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Bad Apple

June 2, 2010

The problem when you give people freedom after a long time of doing without is that they don’t want to give it back. Long ago many developers mostly just did what they were told, but the Open Source Software movement changed all that – providing a new business model for software development and creating a new crop of entrepreneurs. But more importantly, the movement also created a vast shift in the collective attitude of the development community.  Developers no longer tolerate feeling like they’re under someone’s thumb.

And that’s the problem with Apple’s App Store.

We recently did a survey of developers who use various stores. Developers only rated the characteristics of stores they were familiar with. They rated such things as revenue split, store restrictions, pricing restrictions, market potential, and even overall value to the developer.  Guess what? Apple was recognized hands down as having the most market potential, but it also got the lowest rating out of seven different major stores on “overall value to the  developer”. Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it?  Also consider that Apple was rated very poorly on revenue split. It got a terrible score compared to the others, and yet all of the programs have exactly the same split.

So what’s going on here with Apple and developers? The fact that developers rate Apple lower than everyone in revenue split is probably due to the fact that they were first and so defined the market. Everyone else just followed suit. The real problem is not revenue split, but it’s the store restrictions that Apple imposes and the seemingly whimsical way that the company boots apps from the store for reasons that can appear quite arbitrary. That certainly chafes on developers, and with a proprietary platform, having your app booted can mean having no outlet for it unless you want to port it somewhere else. That’s adding injury to insult.

Apple’s App Store may provide a great market opportunity, but so do the stores of their competitors and unless they loosen up their grip, they may one day find themselves back in the bottom of the barrel again.

(Look for more about App Stores in our next Market Alert due out this month)

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