The tech world is a buzz with the news that Apple has effectively shut out any technology that it deems is not native to it’s platform; most notably sticking it to Adobe only 4 days before the release of Flash CS5 including the much touted ability to render Flash to the iPhone. Here’s the iPhone 4.0 SDK Terms of Service change that has caused the stir:
Wow. This basically says that if developers want to build apps for the iPhone then they need to use technology that Apple has approved and in a manner that Apple requires. The result has been a growing developer backlash against Apple for essentially becoming the tyrant it so famously accused Microsoft of being in the 1984 commercial. It’s a secret no more that this isn’t about open standards or performance concerns, it’s about money and market share. Business is business after all.
At first look the loser here is Adobe, but this also has a massive effect on companies like Unity3D, the amazing platform for creating 3D on mobile, and Appcelerator’s Titanium which was to finally helps us develop once and deploy to all devices. So where do they turn now? Google.
Apple is the undisputed king on the touch mobile world, but Google is catching up and making the right moves. Google doesn’t want to sell you a millions phones. They want Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC and others to sell you millions of phones running Android, Google’s operating system with the growing number of Android apps. Just like Microsoft owning the market as a result of HP, Dell, Acer and other manufacturing Windows-based PCs, Google is going after the market the same way. Apple by contrast is following the same plan it did with Macs, the difference being this time around they currently lead the market.
Where Apple’s platform is closed and controlled (arguably for good reason), Google’s Android is all about being open….and Google is going to support Flash. Think about that. An open development environment and the ability to develop rich, applications you can download from the web and not have to go through a Store.
Here’s the perfect storm that might be coming Apple’s way, and make it plausible that soccer moms might dump their iPhone:
1. Beautiful Android-based devices hit the market rivaling the iPhone. Likelyhood = High: NexusOne is beautiful, and HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others will be flooding the market this year with phones.
2. Android phones tout features you can’t get on the iPhone. Likelyhood = Medium: You can’t multi-task on the iPhone (yet, it’s coming in iPhone 4.0) but you can on Android phones, you can also get turn-by-turn directions in GPS.
3. Android App Market has great applications you can’t get on the iPhone. Likelyhood = High: Most popular applications on the iPhone are now available in the Android App Market, which is growing at a torrid pace. With Apple shutting out Flash (and others like Unity3D) then you can bet that they’ll be developing for Android instead.
4. Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Google launch commercials showing a great device with great applications…and in the same breath say ‘you can’t get this on the iPhone’. Likelyhood = High.
5. Soccer mom walks into the nearest cell phone shop and says: “I’m looking for a new phone. I love my iPhone but can you tell me about these new ones with the cool apps?” Likelyhood = Medium.
If nothing else, Apple’s decision to restrict developer freedom is a positive for Google. Whether it shifts the balance away from Apple’s dominance of the North American smartphone market rests on whether developers play Apple’s game or not.
Will Apple’s dominance ensure that developers look to stay on and reap the rewards the iPhone/iPad, or will the growth of Android and Apple’s developer restrictions lure consumers and developers to Google? We should know sooner rather than later.