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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Thoughts on Current State of Mobile Market

July 9th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

Apple has been praised for its innovation in the mobile space. Criticism of the company has centered around their fixation on absolute control. Their spat with Adobe in 2011 over the Flash Player plugin, effectively forced Adobe to change direction away from Flash and Flex. This was an early sign that Apple would not be playing nice. Legal pressure forced them to allow cross platform apps, like those generated in Mobile Flex, to be made available in their Apple store. But it was not a decision made to placate Adobe. Now we see attacks on rival hardware companies, like the recent Samsung lawsuit:

Mobile Platform Specific Apps

Other interesting developments include; the dropping of Google Maps in favour of Apple Maps, and the suggestion that their Maps app for iOS will include Yelp check-in feature that ties in with review site Yelp, further integrating social networking and location-based services into iOS 6.

One wonders whether Apple are trying to differentiate their mobile products by apps available ie. only iOS offers this app with this functionality. Certainly the mobile app world is an area of rivalry between Apple and Google:

Google are also guilty of offering native only functionality, with announcements like the recent offline functionality for Android:

But even though they have a rich Java native api, Google have also put much emphasis in their Javascript api’s. Allowing mobile developers to build cross platform applications ie. a single code base which runs across both Apple and Google platforms. Quite different to Apple, with their native Objective-C only api.

Mobile Business versus Consumer Focus

Beyond maintaining platform loyalty through the apps available, we seem to be moving towards a split between business and consumer focus. With Apple’s suggestions over Yelp, their iOS mobile platform seems squarely focused on the consumer market and location based services (LBS). Influencing consumer purchasing behaviour through check-ins and geo-marketing, would appear part of the reasoning behind the Apple maps announcement. Google have both consumer and business offerings in terms of mobile development tools. For location technology they offer sophisticated geospatial tools; not quite the same offering as ESRI with its geographic information systems (GIS), but as we called it recently, GIS-lite:

Where GPS accuracy is a issue, average tablet and smartphones offer 20-30ft accuracy, Android is a solid option for communicating with a high accuracy external GPS devices. Though there are some good iOS solutions:

Android is not as restrictive as iOS, so we are now seeing the likes of Trimble and Garmin adding Android as a platform option to their mobile hardware. Using Java for Android, connecting via bluetooth to an external GPS device, is increasingly more popular. Here is a how to from Nokia:

A Fragmenting Mobile Marketplace

We are seeing ever more signs of fragmentation in the mobile marketplace. Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, are providing platform specific tools for developers to build mobile apps. Apple have little interest in cross platform solutions. Theirs is a ‘build it only for iOS” approach. There are also suggestions that Apple have an increasing interest in consumer focused technology, particularly around location based services (LBS). Google have more cross platform interest, with a rich Javascript api. They also have both consumer and business mobile offerings. Over time Android may prove the platform of choice for business.

Its interesting watching the mobile market mature, and the key players business strategies unfold.

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Categories: Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS

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