Then why does the rest of the article even matter?

Apple’s superior monetization policies attracted good developers within its ranks, thus creating a better catalog of apps and customer experience.

Good developers? Check

Better catalog? Check

Better customer experience? Check.

Um, what is Android happy about again?

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Google: You Too Can Be A Developer In The Privacy Of Your Own Home

Not only is the Android Market an open platform for developers (with no approval process, ala the App Store), but now we’ll likely see a vast array of specialized apps built by non-developers. This could radically increase the volume of apps in the Market versus the App Store.

I’ve written about Google’s seeming goal of getting mobile devices on the web instead of running local apps. I outlined some things that could keep Android app quality relatively low: 

  • Fragmentation – Minimal app compatibility, or a lowest common denominator app that can’t take full advantage of a device.
  • Lack of vetting – Lets weak apps through, including potential security risks. 
  • Flash support – Another way of encouraging lowest common denominator apps. 

I wrote “In short, while appearing to do all they can to let as many apps be available as possible, they’ve created a platform to breed lower-quality, inconsistent apps”

If there was any doubt about Google’s desire to have lots of apps while keeping the app experience relatively weak, their latest move should make it clear: they’re letting anyone write apps.

Google’s App Inventor is like a late-night informercial: “Why bother learning a language and coding techniques, now anyone can be a developer with the Develop-O-Matic.” I can see the infomercial endorsements now: “I was skeptical, but I just followed the simple steps provided. As a programmer I make more money each month than I ever dreamed of, and was able to quit my job snaking toilets at Wal-Mart. If I can do it, so can you!”

With everybody and their little brother submitting apps there’s little question Android’s app count will make huge gains. It probably won’t take long before the number exceeds Apple’s App Store, which is something they’re gunning for. And with weak “competition” of local apps like this, Google’s web-based solutions will look that much better, which helps lead people right where Google wants them. 

I have no issue with lots of web and local apps; let everyone decide what works best for them. But what I see is Google poisoning the well from which local apps are drawn. They don’t appear to want a fair fight, and make local apps too difficult (their market place appears to be a mess), generic (soon to include Jr. Developer Kit apps), and risky (potential privacy or security issues) so web apps look far superior by comparison.

Google is completely open except when they’re not

Like any company, Google is open in what doesn’t make them money and proprietary as heck in what does. Android is open (under the Apache license, not GPL — which should give the philosophical FOSSies pause) but Google certainly hasn’t opened their search or AdWords platforms. Likewise Apple open sources WebKit (which Google uses for their browser) and OpenCL and Grand Central and FaceTime, but keeps their crown jewels equally closed. So enough already with the open stuff. You give me free services so you can mine my data, I sell my soul to you to use them. Deal. Just don’t insult my intelligence while doing it.

Good article. It’s not the lack of “open” in Google’s business I take issue with—it’s just a business model, and a successful one at that. No, it’s bullSchmidt statements from their CEO that bug me because he’s rarely called on it.

Perhaps, albeit slowly, more and more tech writers will catch on like the one above. The open-but-not-really vs. closed-via-tiny-wall argument detracts from the actual products anyway. Offer something great, not rhetoric.

About Google “Openness”

Google’s main product, its search engine, is still a very, very closed platform. If a developer wants to innovate off of Google’s search, they currently have two options the AJAX search API and Google’s Custom Search Engine (CSE) — both of which have tremendous limitations. The AJAX API limits results to just 8, and really just keeps trying to drive users back to Google’s properties. For CSE, the terms are quite limiting and only let you display Google ads on the results page

I’ve been saying for a while that Google is no more open when it comes to its key products than Apple is. When Apple’s competitors beat the ” open” drum, it’s BS. Most of the tech press don’t care—they just want a story to write—but it’s nice to see some people have no problem stating it clearly.

Developer Opportunity: It takes more than iOS 4 to multitask on an iPhone

When we spoke to a number of developers, that aren’t keen to be named in this article for fear of backlash from Apple, they all confirmed to Pocket-lint that, for any app to take advantage of the new multitasking features, it will have to be updated. Furthermore, many of those we spoke to felt that many apps simply won’t be.

Aside from requiring iPhone 4 or a 3GS, you also need apps that have been modified to multitask. I suspect quite a few won’t, and no one will care or even notice.

I also expect a bonanza of opportunity for some types of apps to be the first to support it. For example, as much as I use Twitter I’ll be keenly interested in a client that multitasks. Would I try a different Twitter client for this feature? Absolutely. Same is true of RSS/news readers, and chat clients, and notes apps, and others.

So, while I understand this is work for developers, it’s also a chance to get their app back in front of people who had previously chosen a competitor. It’s not often developers are handed such a key and much-anticipated differentiator to add to their apps. Multitasking will be hot; smart developers will grab the opportunity quickly.

Why Apple Should Not “Open Up” the iPhone

In a thoughtful piece, Macworld’s Jason Snell argues that it’s time for Apple to “open up” the iPhone. 

No, I’m here to say to Apple that while I understand very well the reasons for the company’s walled-garden approach to native iPhone OS apps, the strengths of that approach have now been surpassed by the bad publicity and reputation that Apple and its products are now getting in the market as a whole.

Though well-meaing, when I look at the reasoning provided, I find I cannot agree with any of it. 

I was showing [a non-technical colleague] my new iPad. His response to me was shocking: He said that he had been interested in buying an iPad, but needed to read PDF files, and since Apple only supported its own formats, he couldn’t buy one.

There’s nothing in opening up the iPhone that would stop his colleague form thinking that. Heck, there are people who think a Mac can’t read Microsoft Word documents even though Word’s been on the Mac over 20 years! This kind of perception is simply not possible to prevent, and even if it were, an “open” iPhone wouldn’t do it. 

There’s porn on the iPhone now. Not only does the iPhone have free and easy access to all the porn on the Web, but there’s even an iPhone Porn App Store that sells (web-based) porn apps that work on unmodified iPhone OS devices.

This same argument works for any non-App Store app. Point being, don’t point out that “closed” is no good because we have the web, but then argue we must have “open” while ignoring that same web. Indeed, Steve Jobs all but begged developers to write web apps in the iPhone’s first year, and was mocked for it.  

Can’t get your app on the iPhone? Write a web app. Oh, but then you wouldn’t get all the benefits of the App Store. Guess what? You won’t get those benefits from “open” apps, either. Which means many complaints about web apps will become the complaints about “open” apps. It won’t shut up the critics, it’ll likely make them louder. 

Another reason Apple has probably been hesitant to open up the iPhone to unapproved apps is, that people will write malicious apps, and the damage those apps cause could harm Apple and tarnish the iPhone’s image. It’s true, so far as it goes. But of course, people can jailbreak their iPhones now, and we’ve already seen reports of iPhone malware on those phones.

I don’t see how jailbreaking belongs in this conversation. First, while “open” is a geek argument to begin with, jailbreaking is even a smaller subset of that. I’m a geek, and have never considered jailbreaking. Second, it’s unsupported, whereas “open” apps would be a supported Apple solution.

All Apple needs to do is add a new feature, buried several menu items down in the Settings app, that mirrors the one found on Android devices: an option that lets you install Apps from “unknown sources.” If a user tried to turn this option on, they’d get a scary warning about how these sources couldn’t be trusted, and that they may lead to instability, crashes, loss of data, you name it. Scary stuff.

The Microsoft solution? Oh please no. How many “scary warnings” did Mac users have to sit through in the 90s regarding QuickTime or other non-Microsoft technologies that kept users from straying? Now Apple should do the same? No. If Apple implemented “open” this way, some might be OK with it but I’d call them on it. If nothing else, let’s be clear that if Apple does “open up”, make it a slider somewhere that says it allows apps to be installed from various sources other than the App Store, and be done with it. The user slides it On or Off, that’s it.

But by putting [the option mentioned above] there, Apple immediately shuts up every single claim that the iPhone isn’t open.

This is the gist of Mr. Snell’s argument, but I don’t see it. Such apps would have zero benefit of the App Store and, as with web apps, it seems devs and critics want it all. These are the arguments I see within a few weeks of the “open” iPhone: 

  • AppCo CEO Ima Weasel claims their BestApp app would sell like hot cakes, but Apple refuses to promote it. “Apple only promotes apps in their store”, Ima explained, “and won’t promote anything that doesn’t get them 30%. It’s all about greed.” It will be ignored, of course, that Apple’s 30% includes hosting, exposure, collection, possible promotion, sales statements, etc., and that these services are included even for free apps, for which there’s no 30%. 
  • It’s become clear that Apple’s “open” app policy was a cynical move to silence critics and fool consumers, while simultaneously making it too difficult for the average user to find and install such apps. Until Apple raises the usability and exposure of the “open” store to a level closer to their own, it will serve only as a shield to deflect criticism of their “walled garden.” This will ignore that the “average user” never cared about an “open” iPhone in the first place, and that Apple should obviously not have to give a second app option equal footing with its own. 
  • Apple rejected another app today. “We simply think farting bikini babes is inappropriate for our store”, said an Apple spokesperson, “but the the developer is free to utilize the “open” option.” But Apple knows the “open” store is a relative ghost town. Indeed, Apple appears to utilize the “open” option primarily to reject more apps than before, since they can claim the developer has another venue in which to sell them. In a sense, “opening” the store allowed Apple to tighten their grip on what’s essentially still a closed platform. Make no mistake, this Apple-opened-to-become-more-closed argument will get huge play. They’ll be accused of “banishing” apps to the “open” option. Count on it. 

Can any one following the anti-Apple shrieking over the last three years not see those articles being written? I see them as clearly as the Mac I’m writing this on. And they’ll gain traction, too, especially with Apple’s competitors.

So, no, the “open” iPhone will not silence the critics. Rather, it will give them more attack vectors to claim Apple is actually moving to solidify their closed, anti-competitive environment. An environment they can’t even prove Apple possesses. Meanwhile, Apple would be stuck with more criticism and accusations, from more quarters, with more wild speculation than they have now. And to make it worse, they’ll have to support it.

Computerworld on Why Apple is right about Flash on smartphones

For all this expensive posturing the one thing we still don’t have is a version of Flash for smartphones that doesn’t leech performance and battery life.

Hey look! A technical publication not just repeating the propaganda from Adobe about “freedom” and Flash. An article where the author put down the press release and looked at what was really going on. How refreshing.