Today is the day we find out who the lucky 50 winners of the first round of the Android Developers Challenge are. At the time of writing this article, only a few names and applications were known so I’ll speak in general terms and not refer to any specific developer. The consensus I’ve found among the community is that Android was very easy to write for and looks to be truly open with limitless potential. After 1700+ entries into the challenge, I have to reflect back on what was said at the outset.
For those of you with short memories, or those of you just tuning in, the general attitude towards Google was that they were ‘bribing’ developers. It was said that since they did not have an established platform or actual device in the market, it would be nearly impossible to get people motivated behind Android. It was not uncommon to find bloggers calling for Google’s failure into the market before the first device was even out. A few weeks after the first SDK was made available, talks were of how Google’s kit was buggy and the company seemed unresponsive to developers’ questions and needs. After a update or two to the kit, all of those talks practically vanished.
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Flash forward a few more weeks and Apple’s announcement that they were releasing an SDK for the iPhone and with it came their $100 Million dollar iFund. Suddenly everybody seemed to be lauding Apple for stepping up and offering some ‘real’ money for people. It’s like we were supposed to forget that Google was “buying interest and development in their platform” because now Apple was throwing prize money at the best applications. See, it’s all in how you word it. There is a difference between ‘rewards’ and ‘prize money’ if you sell it the right way. Oh, we also saw Apple fanboys talking up how much better it was to toss $100M instead of $10M at developers.
And now we have Research in Motion bringing out a $150 million BlackBerry Partners Fund. It might just be me, but here’s what I’m starting to notice:
- Google looks better now than when they initially announced the ADC. Spending such bargain basement prices for development instead of having to create a lot of applications themselves was a great move. Heck, even the so-called “losers” of the challenge still stand a chance at getting their programs integrated somewhere with members of the Open Handset Alliance.
- The more restricted the platform, the more money it takes to get developers in action. When comparing RIM, Apple, and Android, it seems obvious to me that the former two are only taking what they learned from the latter and putting more honey in the pot. Google should be commended for the way they brought the ADC out and for the way the Open Handset Alliance is looking to work with these developers.
It’s not unfeasible to see some of the developers who didn’t make it through the first round, tweak, enhance, or even sell their programs to a company like T-Mobile or Samsung so that they can build around it. That’s not quite the same scenario for Apple and BlackBerry. There is only one company making devices for them. If Apple doesn’t like the program enough to merit a little money, who else will pick it up? The same can somewhat be said for BlackBerry. The difference being that the fund will not only focus on Blackberry programs, but will also look at investing in startups that develop for other mobile platforms as well. This will seem appealing to any developer who feels strongly enough about their programs and feel its a good fit for all platforms. Kudos to RIM and the others involved in the fund.
One of the common questions we ask developers in our Developer Spotlight Series is whether or not the Android Developer Challenge motivated them to write. A typical response was “I would have written for Android eventually based on the feedback from other developers, but yeah, the money sure does help.” Can the same be said for the iPhone or Research in Motion? Would developers be as willing to write for something that’s not quite as open just because the pockets are deeper?