Ilium Software Interview: Is The Number of Different Mobile Platforms Sustainable?

This is part five of five parts of my interview with Ellen Craw of Ilium Software. Click to read: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

As we come to the end of the interview with Ellen Craw of Ilium Software, I want to thank her for taking the time to reply to the questions that I sent to her. My hope is that our readers have learned from the insight that Ellen provides in her responses to my questions.

Steve Ballmer is famous for overstating the obvious that for platforms of any type to grow its all about developers. The increase in the popularity and number of mobile platforms has created a big opportunity to make money selling programs. The big question is, can enough money be made selling programs for only one platform, and if it has to be more than one, how many should a company support? Answers to these questions, and more, will likely determine whether there will continue to be six major mobile phone platforms, or whether any of them will disappear in the future.

Overall, as a developer for the mobile market, do you think the number of different mobile platforms that currently exist is sustainable? Could any of them go away? One would think it is too expensive to develop and support applications for all of these platforms.

I think that many developers – at least the ones our size and smaller – will have to choose platforms. We won’t be able to support them all. There are enough mobile app developers to provide apps for all the hardware platforms, though different apps will be available on different platforms, but developers are always going to choose the platforms that are the most popular, and that offer the most potential return. Apps have now become a critical factor in any mobile platform’s success (and that’s so different from even 3 years ago) – hardware and OS OEMs MUST make their platforms attractive to developers, and actively market to developers, in order to be successful.

Can you share with us which platform that you support provides the most sales?

We generally don’t talk about sales figures, but there are a few things I can say. Windows Mobile remains a strong platform for us and we’re very happy to see that. We’ve also been very happy with our BlackBerry sales. The Palm OS market, however, has really dropped off. iPhone remains a great platform and we’re looking forward to the iPad expanding the possibilities there.

Finally, as we look ahead, what do you see the the future for Ilium Software? Will you decrease the number of platforms that you support? Continue on the same path?

Given our size, and our commitment to delivering very high-quality apps and providing in-house, live support for them, I don’t believe we can keep adding new platforms until the platforms themselves have proven to be successful for information apps. We will be dropping our support for Palm OS (as the company Palm essentially has), and continuing to develop only some of our titles for new platforms initially. We’re also excited about some new product ideas we’ve been working on and look forward to sharing those with you in the near future.