Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple fears the killer app

Ok, so were finally getting down to it. On at least two fronts, Apple has now essentially thrown out its draconian rules on what developers can and cannot do on its platform, and replaced them with essentially, no rules. The new "rules" appear to be, "its OK to do what you want in your app if we say so. And we'll figure that out *after* you've fully invested in our platform." In other words, you serve at the pleasure of the queen.

Now the truth is for the vast majority of app developers this is totally fine. People developing the uninspiring apps that mainly make up the App Store have nothing to fear. But those creative few that want to do something interesting with a UI, or want to use hardware in a new way, or who want to use a more advanced code execution technique are at grave risk.

For now, I will leave it to others to debate the impact of this strategy. I want to explore something different.

What is motivating Apple?

Apple claims its goal with all these rules is to keep out bad applications. But if that is the case, they are failing miserably because a lot of apps in the App Store, perhaps the majority, are total crap. Their stated rationale is, I believe, baloney. In fact, not only do I think Apple couldn't care less about whether apps are crap,  I think they *love* the crap, and that their goal is in fact to keep out the awesome.

I know this sounds over the top. Let me explain.

I think Apple is fearful of any truly ground breaking stuff coming from a third party. Apple does not really want even a handful of awe inspiring market moving 3rd party apps. They want hundreds of thousands of decent or even mediocre or crappy apps. The rationale for this thinking is actually pretty reasonable. Its great to be able to claim having more apps than any other platform. Numeric superiority is a huge marketing tool. No one cares if your tens of thousands of apps are mainly crap.

And yet, in the history of computing, we know that its not the number of apps that make a platform, but the existence of "killer apps." Whether it was VisiCalc, or Lotus 123, or PageMaker, or Microsoft Office, the truth is users don't really want hundreds of apps, they want one or a small number that are really meaningful.

The good news about killer apps for platform vendors is that they can drive the platform into the stratosphere. This is certainly great for early stage platforms like the Mac with PageMaker in the 80's, or even with Facebook and Farmville in the last several years. But as platforms mature, Killer apps from third party companies pose more risk.

I think Apple has come to the conclusion that any killer apps for the iPhone need to be from Apple, and that those that are not from Apple are hugely dangerous. And this well may be true. Because if some third party invents something that fundamentally changes what it means to own a mobile device, and that software is available on other devices, overnight Apple is in the position of being the supplicant.

If that killer app vendor decides to support Android more effectively than they support Apple, or if for some reason they decided to drop the iPhone, that one vendor could have a devastating effect on Apple's position in the marketplace. This is the position that Apple was in with Adobe in the 90's and Jobs has made it clear he is fearful of ever being in that position again. Others have discussed this but it is usually framed in the context of why Apple doesn't want Adobe on its platform. But I think the broader issue is they don't want *any* companies generating hundreds of millions of dollars through some new mobile technology which Apple doesn't control.

The greatest support for my thesis is that there are not yet any third party companies that have made a huge amount of money on the iPhone. Has there been success? Yes. Has there been enough to support a major exit, or to even put someone on that trajectory? No. And I think Apple will work hard, through whatever rule changes and market behavior is necessary to guarantee that that never happens, at least with any non-vertical technology.

So I guess the question here is what to make of all of this. And I think the answer is clear. If your goal is to build a major company, iOS is probably not the place to make that investment. Certainly it may be a great place for an entrepreneur who wants to build a lifestyle business, though even there risks abound. And for games I think the iPhone is fine platform since games are probably not strategic. But for anyone else, either entrepreneur or investor, who aspires to build a truly market moving mobile company, I strongly suggest you think different. Apple isn't the only game in town, and as I have written previously, I don't think it will even be the biggest game in town much longer.

69 comments:

  1. There has been at least one major exit, an app called Siri, which was bought for $200 million. They have powerful voice search technology, which had about $250 million in funding from government grants. I've tried it myself, it's very neat (and still available in the app store). The buyer? Apple.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So they would rather Android succeeds than have that app on the iPhone?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wayne, you make a good point that I think actually supports my thesis. Apple must own anything they think is killer. Though I have to say in this case it is clearly more of a technology demo than a killer app. But if you are starting your company with the primary exit being selling to apple, those are very long odds based on apple's aquisition history.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous,

    A good point, but I think apple believes it can prevent things from becoming killer elsewhere. The adobe position is interesting. Flash will run on android. So the question is whether apple is better off having it run on android and not on the iPhone. I dont think so but they do.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is why the "there's an app for that" ads are so funny. Most of the apps are no more than distractions for a couple of minutes, including the games.

    The most interesting ones are those that rely on social functionality or web services, which make sense given that everything is dominated by that functionality nowadays.

    For application developers, the question is whether it is worth it to yoke themselves to iOS when there's that whole "Web" thing out there, that runs on everything.

    For some, it may be worth it. In "the old days", Mac users would pay a premium for a well designed product that followed Mac semantics and guidelines. Nowadays, the market is not nearly as demanding -- given the mainstream acceptance of iPhone/iPod, users care much less about the platform, and much more about the brand -- if it runs, it's probably fine.

    Let's hope Apple doesn't remove functionality from their Mobile Safari to make it harder for web developers to integrate into iOS -- this may well come if Apple fears losing their dominance in the app count.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I read an article about an app that was rejected that basically amounted to wireless-syncing. The kid sells in the cydia marketplace and was offered a job by apple...I don't understand why apple didn't buy it out and/or just add this feature themselves?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, what a stupid post, link baiter. Stick to ESPN, you have no nerd credentials.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous, I think Hank's point is that "killer apps" don't make the platform, variety does -- and Microsoft does just fine owning the killer apps on the Windows platform (Office, basically).

    If Apple can prevent Android from getting more middling quality apps, and get a few "gems/killer apps" for themselves, they think they have the competitive advantage to remain a dominant player.

    I wouldn't be surprised if that weren't a smart move for them -- the platform is good for control, but it is always good to have revenue from those killer apps -- Office has always been a cash cow for Microsoft, even in years when there was no new version of Windows.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Not a bad hypothesis, but the much more likely reasons for the high density of "crap" apps are:
    1) 1-3% of developers are good enough to build great apps, which means only 1-3% of apps have the chance to be great to begin with.
    2) It takes a few days to build a crappy app, but it takes weeks/months to build a great one.

    Also not true about success. It's attractive enough to have some major third parties like EA building a lot of stuff (and making a lot of money). Also, this isn't normal startup-land where you build something and then exit. For an iPhone app they're value is making $$ in the App Store. When you're #1 in the store we're talking about serious money - it can be $1MM in a week or two.

    I do agree that iTunes is not the place to build a major company, nor do I think that you should build your company being dependent on any third party (although building on top of Facebook seems 10x worse)... anyways, the dynamics of the iTunes store are definitely unique and pretty interesting - I'd suggest doing a bit more reading about it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The best part about it is that Apple get to inspect the goods before they reject that killer app. It's as if the US patent office was also in the invention business. They read everyone else's invention and decide whether or not to protect it. It's a dangerous and probably untenable position for Apple, in the long term.

    ReplyDelete
  11. No matter how many smart people you have working for you, the majority of smart people are working somewhere else (in a contest between you and the world, bet on the world). Which means that, with almost certainty, the next killer app will not be developed at Apple (or Microsoft, or IBM, or...). The guy developing that app will then have two choices- put it on the iPhone, and let Apple kill it- or put in on some other phone (say, the Android) and let it thrive.

    So, by worrying that some killer app *might* decide to drop the iPhone, they are guaranteeing that the next killer app will never support the iPhone.

    Apple is exactly becoming Microsoft- they are destroying the platform in order to protect it (much like Microsoft killed the desktop app market in order to protect Windows).

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think if anything was ever developed in Flash that was a "must have" on the iPhone, Apple could just make up a reason, approve Flash and it'd be an iPhone app too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. If that fear were their core motivation, it seems like they wouldn't have rejected GV Mobile.

    Giving Android the de facto exclusive on good Google Voice integration skips the killer app and goes right to the potential downside of allowing it in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  14. That's a lot of crap.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Hank,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Well written as they are, I don't know that I can agree with you.

    There have been a number of successful apps on the store that have made well into the 6-7 figure range of sales. But that's clearly not enough to define the killer app.

    So, what in your mind IS the definition of the killer app on iPhone? How do we spot one on any platform?

    I do think Apple's draconian policies are killing off quality apps that want to participate, but I'd hardly agree that good apps aren't present and Apple is failing to support them completely.

    ReplyDelete
  16. http://fakesjobs.tumblr.com/post/687327141/is-apple-afraid-of-killer-apps

    Fake sjbos thoughts on this post.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm sorry, but you just don't make any sense. Apple took a constraint that they had applied and realized that there were instances (the lua in games example was good) where the use of interpreted code would not be an issue). All the other rules remain in place and the exception were limited interpreted code.

    Your other reference to the AdMob situation seems totally unrelated. If AdMob was an independent company, there would be no issue. As part of Apple's major competitor, why would they allow them to gather data on the iPhone that they could use? I suppose you think Android is going to allow iAds?

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think it's probably true that Apple wants to be the best game in town when it comes to the iPhone and ownership of the apps available, but I don't know that your argument that they're just rejecting apps holds true for that.

    First of all, I don't think any app developers would be offended if Apple just contacted them and asked to buy their app from them during the review process, but we don't hear about that happening.

    Second, I think the days of the killer app are generally going away. We're all very different people, and the way to win our hearts now is to provide solutions that cater really well to who we specifically are. I've got tons of apps that I use a lot on my iPhone. Tweetie. Reeder. Rdio. Simplenote. Instapaper. iOctocat. ESV Bible. Kindle. Flickit. Boxcar. Meebo. NYTimes. All apps I use numerous times any given week. I don't need a killer app, I need apps that integrate into my life and solve my real problems. And, well, I live in the US, so I don't have big problems. I'm simply smoothing off the corners.

    Third, I think the facts behind your argument for major successes aren't so cut and dry. Has the iPhone helped Facebook in a huge way? I think so. Has it helped Twitter in a huge way? Certainly. What about Google, for sure. But those companies all have business models that are based on free. And beyond that, how many software companies out there even make hundreds of millions of dollars. That's a crap ton of money. How many Windows or Mac apps make that kind of bank?

    Great theory, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that Apple is acting as neurotic as they are because they're afraid of other people making money on the iPhone. My personal opinion (which is fun to share but completely worthless since I'm not an Apple employee) is that they're going just a little too far on trying to make sure the experience is great on the phone and that they're putting too much power into the hands of app reviewers.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Apple suck, I wouldn't consider buying an iPhone. I quite like my macbook, but that's as far Apple that I will go. Next computer is going to be a Lenovo Thinkpad, I'm not going to support a good company turned rotten.

    ReplyDelete
  20. It should be "Couldn't care less". I instantly lost respect for the author and didn't read any more.

    ReplyDelete
  21. What I see as a more serious problem is the splintering effect apps have on using your phone.

    Used to be a radio gave you access to every radio station within reach. You can connect to and listen to almost every station in the world, using your browser, whether IE, Safari, Opera, Firefox or something else. But if you want to listen to radio on your smart phone, there's an app for each broadcaster .. one for NPR, one for BBC, one for CBC. They only work on iPhone, you need another set for Android. Never mind convergence, this is divergence.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The arguments you give for your thesis also support the far simpler and more sensible thesis: Apple allows developers into its store who will help Apple sell devices.

    You've heard of William of Occam, right?

    Meanwhile, there are some flaws with your argument. What is the “killer app” on Android that isn't on iPhone? The only third-party killer app I've heard that everybody gets (and isn't on iPhone) so far is the App Killer, designed for über-techies to prove their masculinity in muscling their devices around Android's "everybody's a bronco-buster" user experience. Everything else of any significance seems to either (a) have a decent iPhone equivalent app, or (b) parallel functionality that Apple offers somehow offers w/in system s/w.

    Yeah, there are nifty utilities that sync wirelessly and Google voice. Neither of these examples is a "killer app" on Android; the would-be iPhone versions are kluged versions of Android OS features and require very "we're not in Kansas" changes in mindset from what Apple wants. (Such as, having GV built into the phone s/w. You're not even in business very long if you need basic features from a competitor— ask Palm.) In case it hasn't been totally obvious, Apple is in charge of the basic OS functionality and isn't interested in an encampment of apps clustered around some nifty hack that will might attract end-users but require backward compatibility in the future iOS versions.

    (Compatibility is, of course, the REAL reason for keeping the Flash app-builder, and Mono and others out of the development cycle: while Mono and Flash both could claim 100% support for iOS 3, neither could provide developers iOS4 betas, and Apple is not in the business of providing support for dev tools that slow down the dev cycle but are aimed 90% at platforms other than Apple's (aka, "lose-lose"). A decade ago, this issue was an absolute KILLER for Apple with its extremely limited resources during the transition to OSX: they had to devote special backward-compatibility support to extremely important developers like Microsoft and Adobe. Apple no longer has nearly the problem with choosing where the resources go, but I, for one, am a fan of them putting their efforts to new features such as the iOS4 and iPhone4 instead of handholding important developers who locked into deprecated frameworks, the orphaned Code Warrior, etc.)

    (Of course, besides forward- and backward-compatibility issues, Apple has a long history of other apps besides Flash which crash users' machines. In my case, migrating my apps to my 2010 MBP caused a fatal freeze-on-startup crash and support incident due to an obsolete 3rd-party system tool that I'd long forgotten I still had loaded. Why allow third-party hacks onto iOS at all?)

    So I think you're off into the broccoli with your reasoning. Apple has both end-user perception and technical support reasons for not allowing in kluges that make apps harder to port to new hardware. Easy.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Interesting thesis. It's true, Apple wants to provide all the truly vital mobile apps. They will reject--and have already rejected--third party apps that were designed to serve too broad a segment. Their vague premise for these decisions is often that the app was attempting to replace core OS functionality in some way.

    You're wrong, though, to characterize all apps as either killer or crap. Most good apps fill a valuable niche, but are not "killer". Apple wants a store full of these apps. To date, the niches have been a pretty big market--$1 billion. That's nothing to sneeze at.

    Right now, Apple has enviable control over their platform, yet has still managed to keep it relevant, with a large developer base. That's where they want to stay.

    The danger for Apple, I think, is for a major competitor (Google, for instance) to introduce a revolutionary mobile app or technology, which takes the market by storm, and which Apple can't duplicate themselves. If this happens, the other company will be in a strong negotiating position. Apple will have to either cede their control, or try to compete one-legged.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "couldn't care less" ...

    You meant to say "I think Apple couldn't care less...". The "n't" is very important.

    Sorry -- a pet peeve of mine. Saying that someone "could care less" leads me to ask, "What things would make them care less?". Your point in using the phrase is to emphasize that they already don't care at all (and thus *nothing* could make them care less -- because the amount of "caring" they currently have is already zero). When you leave out the "n't" you are actually saying the opposite of what you intend.

    I'm not pointing this out because I like to nit pick. I honestly think that you might be interested in realizing that it is incorrect. I think most people just use this phrase incorrectly because they've heard it that way for so long. In writing (yes, in blog posts too) surely you want to eliminate word usage that states the *opposite* of what you mean to say.

    :-D

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you. This was very compelling. I haven't read a blog post this interesting in a long while. I can't say your thesis is entirely spot on but I can say with confidence that these sorts of discussions are going on within the walls of 1 Infinite Loop.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I don't agree with the thesis. First of all, although I agree Apple wants to have tons of apps to wave around in its marketing brochure, having killer apps and having lots of apps, even crappy ones, are not mutually exclusive positions.

    Additionally, the idea that a killer app for the iPhone might end up being ported to another platform and that would make Apple hurt is, at this point, counterintuitive. Apple needs the app makers, but, more importantly, the app makers need Apple.

    Currently, according to Nielsen, the iPhone is second (28%) to RIM's lead (35%) in the US smartphone market. Additionally iPhone is growing (from 11% - 2 years ago) and RIM is shrinking(from 42% - 2 years ago). What's more that does not include all the iPads and the iPod Touches that would also run an app that runs in that 28%. If you want to make the most sales possible for your app and you could only choose one platform, who are you going to pick for a target audience?

    At this point, Apple would be happy for there to be killer apps (and their are some great apps out there, especially considering the price point), but Apple will succeed in this market with or without them:
    - #1 Technology company (market cap)
    - #2 US company (market cap)
    - #1 US phone manufacturer
    - #1 app store
    - #1 music retailer
    - #1 online movie retailer
    - #1 MP3 player manufacturer

    These are not fanboy mutterings... these are simply cold hard facts. Apple will be fine with or without a killer app.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Many of Walt French's points are very valid, especially the 3rd party development tools which did cause issues even before the Mac OS X launch.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Your comments have that oh so elusive "ring of truth" to me. It's true that there are a very limited number of killer apps but that's doesn't me that Jobs doesn't worry about it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. What confuses me is what you think that Apple thinks the consequences are, Hank? Why is Apple fearful of this? What motivation do you perceive behind these actions?

    I can't think of a rational (or even irrational and consistent) link of thinking that Apple would have that works with this logic.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I haven't checked your blog in two years, but you finally came up with the killer headline, no pun intended. Can you tell me what an SDK is, are you that far along? (Y,N)

    ReplyDelete
  31. There are two over-arching theories of human behavior, which I'll dub the Rational-Being Theory and the Fuckup Theory. Neither explains everything, because sometimes people are rational while at other times they fuck up. But for some reason, the Rational-Being Theory gets more air time. I don't understand this.

    People who explain every human decision by evoking rationality must, at the core, think of people as rational beings. I don't understand how they come by this view, because it's so clear to me that, much of the time, people are anything but rational (myself included.)

    When I was a kid, I would sometimes say to my dad, "Dad ... um ... I forgot what I was going to say."

    He'd reply, "Well, then it couldn't have been really important."

    As if I'm a person who carried around a checklist in his head, with the most important stuff at the top. This is so wrong. I continually forget important things -- things that are important to ME. Why? I don't know. I have all sorts of things going through my head, and sometimes I just fuck up.

    The writer here proposes a conspiracy theory to account for why Apple is so haphazard about what it allows into the App store. They CLAIM they are just trying to keep crap out of the store. But the author notes that the store is full of crap, so CLEARLY Apple is lying about its motivations. (If you're interested in what he thinks Apple's real motivations are, read the article, linked above.)

    What interests me is not whether he's right or wrong but the mindset that brought him to this conclusion. He notes...

    1. Apple claims they are doing X to cause Y.
    2. They ARE doing X.
    3. Yet Y hasn't happened.

    And, with great confidence that he's right, he accounts for this by saying that it means Apple has a hidden agenda. If the say they want to cause Y and they don't cause it, it MUST be because they secretly don't want to cause Y at all.

    This theory works hard to maintain Apple's status as a rational entity. They MUST be working towards some clear, rational goal -- even if they are being dishonest about what that goal is.

    But there's another theory: they're fuckups. They really DO want to cause Y to happen, but they are going about it in a stupid way. Or -- in an even more fucked-up move -- they're not sure WHAT they want to happen. They're just bumbling along, living day to day, making plans, dropping those plans, making new plans, etc.

    I am not at all convinced that Apple is conforming to the Fuckup Theory. But they MIGHT be. People conform to it all the time. Pretty much every institution I've ever been a part of has bumbled way more often than they've systematically carried out plans.

    From what I understand, economists used to think of people as rational agents out to do whatever is in their best interests. They are only recently accepted that people are often irrational and stupid.

    WHY ISN'T THIS OBVIOUS? Isn't this the natural view anyone would come to, just by observing themselves and the people around them?

    Most people who write about Apple treat it as if it's a person -- as if it has clear motivations and agenda. It's not a person. But the funny thing to me about this is that even if it was -- especially if it was -- it would not have clear motivations and agendas.

    Apple is a public company buffeted by many forces, both internal and external. I would be amazed if its left hand knew what its right hand was doing.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks for the could/couldn't care less language note. For those who may wonder what they are talking about, I just fixed it so the error is no longer there.

    ReplyDelete
  33. The no killer app thesis is supported by Apple's actions regarding the Mac which has no killer third party app (i.e. one which can significantly drive platform choice). This allows them to do what they did with Snow Leopard and not worry too much about breaking existing software and hardware. Having watched the effect on Vectorworks users, their reaction to the incompatibility of Vectorworks 2009 with Snow Leopard when released and the lack of Power PC support in Vectorworks 2010 was to blame Nemetschek NA rather than Apple.

    No killer apps makes sure customers are committed to the platform rather than what they can do with it. It's brilliant marketing.

    ReplyDelete
  34. iPad is TV, all over again. It seems that a "killer app" has to be a pathway to more freebies somewhere else to succeed (warez,free phone calls, etc), otherwise a great app that's not in this category will just have a small-ish and loyal following.

    I am convinced that there is currently no market for serious tools on the iPad; they are not welcome, because toys always have lower learning curves than tools. Toys sell in much higher volume, and Apple gets a cut of that.

    I am learning this the hard way (in the small) in trying to make a professionally playable instrument for iPad. If you go from 5 to 3 octaves and bad ergonomics to make the non-functional eye candy fit, then you win. If you make the instrument unplayable by having the computer make all the decisions for you (4/4 beat-box, auto-tune, etc) then you win.

    Bloom,Electribe,MagicPiano.

    If you could download RandyRhoads's guitar off of the AppStore and have it in your hands for free, the ratings would be a bunch of 5's and 1's with nothing in between. This is because people will download it and give 1 star because it has a learning curve.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Apple isn't trying to keep a Killer app out. If someone builds such an app, they would simply release it on the Android, and then Apple would be strongly motivated to get it, but would be playing catch-up. In other words, they can't stifle the creation of a Killer app, since there is an open platform to release it on. It is, in fact, in there own self-interest to be as welcoming as possible to the Killer app so they can have it first, since that's the only advantage they have when there are other open platforms that it can be ported to.

    ReplyDelete
  36. If an app truly killed then I don't think Apple would want the civil and criminal liability.

    ReplyDelete
  37. You are a great writer. Seriously. I hope you find time to tackle some meaty subjects because we will all benefit.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anybody who says that MonoTouch is "90% aimed at other platforms" is clearly parroting the party line and doesn't know the actual facts of the situation. The only platform MonoTouch supports or plans to support is the iPhone. (Yes, C# is a cross-platform language, but it is no more so than C, which Apple's whole toolchain is based around. The point is that MonoTouch was 100% built on native iPhone technologies and made them no more portable.)

    ReplyDelete
  39. This analysis makes no sense whatsoever. If killer apps drive the growth of a platform, a bigger platform also motivates developers to develop for it, making it even bigger. Apple would want more killer apps, not less. Despite there being plenty of killer apps for Windows made by 3rd parties (games, first and foremost), not a single one of them has dropped Windows in favour of the Mac. So why would a killer iPhone app developer drop Apple in favour of Android, if the iPhone remains the big platform (the Windows of mobile, if you will)? In fact, by alienating killer app developers, Apple is driving them into the arms of Android, ensuring that Android has that app and thus, more people will prefer Android. One big company can't do as much as a thousand small developers.

    ReplyDelete
  40. The killer app is openness and collaboration. I'll switch in a heartbeat when other folks hardware quality catches up. Can't blame em for milking their first-to-market bounty. Don't forget to jailbreak your iPad and run node.js on http://localhost.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Good observation. If Apple were serious about facilitating great 3rd party developed apps they would facilitate a rich development ecosystem. Instead, it's warmed over NeXTstep or nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Nice article and all that. Sorry to ding on you, but please understand the difference between its and it's.

    It's really important.

    ReplyDelete
  43. This makes sense if Eric Schmidt was the puppet master behind Jobs decision to do this. If Jobs is afraid of the 'killer app', it wouldn't do him or Apple much good to ostracize the most creative minds and force them onto another platform.

    Much better to invite them in with open arms and buy them out before anyone else has a chance.

    ReplyDelete
  44. The killer app is the platform. That's part of the reason why Apple has blocked Flash. So you are right, but at the same time wrong. I would argue that the app store is the new killer app as I believe that a curated computing experience will become the dominant platform in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  45. You're welcome (for the could/couldn't language note). Kudos to you for responding positively to what was intended to be constructive criticism.

    ReplyDelete
  46. It's true, i like your way of thinking

    ReplyDelete
  47. Jobs has already admitted this so I don't see why any of you are arguing. Apple doesn't want to be in a position where a must-have app gets any power over the platform. Jobs has said this. It's so obvious.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Why does everything on this site suck? ;-)

    I'm sorry Hank, but I have to agree with Walt French and Occum's Razor. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one and your distorted logic just does not apply.

    If Apple were trying to only have their software be successful, why have they not written more apps for the iPhone themselves?

    Why do they so strongly promote great third party apps in their TV ads, in iTunes etc?

    Why do they not promote their own apps as strongly?

    Why do they give Apple Design Awards to the best of the best apps?

    Of course Apple want killer apps on their platform. 3rd party devs will only desert to other platforms if Apple's platform isn't as lucrative or large as the opposition and that is not happening anytime soon. With 100 million iOS devices leaving Android and WM far in the dust in terms of platform size as well as profit (Gameloft for example indicated they make 400x more from their iPhone apps vs their Android apps) iPhone devs are more than happy to stay and not have to worry about Android fragmentation etc.

    As far as 3rd party devs not being successful on the iPhone platform - are you serious? Have you really not heard about the many multi-millionaire iPhone devs out there? Have you not seen the success FireMint has had? or Smule? or any one of hundreds of other small and large shops who are raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    Can you name one small dev that has become a millionaire on the Android platform?

    -Mart

    ReplyDelete
  49. @ryan,
    Jobs did not say the words you are putting in his mouth.

    What he did say is he did not want a lowest common denominator third party cross-platform dev environment becoming pre-emininent. The reasons for this were that these environments are invariably behind the state-of-the art features of those individual platforms and do not implement features of one that are not in others, thus destroying the advantages of any one system by ignoring it's killer differentiating features.

    Flash is a prime example.

    Everything becomes luke warm sameness.

    -Mart

    ReplyDelete
  50. It's weird, you look like a really smart guy, but nothing in this post makes any sense at all.

    ReplyDelete
  51. stupidest idea I've read this month. Let me see, you guys sit around and try to find the most asinine conspiracy theory possible....it must of course have apple as the bad guy and you as oppressed geniuses...the rest of us unfairly kept from the sheer brilliance of your killer apps by the bad guy.....either that or you are just remarkably stupid and instead of creating anything worthwhile you dream up elaborate excuses to blame someone successful....like Apple. Get used to it.

    ReplyDelete
  52. gosh! you're black - you have no clue about technology.

    go back to KFC!

    ReplyDelete
  53. @anonymous (KFC),
    Nothing justifies descending to blatantly racist comments. We may disagree strongly with Hank's article but please keep this discussion civilised.

    -Mart

    ReplyDelete
  54. A better way of saying what you said in your article is this.

    Apple is designing iOS to prevent such a killer app in the first place. By designing a well architected service based OS they are defining the walls of integration that is allowed to take place. So their apps will always be better if they decide to invest in something.

    Secondly, Apple is highly encouraging junk apps, and feigning the opposite with capricious app store review policy. In other words, "we have high standards", but free rules so we will approve your "fart" apps all day long we really dont care. Its all spam to us.

    iAds as stated by SJ himself the whole purpose is to enable developers to make money building free and low costs apps.

    In other words we will give you a penny more just keep building throw away garbage to keep out app count up.

    Apps are iPhone spam.

    As long as it continues this way, Apple will have a million such spam apps in another year.

    And once they have a million, they wont want them ,because it will look like what it really is. A platform for spam just as much as the web which Apple claims to be superior to.

    Even still, its a great phone and I will buy it. But not for the apps. And developing them is largely a waste of time by any measure I can think of.

    ReplyDelete
  55. everything is not sucks if...

    ReplyDelete
  56. Lots of "well Apple are just evil and/or purveyors of junk for the gullible" comments there - why do people bother?

    Anyway, you could be entirely correct, but it's hard to argue against something for which there's absolutely no evidence. You say the iPhone hasn't launched any third party companies - but none of the phone vendors have track record of doing that. You say they're preventing people from trying new UIs or advanced code execution - but those aren't applications, they're features.

    I'm not sure it even makes sense to try and build a big company based on a single handheld platform. The killer app of mobile phones has been mobile phone calls, and as long as people like to talk to each other that may remain the case for a long time.

    The major corollary to this is that the mobile phone's strength is on-the-go access to other things. Skype, Spotify, Pandora, FaceBook, Google Maps, blogging tools - all from businesses whose platform is the web, not the phone. Photo editing - handy to have on the go, but feeding back to Flickr, Snapfish and so on. Games - some businesses there, but the real money will always be the console and PC platforms in the home. I've got a bunch of other little tools - handy, but lifestyle businesses as you say. Finally, things like OmniFocus - on the go access to my productivity tools, again sync'd over the web to the full solution.

    If all you've got is tweaks to the UI or code engine, I'd have to question whether you're really talking about Apple preventing killer apps like VisiCalc - serious apps at a serious price for the business. To be blunt, do you mean Apple are preventing the "awesome" in terms of genuine applications, or "awesome" in terms of really cool for geeks?

    ReplyDelete
  57. In a free market economy Apple will succeed for awhile, just as Google and others have. However, and this is key, they maintain their tenuous dominance primarily by offering to satisfy customers with quality/ease of use.

    ReplyDelete
  58. lol you're like the first black dude I know that uses computers lol

    ReplyDelete
  59. What company is making millions of dollars from Android apps?????????

    ReplyDelete
  60. Why does this blog suck? Because the reasoning here just never makes sense.

    1. Simply, why wouldn't it be better to have the killer app on your platform than on the competitor's platform?
    2. Apple has so much cash now that it could buy up most any company that came up with a killer app (Microsoft and Google being the exceptions). So why would they fear it?

    Apple might be evil, but it's really strange that people have to concoct the most complex, twisted, illogical schemes in order to paint Apple as evil.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  61. I hate the racist comments here.

    Back to the subject, I don't agree with the writer, although I see that "Apple cult leader" is trying to maintain dominance and quality at the same time by having Developers use native code.
    It's not trying to keep killer apps out. They want as many as they could get.
    I don't have an iPhone (I use RIM), but if I would buy phone, it would be because of the sheer number of apps available to do things. Many are crap I know, but there are many very usefull ones.

    ReplyDelete
  62. By the author's admission quantity of apps do not a platform make so the android one must be successful since they have less apps than the iPhone.

    Sad to find such reasoning but then do you expect from a goog fanboi.

    ReplyDelete
  63. web will win over native apps, matter of time. I mean you have to pay 30 percent of your revenue to Apple/Google or whatever. What sort of app company can survive on terms like that. Maybe the garage variety. Also admob is interesting, apple has a right to block admob ads, but why should others submit a written application to let their ads be allowed ? the world's greatest technology company(as per fanboi's anyway) also operates the world's greatest and best censor board. DOJ will come calling matter of time. Apple's policies are more draconian than Microsoft's ever was

    ReplyDelete
  64. A little too much time on your hands? I think your a depressed, Microsoft blowboy in mourning.

    Why not just enjoy the greatest think to come along in a century?

    ReplyDelete
  65. thanks for the information, it's so helpful for me!!
    thanks a lot
    (http://tric06.student.ipb.ac.id/)

    ReplyDelete
  66. Apple recently launch iphone 4 and it will compete android i guess..

    ReplyDelete
  67. Heh, writing negatively about Apple really brings out the nasty these days.

    Anyway, I think you're giving Apple too much credit, Hank. I think they are blocking flash and others for exactly the reason Jobs stated (and repeated here in the comments), i.e. they don't fear third party apps but they do fear third party dev tools.

    Personally I think that's silly. I bet Google will take the other tack: they'll break stuff when they feel like it, keeping backwards compatibility where possible, of course (just as Apple will now). Their reasoning being that if Adobe can't keep up, that'll force them out of the market anyway. No need to start pouring resources into individually reviewing apps, not to mention possible bad PR caused by your refusal to carry them. The problems Android is facing is exactly what Apple wants to avoid though, i.e. different versions of the OS out there, many different UI's and compatibility levels, major hardware differences. Google understands there are whole market segments who don't really care (and those that do are well served with high end phones such as the N1 or the droid), Apple doesn't really want to serve that segment (not enough money in it).

    Apple's strategy seems to be working, for now. We'll see how it pans out.

    ReplyDelete
  68. This is a great article... I'm only stumbling upon it now, because I've noticed that this lack of killer app coming from Apple, will eventually be their Achilles heel. I noticed this, because of all the Apple fanboy ranting about getting Nintendo games on their iPhone. I was just wondering, why do they care so much about getting Nintendo games on their iPhone? And why won't Nintendo do it? Nintendo won't do it because they have a ton of exclusive killer apps. They won't put them on the appstore because that would devalue their I.P. Apple, on the other hand, has few killer apps. Most of the apps that people want for their iPhone are 3rd party... so in a way... Nintendo, even with their losses recently, has what Apple wants and will eventually need. 1st Party Killer Apps. Funny world.

    ReplyDelete