Industry’s Smartphone Politics Unlikely to Unseat Apple

| Editorial

When Apple came out with the iPhone, it changed the entire smartphone industry. Now, we're moving into the smartphone politics era: lots of players, lots of technologies and lots of opportunity for political maneuvering. Will ordinary customers care? Not likely.

Apple developed the first drop dead gorgeous smartphone with integrated hardware, software, fabulous Mac and PC integration, a supporting app store and a portfolio of UI patents. That was Phase II of the smartphone era.

iPhone 3GS

Over the weekend, we learned that Google is having HTC build a testbed smartphone, and the analysis is centered on whether that's a camel's nose under the tent of the smartphone business, possibly with T-Mobile.

Of course, some of the speculation is based on the desire to see Apple unseated or perhaps foment a war between Google and Apple. That led to the New York Times article, "With a New Phone, Google May Challenge Apple."

Independent of whether the Google phone, built by HTC, will go into production, what's more important is that we're entering a new phase, Phase III, of behind-the-scenes smartphone politics. There is now ample opportunity for maneuvering, backstabbing, double crosses, broken relationships and new alliances. Many tech writers will be tempted to surmise that troubled waters for Apple lay ahead. That's because there are so many vested interests that there's ample motivation for wanting to see Apple squander its lead in the market. It's wishful thinking.

The problem, as I see it, is that customers don't spend a lot of time paying attention to these squabbles. For example, a (hypothetical) beautiful HTC built "Nexus" phone from Google that's unlocked and available on the T-Mobile or AT&T network is going to be expensive. The brand name of Google and the Android OS isn't enough to sway customers. Only the big wireless carriers (plus Apple and RIM) have built enough wireless brand recognition to sway customers based on features, the network, and subsidized price.

Moreover, Apple isn't doing anything that would damage its iPhone business. Customers like Apple, they like buying iPhones in Apple's retail stores, they like how Apple takes care of them with things like the Genius bar and AppleCare, and no other company has been able to duplicate Apple's combination of perceived benefits.

You'll read a lot in the near future about how competitors to the Apple iPhone are scheming and maneuvering on the smartphone chessboard. There will be traps, surprises, seemingly brilliant Knight sacrifices, flank attacks, but when it comes right down to it, competitors just keep ignoring the core issues that have made the iPhone great: Apple's brand, its coolness factor, its marketing, its retail stores, Cocoa touch, the app store, the integration of hardware and software, MobileMe syncing, and Apple's creativity with the user interface.

The competition still hasn't learned its lesson. They've always been able to succeed in the past with political maneuverings, partnerships, back room deals, hidden customer contract terms and technology limitations that screwed the customer but maximized their own profits. It seems as if everyone is willing to do anything but the hard work of technology and customer development. We'll be in Phase III for awhile until they realize it isn't working against Apple.

It'll take more than a commercial Google smartphone and a lot of tech writer soap operas to unseat Apple and its brilliant leadership.

Even so, Mr. Scott Forstall, don't let this missive go to your head.

Comments

John Martellaro

Every new smartphone that comes out is treated in the press as the Next Big Thing, and you’d think the reviewers are eight years old again, opening a Christmas present. Customers want other things, however, and Apple delivers.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The App Store as exclusive path to customers will be Apple’s Waterloo. It is the one thing Apple that is continually generating non-positive press these days. When developers realize that the App Store benefits the short/tall end of the long tail and everyone else has to fight for attention, they’ll see an open Android platform as a much better deal.

I know from watching one of the oldest mailing lists consisting of several well-known Palm developers, but which has become more generic mobile in nature lately, many developers who have App Store products have already figured this out. Some of you think I’m just a troll here, but I assure you, there is a lot of discontent with the App Store among developers who have products in it right now. Rejections and removals seemingly without reason are far more common than the blog reports indicate. The perception that the approval process is highly subjective is ingrained.

John Martellaro

One shouldn’t construe the vocal complaints of a few as massive, widespread discontent. For every developer who bitches, there are a hundred more who are waiting to take their place.  The business opportunities are just too compelling.

Plus, most of Apple’s ordinary customers aren’t tuned into that wavelength.  Only geeks like us - or those who want to make an editorial splash -  note and write about developer discontent.  Apple’s customers just carry on, buying what they see and like.

Intruder

http://www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/smart_phones/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=221901451

Small data sample, but does not indicate that folks are particularly enamored with Android either.

As John said, the non-positive press is only amongst the geek and techie crowd. The average person is either unaware or doesn’t care.

Some developers are discontented. Some developers are ALWAYS discontented. Many, however, is a relative term. if you only have 100 developers and 50 of them are pissed off, you have a problem. If you have 5000 developers and 100 are pissed off, the problem isn’t nearly as severe.

If enough developers get upset and leave the iPhone platform, Apple will most likely take some form of corrective action. Right now it doesn’t seem that any action is necessary, given the number of apps and developers active on the App Store. Considering that Apple got over 100,000 applications for dev kits when they first started the app store, it looks like there are plenty of folks willing to fill the gap if others leave.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Sure. And the bottleneck they will all run into eventually is distinguishing their products from 100,000 others in the App Store. There will always be a handful of big winners, while most everything else languishes on the long tail.

The App Store business model right now is “build it and hope it catches fire”. There just isn’t a lot that you can do to have customers 1 click away from having your app on their phone. For example, link to the App Store and they get reviews and star ratings in iTunes which may very well discourage them. No ratings? Your product isn’t popular and sucks, right? Not worth their time. 3 stars, written by teenagers who didn’t get the point or weren’t the target user? Your product is mediocre.

At any rate, there is a certain arrogance in the “our way or the highway” mentality of the App Store, an arrogance reminiscent of the early 1990s. It begs to be smacked down.

geoduck

The iPhone and AppStore/iTunes combination is second to none. The only Achilles heal I see is the carrier they are connected to. Apple needs to get other and as many carriers onboard as possible. This would pull them above the AT&T/Verizon p***ing contests. For many the carrier is as important as the iPhone environment in their purchasing decision.

{And now for a personal gripe}
Here in Canada we have three carriers Rogers, Telus, and Bell. (Our current phones are with Rogers.) All three now carry the iPhone. All three charge essentially the same and have essentially the same heavy handed contract requirements. What does this mean? It means that after a year of eagerly looking forward to getting an iPhone, and taking a good hard look at what that would entail, we are now seriously looking at dropping our cell phone service completely. We came to the conclusion that we just cannot get enough out of them to justify the expense or the hassle, or the frustration. I have a company BlackBerry. I hate it but I they don’t mind if I do “a few” personal calls. We may get a landline VOIP service through our Cable provider at a fraction of the cost and almost zero hassle. That’ll have to do until other options open up.

The carrier can be as important as the product. Apple needs to get the iPhone on as many US carriers as possible. Up here I don’t know what they could do but it’s costing them sales.
{/rant}

Lee Dronick

And the bottleneck they will all run into eventually is distinguishing their products from 100,000 others in the App Store.

True, but I have bought a number of apps after reading reviews about them on blogs such as MacObserver. Not disagreeing with you Bosco, it can be quite difficult to find an app and then compare it with similar ones while shopping at the App Store.

rabber

The App Store business model right now is ?build it and hope it catches fire?. There just isn?t a lot that you can do to have customers 1 click away from having your app on their phone. For example, link to the App Store and they get reviews and star ratings in iTunes which may very well discourage them. No ratings? Your product isn?t popular and sucks, right? Not worth their time. 3 stars, written by teenagers who didn?t get the point or weren?t the target user? Your product is mediocre.

This type of argument makes no sense to me at all. The App store is nothing more and nothing less than a store. Suppose you make a product that Walmart carries. Do you gripe and complain that Walmart doesn’t make it easy for you to distinguish your product from the others available in their store. Of course not. It is up to you to find a way to let your potential customers know about your product and where it can be found. Developers that take a “Build it and they will come” attitude to their apps will never do as well as those who advertise and promote their app.

Secondly, suppose I could go to any website to purchase my iPhone app. This is similar to the way I purchased software for my Palm years ago. Before purchasing I would look at reviews from real users - even more so now. No reviews - my product can’t be popular. Teenage girls who don’t understand my product - same thing. The advantage we have with the current app store is that a non-user is no longer able to review the software.

Lee Dronick

Secondly, suppose I could go to any website to purchase my iPhone app. This is similar to the way I purchased software for my Palm years ago.

Right now we can click on a webpage link for an app, or tune, and it opens in the iTunes Store. I am wondering if Apple would set up a procedure where could shop for apps on a website and when purchased you get code to redeem the app. Sorry if I am not articulating that well, getting late in the day.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@rabber. So I guess you’re not a software developer and have no experience selling software over the Internet. Fair enough that you do not understand. I’m offering you that perspective because I make a good living doing this software product development stuff. Apple has made the App Store the only legitimate channel for iPhone software. Not the preferred channel. Not the best channel. The only legitimate one. It means that developers who want to ship apps for iPhone have to accept that context for all transactions. It precludes many common sales and support models in favor of a few (free, paid, and in-app sales) that Apple thinks cover what developers and customers want.

A developer can be very successful without caving into the listing/review services. Those information sources don’t deliver all the customers. They deliver a few certain classes of customers. There are plenty of customers who don’t live and die by reviews or star ratings. If you develop for the iPhone, however, you’re forced to play into that mentality because Apple thinks it knows best.

rabber

@Bosco. YOu are correct - I do not make a living selling software over the internet. However, I have years of marketing experience, including both hardware and software. I agree with you that Apple has limited the channels for your software. In the old days of my Palm, I had a variety of sites that I could go to purchase my software. At times, I browsed through these sites to see what was new. At other times, I had a specific need and searched the internet for an application that could do what I wanted done. Finally, I received marketing emails/saw ads, etc that drove me to a website that had software that might fulfill a need I didn’t know I had (the definition of good advertising).

In each and every case, I was able to make a decision on whether or not to purchase the software. Some offered trial ware, some were free and most required upfront payment.

From a purchasing point of view, Apple has certainly limited the types of models you can use to sell your software. However, they have not limited the sales channel in any significant way that I can see. When I hear of developers complaining about not being able to distinguish themselves amongst the huge volume of crapware, I see a developer who doesn’t understand how to market their software. You have the entire internet at your disposal to drum up noise about your product and drive those who are interested to the app store. If you have done your job correctly, the reviews on your purchase page will have less value because you have created a demand the customer wants to satisfy even before he arrives to purchase. Obviously, a raft of poor reviews will likely make the consumer pause, but this is going to happen regardless of your channel.

I would also agree with you that the app store isn’t perfect. There is a lot that Apple can do to make improvements. It is up to developers like you and consumers like me to give Apple that feedback so that we make the app store a better place for everyone.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I would also agree with you that the app store isn?t perfect. There is a lot that Apple can do to make improvements. It is up to developers like you and consumers like me to give Apple that feedback so that we make the app store a better place for everyone.

Nope. My “feedback” and that of many developers who have been successful in mobile applications, is to not play Apple’s game. The only improvement Apple needs to make is allow distribution that does not involve approval from Apple. There is no justification for the current situation where Apple must approve all apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Apple being a giant control freak doesn’t count.

AdamC

@Bosco

The trick of getting the apps notice is to keep updating it. It is useless to create one and list it on the Appstore and then see it being push back. It is the importance of being relevant. But then you are a developer(?) and not a marketing man.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@AdamC. Great observation, marketing genius. Now imagine 20,000 developers doing that with 100,000 apps or even some small portions thereof and your update is but a soft blip in a thunderstorm. Imagine you’re like me and get 20 app updates or so on your iPhone every week. Overload much?

P.S. I’m a product guy who happens to be able to go pretty deep into the coding. First and foremost, I make my living by selling. Evaluate my take on things for what that’s worth to you.

daemon

Every new smartphone that comes out is treated in the press as the Next Big Thing, and you?d think the reviewers are eight years old again, opening a Christmas present. Customers want other things, however, and Apple delivers.

I have to say that I despise reviewers like that. But I find it’s mostly only the non-tech writers that are like that, Mossberg seems to be the biggest offender of them all.

jbelkin

Android merely repeats the OLD mistakes of the palm, MS and Nokia stores - too many stores, too may players, too may OS versions. Android is already being offered at Verizon with a BOGO offer while iphone is 100% full margin. Android is a FREE OS so why not but as a professional challenge to Appe - um, no. Android replaces all those inferior such as symbian or MS but beyomd that, it’s free is its only real virtue plus the bulk of android fans are people who don’t believe they should pay for anything or will just write their own apps - yea, that’s like offering a store to Pirate Bay users ... well, in fact, that’s what it is - that’s why Android might have lots of apps but not many takers. Android won’t fail but android will become meaningless in 8 months as 50 telcos and 20 manufacturers each snipe at each other they are the “best” and what do you end up with? Vista. People just look for the lowest price phone & carrier. The EXACT OPPOSITE of iPhone. And while gogle selling a phone seems to excite people, the reality is either a) Google gives away the phone which sounds enticing but the audience that just wants a free phone is not the audience any advertiser wants and b) make it normal priced and again, only open source linux heads will want one - again, back to selling hamburgers at a vegan rally. The Google formula works when competing against MS but not Apple. Because MS buyers are either forced to use the MS products or buy MS because its the cheapest choice. Apple users willing choose Apple products so you better come up with something many times better ...

salparadise

People put a lot of faith in the fact that since all Apps are only available via the AppStore and since Apple “approve” them all, that they won’t wake up one morning to find their bank account details available on some Russian hacking site, or their phones disabled by some kiddies idea of a joke when he releases an app that kills the phone. As it is, they can easily remove any Apps that are gathering data they shouldn’t without having to issue take down notices to third party sites.

As soon as the App Store is allowed to be run by a third party - that scenario (however technically unlikely it may be) becomes a risk.

And I just can’t see Apple allowing that.

jecrawford

@Bosco

You are right!
Throw your toys out of the pram.

zewazir

Maybe I have a jaundiced view of the way J.Q. Public views and uses technology, but I think for the majority the one store/one click source for apps is actually a selling point for Apple, as opposed to a turn off.  There are far more people out there who just plain do not know how/why technology works.  What they want is something that DOES work, as simply as possible. As such, there is comfort and attraction in the idea that Apple’s App store is there to preview apps for their iPhone, offer a simple-to-read rating system, and allow the purchase and download of an app with as little effort (and thinking) on their part as possible. People who are not tech savvy don’t LIKE dealing with tech - they just want it to work as simply and easily as possible.  The one-source App Store caters to that desire.

That is also the attraction of OS X over Windows. It let’s people mouse, type and click happily away without needing to visit the underlying structure on a regular basis. “It just works” is aimed specifically at the non-tech savvy - which happens to be the vast majority.  Maybe that will change with the latest generation being weaned on high tech, but for now most people don’t fall in the geek category.

Now this may be a source of frustration for the small developer.  But the small developer needs to understand, as Apple apparently does, what their market is, and how to properly advertise their wares in it. Adding their wares to the app store and waiting for sales certainly is NOT the way to get your apps noticed.  Even updating on a regular basis to keep the app toward the top of the list isn’t going to do it. Frankly, having one’s app available from multiple sources without any additional attention grabbing ideas won’t work either because there are thousands of other developers who will also put their iPhone app in multiple sources if that were allowed. The small developer would face the exact same problems but in a much wider arena: the problem of getting noticed amongst all the bigger players.

geoduck

Maybe I have a jaundiced view of the way J.Q. Public views and uses technology, but I think for the majority the one store/one click source for apps is actually a selling point for Apple, as opposed to a turn off.?

Exactly right.
Wallmart beat a bunch of little stores on the street
The Sears Catalogue beat a bunch of specialty companies.
The AppStore beats wandering the Internet looking for apps from someone who may or may not be sending you malware in disguise.
One Stop Shopping convenience has been, is, and always will be a strong selling point for the average customer.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Wallmart beat a bunch of little stores on the street…
One Stop Shopping convenience has been, is, and always will be a strong selling point for the average customer.

Sure, it’s very convenient. But just about anything I can buy in WalMart, I can buy through other channels. Nobody is complaining about the convenience of the App Store, just the exclusivity. I buy way too much stuff from the App Store. I’d put my total purchases against any of you. Apple’s business model is over-controlling, and that will become one of many serious weaknesses against the upcoming Android onslaught.

If Apple had the same arrangement for third party Mac OS X apps, you would all be up in arms. Or maybe not. I have a feeling if Apple had to kill a puppy for each iPhone/iPod/Mac it built, many of you would be extolling the humane method they use for doing it.

vspc

If you want crappy sharewares, malwares and viruses, then go to the Android Marketplace because Google is not interested in not weeding out rubbish. Google is only interested in the number game so that it can push it ads.

ctopher

Android onslaught - Pretty funny.

I haven’t heard Vivendi or EA complain about the process.

I’ve also never heard of a broadly appealing app being rejected except where is obviously conflicts with Apple/AT&T’s business.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You haven’t been paying attention. Remember the South Park app?

http://boingboing.net/2009/02/17/south-park-iphone-ap.html

http://www.iphonesavior.com/2009/02/apple-kills-south-park-app-for-iphone.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,496544,00.html

Despite changes in the a

You know what I’m “trolling” for here? I’d just like one of you to make a serious cogent case for why Apple will not allow alternative wide-spread distribution that isn’t a variation of “Apple has to kill the puppies because (fill in the blank)”. You can’t. And protecting the network from malware doesn’t count, because if Apple were so concerned about that, they couldn’t allow the ad-hoc distribution of 100 or fewer copies. How about the iPod Touch, which does not connect to any cellular network?

Dean Lewis

Sounds like someone doesn’t like competition. If you can’t make your app shine above all the others despite moronic reviews, then maybe you’re in the wrong business. rabber is correct. Market or lose. Welcome to the WalMart of the electronic world, and, like WalMart, it isn’t going away anytime soon.

There are people who grouse about WalMart and don’t have their products there and are doing perfectly fine. You’re free to make however much money you wish in any way you can. Ain’t capitalism grand?

Dean Lewis

But just about anything I can buy in WalMart, I can buy through other channels.

Right. Tell that to my store when they can’t carry a book or CD because WalMart or Target or BestBuy has an exclusive for a month or three. Oh, we carry it, by going and buying copies and putting them on our shelves at no profit margin whatsoever, but the fact is any store looks to be an exclusive club. whether you play in it or not is your choice.

That’s why all those little guys stand in line for days in Fayetteville, AR, for a few minutes with a WalMart product exec to beg for some space on a hook in an aisle somewhere. They know being part of the club will get the much more since so many people go there. But many stand on principle and make as much money as they want and make a tidy living.

Either way, WalMart still exists, and all the grousing in the world that they should be open to everything and everyone hasn’t slowed them down. I don’t see it happening at the App Store either for the foreseeable future.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Dean… Perhaps you don’t realize that if you develop software for the iPhone or iPod Touch, the only widespread distribution option you have is the App Store. If there were another widespread option, it would exist only by violating Apple’s license agreements. Or perhaps you’re saying that the puppies Apple are killing are really kittens. Either way, the WalMart analogy does not hold, because WalMart’s suppliers actually are free to go elsewhere.

Nom

Interesting experience, Geoduck.  In Australia, it’s the opposite, with many people basically not using (or even disconnecting, except for DSL) their landline and using mobile exclusively for phone.

geoduck

Interesting experience, Geoduck.? In Australia, it?s the opposite, with many people basically not using (or even disconnecting, except for DSL) their landline and using mobile exclusively for phone.

That’s what we have right now. I’d love to keep it but it’s just not going to work. Check out the comments on this CBC article:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/12/14/bc-rogerstexting.html

Rogers, Bell, and Telus are easily the most despised companies in Canada. I hadn’t even mentioned the time I asked about adding a data plan and they would not tell me how much it would cost unless I first signed the contract. I passed.

macbones

Developers who didn’t exist 2 years ago are bent at Apple because the APP store is a hassle?  Developers who are getting 0.70 on the dollar for their product- more than anywhere else. Waa. NOT.  Most developers are glad to have a job.

rabber

@Bosco - Perhaps you are missing the point. The last time I checked, Apple has not killed a single puppy or kitten. Leave the fuzzy animal analogy alone - it ain’t working.

The Walmart analogy works if you look at it differently. If the iPhone was teh only smart phone out there with no competition from anyone, then I would agree with that Walmart doesn’t work. There would be only one smartphone and that smartphone comes from Apple. The only place to get an app is from Apple. Therefore, the only way to get an app for a smartphone is from Apple.

The reality is quite different. Apple has competition from RIM, MS, Google and others. There are dozens or more smartphones on the market. For many of them I can get applications from multiple sources. Apple is not the app source for a Blackberry. If you do not like Apple blessing your app, you are free to reach out to people who use other smartphones. The analogy with Walmart is that they are big and dominant. Not everyone shops there. I personally avoid the place like a plague. If you want to sell me a product, you will not do so by selling exclusively through Walmart. If you want to reach me, you need to sell through another channel. I know other people who will look first at Walmart. If the product is there, they will buy it. If, and only if, it isn’t, will they consider buying elsewhere. However, they are unlikely to buy elsewhere. If you want to reach them, you need to get your product into Walmart. Otherwise, you lose.

The point is, no channel will reach everyone.

Finally, the channel has nothing to do with whether or not you market your product. It will influence how you market, but should not impact your decision to market in the first place. Apple is not controlling how you talk to your market. If you believe it is, then I think you need to hire a marketing specialist. You are free to place an ad on TV to get your app noticed. You can advertise in magazines. You can build a great website and play the SEO game. You can hire hip teenagers to show their friends all about your cool app and get a viral campaign going. All of these require that you have a marketing plan and the funding to keep it going. Apple is only controlling how you sell to the customer - not how you market to the customer. These are very different things and should not be confused.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@rabber. If you don’t see that the killing puppies analogy has little to do with Apple and everything to do with its fanboys who would extoll everything Apple does, then I doubt you could see how from a developer’s point of view (i.e. my POV), the WalMart analogy is bogus. And so you and yours will call me and mine a whiner, while me and mine think you are yours are mindless Apple suckups.

An honest Apple fan would recognize the problems. Such fans are in short supply.

rabber

@Bosco - Not sure why I am responding, but I thought I would try once again. I do not see how a killing puppies analogy relates to anyone or anything. Either explain or move one.

Walmart analogies work from some points of view, not others. It depends upon how you are looking at the market.

I am not an Apple fanboy, nor am I an Apple suck up. I happen to use some Apple equipment, but only because I think it works best for me and my requirements. I do not use Apple exclusively - I happen to also work with Windows. My iPhone is the first smartphone I ever purchased, but before that I used a Palm handheld. There are still things that my Palm did better than my iPhone, but overall I am happy with the iPhone experience. I did not get my iPhone until more than a year after it was released, so please do not accuse me of being a fanboy.

I think you are sadly mistaken if you believe that honest Apple fans are in short supply - we are certainly not.

To take a different look, I am one of your potential customers. I will tell you now that I never considered jailbreaking my iPhone. I have no issue with someone who has, but I value my security and would prefer not to risk an intrusion. I like that Apple screens software from developers so that I am protected. I am not alone in this. I fail to understand what your issue is.

You say that you want Apple to allow you to sell your software wihout going through their approval process. Why don’t you wish to go through it? Is it because you think ti takes too long? Do you object to the hand of a big brother? I am not sure I understand. Are you upset with what you perceive as a limited way to market your product? Are you bothered by a limited sales channel? Why?

Perhaps if you can present a clear and reasoned statement about what troubles you it can be discussed and potentially addressed.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I wrote my first Mac app in 1987 and even got paid for it, which was pretty cool for a 16 year old kid just trying to speed up the grading process for a high school chemistry teacher. Over the past 22 years, I’ve shipped products for Mac, DOS, Windows, Linux, Palm, and BeOS. I have not ever had to ask permission from a platform vendor to ship a product. Ever. Nor will I. It might as well be an ethical issue for me, and one born out of experience (with Apple’s OpenDoc among others) and practicality. When you put too many of your eggs in one basket, when you cede that much control over your product to another entity, it’s almost like they have to screw you for you being such a dumbass. And with the iPhone in particular, there is a continuing stream of stories about the approval process, some that make news and others you never hear about outside developer circles. Corporate in-house developers seem especially miffed that Apple needs to approve their in-house apps. It was these people who convinced me that App Store exclusivity wasn’t just problematic, but an absolute non-starter.

I will concede that Apple has done a good job convincing iPhone users that the exclusivity of the App Store is for their own good. As an experienced software developer with a graduate education in computing fundamentals, I know this is BS, but most people don’t. Apple has greatly benefited from the unexpected race to the bottom app pricing, as there is little end-user demand for alternative channels.

I’ve already written a few mobile web apps, first for iPhone, and then spread to other WebKit platforms. So far as native applications go, the kinds of things I’d end up writing would not be “consumer” apps per say. They’d be apps where we bundle a device or recommend an appropriate device. The already much more diverse Android market is and will continue to be more amenable to that. iPod Touch could be, but it won’t because Apple won’t let it. Bummer for Apple when it finds that non-cookie-cutter mobile-fart-app developers just won’t bother with its platform.

In 2009, everyone over the age of 30 ought to realize that crappy but open systems will eventually beat out elegant, proprietary systems. The crappy open stuff allows for unanticipated network effects, which are far more important to system success than elegance. How that law of nature is lost of people who like nice things (like Macs and iPhones) is beyond my comprehension. There’s nothing pretty or elegant about having your ass handed to you by competitors who get it about openness.

gslusher

Bosco may have good points from a developer’s perspective, though the “problems” don’t seem to faze a lot of developers. However, from the user’s perspective, a single App Store is easier to use, especially if developers provide an App Store link on their websites.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned—I was online when Bosco was apparently 14. I’ve had Palm OS apps crash my various PDAs—Handspring Visor Deluxe & Treo 90, Palm Tungsten C & TX, to the point where I had to do a hard reset and re-install everything. (Oh, and EVERY one of those was “recommended” on Palm-centric sites.) I’ve known Palm OS Treo owners who have had the same problem. When I eventually get an iPhone, I would sure hate to have the same problems because of poor quality control, malware, etc.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@gslusher… Follow me and my iPhone around for a week. Guaranteed, every day, at least one of the cool $2 or $3 apps I have will just spontaneously crash. If I end up in an AT&T signal cave for too long, it will just shut down the radio until i power off and restart the iPhone. And something screwy will happen with my bluetooth headset (top of the line Moto, not junk). Like yesterday, I went to make a call, and it switched the iPod song from the dock out (to my Alpine car stereo) to the bluetooth while the number I dialed rang. Then today, I get a call in the car, answer with bluetooth, can hear noise and apparently can be heard on the other end, but it directed sound out from the phone instead. An unwelcome distraction while operating a 3,000 pound vehicle (no lectures for me on driving while phoning, I have close to 500K miles under my belt, no accidents, no tickets, no encounters with cops on the side of the road).

Don’t get me wrong… The iPhone is a nifty device, but the phone side has more than its share of issues, and the closed architecture just adds insult to injury for this developer.

Oh yeah, and yesterday, while on the iPhone with a friend who has his iPhone on T-Mobile, we both hear a call waiting beep. And it turns out to be his. So that doesn’t look like an AT&T glitch.

Simon

@Bosco: I’m also a developer since many years, and I don’t really agree with your experiences. Not saying you are wrong, only that I have not seen the same trends as you.

First, the AppStore: I have a handful of applications up there, and have a lot of colleagues/friends which also do. Personally I don’t have a need for an alternative distribution channel, but I definitely see why you could need one; so here I agree with you that it would be good if Apple allowed some other way of distribution. Having said that, most talk about applications being rejected nilly-willy; almost all apps go through at the first attempt. Of those rejected, most are because of bugs. Very very few are because of other reasons; the South Park app you mentioned was from the time when there was no age restrictions on the AppStore; now this is no longer an issue.

As for “Corporate in-house developers seem especially miffed that Apple needs to approve their in-house apps”, you are 100% wrong: You can get a certificate from Apple for corporate developers, and using this you can distribute whatever applications you wish; Apple won’t even see them.

And finally, as for “In 2009, everyone over the age of 30 ought to realize that crappy but open systems will eventually beat out elegant, proprietary systems.”. Why is this such an obvious fact? So far, please point me at a single example where this has happened.

jecrawford

@Simon

Thank you for your input and good questions to Bosco.
It’s a breath of fresher air without any “edge”.

John

rabber

@Bosco: While as a user I would disagree with your wish to have alternative sales channel for the iPhone, I have no problem with your thoughts. However, it is my beleif that you have a simple option - take your business elsewhere. If you do not like the iPhone (bugs, crashes, phone issues, etc.) buy a different smartphone - you have a number of choices. If you don’t like Apple’s approval process, sell your software to other customers.

If enough customers choose a different smartphone, Apple will make changes. If enough developers choose to take their apps elsewhere, Apple will change. Random complaints generally will not be the engine of change. Apple, like any other company, realizes that they cannot please eveyone all the time. They will tolerate a certain number of complaints without changing their behavior. If there are enough unique apps released for Andriod, as an example, and Apple is unable to get them to come over to their platform without making changes, they will likely make changes.

I think you should vote with your wallet - buy a different phone and develop apps for other phones.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Simon: From Apple’s iPhone Developer program website: Enterprise Distribution - For deploying proprietary in-house applications to authorized users in your company, the iPhone Developer Enterprise Program is available to companies with 500 or more employees.

Example of a relatively “open” system that dominated the market while the elegant “closed” system was relegated to a niche… Drumroll please… Microsoft Windows. Note, I didn’t say “open source”.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@rabber… You crack me up. I have another option, which is to engage the crowd that suffers from iPhone Stockholm Syndrome, apologies of course to jecrawford.

Let me ask you about the Droid app that was rejected a couple weeks ago. I would like to install that on my iPhone. You know, I bought two in August. But Apple, by having the exclusive legitimate channel, has restricted me from doing so. It’s fine that they don’t want adware in their store, especially adware that mocks Apple products. It’s not fine that rejecting the app from their store precludes legitimate users who play by Apple’s restrictive rules from installing it.

Personally, I’d like to see an app that viciously mocks every President after Pierce (who was a 2nd cousin of one of my great grandmothers), including W and Obama. But Apple would not allow its precious iPhone to run such an app, as evidenced by its reasoning in initial rejection of the political caricature app.

I hold out a little bit of hope for the EFF’s jailbreaking DMCA exemption. It wouldn’t solve the problem of Apple’s control-freak behavior, but it would make that behavior more expensive for Apple.

Dean Lewis

Perhaps you don?t realize that if you develop software for the iPhone or iPod Touch, the only widespread distribution option you have is the App Store.

Perhaps you don’t realize the power WalMart has in the retail sector and how everyone hopes they can get their product there, especially if they are small businesspeople. But, hey, believe what you wish.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Perhaps I also saw the special on CNBC about WalMart. Note the distinction between App Store and WalMart. It is not a violation of a contract to have your product at Target instead of WalMart. It is likely a violation of Apple contracts to make your app available for widespread distribution outside the App Store.

I think all of you should spend 10 minutes reading the Rogue Amoeba announcement about quitting the platform, and especially the comments there.

That is a case where Apple, in its role as protector of fragile iPhone users from buggy software, left a known buggy app up for 4 months (hundreds of downloads per day) while using faulty reasoning to reject an update. If you think Apple’s reasoning isn’t faulty, consider that the RA app was doing what Apple’s Dock and Finder does with respect to third party copyrighted icons—without explicit license.

zewazir

It is not a violation of a contract to have your product at Target instead of WalMart. It is likely a violation of Apple contracts to make your app available for widespread distribution outside the App Store.

That depends.  If a manufacturer is making an item specifically for Walmart Corp., such as Sam’s Choice soda, then I would imagine that there IS a contract clause that prevents said company from selling Sam’s Choice sodas in Target stores.  OTOH, if it is NOT walmart-specific branded, then they can sell it anywhere. Additionally, the same manufacturer can (and often does) put the same soda in differently branded containers and then sells those different containers in different stores, all legal under Walmart’s contract to supply Sam’s Choice soda.

The parallel with the App Store is that the apps are, of course, iPhone specific. Therefore, like selling Sam’s Choice soda in Walmart, you are not going to see iPhone-specific apps outside the App store that are not a violation of contract.  However, the developer is quite free to port their app to other smart phones (ie: put it in a container with a different label) and sell said app from any source they desire that will accept them as a distribution client.

jecrawford

@Bosco

You are you still rabbiting on!

Why don’t you save your energy for development of software on whatever platform you prefer?

John

geoduck

are you still rabbiting on!

And that’s why I set my profile to Ignore Bosco.

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