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Choosing a platform for software

Posted by blewisjr, 23 July 2014 · 299 views

General
One thing I have noticed over the years is that software development is becoming ever more fragmented. When I say fragmented I mean the platform choices are expanding rather dramatically. Years ago if you wanted to develop a piece of software you mainly had one choice the desktop. Whether it was a game or a software application you built it for the desktop or in the case of a game you had the additional option of a console if you were part of a large company. Now not to far in the future our options are huge. We can choose between desktop, tablet, phone, console, and even web. The software landscape has changed so much. More and more options are becoming available for the average Joe who wants to get their foot into the door and get their own little startup going.

So now the real question is not really about what development technologies you want to use but more about what platform will your application get more of a benefit from. We are now looking at instead of just looking at what your target market base needs but you now need to take into account what platforms the target market base uses most often. After you solidify this quite often you find that this inherently decides what software development technologies you have to use. It is actually quite interesting and it makes various decisions quite complicated and requires quite a bit of extensive research.

Currently I am going through this very process with my latest crazy application idea. This is the main reason I have decided to post this entry as it will really help me think about all these various options more clearly. I find this a very complicated process as this is the first real large project I have done in quite a long time. So lets see where this process can take us.

Target Audience:
The target audience for a piece of software is rather important so lets get this out of the way. I find that every truly great software idea which spawns outside of a corporate environment often is a direct extension of a gap the developer has in their computing experiences. In essence this means the software developer wants to do something but for some reason they can't find a great way to do that task. Often the software is out there to do these tasks but often to get the required result for them they need to use multiple pieces of software.

This is the exact boat I am in currently. For those who do not know I have many hobbies ranging from software development, to writing and much more. I like to be very active and busy. For the longest time I have wanted to write a novel. My real issue is the various technologies to do such a thing the way I want becomes rather convoluted. Sure you can write a novel directly in Microsoft Word but you really lose the fluidity required to write something beyond great without having to jump through hoops to keep track of various divergent plot lines and characters. This could often require multiple documents or other methods. Then their is Emacs and org mode but despite what some think personally I feel org mode is not the right tool for the job and is a pain to use. Other software out there exists but it is actually quite difficult to find, expensive, or very old and will not run on modern PC operating systems. Beyond this they seems to slightly have the idea of what I want but are not quite there.

So this software is targeted at individuals who want to write. The goal ultimately is to create a dynamic writing tool that is very fluid to use.

Platform:
This is actually really hard for the kind of tool I want to make. With my research I have hear that authors love tablets and they really wish there were great tools to write their content with on various tablet devices. It seems that their are huge gaps that they really wish were filled as often it seems to be one way. You have a desktop application but no compatible tablet application or you have a tablet application that is very limited and it is difficult to get that content to the desktop. For me I really think the issue is the developers not having their scope quite right and it is leading to these issues.

Desktop Platform:
The desktop platform is known to work with these types of application as there is tons of flexibility. The real issue I find with writing and desktops, or laptops is the fact that they are not very portable and when I write I like to be away from everything. Helps keep a clear mind and focused. This is difficult with a desktop PC style system even with ultra portable platforms out there like the UltraBook or MacBook Air. The screen densities are awful as well and after looking at the screen for extended periods of time it really places a lot of stress on the eyes. I think this is really where tablets excel in fixing. The other issue with the desktop is distribution and getting the application noticed. Apple fixed this with the app store, windows is well behind on this and their system is a mess for this approach requiring expensive certificates and redirection to application downloads and such. Quite a shame.

Tablet:
In all reality the tablet has everything I would want. Nice portability with solid screen densities and nice and easy on the eyes. There are various nice attachments and the new Samsung tablets are of nice size 10.1 inch and has a stylus. There are keyboard attachments and docs for it as well. Battery life is solid and distribution and noticeability are taken quite good care of in these environments. In my opinion if done right I think tablets will over time revolutionize computing even further as developers begin to really push what the platforms can do. I think it will just take a clear mindset.

Web:
Not much for me to say here. Cloud services and software as a service are beginning to become very common. I however feel the development ecosystem is quite poor. JavaScript, css, html, backend service programming. It is really a mess and needs some consolidation if it is ever going to become the norm. The technology is just very convoluted on the frontend side and could really use some love.

Conclusions:
My conclusion is heavily skewed towards the tablet. For the longest time I just did not really see their advantages as I never owned one nor did a care to have one. By chance I ended up getting my hands on a Samsung Note 10.1 32Gb device and I am hooked. This device I am already finding quite useful and I can really see the potential these devices can have. I think I found my platform for development. From what I have experienced thus far the Android development ecosystem is quite nice and relatively easy to dive into with a little guidance. Lets see where this tablet device can take me.




Good to hear you are expanding your horizons. Additionally, I have been looking at getting a Samsung Note, good to hear that you are giving it a positive review.

It really is a nice device Navyman.  Very fast and responsive.  You can quite literally write with the stylus very legibly and accurately.  There is lots I did not do with it yet but I am very impressed at the quality of the device.  The screen is amazing and I actually am not sure how they did it but it is every bit as crisp as a retina display.

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