A Developer’s Guide to Mobile Platforms

With the advent of Windows Phone Series 7, the highly competitive smartphone market looks to become hyper-competitive in 2010. While more choice is always good for consumers, for developers seeking a return on the investment of time and effort the right platform choice is crucial.

Windows Phone Series 7 remains largely an enigma for developers until the MIX conference next month. There will be a “marketplace” hub, but Series 7 will apparently not be compatible with Windows Mobile programs. Highly restricted multi-tasking appears similar to that in iPhone OS, and multi-touch will be required in Series 7, which is scheduled for release late this year.

But that’s then, and this is now. Colin Gibbs has prepared a report (subscription required) for GigaOm Pro on the seven leading mobile platforms to advise developers on which platforms are the right and wrong ones.

The seven platforms covered are Android, BlackBerry, Maemo (now MeeGo), iPhone, Symbian, webOS, and Windows Mobile.

Not surprisingly, the most vibrant platform at the moment is iPhone OS, with more than 75 million devices sold and a highly successful App Store. However, there are trade-offs for developers, most notably the closed nature of the App Store and an approval process that can be seemingly mercurial at times. Interestingly, it seems that the 70/30 revenue split at the App Store has become almost universal among platforms, with only RIM offering BlackBerry developers 80 percent of revenue. It should also be noted that Nokia’s Ovi Store takes carrier allowances for bandwidth out of the developer’s pocket.

Potential unknowns are also explored, such as aggregators like Verizon, which will subsume content from multiple platforms into its own store. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, an alliance of carriers and handset makers have also vowed to create an open technology platform that all mobile consumers could shop at. Adobe is also pushing Air as the new run-time development platform for every phone without a fruit logo that will let them install it.

Setting aside possible game changers in the future, the wealth of information on the seven major mobile development platforms does not conclude with a best choice for developers right now, because there isn’t one. That won’t change in 2010, or 2011, but it is arguable that there are platforms to avoid, and that’s where developers should start their decision process.

Read the full report on GigaOM Pro ? (subscription required)