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March 19, 2013

Comments

Tester

@Baron95:

I agree with nearly everything you say but there's one point I'd like to make:


>>Didn't you learn anything on Symbian vs iOS for instance?

Symbian was so poorly covered by developers for another reason mostly: The development tools were excruciatingly awful and just too much work was needed to create stuff. I met countless developers who would have liked to do Symbian apps in pre-Elop days but declined because of the available tools. Symbian was the most awful development platform I ever had to check out.

Most Symbian development I did was on Java (which was equally shitty but at least the code could be reused on other Java Mobile devices) which coincidentally showed the same problems as HTML5 will show on Firefox: You can only use a fraction of the hardware's power because most is lost in the abstraction layers.

Winter

@Tester
Billions of poor users + HTML5 + millions of poor developing world developers + low barrier of entry = millions of apps.

Your arguments were also used against MS DOS development.

Tester

Millions of shitty apps do not make an ecosystem. They only make a crap heap.

It doesn't matter how many HTML developers are out there - they still need to develop something worthwile.

Let's say Facebook just as an example. For that app you need Facebook's support. Same for any other specific internet service. If the company running the service has no interest in the platform it's left out.

All those million poor developing world developers will produce is some apps with no purpose. Nobody wants that stuff.

Just look at Windows Phone: All those million .NET developers and they mostly showed WP the cold shoulder, even though they possessed all the knowledge that was needed to produce WP apps.

There is no magic that will create good apps out of nowhere. There has to be some motivation for it. Even all those HTML developers will probably continue to make websites, which they know how to do.

JJ

I wonder, how long Nokia shareholders still tolerate this "Windows only" strategy and money not coming in?
There has already been more than two years transfer period and WP8 was supposed to be the final saviour. I predict, Nokia CEO and board will be replaced soon. New CEO will obviously change current strategy and take Android and/or Sailfish models to portfolio.
How much WP will sell if Nokia is not fully commetted to it? Nothing.

chithanh

@Tester
The reason Visual Basic became successful was not the lack of strong competition. Back then, it hit the right nerve with the right people. So despite the abysmal user satisfaction, the use of VB grew to astonishing proportions.

In FirefoxOS (and Tizen) case, the people are the web developers. Whether these are the right people or whether it can hit their right nerve is not conclusively answered yet.

Nobody claims that the apps are created out of nowhere. Re-using existing expertise, code and tools is important, or else HTML5/JavaScript would not have been chosen. Being a .NET developer does not automatically give you the skills to write WP7 XNA/Silverlight apps.

It may seem like a romantic idea: Competition ensures that the "best", most elegant or most liked platforms are successful. Well-trained and experienced developers write complex yet well-performing applications that precisely serve the needs of their users. The companies behind them make smart strategic decisions based on careful market research, providing only the best products and user experience. Users trust established brands and developers which demonstrate their competence with every app they write.

Reality check: It doesn't work that way. Users put up with the worst imaginable crap code. If you have an order of magnitude more developers, it won't matter if the quality of the average app is an order of magnitude lower. Companies develop what they think will be successful in relation to the invested resources, not what is good from a technical perspective, even if that means to follow hypes and make bad technical decisions. Good, elegant platforms decline and die in favor of bad/quick&dirty/bloated ones. The "If you can't make it good, at least make it look good" quote that is commonly attributed to Bill Gates finds applications in all areas of the mobile sector (remember how iOS just takes you to the home screen when an apps crashes).

In that fantasy world from above, I'd agree that FirefoxOS has no chance. However when facing reality I am not so sure about that any more.

chithanh

@JJ
Eldar Murtazin believes that the Nokia-Microsoft agreement will expire in 2014.
http://www.mobile-review.com/articles/2013/birulki-215.shtml

So until then, Nokia has to stick with Microsoft. After that we might see Microsoft Surface phone or Nokia Android phones or maybe everything will remain as it is.

Tester

@chithanh:

I don't know how often I have to repeat this. I think I have said it at least 5 times but I'll try again:

What you say doesn't matter.
You can have thousands of developers, capable or not - but that alone won't give you anything. You need good ideas, worthwile services - in general you need products the users want to have. Not some random crap some semi-decent web developer hacks together in one afternoon.

In other words: You need companies which can develop real stuff.

As for the crap: People put up with crap if they have no other choice. So, if Firefox apps are crap the system is doomed - because the apps for competing platforms, which have to be coded by more competent people - will be better by default. Once the platform gains a reputation for being a host of crap stuff, nobody will want to buy it anymore if there is an alternative.

You cannot compare this with Visual Basic. VB was Windows only, and other platforms non-existent. So once a VB solution for a problem existed, provided that it was a problem with limited impact, it was enough. It had its monopoly and people grudgingly had to use it.

Here, if you provide a solution for Firefox, but no solution for Android or iOS, you do not have a solution. Telling any customer of your service to buy a phone running on a crap platform will only doom your service because you miss everybody using a phone running on better OSs, which for the foreseeable future will be > 80%, even in the unlikely case that FF becomes a huge success.

Final conclusion: You won't get anywhere in mobile if you skip iOS and Android. So you can't put hacks on your Firefox app if the quality of the other two (or three when counting in Windows Phone) is better due to more competent talent behind the works.

You can't think in monopolist terms here. Firefox OS, unlike many VB apps you cite, doesn't have a monopoly. For the time being it's an insignificant upstart that, if it wants to be successful, has to prove that it can bring quality apps. Quality is of paramount importance here. Don't bring the quality and you got a huge problem. Crap will only harm the platform. You do not want your platform be the laugingstock of mobile where every bad idea materializes.

Winter

@Tester
"You can have thousands of developers, capable or not - but that alone won't give you anything. You need good ideas, worthwile services - in general you need products the users want to have. Not some random crap some semi-decent web developer hacks together in one afternoon.

In other words: You need companies which can develop real stuff. "

You have a very limited view on application development. There is more than a global app store.

Take any large city in the developing world, Wuhan, Jakarta, Bogota, Kinshasa. Millions of poor people. Thousands of potential developers.

There are bound to be local issues that could do with a special app: From bus time tables to "best places to..." to local sport games. Nothing worthy of a special Global App Store app. But something a local wiz kid could cobble together for his neighborhood.

Whatever your standards of programming quality, having a capability always beats not having the capability. And for these people, there often simply is no choice.

With a low barrier of entry and income levels in the $1-$10/day range, you get lots of apps. Then some of them will float to the surface and become global hits. But even that does not matter much.

Tester

@Winter:

I wonder how that kind of app might help. It's the perfect example of the kind of service that should not be handled by an app at all. There's a far better medium to do such stuff - and it's called the Worldwide Web!

I can get my local bus time tables on any phone just by visiting my local transport organization's website. I don't have to worry that they do not offer apps for iOS or Android. I can use it on whatever phone or computer I have at my hands. The same is true for most other stuff you suggested.

So we're back to square one: If a Firefox app is nothing more than a locally stored website there is no compelling reason to use the platform, as the actual online website will offer the same content with mostly the same look and feel.

The reason this kind of app is occasionally created for iOS and Android is better integration into the user interface. Don't expect this concept to be understood by web developers - provided that Firefox even has a distinctive UI. But seriously: If I have to offer a data service, I'd make sure that everybody can get it.

As a lowly web developer what's the easiest way to do it? Surely not by creating an FF OS app but
- YES - by doing what the guy has learned to do - by creating an ONLINE WEBSITE! No worry that it may not be usable by anybody out there, particularly the large quantity of iOS and Android users.

I'd think about apps only if creating them would significantly improve the user experience for a larger group of users and with Firefox being HTML based there's strong doubts that this is even possible. By all accounts a fully compliant HTML5 browser should handle the data as well - which would negate any platform specific advantage.

Winter

@Tester
"I can get my local bus time tables on any phone just by visiting my local transport organization's website. I don't have to worry that they do not offer apps for iOS or Android. I can use it on whatever phone or computer I have at my hands. The same is true for most other stuff you suggested."

Make some effort. I cannot believe your imagination is so limited. These people are not in NYC. Public transport in developing countries have some peculiarities.

This is just off-the-cuff for a public transport "app":
- Planning and storing itineraries for off-line use (data rates are non-trivial)
- Crowd-sourcing delays, connections, and service problems
- Combining tables from different companies running bus lines
- Calculating the cheapest/fastest/safest route
- Adding mini-bus services (reserving seats?)
- Adding location services (where does that bus stop)

And phone apps can be social media too. Nice when you want to do things Facebook or Twitter do not support.

Winter

@Tester,
And Firefox OS now has an open payment service (actually API).

Open payment system for Firefox OS
http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/Open-payment-system-for-Firefox-OS-1836381.html
When a purchase is made, the web app invokes the navigator.mozPay function, which ideally should offer a choice of payment service providers. The developer has to provide data in the form of a signed JSON web token (JWT) for each provider. The web token includes the provider's address, unique IDs for the app and product and URLs for use with successful and failed processing events. The price is specified in the form of tiered price points.

RottenApple

Holy shit. What's happening here? Invasion of the Firefox trolls?

Do you even have a concept who will be responsible for developing all the apps you suggest? It won't be the developers but the owners of the service they are supposed to support!

Sorry, guys, but anyone who wants to take their business seriously won't work like that.

This point has been mentioned multiple times, and been ignored by the Firefox proponents multiple times but it's still the major obstacle here.
In other words: each SKU costs money. And content suppliers think twice before creating 4 SKUs instead of just 2 which happen to reach >90% of the current market. Spending the same amount of money again for 1/10th of the amount of customers? There have to be very, very good economic reasons to do that and those are rare.

No sane company - including the transport services you cite - would think of investing money in a platform that has 10% market share after FIRST(!!!) taking care of the platform(s) that has 70-80% market share. That'd be utterly insane and alienate most of their users!

To summarize:

- Nobody's going to develop apps that specific for one fringe platform only. Anyone who wants to create a mobile app will place it where it counts, that is the platforms with the largest market share.
- Ease of development won't mean much if your platform howers at single digit market shares. Just take a look at the dire situation Windows Phone is in. It got a rather small market share, it also got by far the best development environment of the Top 3 but it doesn't help! Most developers are more interested in market reach than ease of development. They go where the customers are, not where creating stuff is easiest.


You may be right, Firefox will make it easier for a certain group of developers to create software for it, but anything that even remotely matters will by sheer necessity target iOS and Android first and second - maybe in emerging markets with low Apple market share iOS with lower priority, and then, depending on market share of the remaining platforms, do Windows Phone next followed by Firefox. And even if you assume that Firefox will become a runaway success, it still has a very, very long way to go to displace Android.

So, any service-providing app that wants to be taken seriously has to target Android first, even in emerging markets.

All the supposed ease of development will ultimately mean nothing - especially if it happens like you even yourself predict that the Firefox/HTML5 version
will be crap. Imagine: iOS and Android gets a version done by professionals, and Firefox one by web developers that got the charme of the average website. And now take one good guess what platform most potential buyers will choose, especially if there's no major differentiation in cost.

So much for the business side of the whole thing. It doeesn't mean much to all those web developers if nobody hires them to create a Firefox version of their app.

The only added 'talent' they'll get is the type of developer nobody needs: The ones who target a platform because they are fans of it, with no stake in any service or even financial gains. Those people do not care about market penetration, they care about doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff. And those won't be able to produce anything of genuine value, but mainly the odd game of 'just for fun' app. Those won't strengthen anyone's market position, though.

By now I have my questions that you'll ever understand the real problem, though, even though some people already had to explain it multiple times to you. Just read Baron95's last post. For once, he's absolutely right and I'd equal future Firefox users with his Symbian users. App producers and developers will go where there's money to be made, not where it's easiest to develop software for. If there's nobody willing to pay for HTML5 based Firefox apps, nobody will make them, except hobbyists.

Does that mean, Firefox won't stand a chance? Certainly not. But I don't see this platform ever reach beyond the 'I want just a phone' crowd and most certainly not enter the 'rich ecosystem' region.

Winter

@RottenApple
"- Nobody's going to develop apps that specific for one fringe platform only. Anyone who wants to create a mobile app will place it where it counts, that is the platforms with the largest market share.
- Ease of development won't mean much if your platform howers at single digit market shares. Just take a look at the dire situation Windows Phone is in. It got a rather small market share, it also got by far the best development environment of the Top 3 but it doesn't help! Most developers are more interested in market reach than ease of development. They go where the customers are, not where creating stuff is easiest.
"

There are billions of potential FirfoxOS users and millions of potential HTML5 "developers" in the developing world. How are you going to make sure none of them will consider it cool to develop something for school mates and neighbors?

You might want to get informed about how mobile phones are used in the developing world. Hint, read Tomi's books

Winter

@RottenApple
"Does that mean, Firefox won't stand a chance? Certainly not. But I don't see this platform ever reach beyond the 'I want just a phone' crowd and most certainly not enter the 'rich ecosystem' region."

I am interested in people who use smartphones. My interest in people from the 'rich ecosystem' crowd hovers close to zero.

Tester

@Winter:

By now I have tried, RottenApple has tried, even Baron95 has tried to explain.
Software isn't developed like you seem to imagine.

>> There are billions of potential FirfoxOS users and millions of potential HTML5 "developers" in the developing world.

First, these potential Firefox users first need to be convinced to use Firefox at all! How would you do that? Telling then 'Hey, this phone can run any crap app I can make in 5 minutes?' People will laugh at you and buy something else. I think anyone with even remote interest in such stuff would gladly choose an Android phone instead, knowing he gets a mature system where all the major kinks have already been ironed out and where they know they can get lots of stuff. Large quantities of badly written apps won't do it.

Second, please tell me, what should those 'millions' of developers develop? Someone needs to PRODUCE a useful app.
What should their apps do? In order to provide a service you need more than the mere app, you need something that serves the app its data.
If you want to make a game, you need assets, like graphics, sounds, etc. A standard issue developer (a.k.a programmer) won't be able to create these. You need a graphics artist or sound effects designer unless you are content to use public domain stuff.

>> How are you going to make sure none of them will consider it cool to develop something for school mates and neighbors?

The problem is, I don't believe in magic. Creating good software is hard work. Hell, even creating good websites is hard work.
If they just sit down, slap something together it may interest a few people but it most likely won't provide anything of genuine value. A platform cannot live on such small things, it needs the big stuff, if only for publicity.

What you get is most likely comparable to the 'beer glass simulator' I saw on Android last week. Fun for 5 minutes and after that, off to the trash.

Kim

What do you guys thing of Qt environment?
Upcoming Qt 5.1 should support both Android and iPhone.

URNumber6

Loads of the apps in the Android and Apple app store are actually HTML5 bundled in a runtime ;¬)

Firefox OS has been demonstrated running WebGL animations at 60fps (the optimum for gaming) on a Raspberry Pi (which is much more humble hardware than most current smartphones).

Highly intelligent C/C++ developers have created libraries, web servers, database servers and script interpreters, i.e. the tool kit that highly creative web developers use to create the web sites and services people all over the globe use every day.

The more mobile phones become terminals to cloud services the more HTML5 becomes the natural choice for the client interface to those services.

As hardware gets more and more powerful the more interpreted programs become the preferred choice for installed apps too as they're much less likely to cause hard crashes or have exploitable vulnerabilities than 'native' code.

When companies like Canonical create Linux servers they do not install any software unless it's absolutely required because additional software just introduces the possibility of additional vulnerabilities. To me this is part of the appeal of Firefox OS, the purity and simplicity of a browser on a kernel, it only includes what is absolutely necessary to get the job done and nothing more.

Then we have the ethical issue, there Mozilla beats Apple, Google and Microsoft hands down.

Simon

@Baron95:
And your point is?

I assume you are actually referring to the report by Canalys, not IDC. If you really mean IDC, then give a link.

Google gets revenue from ads that are embedded into apps. This revenue is not counted in the report ("..from app sales, in-app purchases and subscriptions, ...").

You might also want to look at the rest of the report, where it states that more there were more downloads from Google's Play store than from Apple's app store.

Winter

@Tester
"What should their apps do? In order to provide a service you need more than the mere app, you need something that serves the app its data."

This whole discussion reminds me of the start of the WWW in the early nineties. Or earlier, about the advent of personal computers. Cheap stuff for "poor" people. So much inferior to the real thing(TM). And what could all those whiz kids really "develop" on MS DOS or simple Web sites?

For billions of people, a $70 Android Smartphone is too expensive, but a $30 Firefox OS "Smartphone-alike" would be in reach. And that handset would be their only "Personal Computer" and their only real access to the Internet. Like SMS and MMS are still massively popular (and profitable) in most of the world, ready Internet access with a much larger bandwidth would be a boon.

And you ask what people could ever develop in HTML5? There are lots of data online. Setting up a web-site to connect to with an App is in reach for small businesses and organizations even in the shanty towns of the world.

Your argument seems to be that you do not need an HTML5 app if you have a browser. But for many tasks you need local storage and off-line processing. You need personal settings and process OTS data sources form sources you cannot control. Smartphones are two-way "social" organizers, and I am pretty sure that there is plenty of ingenuity to fill that market opportunity, even for a dollar a day.

What you do not seem to appreciate that for the billions that cannot afford a $70 Android, it is a cheap Firefox OS handset or no Smartphone. If you see what people are willing to endure to get internet access, I think cheap Firefox OS phones would have a good chance. And with enough users, I am convinced apps will follow.

Where I do agree with you is that the current crop of App developers for the 'rich ecosystems' is unlikely to make a dent in that market.

Tester

@URNumber6:

>> When companies like Canonical create Linux servers they do not install any software unless it's absolutely required because additional software just introduces the possibility of additional vulnerabilities. To me this is part of the appeal of Firefox OS, the purity and simplicity of a browser on a kernel, it only includes what is absolutely necessary to get the job done and nothing more.

Just one hint: A server needs to run under considerably different conditions than an end user device.
For an end user what you describe is just that: a dumb terminal, the ultimate devolution of a computing device.
Also, what's the job? If you want to do an app that needs to do some heavy number crunching you quickly reach the limit of most interpreted languages. For most jobs, sure, they are fine, but if it's all you have, many things will be off limits to such devices.

>> Firefox OS has been demonstrated running WebGL animations at 60fps (the optimum for gaming) on a Raspberry Pi (which is much more humble hardware than most current smartphones).

Animations? Yeah, sure. If you don't have to do any serious computing there's certainly nothing in the way of good performance. What's about fully featured games with complex logic? Have they been proven to work as well? Or the more important question: Will they ever get ported to a Javascript/HTML platform?


>> Then we have the ethical issue, there Mozilla beats Apple, Google and Microsoft hands down.

I honestly don't care about ethics when the end result is a sub-par product.
(If I had a choice between buying a device that can run HTML5 and native apps and another one that can run HTML5 only the former one would win by default, if it had the same specifications.)
Besides, even an organization like Mozilla has some strong agenda by releasing a system like this one and one does not have to like that agenda.

@Baron95:

It's irrelevant in the context of things. If you want to count market share you don't count revenue, it's as simple as that.

Sadly the Canalys report news don't provide any breakdown of numbers so it's ultimately useless. It'd be interesting to see where Apple made the most money and where Google did.

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