What the Consumer Electronics Show or the Mobile World Congress is to gadgets, South by Southwest is to apps. I’m both impressed and amazed by not only the number of apps that are launching here, but also how prepared attendees are to hear about an app and immediately download it to try it out. In my first night out at events on Thursday, I had no fewer than six people get into app-sharing conversations where they showed off what they’d downloaded and then exchanged recommendations.
It’s like a massive early adopter focus group that’s eager to try out software with no questions asked, other than “what service are you on?” or “when will your Android app come out?” For anyone trying to gain a user group and get feedback it must feel like the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. However, as an Android user, I’m still at a disadvantage, since most apps are being designed for Apple’s iOS platform first.
This has spawned several conversations with developers about fragmentation on platforms and fragmentation across devices, but for the most part, everyone just accepts the fragmentation of the mobile device market as a fact of life. Some believe the number of platforms will gradually shrink and expect tools to come out that will help them span across the same OS on different sized devices, and others are relying on the web and HTML5 as a one-size-fits-all kind of option. Regardless, this is the first year I’ve felt that most people “get it” with their apps and web services, realizing that mobile should come first in their development efforts.
I’ve seen several presentations of apps that don’t have a web site, just an app, and others that basically offer a landing page that directs people to the app store. There are still some laggards that admit their apps are crap or who are still building them, but those seem to be outnumbered by those focused on mobile. The only sad part is that mobile has become synonymous with an app, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me that a browser-based or HTML5 approach will win out. Developers, what do you think? If you’re at SXSW do you think mobile-focused development has hit a tipping point?