating systems. Either they must write for just one OS, or create many versions of the same application. Adding to the task is the fact that most apps require significant processing power, data storage and memory in the handset.
By taking a Web development approach, Beccue said applications can run on servers instead of locally, so handset requirements can be greatly reduced and developers can create just one version of an application.
The promise of web applications for the mobile market appears to be very bright. The report talks about a revenue of 20 billion annually by the end of 2014. The report also identifies the reasons for this kind of success.
- The first and foremost reason being the availability of massive number of web developers
- Cloud Computing offloads the processing power from the handsets to the Cloud
- Cloud Computing offers better reliability for web based applications
- The network operators like this approach because the use of web based applications increases the use of their data plans which, in turn, shores up their revenues
In fact, this is not something new. Some of the major SaaS vendors are already taking this approach to deliver the kind of user experience which users get with a browser on a desktop machine. For example, Google has a mobile version of their apps (mail, calendar, docs, etc..) that can be accessed using the Safari browser on the iPhone. This mobile web app offers the same user experience as a native iPhone app but without going through the painful process of getting an approval in the app store. The navigation is exactly like the native application but without using any processing power on the local phone. In fact, Zoho (exclusive sponsor of Cloud Ave) also offers a web app similar to Google. There are few other vendors who tap into the Clouds to offer a seamless experience on the mobile web browser. I am glad to see this trend picking up because this
not only helps developers to get over the restrictions of mobile OS vendors but it will also help them get over any restrictions imposed by the network operators. As more and more SaaS vendors take this approach to their mobile nirvana, the need to jailbreak phones and entering the application black market will vanish.
PS: While we are in this topic, let me take the opportunity to recommend you to read an old post of mine that talks about how one can tap the Clouds for the processing power needed in the mobile handsets.