Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Open vs. Closed App stores: where do we go?

Apple has removed Google Voice from the App store today. Although frustrating for Google and consumers this is a simply a reality of working within the App Store world. Developers may ask themselves whether they prefer a Closed App store or an Open one. The reality will be, and already is if you look at smart developers like ebuddy, EA, Google, and Nimbuzz, that successful developers will have to develop cross platform and consider multiple distribution channels to reach consumers.

Through all the hype developers are starting to realize two things: First, not everyone will make a fortune on the iPhone. With over 65,000 apps and no in-store merchandising tools developers will struggle to get cut through. Adwhirl estimated that getting into the top 100 on average costs a developer over $2500 / day. how many can really afford this level of spend before recuperating their royalty check from Apple? Two, closed gardens have their drawbacks (ask developers who have worked with carriers). In Apple's case these seem to be a) Unclear editorial guidelines on what gets on and what doesn't and b) applications that may be significantly better then Apple's own software may not make it due to conflict of interest with Apple.

The more important picture though is what this means for consumers long term. Consumers at the end of the day will be looking for and should have access to the best possible content no matter who makes it. If Opera or Bolt offer a better browsing experience then Safari consumers should have access to them. If Spotify offers a better music alternative to iTunes then it should be available. Sadly, this is not likely to be the case on the iPhone and this has been proven repeatedly over the past few months. The strangest thing is that you can't really say it's distinctly Apple. After all you can install other browsers and music applications on a Mac's OS X.

One thing remains certain: given today's environment consumers aren't likely to find the best Apps just on the iPhone. That's bad news for iPhone users but good news for the 99% of the world who might reap the benefits of frustrated but highly innovative developers ;)

Patrick Mork
VP Marketing