Growing Android Power Led to Apple's Developer Compromise
Apple will never admit to this, but the company backed off its developer terms Sept. 9 because it feared alienating the programmers whose applications propelled the iPhone to its prestigious position in the United States.
At least, that's the reason Apple alluded to in its brief press statement on the matter, when it noted:
We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.
Allow me to translate the PR speak into something more significant and real:
We realized we alienated thousands of developers who insist on writing applications in that crappy old Flash platform, and thousands more who prefer to use Google AdMob or some other mobile ad platform instead of our expensive iAd platform to monetize their apps. So we backed off and are now allowing developers to use the inferior Flash technology and ad platforms that are trying to eat our lunch. We don't like it, but we did it anyway.
Does Apple strike you as the type of company to break its code when dissenters bemoan the tight control?
The company has held fast on several rules where it served its competitive interest. For example, Google Voice still isn't on the iPhone natively.
So why did Apple really back off yesterday? Android, that's why. Android is a huge threat. Apple CEO Steve Jobs can say iOS is sporting 230,000 activations per day to Android's own 200,000, but the bigger picture doesn't lie.
According to Gartner's latest worldwide mobile OS forecast, Android is going to be the No. 2 mobile platform worldwide by the end of the year, and will almost equal Symbian by 2014.
Apple will be No. 4 and though it's currently beating Android, RIM and Windows Mobile in the United States, its closed nature make it an easy runner for Android to lap as an open-source platform that any phone maker and carrier can adopt and use.
Apple's going concern is one of access and footprint, not quality. iOS is a fast moving river that Apple dams after AT&T in the U.S. and others overseas; Android is an ocean anyone can dip their ladle into.
All apologies to Android apps developers trying to monetize outside the nine countries Google allows them to sell their software.
But don't take my word for it. Gartner's Ken Dulaney told me he thinks Android spurred Apple to loosen up.
If you think Apple woke up one day from a searing pain of a bruised conscience, think again.
While I know iOS developers were irked by their slave-like position (don't do this, don't do that), I'm sure the majority of them didn't threaten to leave for Android.
Apple likely loosened the reins because its strict terms and limitations were a turn off for developers on the fence about writing apps for iOS or Android.
Apple's App Store isn't the only game in town thanks to the rise of Android. Apple now has to fight hard to attract more developers; easing up on its restrictions should lower the barrier to entry.
Better to cede a little control than cede the market to Android.