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Two views on developing for Apple

Two different (opposing?) views on developing for the Apple ecosystem after today’s WWDC love-fest announcements:

The first is from Des Traynor’s post, “Playing their game”:

Apple always look out for their customers. They will always look to improve the experience. If that means adding software to their platform then so be it. If that software is in direct competition with your software, then so be it. If they roll out the software as a free update across all operating systems, leaving you for dead, then so be it.

Their ball. Their game. Their rules.

The second is from Marco Arment’s post, “What Safari’s Reading List means for Instapaper”:

So I’m tentatively optimistic. Our world changes quickly, especially on the cutting edge, and I really don’t know what’s going to happen. (Nobody does.) But the more potential scenarios I consider, the more likely it seems that Safari’s Reading List is either going to have no noticeable effect on Instapaper, or it will improve sales dramatically. Time will tell.

Des says you should stay the heck out of Apple’s way. If Apple might ever create it, you don’t want to be anywhere near it. If Apple decides to create the thing that you’ve created, they’ll kill your business. That makes sense.

(He also says that Apple looks out for their customers, which is almost, but not completely, incorrect. Apple looks out for their customers’ money, not their customers. It’s an important distinction.)

Marco says a rising tide lifts all boats. Apple’s new (free) product looks a lot like Marco’s existing (not free) product. Most people don’t know offline reading exists, so with Apple’s (free) publicity he hopes more people use an offline reader, and if he gets some new revenue he makes out okay. That makes sense too.

It sounds like Des thinks of Apple as powerful, childish tyrant. “You don’t want to be around when Apple loses its temper!”

Marco, however, seems to think of Apple as a morally neutral, unstoppable force of nature. “Good thing my boat is ready to sail, because we’re gonna get a lot of rain!”

Des and Marco each seem to be glad to be where they are, out of Apple’s direct path or in it.

Who is right? Apple: steer clear, or sail near?

And where are you? Out of Apple’s direct path (or Google’s, or Microsoft’s, or Salesforce’s, or Oracle’s…) or in it?

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  1. The big boys are typically steered for feature enhancements by the smaller competitors. Do you develop a paid app only to see Google/Apple/MS come along and deliver a free (though not-quite-as-good) solution? If you’re an app developer, yes. That’s how you drive innovation. You just have to be prepared to diversify your income stream and not become a one-trick pony. Or, if you are a one-trick pony, make sure that your service is so indispensable that a user gets hooked on your product and will continue to pay despite the advent of a free alternative.

    App developers by nature have to move quick. The first one to the finish line with a halfway decent idea that hasn’t been productized before will be the winner for today. But you have to continue to innovate if you want to stay ahead of all the hungry competitors behind you.