Much ado has been made of these few words in Apple’s iPhone SDK:
Apple is asserting it can not only control what software runs on its devices, but what that software was created with. Steve Jobs has claimed this is to keep out bad applications that result from cross platform frameworks. I wonder what the Mozilla Firefox developers think of that…
Let’s get one thing straight – Jobs doesn’t care about application quality, only quantity. In the recent OS 4.0 event Jobs claimed 285,000 apps in the app store, I doubt he filtered out the iFart clones. 50,000 games next to a chart showing the Nintendo DS at a mere 4,321.
Why the focus on the numbers? Because of this number: 1 Billion. Apple is launching an advertising network iAd, and is touting 1 Billion ad impressions per day. That is a very strong number for advertisers who are trying to capture the hip new doesn’t-watch-tv, doesn’t-read-magazines crowd. If Apple can get an exclusive lock on these people, they can charge much, much more than anyone else.
Enter Mono, Java, and Flash. These technology share one thing in common that scares Apple and threatens this advertising river of money. Each of these let developers write their app once and deploy it to multiple devices with minimal effort. Traditionally, developers would spend many hours porting an application across APIs and SDKs, and even more hours maintaining multiple ports. This leads to most developers picking one platform to focus on, and ignoring the rest.
If you told a developer for the same level of effort they can sell their application to all devices, who would turn it down? All the locked exclusive applications that lead to those 1 Billion ad impressions would dissolve away. Most smart phone hardware is the same – big touch screen, or big touch screen with keyboard. The iPad has a dozen competitors ready at the start, and doesn’t have the time lead of its older brother iPhone. If the majority of applications are available for any device, what is left to compete on but price?
Mono, Java and Flash aren’t toothless hobby projects either, they are backed by Novell, Oracle, and Adobe – three amigos not afraid of a fight. Can Apple get away with this move remains to be seen, but let’s not kid ourselves that the market will factor in. For every developer that abandons Apple 50 more will take their place, and the majority of consumers will not understand nor care. It’s easy to throw up a red herring like flash banner ads and claim that’s what will happen if flash is allowed on the iPhone.
If Apple gets their way the damage won’t be felt for a few years. We’ll look back at a stagnant mobile device world and wonder what happened. It will be no different than Microsoft knocking off Netscape, and giving us 5 years of IE6. Innovation happens when there is healthy competition.
What I’d really love to see is someone create a tool that converts Objective-C and iPhone SDK apps to other platforms. Developers of existing iPhone apps can run this tool on their code which would convert it to say, Java and Android, build it, make some tweaks, and start selling it in the Android Marketplace.
Then we’ll see if Apple will go the next step and claim it owns the right to anything you create with Apple tools.
04-13-2010 9:56 PM
Michael C. Neel