Google's Smart Strategy for Engaging Developers
When it comes to the mobile industry, the one factor that can honestly and truly “make or break” a device in the open industry is the support and availability of third-party apps. Just look at the first generation Apple iPhone and the first release of the iPhone OS. Sure, it was advanced for its time, but when you really look at things now the sad reality is that the first generation iPhone honestly wasn’t much more than a current-day “dumbphone.” I mean, how advanced is a phone that simply makes calls, gets mobile web access, and plays music? Not very. So what makes a “smartphone” smart? Plain and simple, the answer to this question is apps.
Mobile applications exponentially increase the usability of a mobile handset by brining limitless third-party function to the device. And be it games or personal information managers in the consumer mobile sector or more advanced and precise industry-specific apps for businesses, the fact of the matter is that without the function brought by mobile apps smartphones really are of little use to anyone.
In my honest and humble opinion, the iPhone’s biggest innovation came the day that Apple released official support for third-party apps through the App Store. By offering users the ability to purchase applications over-the air onto their handsets Apple not only created a new mechanism for generating revenue through commission and fees for the Apple developer program, but more importantly created a business venture that helped them to gain an edge over their competitors; even the ones that had yet to get to the competing stage at the time. Finally, users could justify the price of Apple’s mobile offering because of the simple fact that third-party developers were actively developing applications that introduced new functionality to the phone.
Personally, I think this is perhaps the biggest reason the iPhone became as successful as it did, and why Apple was able to successfully bring the success of the iPhone over to the iPad. By introducing an organized App Store and marketing it as heavily as they did, Apple was able to take third-party apps straight to the bank.
So imagine how troubling it must be for companies like Microsoft and Google to have to sit back and watch developers fuel the iOS’s popularity while their own platforms fail to attract developers and applications capable of capturing consumers. Even the CEO of Evernote went as far as to say that iOS is a bigger money-maker than both Android and web development, proving a somewhat already-known concept that all of the “big” developers simply invested more focus on iOS than anywhere else.
But as sad as it is that non-iOS platforms are failing to attract developers (and in turn customers), I really haven’t seen Microsoft or Google getting their hands dirty to fix the issue at hand. Of course Microsoft encouraged its own employees to take up Windows Phone 7 development in their spare time, but other than that it has honestly seemed as if both companies have simply been waiting for developers to jump on board.
This week though, Google announced the dates for four developer camps in the form of one-day events that aims to bridge the learning curve and help developers to create applications that take advantage of the Android Honeycomb release for tablet devices.
As the blog post on the Android developers blog states, “this ADL series isn’t another set of introduction-to-Android sessions, nor any other kind of general overview. It’s specifically aimed at optimizing Android apps for tablets, in particular creating high-quality tablet apps with an emphasis on polish and user-experience.”
What this means is that Google’s focus for these workshops is to assist existing developers in bettering their applications and products for the Android Marketplace. In doing this, the company doesn’t have to worry about dealing with entry-level Android developers, but rather will be focusing their efforts on a group of people who are entirely capable and obviously interested in developing the applications that will make Android a bigger competitor to Apple’s iPad.
While this is a retrospectively small step in taking Android in the right direction, I must say that I am somewhat let down at the fact that Google only seems to be targeting experienced developers. You see, it seems to me that the many of the developers capable of writing top-notch Android applications are already doing development; for iOS. Rather, it would seem like a much better move, in my opinion, for Google to target new developers by reaching out to high-school students and individuals just beginning to get a feel for what field of development they’d like to work in.
Nonetheless, I think it’s great that Google is at least making an effort here to better the ability of the developers who can better the success of their products.