Which iOS apps should go cross-platform?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: May 29, 2013

Proprietary features are still one of the largest selling points for any mobile platform out there. The services that are embedded within our OS of choice can make or break a sale in some situations. Of course, features from other platforms can extend to another mobile OS through certain applications, and in some situations the experience is "just as good" on that other option. I know plenty of people who use iOS because Google has such great apps for Apple's platform.

So, Google's services like Gmail, Hangouts, even Google Now have made the jump from Android to iOS, and really aren't any worse for wear. Plus, throw in options like Google Earth, Maps, Drive, and others, and you've basically got every single service you might want, right there on your iOS-based device. This is the part where some might argue, "Why would I switch to Android, if the iOS apps are so dang good?" Well, that's really up to you.

Instead of focusing on why you don't use Android, I want to talk about the focus on cross-platform, and why it's such a big deal these days. Because there's no doubt in my mind that many companies are taking a look at the options, and finding that trying to lock users down into one platform may only work for so long. Because other companies are making cool, interesting and worthwhile things, too.

The idea isn't so much to out-right keep people from jumping ship, because that would be impossible. No, now it's all about making sure that even if they do, depending on where they go, that they can still use the services that you provide. Gmail makes money from the way you use their services, no matter how you use their apps. It's one of the many reasons why the Gmail experience on iOS isn't garbage -- they want you to use it. The same can be said about Google Now, and any of the other options out there.

The focus on cross-platform doesn't stop at Google, though. All of the major companies in mobile have something that can be used on a competitor's mobile OS.

Except Apple.

Microsoft has SkyDrive, for example. BlackBerry? They've got BlackBerry Messenger headed to Android and iOS, with all the bells and whistles later this year. What's more, Microsoft's got one of their biggest sellers, Xbox Music, still coming to competing platforms at some point in the future as well.

The general gist here is that companies that have been so focused on bringing you into the fold, and then keeping you there at all costs, have learned that that plan just doesn't work for everyone. It doesn't even work for everyone who wants to use your specific services. There are people out there who may like Xbox Music, for example, but who don't want to use Windows Phone. And there are plenty of Gmail users, or Google Maps, or even Hangouts, who don't want to jump on the Android bandwagon. So, what's the next best thing?

You offer the service to certain platforms. Even if they aren't using your mobile OS proper, it still instills a sense of brand loyalty. It means that Gmail users will want to use Gmail on iOS, and will download the Gmail application to do it -- if another email app hasn't already swayed their attention.

But, and here we come back to Apple, it's a plan that not everyone has jumped on. Namely, the big Apple. The company has decided, over the years, to abscond from bringing their apps or services to other platforms. Like iMessage, or even iCloud. Sure, it's easy to point out that Apple, up until just very recently, was relying on other services --like Google Maps--, but that isn't the case now. iMessage and iCloud are indeed services that Apple could extend to other platforms, if they so chose.

And what about that music streaming service everyone has been talking about? Google recently launched Google Play Music All Access, but while it's a great idea, it's "limited" by being an Android-only option -- for now. Apple could make huge waves not only by announcing their own music streaming option, but by also building it to work not only on iOS, but on Android, too. Or BlackBerry OS, or Windows Phone.

Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at AllThingD's D11 and talked about just this situation. He said that it's not a "religious issue" to not bring Apple apps to Android, and that if it made sense for Apple, the company wouldn't be against it. He did point out, though, that it doesn't make sense right now, probably to temper any expectations after saying such a thing. But he didn't completely destroy the idea, either.

Basically, it sounds like Apple is getting ready to concede what the other companies have already: That not everyone is going to use your platform, so it's better to figure out other ways to get them to use your services. iCloud would definitely be a lot more compelling if it were cross-platform. And, I'll be perfectly frank: iMessage would be something I'd like to use if it worked fro platform-to-platform, and therefore didn't break when I stopped using an iOS-based device.

Just tossing that out there.

So, here's my question to you: Do you want iOS apps on Android, or another platform? Would it make sense to you if Apple brought iMessage over to Windows Phone, BlackBerry or Android? Would you even remotely consider using something like iCloud, if you didn't have to worry about being restricted to iOS? Let me know what you think.

image via The Verge