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How Steve Jobs Unwittingly Changed Mobile Development

2217134907 14dfbdb3ae mWhen Steve Jobs died last week, he left an incredible hardware legacy, but while developers were certainly influenced by the laundry list of devices he helped build, perhaps the greatest legacy for developers was coming up with the idea of an App Store.

When Jobs introduced the App Store, don't forget, nobody had ever come up with anything like that. It was a place to build proprietary apps for a single platform, namely Apple's iOS (although it wasn't called that yet). It created an unusual business model for developers, but it also created a dilemma as these app stores began proliferate far and wide.

Developers had to decide to where to place their bets. Instead of developing one application to run on a web site across platforms--although HTML5 remains an option for that--you suddenly had to create an app for every platform. It's exhausting and expensive and requires a broad level of expertise to keep up.

In some cases, as with Palm, it's possible you started creating apps for the platform believing you had the full weight and power of HP behind it, only to have them swiftly pull out the rug from under you.

When it comes to the biggest players Apple and Android and to an extent, Windows Phone 7, you can be fairly certain they are going to be around in some form for some time to come, but you probably thought that about HP too. The fact is you never know.

To this day, however, we are still having the Browser versus Apps argument as people take various positions on the matter.

Regardless of what you might think of the Apps model though, Jobs, unbeknownst to him I'm sure, created an entirely new mobile development model. Just as he couldn't have known that the iPad was going to be so disruptive that it brought on an IT revolution widely known now as the consumerization of IT.

Both of these phenomena, whether they were by design or completely unintentional have resulted in an entirely new way or approaching development and IT as users bring in their own devices to work and your company is forced to support them all.

And it has literally turned the previous top-down model on its head, leaving IT pros and developers used to working in a different way left to pick up the pieces.

When the iPad 2 came out, Jobs said it would be a mistake for competitors to view the tablet as just a laptop without a keyboard. In his view, it was a very different proposition. As I wrote in a blog post at the time,"What separates Apple from the pack in my view is its design, its app store and its crystal clear understanding that this is a very different device where, as Jobs said, “the hardware and software intertwine.”"

And whether you liked Jobs' approach to software and hardware or not, you have to at least give him credit for changing the way you do business because for better or worse, Jobs changed everything and that's a legacy that will remain with us for some to come.

Photo by tastybit on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.
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