• Video Apps, Devices, and Fragmentation: How to Navigate the Maze

    Following is a contributed post by Frank Sinton who is the CEO and founder of Beachfront Media, a video solutions platform for publishers, advertisers, and enterprises. Previously, he worked for Sony Pictures Entertainment as executive director of architecture.

    Video Apps, Devices, and Fragmentation: How to Navigate the Maze
    by Frank Sinton

    Fragmentation has long been an issue in the mobile industry. Even with the advent of the smartphone era, it’s still a problem. Take these stats from a recent report by app analytics company Flurry:

    "Suppose you’re an app developer who wants to ensure that your app is optimized to function well on 80% of the individual connected devices currently in use (e.g., my iPad, your Windows phone). How many different device models (e.g., Kindle Fire HD 8.9" Wi-Fi, Galaxy S III) do you think you need to support? 156. Maybe you’re okay with having your app optimized for only 60% of active devices. That still means that you need to support 37 different devices. Even getting to 50% means supporting 18 devices, as shown below. If you’re a large or particularly thorough app developer, reaching 90% of active devices will require supporting 331 different models."

    That’s an eye-popping reality for any app developer, but of particular concern to video app developers. It’s not as simple as just focusing on tablet devices. According to the Flurry report, the larger screen, better resolution, and touch-interface of a tablet does not automatically translate to tablets being the go-to device of choice for video apps. Instead, the Flurry report notes that viewers use smartphones to watch video while on-the-go, and use their computers or TV big screens when at home. This may change once household tablet penetration increases, but for now the tablet is hardly the answer to the device and format fragmentation issue.

    This has consequences for both the indie developer and larger firms alike. Independent app developers have a harder time competing due to lack of resources. Optimizing for that many devices takes resources, mostly human resources (read: developers) and smaller companies just don’t have that kind of manpower. Larger corporations (read: brands) don’t have the in-house IT staff to manage the multiple platforms required for them to move beyond the “experimental” phase of their mobile strategy and reach true scale.

    The breakdown looks something like this:
    Mobile/Tablet Device Platforms
    - iOS
    - Android
    - Windows
    - Blackberry

    Add HTML5 to this for non-resident apps, and you’ve got a headache slowly forming if you’re a video app developer looking to reach the broadest audience. And for video content, it gets even worse when you consider expanding beyond mobile to Connected TV platforms (this is video after all, so TV platforms are important to support).

    Connected TV:
    - Roku
    - Apple TV
    - Boxee
    - Google TV
    - Samsung Smart TV
    - Xbox 360
    - Playstation 3

    A common reaction among all developers, not just video app developers, is to just develop to one platform, typically iOS to get on iPhones and iPads, and then gradually expand. But that’s becoming increasingly unnecessary, because companies like ours have responded to this fragmented environment with app development platforms designed to let companies write once and publish anywhere.

    The significance of this is twofold:

    1. Companies no longer need to window their app releases platform by platform, but instead can focus on simultaneous release. Pushing your app out on all platforms on Day 1 has a far more powerful impact than the traditional trickle-down approach. Don’t alienate otherwise loyal users by making content exclusive only to those who use a certain device. Reward them all at the same time, and keep them longer.

    2. With development concerns out of the way, companies can focus instead on execution. Too often, brands rush in w/out considering the complexities and wind up with a sub-par product. Don’t rush in just to plant your flag. Take your time and choose the right partner to guide you.

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