It seems that a lot of attention is being paid to the ascendancy of the Android over the last couple of years. Note the incredible growth trend below in the Android OS market share as it compares to the other Smartphone OS’s out there. Yes, we know…Windows Mobile is all but dead already (or is it?):
(Credit: NPD Group – click here for original press release)
The Blackberry has never held much of a ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ status like the iPhone but has been the predominant player in the business world. That may remain constant, but for the time being, Blackberry, while having the largest share, isn’t driving innovation in the mobile market. So the fact that Android has surpassed the iPhone seems to be speaking to the descendency of the iPhone and the coronation of a new ruler of cool mobile technology…at least when using the democracy of the mobile marketplace as our guide. This battle will only continue to expand into different channels as the first Android-based tablets hit the streets and then…gasp…when we have an Android desktop OS. You can only imagine the blood that will run in the streets when both Apple and Microsoft have to defend their territory against Google.
I can tell you one reason that I’m an Android fan…the ease with which any developer can create an Android application. This is a particularly important issue if you’re a PC user like me and building spatial applications for the mobile market. Both iPhone and Android demand that you join their ‘club’ if you want to sell apps to their users. Understandable, I guess. For .NET developers, both mobile platforms require that you code in a different language…Java for Android and Objective-C for iPhone (more on this below). However iPhone takes this one step further and forces all developers to develop on a Mac.
To be clear, I’m not wild about coding in Java for the Android. I’ve always felt that .NET tools were better than for any other language. But I realize that in order to target the Android, I need to code in Java so I just stomach it. But at least coding for the Android I don’t have to go out and buy new hardware. Up until recently, there used to be a tradeoff for this….NET developers could code in .NET languages using Mono which would then translate the .NET code into Objective-C for the iPhone and iTouch, but Apple put the kibosh on that with the iPhone Developer Program Agreement released this past Spring stating the following:
So, from a developer perspective, I start to wonder…is this just one example of how Apple can come out with the epitome of cool only to wreck itself with draconian policy and control structures? This is a technology-centric view, certainly, but if we look across the spectrum of touchpoints that Apple has had with society at large, is this how they have treated everyone? Is this how they have treated their suppliers…their partners…their customers? Is it a fundamentally flawed overarching corporate vision within Apple that pushes it to want to strictly control its connections with the outside world? Is this what eventually leads to a slide in market share like we’re seeing with the iPhone?
So what is one to do when faced with the rigid structures that Apple pushes down? One option is to work within what they allow…from my technology-centric view, I can work with what they offer to target the iPhone audience? I can stick with web-based applications which have limited functionality. I can pay someone to do it for me if I don’t want to fork out the loot for a Mac. I can pony up and buy a Mac to start developing. Or, I can wait and see if the iPhone continues to decline in coolness in the hopes that this will drive policy changes. I’m tempted to choose the last one, honestly, but realize this may be a childish impulse. Like that hot nightclub spot where the lights slowly dim over time, will Apple start letting in new breeds of clients to stay open…or will they simply change the game completely and revamp?
The iPhone is certainly not dead but, no doubt, will need to reorient themselves. I would hope that someone might be TRULY bold within Apple and envision a different model for themselves where revenue is not dependent upon control. Sadly, I picture the visionaries at Apple in strategy meetings using words like ‘Then they’d have to…’ rather than ‘we could support…’. In my opinion, if Apple makes it easier, not harder, to target their audience, they will most certainly benefit…moreso than how they would benefit monetarily by forcing me to buy a Mac.