Android & iOS
The mobile operating system wars have left two dominant players: Android & iOS. Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Firefox OS, and a few others are fighting over different slivers that remain.
Just a few years ago there was talk of another dominant platform: Facebook. The plans were grand, Facebook would act as a platform not just for social identity but for the web. All kinds of things were possible. Then Facebook started changing enough things around to annoy the hell out of developers (Oculus developers, take note.) At the same time, suddenly mobile apps could access all of a users contact information. The Facebook platform’s giant competitive advantage vanished overnight.
Something similar is happening in the operating system world.
Cross Platform with One Click
Take a look at gaming. If you want to develop a new video game you can use a system such as Unity 3D. When complete, you can export the game to: Windows 8, Windows Mobile, Linux, OS X, iOS, Android, Blackberry, WiiU, Playstation, Xbox 360, and the Unity web player which runs in Firefox, Chrome, IE, and Safari. Unreal Engine, the thing that powers huge video game hits such as Gears of War, can build games for Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Playstation2/3, and XBox One/360.
In the past week Amazon dropped the fireTV. Though it looks like a monolith up against Google’s Chromecast, it marks the platform battle heating up for the television set.
I see this from a different perspective. The platform doesn’t quite matter. In order to build a successful Software-as-a-Service you need to be available everywhere. As an entertainment company, if you only allow users from a specific data provider or on a specific piece of hardware view your content, you are napping in front of a giant bulldozer.
Post OS Platform War Has Begun
Some are speculating that the platforms which will really matter are the storage spaces, such as Dropbox (recently valued at over $10 billion.)
Microsoft released Office for free for iOS, you just have to pay $9.99 a month for Office 365 to do anything meaningful. On closer inspection it may just be a clever trick to get everyone to store their files in Microsoft’s cloud, OneDrive.
And Already Ended
A new paradigm has begun: Software must communicate with other software.
In a past era of skepticism I believed Google’s acquisition of Urchin and consequently free release of Google Analytics marked the end for web site statistics software. I was wrong. Today numerous alternatives exist. Mixpanel and KISSmetrics stand out as two dominant players and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Other companies such as KeenIO provide even great quantities of raw data for analysis. Chartbeat lets news sites accelerate the efficiency of their pageview journalism. It turns out one size does not fit all.
Customers demand data portability — but to become better software must support data portability. That means the systems that erect high walls in their gardens will experience growth retardation while more open competitors flourish. By specializing developers can produce software that is really fucking good at whatever it is trying to do.
Want to perform statistical analysis on your data set? You could code in some fancy formulas in to Excel, cross your fingers that not mistakes were made. You could open the data in Tableau (which supports every DB format big and small you can imagine, kudos to them, sucks for Excel), tweak some formulas and charts around, and get your answer after 30 minutes or so. Or, you could drop everything into Statwing. Statistical analysis, complete with charts and detailed math produced in under 60 seconds.
Which tool would you rather use? The one that was built to do exactly what you were trying to do.
This is of no great insight on my part. Take a look at the best examples of web software today. All support integrations. This enables tools such as Slack to provide a centralized point for teams to communicate with each other.
Slack was released publicly less than a year ago and has support for over 40 integrations. That means you can assign a task in Asana buy typing a command in a chat room, and be notified the same way. Github commits, Bitbucket commits, Dropbox files, Stripe, Zendesk, and more all supported. Of course your company has its own specialized tools. Integrated them with Slack’s API or a webhook. Isn’t it nice not to have 55 browser tabs open anymore?
Geckoboard provides custom dashboards which allow you to monitor all of your critical metrics in one place. Over 100 and counting. Since they each do something well, show your Mixpanel and Google Analytics charts on a single screen, in a visibly cohesive format.
Mutually Assured Destruction
Why would you use Microsoft’s OneDrive over Dropbox? What would happen if Mixpanel decided to ban data from exiting their system? What if Slack stopped allowing data to be imported from Github and announced you had to use their version control?