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An App Store Developer War Starting? Oh, Nick, say it ain’t so!

by Daryl Plummer  |  April 24, 2009  |  2 Comments

Ok, so before I write anything else I will remind you that I like my iPhone – so take everything from this line on with a grain of salt. That is a bad thing for an analyst to admit but I didn’t say I like all the arcane and sometimes Faustian agreements that seem to have been made between Apple, developers, and carriers (try upgrading to an iPhone before your ATT contract upgrade period is up and watch the bleeding start). I am also disappointed with some of the design choices apple made and the snobbishness of some iPhone owners (including myself). But, even with all that carnage, I have to say to my great friend and colleague, Nick Jones – I disagree with some of your comments in “Just say no to the fatal iPhone fascination“.

For yuks, lets play this one out for a minute. And if you know Nick and I, then you know he is smarter than me; and, he is a primary mobile and wireless analyst. But I am a developer – was born one – and when I pass through the veil, shake off this mortal coil and all that, I will still be one. And as a developer, I say that Nick, you missed some key issues in your piece.

The iPhone economics, the availability of the iPhone, and even the ability to make money is not why developers develop to that platform. Developers develop for the iPhone because it has some groundbreaking capabilities, it gets them noticed, and because the app store is one of the first widespread successful ways to get developers’ efforts out of the cubicle and into the hands of everyone and anyone who might be interested, and because (deep breath) it’s cool.

How many other developer outlets are advertised widely in multiple forms of media and where a developer can find herself the envy of all her mates? How many other ways can a developer hope to find that high school cheerleader he has a crush on suddenly running his app? How many other places can that cheerleader tell her friends “oh, hotShotdev222 is soooo cool because he gave me a new way to update my lolcats library!”?

The odd thing to me, Nick, is that you too are a developer and you know better than most that ego drives what we do. We are enamored with being the first, or delivering the coolest, or having the brightest flash out there. And, well, if we can make some money off it then that is just gravy.  

But what about those developers who really are trying to make money at this? Well, let’s see. Some will make it. But, making money selling apps at .99 cents to 12.99 a pop is an interesting aspect of this but it pales in comparison to the job opportunities that might come from having delivered an iPhone app that shows up on an Apple commercial. Much like all those college football players who will never make it to the NFL, many iPhone app developers have no hope of becoming rich (or even comfortable) from selling App Store apps. Not only that, there are a heck of a lot more apps out there that Apple would not approve for the App Store than there are being sold through it, so most iPhone developers aren’t even taking a shot at App Store sales (although I admit many want to).

And finally, you mentioned that there will be many more App Stores coming, so developers should not lock themselves into one. Good point, but here is the bet I will make with you, Nick. 9 out of 10 of those other App Stores will fail to capture any widespread use by end-user customers and, while developers will indeed write to them, the harder part is envisioning the app to begin with, not tailoring it to different App Stores and device delivery models. So, I will be able to deliver to multiple “stores” if I am successful at one – assuming nothing Fustian stops me.

The developer who develops an iPhone app is looking to tap into a phenomenon, not just to build and deliver apps. Unless other App stores generate or ride on the coat tails of a phenomenon, they will fall short of the kind of fanatical interest found in the iPhone and its App store. But that is just my opinion.

Anyway, I could keep going but I just wanted to say, good post. Now I have to get back to Objective C.

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Category: cloud  emerging-phenomena  emerging-trends  service-orientation  

Tags: app-store  apple  developer  iphone  programming  

Daryl C. Plummer
Managing VP & Gartner Fellow
18 years at Gartner
35 years IT industry

Daryl Plummer is vice president, chief of Research and chief Gartner Fellow. Mr. Plummer manages the Gartner Fellows Program, which is designed to allow senior analysts the opportunity to explore new research ideas and to elevate… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on An App Store Developer War Starting? Oh, Nick, say it ain’t so!

  1. Eric Knipp says:

    Daryl, your last post is 90% bitchin’ Camaro and 10% edsel. Rock on, Sir.

    (from one developer, to another)

  2. Daryl Plummer says:


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