Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Yahoo Go: because we all love SDKs

If you are a mobile developer, you are already a frustrated individual. You dream of a world with one mobile operating system and one SDK (wait, are you sure, take a look at what you have in front of you...), instead Yahoo at CES has just announced yet-another-mobile-SDK.

Damn, can't life in mobile be easier?

If you want to build a mobile app today, you can choose from:
  • JavaME: great reach but you need to develop one app per phone, so that's about one billion slightly different apps... But just slightly.
  • Symbian: not a bad idea, big reach, stable platform, maybe boring. I could even build a JavaME app and tweak it to become native.
  • Windows Mobile: very small market share and not growing, but easy to build. Tough, who wants to build for a Microsoft operating system? Really uncool... If my boss forced me to do it, I will. But please boss do not force me to do it.
  • iPhone: that would be cool, the thing attracts girls and its market share will boom fast (although the device is not really robust). Wait, I have to hack it and there are no APIs. Even cooler! It might get boring when they announce the SDK in February, though...
  • Android: whooo!! supercool. Too bad there are no devices and it will take a few years for it to have a meaningful marketplace. Hey, but you can get money from Google with the Android Challenge...
  • BREW: what? No, please. I do not want to develop in a box with high walls.
  • PalmOS: is it still alive?
  • Flash: nice, but it is ready for prime time? It could actually be the answer to JavaME portability in the long run. Wait and see.
  • A dozen variations of Linux, lead by OpenMoko (because I like them), including Maemo and many others: go for it, man! We need people that love to dream in this world! Worst case scenario: you'll port it back to Android in a year. It is a mobile Linux variation, after all.
  • Another ten or so I forgot, like Sony PSP and many more
When you think you are done with the list, boom! Yahoo comes up with a mobile platform over a mobile operating system. A sort of a middle layer that allows you to develop your applications on top of that. Not that far, as a concept, from JavaME or Flash. Certainly, more focused in scope.

The issue? Well, a mobile platform over an operating system might be a bit large in size and slow as hell. Hey, you can always hope in Moore's law.

The opportunity? Well, they already ported their platform over the other operating systems. If they make it really consistent (doable), you develop once and it will run everywhere. That's a developer dream.

The risk? Well, for your app to succeed, you need the underlying technology to succeed. If people do not download Yahoo Go on their phone because it is too large and too slow, you are toasted. Uuhhmmm.

Overall, I like Yahoo's move.

They needed to come up with something (anything ;-) to counter Google and Apple. They did it.

I am a fan of the mobile widget concept, as you might remember. In one of my first posts on this blog, I mentioned Yahoo going for WAP but my prediction was they would go back to mobile widgets one day. They did it.

Now they just have to make sure consumers love the platform and developers build the widgets. The problem is that the two are linked. One drives the other. And getting developers mind share in mobile is very very hard these days...

Good! Luck! To! Yahoo!