September 21, 2014

The Tides are Turning as Developers Leave Apple for Android

It’s only been around six months since this story would have been reported the other way around.  Back when the SDK for Android was released, we were reading all over the place about these unhappy developers.  We heard how unresponsive Google was acting and how bad the early look kit was.  The world was on fire and developers were flocking from Android to Apple!  Today, we’re hearing similar, yet strikingly different stories about the App Store developers and their unrest.

The App way of distributing applications has come under fire these last two weeks for how they’re seemingly random in how they reject developers and their offerings.  One of the big name programs you might have come across this week is Podcaster, apparently yanked for acting too much like iTunes in how it handles podcasts.

Like Google, Apple is beginning to offer their own versions of products and services in many incarnations.  Google has not been known as a search only company for a few years now and Apple hasn’t beeen looked at as a computer only company for almost 10 years.  Since the iPod and iTunes took off, they’ve been seen as a tech company that has their hands in many things at once.  Now we have iPhones, Apple TV, and the ever evolving iPod styles to choose from.  It’s not the actual products that’s eventually going to cause the riff with developers.  It’s the “one way in” distribution model that Apple oversees.

It’s becoming more obvious that as they spread their wings and dabble in services, at some point, many developers will find that their apps will not sit well with the turtlenecked one.  A steadily changing iTunes could see any number of features implemented that angers developers who just completed their own program that does the same thing. You just know that Apple will send the “thanks, but no thanks” letter to these guys because it conflicts with the version they want their users to have.  And pay for.

It has to be maddening to spend countless hours working on a program only to find it’s not up to par, or that it’s a conflict with Apple to have another program that does the same thing.  At least with Android the people complaining hadn’t already devoted weeks of their lives to the cause.

As Apple tightens their grip on their OS and App Store, Android will become that much more appealing to developers.  If you are a one or two member team looking to get started would you want to risk all the time, money, and more just to get stopped at the gate?  For web based applications, there is minimal difference as both platforms are based off of the same backbone.  It’s the native app folks who might be swayed to Google’s team as more and more stories like Podcaster and Flickup hit mainstream tech news.

The Android Market and Open Handset Alliance approach is much more inviting.  It’s almost like their way of thinking is “Hey, we know we offer some great stuff, but if you want to change it out, go right ahead!”  You don’t have to jailbreak the handset to reconfigure the layout or add programs from Joe Schmo’s tech blog.  You’re not being tunneled through the market to get what you want.  Sure, you’ll find the biggest selection there and likely, the most popular apps there too.  But you’re not going to be cornered into anything and nobody is going to tell you at any point what you can and cannot do with your Android device.

Be it a phone, internet device, or gaming console, Android is the operating system that many have been looking for.  How many times have you heard someone say “It’s my device, I paid full price for it.  I should be able to do whatever I want to it.” over the years?  Look for Android to help get those people there.  Devices won’t need to be hacked or jailbroken to allow users to customize their experience.  Apple does have the right mentality when it comes to making sure their customers get the best user experience available with their handpicked applications and interface.  They want users to come away with a feeling that everything belongs together and works well.  Android should be no difference though.  Google and the other OHA members are selecting the best applications they can find to install on your Android handsets.  If they’re not loaded at the factory, they’re making it easy to get what you want.

T-Mobile will be allowing developers to write for their entire product line at some point.  That’s not the same thing as saying they will not be writing their own.  Their internal developers will continue to create innovative apps and services that can be used on their network.  It won’t belong until the other carriers wise up and see the benefit of this.  At that point, you’ll have many options available to you to get the experience you choose.

Maybe the best user experience is actually the one you picked, not one of the biggest companies in the world.  Maybe the best developer experience is the one you picked, too.  Things don’t have to be done the way some suits in Cupertino say so.  Consider this my invitation for those spurned by Apple to come write for Android.  If you haven’t started writing for either company yet, I would suggest taking a long, hard look at what lies at the end of both paths.  One of them has a troll sitting at the end who will decided your fate.  Why take a chance on finding out that all your effort was in vain?

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