I’m increasingly frustrated by the claims of app owners that their app is “available on all devices”. Upon following up on this it turns out that this actually means “Available for iOS and Android”.

Ok, some app owners do openly state “Available for iOS and Android” and others say something like “Available through the AppStore and Google Play”, but a lot of app owners seem to think they’re covering all bases by claiming that they cover “all devices” when they’re covering the majority of mobile devices.

What surprises me most by this claim is that the app owner has not covered the largest installation base – Windows desktops. And while one could argue that non-mobile systems aren’t really covered by apps, I would point out that an app is essentially an online service. And this is something that can easily have a website to cover all devices.

And at the more popular end of the online service market, there generally tends to be a website offering of said service.

Here’s what I’m Wundering about

The impetus for this blog post is that I recently signed up to Wunderlist. I’m a frequent user of OneNote but thought I’d try out the other options, and saw Wunderlist’s claim that you can download “Wunderlist to your phone, tablet and computer.”

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Great – do they have a Windows 8 app? Let’s click on that “Download Now” link and you’re taken to a page which offers “all your devices”. Uh-huh. So far so…

Oh dear.

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It appears that Wunderlist is available for Macs (that means desktop, presumably), iOS devices, Android devices (they’re so proud of their Android app that it gets two mentions), Chromebooks and even the Kindle Fire.

Windows devices appear to have been an afterthought. That means that the biggest market is the market which Wunderlist have paid least attention to.

While I can understand why Wunderlist would have prioritised Android, and even iOS if the mobile market is so important to them, at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this year (WWDC 2014) Tim Cook proudly boasted that Macs now had an install-base of 80 million computers.

You know what else has an install-base of 80 million? Windows Phone.

As for Windows 8, with its “Metro” apps, in February this year it was reported that Windows 8 had an install-base of 200 million. That means that an iteration of an operating system which was less than 18 months old had 2.5 x the Mac install-base – that’s not the install-base of the latest iteration of the Mac OS, but every Mac out there.

This isn’t intended to be a blog post about Windows vs. Mac, but I wanted to add some figures to show how absurd it is to neglect the Windows user base. Particularly when you consider that by now, August 2014, the Windows 8 desktop, tablet and phone user base must be hitting something around 350 million.

As for supporting Chromebooks, according to Gartner Chromebooks will sell a little over 5 million this year. That’s not great, but it’s not too shabby either. And why should Wunderlist ignore 5 million users? 5 million is the population of Norway, or Scotland, so why not get potentially 5 million customers onboard?

Why not get 350 million Windows 8 users onboard?

Kindle figures are more difficult to come by because they’re manufactured for and sold by a single company, and said company doesn’t publicise those figures. But estimates have it in the tens of millions – somewhere in the ballpark of 40 million.

And why would you neglect the population of say, Spain (46 million) as potential customers?

Well, why would you ignore the population of, say, the United States (318 million) as potential customers?

Oh look, Wunderlist also has a browser extension. I use my browser (a lot) so maybe that could be as useful as an app. Let’s click on that.

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Hang on, despite my clicking that link while using Firefox, it’s just opened the Google Chrome store. According to Wikipedia Chrome is indeed the most popular browser, but this means that they’re neglecting IE users (an average of 17.9%) and Firefox (an average of 17.8%). Add in Safari, Opera and assorted others and you can see that Wunderlist are ignoring more than half of the browser market. How difficult can it be for the talents of Wunderlist’s developers to build a browser plugin? Even I’ve built a browser plugin.

Even lazier

There are a lot of people asking whether there’s room for a 3rd mobile system. In order for a 3rd system to play a part it has to be acknowledged. So it’s even more frustrating when one of the websites asking this question, the very widely-read Engadget, plays down the fact that it has a Windows Phone app while promoting the iOS and Android versions.

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I’ll grant you that the “More Apps from Engadget” link does indeed offer a Windows phone app (as well as a BlackBerry app) but it’s disheartening to see both the iPhone and iPad apps offered on the front page.

Universal apps

Here’s something else to consider: unless you count the very small number of laptops which run Android, Windows is the only operating system which allows the same app to be developed for desktop, tablet and phone. With just a single development push, app developers can target the entire vertical stack of devices – and on the largest single device target, too (Windows desktop and laptops).

A single code-base

Furthermore, if a development house was to build an app using Xamarin Tools then they could target all modern platforms from a single code-base. As Xamarin say, "With Xamarin, you write your apps entirely in C#, sharing the same code on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and more."

Conclusion

I find myself wondering why Wunderlist are neglecting what is by a large majority the biggest install-base in the world of computing. And I can only think that it’s because Windows is unfashionable. It’s perceived as being cool to use a Mac. And aren’t those guys at Google also cool – they make some great ‘free’ apps and they have a lot of services for which we don’t have to pay (though it depends upon how you regard personal privacy). And although I’ve never built an Android app, let alone a Kindle app, I believe that once you’ve built an Android app it’s not too much of a stretch to modify it for the Kindle store.

My guess would be that the guys at Wunderlist have left potentially the largest market-share until the end because it’s just not perceived as a cool platform, and have instead built the apps for the platforms that they use – for whatever reason, I don’t know. Does that make good business sense?

Will a 3rd platform ever gain front-page space if no developers acknowledges that it exists?


Postscript

According to recent research by Deloitte, almost a third of us haven't downloaded an app in the past month, and those that did probably didn't pay for it. Furthermore, 90% of us have never paid for an app. When considered alongside the fact that even Apple are now developing a browser-based version of its productivity suite, iWork, perhaps it's the app model which will eventually become outmoded.