Application Ecosystems on Devices

Posted by: Thom Denholm

While the software we develop integrates at system level in devices, we do keep an eye open for developments happening at the application level primarily because the heavy data storage use most modern applications make. Understanding what kind of applications are making headway in the market helps us determine the type of data profile to expect at the file system and flash management level. This helps is in creating new system level functionality that benefits all applications. One example of this is the work done in Reliance Nitro. We observed a lot of device applications and how they use files. We found that apart from some data logging / music playback apps, most apps do not indulge in sequential reads and writes that often. Most of the time, apps are primarily engaged in file operations (file open being the most common). Hence we designed the tree-based metadata architecture in Reliance Nitro to provide radical performance improvements in the file operation speeds. When we talk about apps on devices, we cannot ignore the 800-pound gorilla - the Apple Appstore. The appstore has created a huge ecosystem for apps on the iPhone and the iPod touch by having a one-stop shop for discovering, reviewing and purchasing apps. Combine this usability with the popularity of the hardware, the app ecosystem has blossomed which has forced rivals to pay attention and start something similar of their own. Google's Android marketplace is probably the next biggest player while Palm, Microsoft and Nokia are just getting started. While Apple does indeed have a head start of 12-14 months, what is interesting to note is the huge difference between it and its closest rival. This article by Fierce Developer highlights the significant difference in revenue that app developers are seeing on the Apple v/s the Android platform.

What do these stats mean for device developers? In order to catch up or surpass Apple, innovation needs to happen on multiple fronts 1. Device hardware: Apple innovated with the capacitive touchscreen and no-keyboard design. OEMs need to find the next game changer on the hardware front 2. Device user experience: Hardware on its own does not win over users. There have been several iPhone competitors who have had better hardware of paper but without matching software capabilities, the devices have not met with spectacular success. Using an optimized data storage stack can help improve device responsiveness which users rank as one of their top requirements. Creating new simple user interface paradigms will also be critical. 3. Developer support: Use of standard tools and languages for writing apps along with a low cost of entry is critical to attract app developers to your platform 4. Discovery and purchase of apps: How do users of your devices find and purchase apps? How can you do it better and faster? What is the average price-point for the buyer profile of your device. All of these are critical questions to answer before creating an app store. It will need strong execution on all of the above fronts for device manufacturers to catch up to the Apple success. We will be keeping an eye open to developments here; look out for further postings on this topic in the future.

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