Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mobile Development

So iPhone developers aren't happy with Apple's approval process. Well, a handful at least. Sounds similar to the XNA initiative with Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade. Naturally, these things take time to work out all the rough edges, and with all the apps that are being introduced to the iTunes app store, if it were truly in a bad state there would be a five alarm fire rather than the smouldering wisps of smoke that are occurring now.

But the long-view of these kinds of closed systems have a downside to compliment (or to the detriment of) the benefits. Closed systems must be heavily moderated and unless they become very profitable they become a liability to the company who holds the keys. In a competitive market, this isn't always a good thing because someone could come along and offer a better way for people to build and grow within a similar framework.

Enter Android. An open source operating system for mobile devices (currently just one, T-Mobile's G1, but 2009 will see a greater number of manufacturers adding the OS to their repertoire). Similar to the iTunes app store, Android has a marketplace that anyone can enter (for a $20 fee) and provide not only applications for any device that the OS lives on (as opposed to iTunes apps, which are limited to the iPhone) but since the OS itself is open, that means that people can extend the functionality of almost anything the system can do (networking code and drivers are not accessible). 

If developers are complaining that Apple is taking weeks or months to approve or deny their apps, those same developers will see a significant value in a marketplace that is moderated not by the companies, but the consumers of the apps themselves. True to the nature of a competitive market, less regulation may foster more innovation and success for both the developer, the end user and the companies themselves.

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