Platform Agnosticism Is User Friendly

Sometimes you discover an exciting new app but then your bubble bursts because you quickly realize it’s only on the iPhone and not Android. Or, “There’s an app for that,” but not on Windows. Sometimes this isn’t too bad because there are usually other apps with similar features that’ll work. But not always. The inconvenience can be frustrating.

Apple’s Mac is a great platform with many great apps, but many are exclusive. So if you’re on Windows, sorry, you’re out of luck. On the other hand, Microsoft’s Windows is almost the only way to play computer games. Too bad if you have a MacBook Pro that’s powerful yet unable to run PC games.

Like computers, gaming platforms also suffer exclusivity. Some titles work only on a certain console. Others are made to run on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. They’re what you’d call cross-platform. A fancier term is Platform Agnostic.

This capability is great for gamers since any and all can play such a game and won’t miss out on the fun regardless of their chosen console. And there’s no need to buy every console, which is impractical. It’s also great for developers as they’ll likely earn more revenue from more sales across multiple platforms.

I’d love to play Horizon Forbidden West but I can’t. It’s not on the Nintendo Switch, and I don’t own a PlayStation — womp-womp. Great game but not platform agnostic. Then again, since I game on Switch, I have access to many platform exclusive titles like those from Nintendo’s biggest franchises: Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and Xenoblade. It’s a trade-off. But I still feel like I’m missing out when exclusive games don’t land on Switch.

Another feeling I try to avoid is from “platform lock-in.” This is apparent in the computing world. Like I mentioned, you might enjoy your smartphone or laptop most of the time. But sometimes you find an app or service that looks great…yet it’s not on your platform of choice. It can make you feel stuck with an expensive device that suddenly feels a bit more limited, unable to access or use an otherwise handy piece of software.

FaceTime is a great video chat app. But not on Android — not really. My parents use Android phones and Kindle Fire tablets but can’t call me on FaceTime.

The Apple Watch is a wonderful fitness tracker…but not if you have an Android phone. Garmin, though, makes great fitness watches and has apps on both Android and iPhone — that’s platform agnostic, or at least cross-platform 1.

I don’t mean to single out Apple — I really like my iPhone and MacBook — but due to its synergistic design of both hardware and software together, the Apple platform is, uh, a bit notorious for exclusive apps. Long ago, the Safari web browser was made available on Windows, but that’ll likely never happen again. And back when iTunes was released on Windows, Steve Jobs described it as giving a glass of ice water to someone in hell. Lucky Window users!

So if you want to use Apple software, you’re limited to using Apple hardware. But if, say, you want to use Microsoft’s OneNote for example, then you can use it on any PC, Mac, Android, etc. It’s available across all the platforms — even on Kindle Fire tablets 2.

As much as I like Apple’s platform (and was all-in), I prefer cross-platform apps. Services that don’t care what platform you’re on are more flexible and accessible since they’re available on more devices. I love this. For example, I rely on Firefox for the web and Obsidian for notes. I mainly use these on my MacBook, but sometimes I need or want to use them on my Windows machine. It’s convenient and powerful. While those are third-party apps, I also rely on Microsoft’s To Do app, which is installed on my Mac and iPhone as well as my PC — works great!

Best of all, those apps I just mentioned are “native” ones, meaning they’re installed programs on the different hardware platforms.

I mention this to point out that sometimes an app or service is cross-platform simply because it’s online — it’s a web app. The reason such apps are platform agnostic is because they’re on the most widespread platform of all, the web. Thanks, internet!

The biggest example is Google’s Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides web apps. While those have native apps to install on smartphones and tablets, they don’t have native apps for Windows or Mac. Instead, you just access them in any browser.

Platform Agnosticism is a mouthful. But it stands for the ultimate in user-friendliness. This is better for everyone who needs to rely on apps without worrying if they can be used on whatever expensive computer they invested in. The last thing someone wants is to bring home a costly gadget only to learn a certain app won’t run on it. That’s lame.

Savvy cross-platform solutions.

What do you think?

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  1. Technically, the iPhone and Android apps are not compatible on either platform. But the same Garmin Fitness service and features are available on both. ↩︎

  2. I assume the apps sync with OneDrive for Kindle. ↩︎