Before Apple acquired Testflight last year, we were heavy users of the service for both iOS and Android deployments. This fit well with our strategy at the time of providing affordable prototyping for entrepreneurs that could be tested on both major mobile platforms. Apple decided that they’d cut off support for Android once they completed the Testflight acquisition and this left us (and many other developers) in a lurch; the hassle of getting non-technical people (i.e. our average customer) to switch over to another beta / app deployment service was pretty steep and for a bout a month our customer service costs nearly doubled. To make matters worse, we didn’t immediately jump to Hockey. Instead, we tried a few other alternatives that made large promises but on the average failed to deliver. It was a good day when we finally made the Hockey switch and we haven’t looked back.
Now, things are once again in question. Whenever a small / medium company whose services you rely on gets acquired by a giant, there is a huge opportunity for disruption – again, see how Apple handled the Testflight acquisition.
However, it is unlikely that Microsoft will take any similar action, as they are in a very different situation – Apple had a dominant (at least in terms of developer mind-share) platform but lackluster developer tools, where Microsoft is quickly becoming a tools powerhouse but it would be had to say that Windows RT is anything but a total failure and Windows Phone just isn’t making any real impact in the markets that FTT focuses on. This difference in market position seems to have lead to Microsoft focusing on developers as their customers (at least in the narrow space of mobile), rather than end users. This is an interesting strategy and one that Microsoft alone is uniquely positioned to succeed with.
In the last few months, I’ve found myself increasingly working in Microsoft tools, such as Visual Studio and various Azure offerings. This hasn’t been the effect of some conscience “let’s go Microsoft” campaign but rather a natural outcome of looking for tools that more appropriately fit my current needs at the right price. Your mileage may vary, but so far my experience has been pretty positive; the largest issue I had was some confusion with company MSDN account and our installs of Windows and Visual Studio; the latter issue has pretty much been eliminated by Visual Studio Community Edition.
Does this mean the we should all drop our current tool-chains in favor of the Microsoft equivelants? Of course not. In fact, that’s not what we’ve done at FTT – almost all of our back-ends are still based on Ruby on Rails, not ASP.NET MVC. As always, you have to pick the right tool for the right job and the right team but it is good to see that Microsoft is getting into the mobile game and is taking mobile developers and our needs seriously.