Normal Business , Not Apple "Problems", Cause Developer Diversification

Last Updated Nov 23, 2009 7:50 AM EST

BusinessWeek has a story arguing that iPhone developers, sick of dealing with Apple, are jumping ship for Google's Android. Cut the hype, and you see that, yes, there are problems and, yes, developers are also businesspeople pursuing long-term strategies that they'd chase anyway.

I don't think there's anyone who could reasonably say that I was in the bag for Apple. And I've posted plenty of criticism of Apple and its management. But, people, really. Developers aren't "running away" from the iPhone. They're diversifying because it's smart business.

Are there problems with Apple being too controlling? Yes. Is it a problem when one company can become the gatekeeper and bottleneck preventing independent businesses from reaching potential customers? Yes. However, that's not driving iPhone developers away. Nor is a single anecdote that itself isn't a good fit for the thesis proof of a trend that "a growing number" of registered iPhone developers are "branching out to build apps for Android and other operating systems."

Though if they're not, they're nuts. Developers have to make a living, and if you've written one application, it's natural that you'd want to get it in front of as many people as possible. Although the iPhone is well established as an app platform, there are complications in basing a business on it:

  • There are already a gazillion apps for the iPhone. Come out with a new one and the chances of getting attention and a lot of sales is much tougher than it once was. There's too much noise in that market place.
  • As I've pointed out in the past, the app download numbers released by Apple can be incredibly misleading. They likely include (Apple has refused to confirm or deny this when I've asked) music and upgrade downloads. In other words, the number of downloads does not translate into the number of apps sold.
  • The delay in getting apps approved by Apple and the often cryptic status of why something is rejected is a clear business problem. The software business is often rushed because you want to get to market before your competitors do. Waiting around for what is effectively the only yes or no you can get regarding being able to sell your product means losing money.
All that said, of course developers are diversifying. They've got apps, they see other platforms, they know the market is bigger than just the iPhone, and they want to leverage the time and energy they've poured into writing the products they already have. Why try to turn it into a "narrative" where it's anger and frustration that's fueling the developers, not ambition and a healthy avarice?

Image via stock.xchng user bizior, site standard license.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.