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Project Pitfalls: 10 Business Risks of Android Development

Android is an exciting new platform to develop for, but there are a number of risks associated with Android projects which should not be overlooked. Here’s a short list of what we see as the project pitfalls of Android development at this time.

Android is an exciting new platform to develop for, but there are a number of risks associated with Android projects which should not be overlooked. Here’s a short list of what we see as the project pitfalls of Android development at this time. #1: Platform Fragmentation The Android platform, including its SDK and tools, is being developed so fast that new platform updates come out almost too frequently. Developers can develop apps for a number of different target versions of the Android platform, including different SDK releases as well as platforms with or without third party APIs like the Google services. This is great for those wanting the latest and greatest release, but makes it very difficult for application developers to keep up and support their existing applications, not to mention develop new ones and reach their intended audiences. In fact, many of these updates are not backwards compatible. #2: Device Fragmentation We’ve seen handset fragmentation with just about every other mobile platform so we’re certainly not surprised to start seeing it with Android. Apple and the iPhone has this mostly under control just because they have a fairly restricted set of devices to support. We’re looking at an explosion of new Android devices on the market in the next year or so. End-users can now choose between cell phones and other types of devices running Android like the Archos Internet tablet. Android developers cannot make nearly as many assumptions about hardware and software components will be available on a given Android device. #3: Unclear Distribution Channels Right now, most Android developers think the only way to sell apps to end users is through the Google Android Market application, but this is not true. There are a variety of ways to sell apps to end-users, and neglecting to distribute beyond the Android Market inevitably causes your apps to not reach all possible markets. Some Android devices don’t even have access to the Android Market app. #4: Choosing the Wrong Business Model Do you have a solid business plan? How will your app be priced? We’ve spent a lot of time this month talking about mobile application business models (start with Key Questions Any Good Mobile Application Business Plan Should Answer). Choosing the wrong business model doesn’t just hurt your application’s success, but everyone elses’ as well! #5: Where are the Android Application Success Stories? We really want to see more case studies regarding Android application monetization. The mobile development community and the world at large needs to hear those Android success stories. The mobile development community is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to giving numbers, figures, etc. This has led many to distrust Android as a platform. Here’s a place where Apple and the iTunes store has done a much better PR job. #6: Difficulty Differentiating Applications from One Another There’s currently very little infrastructure in place to allow users to differentiate between the Android applications available. Which are awesome, which are terrible? A rating system on one app store isn’t going to do this. You can get a magazine (and numerous, well-respected websites) that will rate all the latest Playstation 3 games coming out this month, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a magazine that even lists an Android phone as a choice of smart phones… yet. #7: The Open Handset Alliance behind Android seems Loosely-Managed, Not Cohesive So it’s the Open Handset Alliance, not Google alone, that is behind the Android platform. This business alliance has a great cast list, but are they really working together as a team or have they just agreed that having a free and open platform is a great idea? We need to see more leadership from the OHA. We need to see they are bigger than just Google. We need to see that they’re actually behind this platform with some kind of singular vision and not all making Android into what they want separately. #8: No Guaranteed Google Involvement in Android for the Long Term Google has been leading the charge to get Android ramped up and out there, but there’s no guarantee they will continue down this road forever…especially not with Chrome OS on the horizon. Already, we’ve seen the Android tools disengage from the tightly-integrated Google services we saw in early versions of the SDK. This makes it harder to develop apps with Google services, too. And guess what? Android without Google services is actually not very exciting (see our earlier post Android Needs Google For Now). Who will pick up the slack if and when Google turns to other projects? #9: Lack of Operator/Manufacturer Partnership Programs Manufacturers and operators are taking Android and molding it into their platform of choice. However, they aren’t working very closely with the application developers yet. If manufacturers and operators are going to develop their own flavors of Android, or app stores, they need to get developer programs in place, with clear guidelines and such. #10: Young, Unproven Platform When all is said and done, Android is still a pretty young technology. We aren’t seeing modest, incremental changes with each SDK release. Instead, we’re seeing substantial improvements and frequent firmware upgrades. Eventually the technology will likely settle a bit, but not for a while yet. This keeps developers on their toes.

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