Feeds

Microsoft's past - the future to Android's iPhone victory

Lessons from a Jobsian battle

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The desktop market was won by Microsoft in large part because of its appeal to the broadest segment of the developer population — cue the Steve Ballmer fight song, complete with sweat stains and manic enthusiasm.

In mobile, Microsoft is AWOL because it has failed to attract developers in meaningful numbers. Instead, Apple and now Google claim the biggest share of mobile developer mindshare.

Why? Well, because of money, of course.

Developers, however much we may want to paint them in hues of peace and free love — or, at least, free beer — have bills to pay and occasionally need to order pizza. This costs money, and money requires selling things.

In the mobile world, Apple and Google operate the app stores that give developers critical consumer mass. No one else comes close.

Of the open-source mobile platforms — MeeGo, Android, Symbian — Android is the clear winner. It garners the most raw interest, as measured by the (somewhat specious) Google Trends data. It also ships the most relevant new smartphone handsets: 65,000 each day.

The result? Developers have written more than 80,000 apps for Android.

And while Apple currently claims nearly triple Android's app population for the iPhone OS (iOS), there are at least two reasons to believe that developers will fall out with Apple over time to embrace Android.

First, Apple's iPhone pricing strategy may not work on the global stage, a point made by Dan Steinbock at Harvard Business Review:

The iPhone first came to India with a bang in 2008, but high prices ($665 for 8GB, $775 for 16GB) buried the product. Most buyers felt many of the key features were already available in mobile devices that cost only a fraction of that amount. For phones that may cost less than $175 to build, both Apple and Airtel stuck to the $700 price for the phone in India (vs. $199 with a two-year AT&T contract in the U.S) - in other words, 68 percent of the annual GDP per capita.

In the US, the comparable GDP per capita is $46,381. Would you pay more than $31,500 for an iPhone?

After India, the iPhone flopped in China, where it arrived with a price tag of a stunning $1,000 without a contract. By the end of 2009, some 100,000 iPhones had been sold in China in a marketplace of 724 million mobile users.

Given the volume in these two markets alone, and their significance going forward, there's reason to believe Android will find a heartier consumer welcome than iPhone OS. Developers, anxious to sell their apps into these markets, will follow.

The second reason to believe that Android will win in the long run is that it has history on its side. Whatever one may think of Microsoft, one of the reasons it beat out its personal computer competitors is that it offered a more open alternative at lower cost. Android appeals to developers for the same reasons.

Recent survey data from Appcelerator confirms this, with more than half of the 2,733 developers surveyed betting on Android over the long term, even as they code for Apple in the short term. It's worth noting that Appcelerator provides a layer of translation software that Steve Jobs appeared to ban in the iPhone OS 4.0 release but that is now allowed — at Apple's discretion.

Appcelerator shows devs favor Android over longterm

Appcelerator polled more than 2,000 developers on smart-phone bets (click for larger view)

This isn't to suggest that Google will find it easy to win over developers. As prominent developer Jon Lech Johansen opines, Google needs to do a number of things to improve its Android Market experience so as to better serve consumers and, by extension, developers.

Perhaps, as Dave Rosenberg writes, Android needs a touch of the Jobsian strongman, someone to cut out the clutter of Android apps and enforce quality control.

Perhaps.

But the messiness of Android's free-software approach to enabling free-market apps should trump Apple. Gartner sees Android surpassing iOS by 2012 in the mobile operating system market. It's only a matter of time before it also displaces Symbian, the dominant-but-fading mobile OS leader.

All thanks to developers. ®

Matt Asay is chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfreso's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development and he helped put Novell on its open-source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.