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An Apple a day?

Actually they seem to be selling a great deal more than that. I’ve been reading the recent (not so recent) news of Apple’s sales figures. See:

http://blogs.eweek.com/applewatch/content/corporate/apple_q3_2008_by_the_numbers.html

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/07/21results.html

This is important for Colrosa as a company that undertakes software product development for our clients.

It seems that Apple has made a 49% increase in sales (units sold) in desktops and a 37% increase in portables from Q3 in 2007 to Q3 in 2008. These figures are staggering and have a potential impact on the sorts of decisions software developers make on their choice of development platform and delivery platform for their software applications.

This slightly older article (May 2008):

http://blogs.eweek.com/applewatch/content/channel/macs_defy_windows-gravity.html

relates that “Apple’s retail market share is 14 percent, and two-thirds for PCs costing $1,000 [in the US] or more”, and this was prior to Apple Q3 figures announced in July.

I haven’t been able to find any figures on SME, corporate and home use market share, which of course would greatly impact this issue:

If I am considering developing a software product, do I: develop for MS Windows only, MS Windows and MacOS X or indeed MacOS X only?

However, this:

http://www.tuaw.com/2008/08/26/forrester-apple-nearly-quadruples-enterprise-share/

and other articles indicate a 4.5% penetration into the business market (Aug 2008) in general, much lower than the overall market share. Not being a market analyst I can’t say if the business market, being late adopters, are likely to follow the general or home use trend. It seems to me though that (logically, but without proof) this increase may be in the SME market, where personal preference can be more important than corporate IT strategy.

Cross platform development greatly limits the technologies and languages that one might choose to develop with, yet commercially is making more and more sense.

This is still an open question and one that is swayed by the vertical market that you might be developing for. It pretty clear that an application aimed at graphic designers would be more profitable if cross platform. Perhaps something in the legal sector would not benefit at all. But, what about an application of ubiquitous use across both the SME and corporate market? Where would we draw the line?

What are the development options?

Please post a comment if you know differently!

  1. C++ (option 1) with a common interface library, e.g. QT
  2. C++ (option 2) with separate interface code
  3. Java – compile once and debug everywhere.
  4. scripting and GTK (I haven’t really looked in to this, but understand that this would be possible)

Choices would depend on the simplicity/complexity of the UI design and therefore its percentage of the build. For example if I were building a local file indexing engine (a la spotlight for the mac) with a half a dozen user settable preferences and an on/off button I would not need to worry about re-writing the UI. If, however, I was building a diagramming tool, then my first concern would the the common UI tools between platforms.

The other important factor to consider is the additional cost to developing cross platform. My experience of developing cross platform in Java is that it is about 10-15% more expensive (depending on various factors), than developing for one platform.

My last thought on the matter is this: Mac users often have less choice in applications and are usually prepared to pay for something that works well, simply and with grace; right or wrong this is why they went for the Mac and MacOS X in the fist place. I believe that users are often as concerned about their experience with an application as they are about the raw features and as often as not confuse the two: rating more usable applications as more effective in getting a job done.

2 Responses to An Apple a day?

  • These figures are very impressive and mean that anyone who is developing software should definitley develop it for the Mac as well. To not do so would ignore a large section of the market. It’s an interesting point that many Mac users have less choice but I’d also think that an application that has wide appeal should be developed for the wider market.

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