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.
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.
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.