Joe Wilcox, for his recent article, “Will App Store Developers Lose by Winning?” Congrats!
In Wilcox’s latest article, he equates the iTunes App Store to a Hollywood movie set – “all facade, with nothing much behind it”, and argues that developers are devoting too many resources towards iPhone development at the expense of other platforms.
Wilcox points out that Nokia, for example, sells almost 6 times as many smartphones a year than Apple, noting that in 2008, Apple sold 11.4 million iPhones while Nokia sold 61 million smartphones. Wilcox also argues that the hype surrounding Apple’s App Store is simply the result of aggressive Apple advertising, and that developers are basically blindly coding apps for the iPhone while ignoring other potentially profitable platforms in the process.
Wilcox’s arguments are flawed for a number of reasons. For starters, programs written for the iPhone are also available for iPod Touch owners. This significantly increases the installed user base for developers, and together, there are over 30 million iPhone and iPod Touch owners out there in the wild.
Second, it’s not just a numbers game. Sure, Nokia might sell a lot more smartphones than Apple, but that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that those 61 million smartphones comprise a number of different models, each with different resolutions and features. Writing a piece of software that runs optimally across all of those different models adds an un-necessary layer of complexity for developers.
Third, developers aren’t idiotic robots who have blindly bought into the Apple hype machine. Developers want to write software and get paid, and they’re going to code for the platform that they honestly feel will give them the best chance to make a profit. So while Nokia might sell more smarthphones, that doesn’t transform it into a profitable platform to code for. On the flip side, iPhone customers are way more likely to purchase mobile software than other smartphone owners, and the app store is fast becoming a significant reason for users to even purchase an iPhone/iPod Touch in the first place.
What good is a 61 million installed base of users if they’re not buying software?
Apple changed the game with the iTunes App Store. For the first time, anyone with an idea had the ability to write a program and distribute it on a massive scale. The idea that a 19 year old kid toiling away in his dorm room could have his software downloaded by thousands of users would have been unfathomable even 2 years ago. Now, it’s a reality and developers, both big and small, are churning out iPhone apps by the thousands. And that’s exactly why competing companies such as Nokia, Microsoft, and RIM are scrambling to implement their own online app stores – because that’s the business model that has proven most attractive to developers, and until a worthy app store competitor appears, developers don’t have much to gain by focusing their efforts elsewhere. That’s not to say that all other platforms should be ignored, but rather to point out that if you only have enough resources to code for one platform, the iPhone seems like the obvious choice.
And one last thing..
The App Store is steadily approaching 1 Billion downloads. That’s not hype. That’s a monster.