Are Unified Platforms Going to Take Over?

The media is detecting that Apple has once again zigged with it’s archipelago of OSes while MS and Google zag towards unify their OS offerings: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/apple-going-totally-different-direction-164310996.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

Rumors have swirled about Google merging ChromeOS and Android while Microsoft has their Unified Windows Platform apps, that work across any device. Both Google and MS have approaches that seem like they are attacking the problem from the wrong angle.

Thinking More Deeply

Modern applications have very simple back-end architectures and increasingly complicated front-end architectures. This makes sense when you think about how many new form factors have come around — mobiles, tablets, cars now… The panoply of options like React, Ember, Angular, Ionic, etc on the front-end underscore this phenomenon.

When MS and Google say they are making ‘unified platforms’ what that really means is that you can reuse the back-end piece. The front-end has to be changed, or at least you have to build in complex logic to make your app work for a bunch of devices. Either way, the front-end piece is far more complex.

So what do you gain by unifying all your platforms together, from a developer’s perspective? Very little. And it radically increases testing costs. And let’s not forget that Microsoft initially copied apple’s app store but then reversed course to this all-in-one strategy — it was a hedge to try and extend the Windows platform dominance into mobile. It has so far failed spectacularly.

While all these 800-pound gorillas pound it out, the open source world has quietly solved the problem with javascript apps (http://electron.atom.io/) — which work on any platform and can be built using the same tools as the open web. This is why I’ve focused on web tools — eventually every system will work like the open web.

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