Software developers looking to enter the market should focus their energy on building games, navigation and music apps for the mobile platform, because this is where the money currently is. Tim Renowden, device analyst at Ovum's London office, noted that these apps are popular with the consumer masses. However, these market segments are also highly competitive and developers would have to come up with "something unique" to tap the burgeoning sector, Renowden said in an e-mail interview. According to Ovum, the number of mobile app downloads will clock 18.6 billion across all platforms in 2014, with end-user revenues reaching US$6 billion. "These areas are highly competitive and difficult to make money from, unless an app is a huge success," said Renowden. "Most apps struggle to find an audience unless they can break into the very top ranked app lists on each platform, which is extremely difficult especially for smaller developers." He added that most popular apps are tied to an existing Web service. His assessment is shared by Nokia's Purnima Kochikar, vice president of Forum Nokia and the Nokia developer community, who said there is no "free lunch" for developers hoping to make a quick buck out of a "hit app". "Developers should [instead] look for platform vendors who provide longer term viability for their business, by providing both the technologies that simplify development costs and provide global reach," explained Kochikar. "This includes not only tools to build the apps, but an understanding of local markets, business models and consumption patterns." Enterprise-level applications, and the marketplace for these software, will also become "more prevalent", she said, due to the availability of high bandwidth and cloud computing. This, she added, will change the "dynamics of the types of apps, modes of operation and types of users" in the market, although coding business apps would require a different skillset. Android next big thing? Another potential lucrative niche is the Android market, which Renowden observed is receiving "enormous industry buzz" at the moment, particularly as more Android-based handsets are released into the market by major manufacturers and the platform continues to mature. "There is potential for Android handsets to vastly outsell the iPhone simply because it's becoming clear how many models will be running [the Google OS], and at various price points," he said. Travis Ho, director of Touch Dimensions, thinks likewise. The Singapore-based startup is currently developing its Windows Mobile-based real time strategy game Autumn Dynasty. Ho noted that the Windows Mobile and Android platforms--though still in their "nascent stage--are the most likely competitors able to shake iPhone's dominance of the apps market. "Both app stores have the potential to reach loads of phone users as [the app stores] are still under-exploited. So it's likely that there is much room to grow [on these two platforms] before the next killer platform, that everyone wants to jump onto, is introduced," Ho told ZDNet Asia. Regardless of platform, developers should look closer at opportunities for apps that deliver compelling experiences to end-users. Mark Glikson, Microsoft's Asia-Pacific general manager of developer and platform evangelism, pointed to the company's latest beta version of its Web development platform, Silverlight 4, as an example that can deliver rich performance apps to heighten user experience. Platform interoperability barrier However, the main challenge mobile developers face today is the wide variety of platforms available in the market, and the difficulty in producing apps that are platform-agnostic. This platform fragmentation shows no signs of easing off, with various platforms based on mobile Linux now emerging, noted Renowden. These include Nokia's Maemo, Vodafone's 360 and Emblaze's ELSE platform, which are not compatible with each other or with other operating systems such as Samsung's Bada or Palm's WebOS. Ho, however, believes this issue is not difficult to resolve. He explained that programs for desktop computers, Microsoft's Xbox game console and Windows Mobile OS phones, can be coded in the C# programming language, which is "fairly easy to cart around". He noted that some recoding is "unavoidable", since different platforms only support a certain set of framework, while others simply have different properties such as mobile phones and their small screen format, and PCs without accelerometers. Jeffrey Jiang, also a director at Touch Dimensions, said the initial development phase requires significant time testing on various platforms. "But, once the first game is deployed on multiple platforms, subsequent programs would be a lot easier," he said. Kochikar also noted that Web technologies enable platform-agnostic application development for the most part. However, while these technologies are good enough for building basic apps, they are not "sophisticated enough to enable fantastic experiences" that some rich-media developers aspire to build. "At Nokia, we are addressing this by providing WebRT for the basic apps, and Qt, a runtime that works across many platforms, as means to enable the fantastic applications without the complexity of building native apps," she said. Glickson added that there is a time and a place for both platform-agnostic and platform-specific applications to co-exist. "[While] there is the opportunity to deliver strong value across multiple standards-based browser platforms…quite often the richest experiences and the best economic value point, for both the developer and consumer of an application from a productivity perspective, will come from leveraging the proprietary strengths of platform elements designed for a specific form factor," he said.

Choose a neutral platform and read the fine-print in the cloud provider's SLAs (service level agreements) to maintain data integrity in the cloud, say industry voices.
The advent of offsite data residing on the cloud has raised concerns about data management and integrity. Earlier this year, the U.S. government held a two-day meeting discussing topics such as data management in the cloud, and the implications of data privacy across geographic borders.
When contacted, data management vendors offered several tips on how companies should handle a move to the cloud.
1. Don't take your problems to the cloud.
Suganthi Shivkumar, South Asia managing director for Informatica, said: "The cloud is just another medium [and is] driven by economics. It will not radically change data quality."
That is, companies should not take the move to the cloud as an overhaul because problems from badly-kept data will still exist in the cloud, said Shivkumar.
Companies should first ensure data is complete and accurate, and has passed through all traditional data hygiene checks, before preparing the move to the cloud, she said.
2. Choose a neutral platform to avoid lock-in.
Ashok Munirathinam, solutions and services manager at Sybase Singapore, said companies should make data available on various environments to support the myriad applications on which enterprises depend.
Off-the-shelf applications often come with proprietary databases and platforms, said Munirathinam. Similar to an on-premise set up, enterprises should choose a cloud infrastructure provider that allows a heterogeneous operating environment capable of running operating systems such as Linux, Windows and Solaris, for example, he added.
Developers have also noted that a neutral platform will help data move between online repositories, should a user choose to switch cloud providers in future.
Shivkumar added that companies should select a platform-neutral central repository so that users can access company data from different platforms.
3. Check if cloud provider has data management SLAs.
A cloud provider should spell out its data management practices in its SLA, said Shivkumar. "Companies should be more vigilant and ask: 'Is the provider able to conform to my best practices?'"
A cloud provider that is able to provide data updates in real-time will help maintain data "freshness", she noted.
Munirathinam said cloud availability is also important. The ability to perform cluster and remote site recoverability in seconds will help reflect updates and allow users to access data, in the event of an outage.
4. Maintain best practices and control in the cloud.
"Whatever best practices the company has, should stay, even when data goes to the cloud," said Shivkumar.
When they audit cloud providers, businesses should measure how much control they are losing over the data-cleansing process, in order to maintain flexibility, she said.
Marrying the organization's existing best practices with the tools offered by a cloud provider, will give a company flexible management of its data, she noted. "Flexibility will be delivered through a holistic data integration plan," she said.
Munirathinam said enterprises should choose a cloud that carries scalable tools, to provide the elasticity touted by cloud providers. Database management, as a "key component" of the cloud, should also be scalable, he said.
5. Learn from other companies that have gone to the cloud.
Shivkumar said network issues in parts of Asia will likely hold back some of its countries from moving to the cloud as quickly as counterparts in the West. By that token, "we can learn lessons from Western early adopters", she said. "Adopt best practices, and learn from [others'] mistakes to leapfrog the competition."
Munirathinam said companies can choose two different approaches to data migration--to choose a similar platform on the cloud as the on-premise platform, or synchronize and consolidate data onto a single platform, which she said, typically requires a longer migration path and more investment.