What it is: PayPal has announced they will stop development of their PayPal app for Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Amazon Kindle Fire.
Back in the early days of PCs, there were a variety of operating systems people could choose with odd names such as CP/M-80, AppleDOS, GEOS, and Atari TOS. That meant if developers wanted to write a program to run on personal computers, they would have to write the same program from scratch for each different operating system. That meant only the biggest developers could afford to sell programs on multiple platforms. Smaller developers had to focus on one operating system and hope the market for that operating system would continue to grow.
Eventually as MS-DOS and later Windows took over the operating system market, developers gravitated towards MS-DOS and Windows because that offered the largest market. As more developers wrote programs for MS-DOS and Windows, more people stopped using alternate operating systems (such as the Macintosh, Atari ST, and Commodore Amiga) and simply bought PCs that could run MS-DOS and Windows. Pretty soon practically everyone was using MS-DOS and Windows and almost all developers were writing MS-DOS and Windows programs.
That same operating system shakeout is happening in the mobile market. PayPal recently announced that they’re dropping support for Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Amazon Kindle Fire. Dropping support for Windows Phone makes sense because Microsoft essentially has three different versions of their phone operating system: Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, and Windows Mobile 10. Because Microsoft kept rewriting their phone operating system, each version of Windows Phone has a tiny market share. With such a small market share, developers don’t see any profits in spending time and money developing Windows Phone apps. In return, customers see no benefit in getting a Windows Phone smartphone since there are so few apps available for it. That vicious circle insures that Windows Phone will continue dying a slow death.
Blackberry has been dying a slow death ever since the iPhone came out. Blackberry is currently shifting their efforts to selling security-hardened Android phones, so there’s no future in BlackberryOS any more.
Dropping support for Amazon Kindle Fire seems less obvious. Amazon used a forked version of Android to create their Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, which means developers have to write custom apps for Amazon Kindle Fire that are slightly different than the apps created for Android. however, PayPal likely found few people using the PayPal app on Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, so they don’t want to waste time and money developing an app for Amazon Kindle Fire tablets.
If PayPal finds little reason to support other operating systems, you can be certain the companies and developers will also reach the same conclusion: the real money in mobile is on iOS and Android. While iOS has a smaller market share, its users tend to be more active in using apps and have more disposable income. Android has a larger market share but its users tend to spend far less than iOS users.
That means the future of mobile is clearly iOS and Android. Any time a company introduces a new app, chances are good it will run on iOS. If a company has enough money and resources, they’ll also develop the app for Android as well. Between these two dominant mobile operating systems, there’s little reason to support anything else just like you never see any companies supporting older operating systems like OS/2 any more.
PayPal’s announcement should come as no surprise to anyone. PayPal can only afford to support the most popular operating systems and Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Amazon Kindle Fire are not it. The next operating system market will be wearable computers. For the Apple Watch, there’s watchOS. For Android wearable devices, there’s Android Wear. Since both watchOS (modeled after iOS) and Android Wear (modeled after Android) have already staked claims in the wearable computing market, chances are good no rivals can take over this market either.
Anyone think Microsoft can come up with a wearable computer operating system when they they can’t even come up with a smartphone operating system that people want to use? The mobile market is already conquered by iOS and Android and the future wearable computer market is already being staked out by watchOS and Android Wear. Since watchOS and Android Wear are so similar to iOs and Android, developers can easily create apps for both operating systems. A new wearable operating system would have to start from scratch, and few developers will want to do that when a new operating system won’t have market share, and no customers want a device running an operating system that doesn’t have many apps.
iOS and Android are the new operating system leaders. Windows 10 has no chance on smartphones or wearables, and must cling to a stagnant PC market that’s increasingly threatened by OS X, Linux, and ChromeOS. If you want to see the future, just watch what big companies like PayPal do. They know where the short-term future is heading and it involves iOS and Android, not anything else.