Angry Birds Developer: Apple Will Be #1 a Long Time

Apple’s iOS ecosystem will be “the number one platform for a long time from a developer’s perspective,” according to Peter Vesterbacka, the lead developer for Rovio, the maker of the fabulously successful Angry Birds franchise. In an interview with Tech n’ Marketing, Mr. Vesterbacka spoke about the differences between developing for iOS and Android, and one of his observations is that paid content “just doesn’t work on Android.”

“Apple will be the number one platform for a long time from a developer perspective, they have gotten so many things right. And they know what they are doing and they call the shots,” he said in his interview.

He noted that Android is a growing platform, but added that it’s also growing in terms of complexity. “Device fragmentation not the issue,” he said, “but rather the fragmentation of the ecosystem. So many different shops, so many different models. The carriers messing with the experience again. Open but not really open, a very Google centric ecosystem. And paid content just doesn’t work on Android.”

While the smartphone platform wars are relatively new, data bandied about during the late Summer showed that while 57% of Android apps were free, they accounted for 98.9% of Android downloads. Going back a year, Android developers were concerned about their ability to actually sell apps.

Mr. Vesterbacka isn’t overly concerned about that, however, and he believes the key to being successful on multiple platforms is simply understand that they are different, and to act accordingly.

“[Apple CEO Steve Jobs] is absolutely right when he says that there are more challenges for developers when working with Android. But that’s fine, developers will figure out how to work any given ecosystem and as long as it doesn’t cause physical pain, it’s OK ;-). Nobody else will be able to build what Apple has built, there just isn’t that kind of market power out there.”

He added, “That doesn’t mean that model is superior, it’s just important to understand that Apple is Apple and Google is Google. Different. And developers need to understand that.”

To wit, Angry Birds was released on Android as a free, ad-supported app, while it is US$0.99 for iPhone (no ads), and $4.99 on iPad.

“Free is the way to go with Android,” Mr. Vesterbacka said. “Nobody has been successful selling content on Android. We will offer a way to remove the ads by paying for the app, but we don’t expect that to be a huge revenue stream.”

Which fits into the fact that Android was conceived from the get-go by Google as a mobile platform that Google could exploit for ad opportunities. That developers aren’t making much money selling apps for the platform isn’t likely to be as important a concern for Google as whether or not the company can serve ever-more ads on the device through its apps.