A Few Thoughts About Compatibility

Among all the questions that you have to ask yourself when developing a new technology product, perhaps none is so important as the question of compatibility. In its essence, it boils down to one decision: will you try to be compatible across all brands and platforms, or will you focus your attention on perfect compatibility with just one?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Let’s have a quick look at them.

Cross-Compatibility

Pros: Allows you to reach a much larger market segment, and your success doesn’t hinge solely on the success of one other company.

Cons: More time invested in ensuring compatibility with all systems, plus you have to stay on top of changes on multiple fronts.

Singular Compatibility

Pros: Because all of your efforts are focused on seamlessly integrating your product with one other product, operating system or platform, you can deliver a stronger product while using less resources.

Cons: Major changes in new versions of the product may make your own offerings obsolete (anyone want all these accessories I bought for my iPhone 4 that won’t plug in to my iPhone 6?).

Of course, depending on the nature of your product, there are some methods you can use to easily make your device cross-compatible. Many electronics peripherals simply plug into the headphone jack (although rumors of smaller headphone ports to make thinner devices may make some hesitant to commit to this modality). And on the app front, I’ve seen many would-be app developers test out their concept with either a web-based or text-message-based version first, which is certainly less convenient for the user at times, but much easier to set up and have work across all smart phones.

It often seems like the safest option is to start with one platform or product that you’re compatible with, and then build off of your initial success to branch out and increase your offerings – but there’s something to be said for making a big splash by hitting the market with true cross-compatibility.

Before making a decision, you should invest some time and resources into market research to determine who your market segment is and what their compatibility needs are. Research what your competitors are doing. If they’ve left gaps in the market, does it indicate an unmet need that you can fill?

With some good research, the input of your development team, and an idea of what your budgetary limits are, you should be able to make a smart decision about compatibility.

-AJ

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