Developers: Why You May Not Want To Listen To Robert Scoble

I love Scoble.  I really do.  He’s a great source of content, and occasionally controversy.  In a post today, he suggests that developers should build for Android tablets.  I am left a little confused as to his overall logic train, so let’s poke at a few of his points.

The Bar is Low

Really?  The last time I checked, developers were not the types who wanted to walk into a room barely filled with mediocre people and declare themselves the best.  The lure of trying to unseat Angry Birds is a strong siren song.  Using Robert’s logic, the ones who couldn’t cut it are currently developing for Android tablets, so you should go hang out with them.

Crowds = Death

This is fairly well reasoned notion.  Having to deal with immediate scale is killer.  Robert is pointing to the Twitterati as the arbiters of a developer’s success.  What he doesn’t take into account is that editorial selection from the AppStore tribunal would result in a similar challenge to scale.

Hard Earned Dollars Results in Scrapiness

This is a true statement.  However, the uber point is lost in his analysis.  Android is a more difficult platform on which to monetize.  No amount of scrapiness is going to overcome flawed platform decisions.  You can be pretty scrappy when you are making no money on a platform designed to enable marketplace transactions too, and you have the benefit of knowing that as you succeed, the dollars are a result of your actions, and not failings on the part of the platform provider.

Build Unique Stuff

That’s an interesting statement.  I am sure it’s true to some extent, but most developers are looking for interesting scenarios to that lead to sales, not gee whiz factor.

Define Google’s Marketing

One of the core principles of our team is to make sure we are 100% focused on the success of the developers.  We give them whatever they need to be successful, and engage with them wherever we can to find out what we can be doing better.  Robert is making a suggestion that Google is going to reach out to the dev community for help in this regard.  Unless he has inside knowledge, I haven’t seen this actually occurring in the market.  He does make one very good point – Google hasn’t figured out how it will sell its tablet.  The same can be said for the how they promote developers on their platform.

Access to Lacking Features

See point above about unique stuff.  I am confused.  Using widgets + getting on Oprah means your app is more polished than Flipboard?  That’s a damn polished app.  I am not sure widgets would make it more so.  Notifications certainly enable an entirely new way to interact with customers – we’ve got them on Windows Phone 7 and devs are making some cool uses of them.

“Smooth” is Harder

I get that if you figure out how to optimize on the platform, and figure out all kinds of neat tricks, you will be a better programmer.  Totally agree.  You know what else makes you a great programmer?  Getting to focus on your algorithms and overall experience, and not dealing with ridiculous, time consuming, soul sapping optimizations which shouldn’t have to be discovered in the first place.  Developers universally tell us that they love working with the Windows Phone Developer Tools because of the maturity of the tools, the smoothness of the UI, and the ability to focus on the experience, and not nonsense.  You shouldn’t need an additional toolkit for dealing with fragmentation.

Get Noticed

I don’t buy this.  I am not likely to pay more attention because someone has something I don’t.  It may work for the first 2 people to come up to me with a Xoom, but after that, it won’t.  At SxSW, this will not be the case.  Too many plugged in people.  Getting noticed is about having something of value, or being able to cut through the clutter.  Having a Xoom is not a marketing strategy.  Being awesome is.


The fans matter.  Absolutely.  Do they have influence?  That’s the question.  There’s quite a lot of fans of the WebOS as well.  Getting more people to yell into the Techcrunch/Scoble echo chamber is not a marketing strategy.  It’s simply not.  Robert highlights the very difficult part of being a mobile app developer: getting noticed.  The fan boys are fine for an initial early adopter push, but to really get noticed, there’s a much larger problem to be solved.  What is the “backrub algorithm” equivalent for apps?  That’s a post for another time, but the company that figures that out is going to be unbelievably wealthy.

Iterate Faster

Being able to publish faster into a broken marketplace is not a suitable replacement for a broken marketplace experience.  There’s a reason Robert pointed out that people are having a hard time monetizing on Android.

At the end of the day, developers want sockets.  Android tablets will lag iPad for some time in that regard.  As they will also lag iPhone/iPod Touch and Android handsets.  Android hasn’t clearly demonstrated you can make money on their platform when they are supposedly activating 300,000 handsets a day, what makes Robert think that targeting a smaller target market (Android tablets) is a more viable alternative when the underlying marketplace flaws around monetization remain?  That’s not to say developers aren’t making money on Android.  It’s just not as easy as other alternatives in the market.

  • Love the article the android marketplace is a very unattractive on for me. I paid my $20 and played around with it, but it was complicated and there were enough help and support. Then when you talk to phone reps and they use pirating apps as a selling point for sales you feel like an idiot for wanting to pump you time and effort into Google. You may hear alot of negatives from people w/ Microsoft put there is noone better or more supportive of there developers! All the code camps, user groups, free training, tools and support. There is no other platform out there for me! Even it my Apps go big I’d have no interest porting them to other platforms!

  • Dude

    Agreed! Also, ACK, no more double spaces after periods! _Pleeeasseeeee_!

  • Armadillo Callaghan

    Seriously, use one space after a full stop.

  • When I was taught how to type – on Bankstreet Writer (there…I just dated myself) – it was 2 spaces. Old habt. Why do people care about the one versus 2? It’s not unreadable with 2.

  • OCD, huh?

  • OCD, huh?

  • coldbrew

    I’m not going to read this entire thread, and I apologize for that. However, I’m so grateful for having read this unbiased post. It’s a miracle! Praise the lord!

  • Sad-wp7-user

    Wow. Fix your own house before bitching at Scoble.
    WinPhone has damn all sockets, limited functionality, a broken update story and at least 9 months until we get any real update.
    I may have problems with my Android but I can listen to streaming music from di
    fm while I triage email or run a proper MS Tag implementation or have real spoken turn by turn navigation (on a phone I can charge without it turning on and forcing me to run the abortion that is Zune.)
    I want to love Phone7 but maybe stickimg with Android for now and waiting for Phone8 is the best advice for developers…

  • Guest

    If you don’t agree with Scoble’s position on something, don’t worry, he is going to flip flop on it within weeks anyways.

  • When I read Scoble’s post, it was clear that he was being sarcastic.

    I’m surprised that anyone (and especially a senior Microsoft guy who claims to love Scoble 🙂 would write a long serious response criticizing individual points from a humorous attack on Android.

  • RichardL

    If I was head of Windows Phone 7 Developer Relations I wouldn’t be writing public blogs critical of Scoble’s evangelizing Android development.

    People might misinterpret my motivations.

  • Really? Do you think Scoble realized that?

  • No[e

    Mostly B.s.

  • Anonymous

    That’s why you don’t have that job.

  • Anonymous

    Good one.

  • His reasoning is wrong. that’s what I question. Android is the #2 phone platform. No one is arguing that. Make your own decisions about the future potential of other platforms, inclduing Android.My job is to ensure we build the right platform features for Windows Phone developers. My job requires being a rational voice to developers. I could have pointed out a bunch of things we do better/differently than Android, but that wasn’t the point of the post. If developers are going to eval a platform, I certainly want them to look at Windows Phone, but I also want to provide as much information as possible to help developers think through their options.

  • RichardL

    “His reasoning is wrong.” That’s just part of who Scoble is. I don’t look to him for reasoning. I listen for his excitement.

  • Sbacresfarmer

    You have completely missed the point. In a brilliant display of smugness and sarcasm, Scoble Is actually suggesting the opposite of the actual headline. Anyone who knows him, knows how imperfect he finds android. He cannot escape the apple reality distortion field. It’s too strong! For him.

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  • Awesome points! @Scobleizer #FAIL

  • WishingWP7WasViable

    sadly at less than 10% of the market any “advice” from MS isn’t really from a position of strength or relevance.
    The WP7 dev tools are okay, but are overkill (you need to get back to the simplicity of VB4 not add more and more complexity) and there are some gaping holes (I can’t access camera directly so no “live” barcode reader, I can’t write a background music streamer or .cbr downloaded etc), there are not enough units in the wild to really make it worth the effort.
    My WP7 device isn’t even a great day-to-day device – too many limitations and not enough of the apps I want – so I’m back to an older stock Android and pissed that I wasted my 2 year upgrade on a device that won’t get a meaningful update to make it useful until the end of the year (assuming it doesn’t slip like the current one is, and MS and HTC actually bother)
    Win Pho had potential but I worry it’s too little and too late. Right now I’ll stick with Android (despite their horrible toolchain) and for the future look at what I can do with HTML5

  • fjpoblam

    Just keep in mind that Scoble is the Andy Rooney of the tech world.

  • eyesparky

    This is how I perceived his post. Personally though, if I was developing for Android, I would take this as a call to arms to execute the delivery of the highest quality apps for the Android tablet platform. It is like a dare to prove him wrong, one which I hope many take up with gusto. Having another powerful, high quality tablet app platform can only be good for innovation across the board. Exciting times we live in.

  • Christopher

    OK, what I would have liked to have seen either @scoble or @brandonwatson spend a little more time on is; which market is more likely to provide the better ROI? Sure many people hack up apps for many reason, and I’ve written a few just for fun, but if I’m going to dev anything serious, there needs to be a business reason behind it; and just because android is gaining in market does not mean your app is going to make money compared to that same app on iOS. From what I have been hearing that is starting to change, but so far the majority of dev I talk to still see better return from iOS then Android. I go into more detail here, but its a live doc, so I may update it as data changes.

  • Writers who publish stuff offline use two spaces. It’s hard to flip flop. Besides, does it really matter? It’s not like he used Wingdings.

  • You make some good points but I have to call BS on your “toolkit for dealing with fragmentation” reference. Android has a new API called Fragments in 3.0 and Google is making a library available so that the new API’s work on older versions of Android.
    With iOS you can’t use new API’s on older OS versions, so this is actually a Pro-Android feature not a detractions.

  • David Petrla

    I want, want, want, want, want to develop for WP7. But I can’t. It’s strictly forbidden by Microsoft, because I live in the banned Country outside of the Marketplace walled heaven. Although I can find a middle man, it’s not the real option for the serious development, because of the many caveats.

    So I can choose Apple (supports my country for both buying and selling) or Android (supports us for buying only, but doesn’t enforce the rules strictly and in fact is open for the ehole world – and I don’t think THIS thing makes any harm to anyone).


  • Early Adopter

    Target, Smarget. Android small market now – biggest market in the future.
    Apple – 1 manufacturer
    Android – unlimited
    Economy of scale in the PC market led to overwhelming number of apps for the pc – same will happen with Android. I would consider the next few years as the California gold rush – better stake your claim (build apps for Android) before the crush of developers hits.

  • Interesting thoughts … but I’m not sure that I fully agree with several of the points.

    Per the Bar Is Low issue, I have to agree with Robert in that *currently* the ability to be seen in the app store is greater … the Apple App Store is currently like wading through Google search with a crappy algorithm … SO much noise … too many junk apps. I think that ANY new app store on any other platform can provide developers with more visibility.

    On the Hard Earned Dollars issue, I do think it’s funny that the iPhone crowd is ready and willing to dump LOTS of money into their Apple purchases … I’m not as convinced the Android crowd is there yet.

    After years of developing on mobile platforms, I *am* truly sick of Apples tight controls on what we can build, and what APIs are available … mobile devices will never be able to show their true potential until we are able to replace and improve more of the built-in applications, and gain more and deeper access to the phone’s hardware.

    I do agree with you about the dev tools, and the “Smooth is Harder” … I’m currently extremely impressed with the ease of use of the MS dev tools, and how incredibly fast and smooth my Samsung Focus is. Now, that being said, I’m FLOORED that the Zune app is such a crappy streaming experience on 3G. Obviously the platform you have didn’t provide the developers with real-time streaming connection handling, and elegant error handling … I have never experienced such a crappy streaming experience on iPhone OR Android. 🙁

    One point about “get noticed” … when I pull out my WinPho7, I notice that people immediately see the “new” UI and ask me what phone that is … so there is some truth in the get noticed. No one EVER asks what my iPhone or Nexus One are …

    Oh and as for Iterate Faster? PLEASE begin to do that with WinPho7. I know it’s only been in the market a short time, but Apple has set a bar on velocity with their development teams that MS will have to match and exceed to regain market share … it’s time someone lit a fire!

  • Guest

    Because two spaces after a full stop in the English language is – and always was – wrong?

  • “We give them whatever they need to be successful, and engage with them wherever we can to find out what we can be doing better.”

    As a developer with two and a half apps in the WP7 marketplace, I feel like I’m being made fun of when reading that. Three things! THREE!

    – A way to get user data directly from and to the device. Users shouldn’t be required to use hacky solutions involving web servers and the on-device e-mail client to move custom data.
    – Multitasking, the proper sort and not shitty background suspension.
    – Sockets. Seriously? Why isn’t this available?

    There are no known intents whatsoever to change the first one, and the other two will take at least another 6-9 months until Mango hits the scene (which may take even longer, if certain manufacturers might want to claim exclusivity to push devices). I couldn’t give less of a damn about any stupid announcements, like that’ll happen at MIX11, since they don’t make the time shorter.

    The only thing that led me to WP7 and currently just barely keeps me on it is that it’s .NET based application development and the novel UI approach. But the lack of important APIs as well as the mediocre hardware and offerings make it really hard to jump ship back to Android. Eclipse and Java may be a pain in the ass, but over there with the green robots, there’s something going on. And depending on how Android’s Hologram UI style is implemented on the Icecream release, your UI advantage weans away, too.


  • jack

    Wow you need some reading comprehension classes ASAP.

    That Scoble article was very obviously sarcastic. You are either taking it seriously, or are failing at writing sarcastically yourself.

    As for the actual discussion, no self respecting developer would bow down before the Apple dictatorship. Apple is taking away our basic right to install software on our own devices, without paying taxes to Apple to get it through their censorship.

    This is the critical point. It’s a crime against humanity. Apple’s policy spells the end of free software, of open source, and of consumer rights we have always taken for granted. And we’re taking it bending over without a fight.

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  • Bankstreet Writer was good times.

    Anyway, one space after a period. Oh and yes to the Oxford comma.

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