a life of coding

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paul's Mistake (Be Strong, Not Whiny)

Paul Graham recently commented on the state of Apple's AppStore and their treatment of developers. The comment seemed uncharacteristic of him, dedicating a lot of time to chastising Apple for their actions and claiming that this will substantially tarnish Apple's reputation. I respect Paul, but feel that his tone is wrong. Only time will judge whether Apple's treatment of developers will keep them from being successful. Instead of complaining, we should be analyzing how Apple has been successful and attempt to reproduce that on our own. Its the longer, harder path, but it will make all the difference.

(continuing with the previously titled "Developers: You Are Whats Wrong With the iPhone AppStore")

You pounded your fists because Apple didn't have a "real" SDK, so Apple created one. Then you pounded your fists because the approval process is too slow, so Apple hired a bunch of noobs. Now you're pounding your fists because the newbies aren't consistent in their execution.

Stop. Stop making iPhone apps. Stop complaining about Apple. Stop using their phone. Stop.

I am a long time Mac user, and I will tell you that nobody cares about your app, least of all Apple. I didn't buy the iPhone because of you, I bought it because of Apple. Apple put a bunch of cool things on it, and they all work (mostly) great. Most AppStore apps sell for a dollar, because thats about all they're worth. (BTW: please disprove this by creating something valuable.)

Since Apple made a great phone, they have become popular. But Apple isn't good at popular. Popular people have to bend to the will of others to stay popular, and that just isn't Jobs, and it isn't me either. Apple wants to be the best, and you have to be a little elitist to do that. You have to somewhat ignore what everyone wants and concentrate on what is best. Personally, I'm okay with this, and so are most of the people who bought an iPhone.

When Apple releases a tablet, will your iPhone app work on that? Of course not. What about Google's Droid? Not there either. Your apps will be rewritten (and re-tested) on every platform there is. The reason that we were all making web apps before the iPhone was that web apps actually work everywhere. JavaScript+HTML is the data interchange format for executable code (delivering what Java was supposed to). Don't like Apple's phone? Get a new one, your email, photos and web applications will continue to work there. Man that sounds nice, doesn't it.

If Apple is pissing off developers, I personally think this is great. Instead of building yet another iPhone app that Apple has to test and only your friends will ever use, you'll think about building your own hardware, or an app for another phone, or a web app that will be usable on any device for decades. Better yet, build a WebAppStore that works exactly like the AppStore, but for web applications.

You can pound your fists all you want, but only a couple of your peers are even listening.

[Discuss at Hacker News]


  • instapaper for iphone is $5.

    I've bought a bunch of games for >$3. It is addicting.

    By Blogger Ivan, At 11/19/09 6:28 PM  

  • Totally agree.

    The iphone is just a phase and people will get over it eventually.

    Smart developers/companies should be writing for the mobile web to future proof their investment. They can then spend 5 minutes creating a quick launch icon for the iphone and put that on the app store.

    By Anonymous Kimble, At 11/19/09 7:05 PM  

  • The mobile web is still largely missing a business model. Also, I'd like to see you write Madden Football in HTML+javascript. Some native apps are native for a reason.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11/19/09 7:15 PM  

  • "I didn't buy the iPhone because of you, I bought it because of Apple."

    Total fanboy comment. Everyone else bought it because it makes phone calls and fetches data. That sort of thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11/19/09 7:41 PM  

  • Ivan: Yes! I am pleased that InstaPaper is doing well. It could easily have been a web app, tho. Its mostly using the AppStore for monitization.

    Anonymous: Part of my argument is that we are using the AppStore solely for monitization, which seems unnecessary. As for games, we played Tiger (LCD) Football years ago ... you could easily make *that* in a web app.

    Anonymous (x2): You misinterpret my statement. When I said "Apple", I meant, the apps that Apple ships on the phone (taking calls, mobile email, mobile web, etc).

    By Blogger ynniv, At 11/19/09 7:51 PM  

  • I would like to see a good, native version of Madden on the iPhone.

    By Blogger Jeffrey, At 11/19/09 8:32 PM  

  • What many people tend to forget is that when Apple first brought the phone out, the mobile web is how they wanted developers to write for it. In fact, it's exactly what they told them to do. That's why there was no SDK to begin with and developers pitched a fit over that. And not just a little fit. A two-year old in the super market, spinning on their back temper tantrum of a fit.

    By Blogger Erik, At 11/19/09 9:07 PM  

  • Do you really believe the folklore that the iPhone SDK was an afterthought that developers cajoled Apple into creating? Apple, the company that took out the traditional music industry with their music store years before, didn't plan on repeating that with mobile applications? The company that denied it was developing a phone, denied that they would add video to that phone. When they asked you to develop web apps and kept their lips sealed about the platform in the works that was clearly in their plans from the beginning. I love my MacBook Pro and my iPhone, but I'm not naive enough to believe every myth propagated by the reality distortion field.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11/19/09 11:00 PM  

  • I am anonymous x2 above (I meant to be Moschops, but neglected to press the right button); I did misinterpret your statement. As such, now that I understand more clearly what you meant, I'd like to retract that comment and instead suggest that whilst it's great that you find the supplied Apple apps to be so very useful (and indeed, I'm sure they are useful), there is a potential infinity of additional applications from other parties that Apple is throttling through their chosen business model.
    On a personal note, I find it very distasteful that Apple dictate what can and cannot be run on hardware that does not belong to them.

    By Anonymous Moschops, At 11/20/09 5:46 AM  

  • Like so many other apologetics for Apple, you should consider examining the Android SDK before trotting it out as your standard 'just as bad if not worse' counterpoint, particularly with respect to UI issues. Most Droid apps *will* be working fine and looking good on that Android tablet later - Android UIs are built in a manner which is not tied to a specific resolution unless the developer really works hard to do so.

    Google got this one right where Apple got it wrong. But the FUD is strong from the Apple fans, so elementary facts about the platform like this continue to be (deliberately) misunderstood and misrepresented.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11/20/09 9:00 AM  

  • The post to me seems to deal more with your desire to express an opinion than with the actual issues Developers have with the AppStore.

    "If Apple is pissing off developers, I personally think this is great."

    Have you ever considered guest-posting on TechCrunch? They'd love this kind of stuff.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11/20/09 9:43 AM  

  • Wow, thanks SO much for posting this. It's what I've been thinking (I'm only peripherally involved in the software business, but I am an Apple consumer) ever since people started whining about this.

    You know what I don't need? I don't need anything Michael "Google pays me under the table" Arrington SAYS I need. I don't need products from Panic, or Rogue Ameoba, or any other other high profile, outsized-self-opinion devs out there. Cause what they don't "get" is that the iPhone already HAS, built-in, all the things I really DO need. The IPHONE is the cake, kids; your little apps are "frosting."

    And, for what it's worth, I have paid as much as $19.99 for an app that had actual VALUE to me, and that actually WORKED. Go figure...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11/20/09 1:22 PM  

  • I wouldn't have even considerd an Apple phone until the API was released, because before that, the thing was *only just* a smart phone and far from 'the best'.

    Also, I did purchase mine for the rich application ecosystem and I think you'll find that Apple agrees that their customers want apps - hence their app ads (There's an app for everything).

    Check yourself.

    By OpenID openid, At 11/22/09 10:11 PM  

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