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Our organizations embrace multiple platforms as a way to maximize product usage and to offset the high cost of software development. However, this results in many difficult challenges for software developers. In our part of the development process, the design and implementation of user assistance components is dictated largely by the nature and number of different platforms we need to support.

In our survey we asked respondents to identify all of the platforms their products run on. The dominant platform is the most recent versions of Windows 1, including 8, 7, Vista with 83%. Two-thirds support earlier versions of Windows (2), including XP and Server 2003/2008. Far fewer, 21%, support the older versions of Windows  (3) (2000, NT, and earlier).

The World Wide Web (64%) is recognized as the second biggest platform for respondents supporting it. Most software organizations appear to either already have versions of their products that can be delivered over the Web or they have some sort of strategy for doing so in the future. Server-side deployment of user assistance will be a growing issue for us over the next few years. In our survey we distinguished between Web applications running on the Internet and those running on intranets/extranets. The latter category is supported by 44% of the respondents.

The OS cousins of UNIX (20%) and Linux (31%) continue to be important. UNIX includes Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX variants. Java sits at (22%) It is now a core component for Android applications. The JavaHelp standard has been uncoupled from Sun and dropped into the open source domain.

Platform Table

System Response
 Windows (1) (v.8, 7, Vista) 83%
 Windows (2) (XP, Server 2003/2008) 64%
 World Wide Web 64%
 intranets/extranets 44%
 Mobile 39%
 Linux 31%
 Mac OS X 26%
 Java 22%
 Windows (3) (2000, NT, and earlier) 21%
 UNIX 20%
 IBM mainframe 4%

The broad label of Mobile is now supported by a healthy, growing 39% of respondents. “Mobile” represents a variety of operating systems within this category, including iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and others. See the breakdown below.

Mac OS X has risen from 6% a few years ago to 26% in the current survey. The influence of iPads/iTunes/iPhones has definitely increased the strength of the platform.

IBM mainframe (4%) and Open VMS (3%) round out the chart.

Platforms receiving two or less write-in votes were IBMi, VMWare, vSphere, proprietary Linux-based OS, Windows CE, node.js, zOS.

Mobile Table

The Mobile Table represents some changes in the marketplace. Web apps is the largest category with almost half of respondents indicating support for it. iOS and Android are close behind. There is a big difference in how you develop native vs. web apps and it will be interesting to see how this changes in the future. Windows Phone trails considerably with 16%. However, that is a higher figure than consumer U.S. adoption. While Blackberry is listed at 10% it is hard to see this continue given the current state of that platform. The Window Store category (6%) is the app-style format that is emerging in Windows 8 and most prominent in the Surface family of devices. Symbian (3%) has already been relegated to legacy status.

System Response
Web apps (HTML/CSS) 44%
iOS 42%
Android 39%
Windows Phone (v.7/8) 16%
Blackberry 10%
Windows Store (Metro-style, Modern, RT) 6%
Symbian 3%


Framework Table

This category represents significant standards and/or processes that have become de facto platforms. Agile has definitely become a major player in the software industry with over half of respondents involved with it. It is amazing how much this concept has grown over the past ten years. DITA (24%) has grown slightly over the past few years. Organizations tend to embrace it fully and with significant resources or not at all. Most of the other frameworks in the table will probably continue to be of interest to a dedicated portion of developers.

Framework Response
Agile software development 57%
Microsoft .NET 26%
Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) 24%
Information Mapping 14%
Eclipse 11%
ISO 9000 8%
Simplified English (ASD-STE) 7%
Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) 3%
Oracle ADF 2%