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The developer’s dilemma

The developer’s dilemma
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First Published: Tue, Jun 07 2011. 10 33 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Jul 02 2011. 03 58 PM IST
On Monday, Apple unveiled a series of updates to the company’s popular mobile and desktop operating systems before capping things off by announcing a new, but not unexpected, foray into cloud-based services.
As with most Apple announcements, every word uttered by every presenter, not least Steve Jobs, will be sliced and diced and analysed ad nauseum.
Monday’s announcements will also provide much food for thought for the thousands of app developers. In the process of upgrading the platform, is Apple running some of them out of business?
For Apple and competing operating systems such as Android and Windows Phone the portfolio of apps available is a sign of maturity, popularity and profitability.
A vibrant catalogue of developers and applications attracts and binds users, and generates revenue.
Apps give users a tremendously rich computing experience. The friction-free buying and selling experience helps developers make money. And platform owners such as Apple get to keep a cut of the sales without investing in development. A win-win-win arrangement for all parties.
But, on Monday, Apple announced a slew of improvements to its operating systems that will all but make several popular apps pointless. For instance, iOS devices will now have a comprehensive new messaging service that works through third-generation or Wi-Fi. Several popular apps currently providing this functionality will find themselves redundant on the iOS platform.
As a developer this makes the App?Store a double-edged sword.
Do well and you can make a lot of money. One of the announcements on Monday was that developers have made $2.5 billion in revenue so far from the App Store.
But do too well and risk Apple—or Android or Windows Phone—wiping you out with a minor upgrade to the native operating system (OS).
This leaves developers in a precarious position. To develop or not to develop?
One way to hedge this risk is to build cross-platform apps that are not dependent on one OS. Another is to build substantial niche functionality into the app. The best option could be just timing: release your app and then make as much money as you can before the next Apple announcement.
Apple has just reminded developers that while they are free to play the game, they better not forget who keeps the score.
Is Apple driving developers out of business? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Jun 07 2011. 10 33 AM IST