An Apple doesn’t change its spots, but it is still the sweetest fruit

By February 5, 2010Apple, Google, Mobile

image Developers have been encouraged of late by improvements in Apple’s App Store approval process.  Reportedly, approvals are happening faster, tolerance of banned private code has increased, feedback to developers has improved and rejection decisions are being reversed following appeals.

That is all good news, but it doesn’t change the fact that getting approval remains an unpredictable business and developers play second fiddle to Apple’s own strategic imperatives.  In an ideal world there would be a staged process with criteria against each stage.

I’m writing about this today following the news this week that Apple is asking developers not to use location information ‘primarily’ to enable local advertising.  From Apple’s iPhone Dev Centre:

If you build your application with features based on a user’s location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.

This request hits right at the heart of an application’s ability to monetise.  It seems crazy that Apple would undermine the economics of its application ecosystem like this.

I think the explanation lies in the fact that deep within its culture Apple is an end-to-end customer solution business, and hence their ecosystem partners will always play second fiddle.  Specifically around mobile advertising, I can understand that they recently made an acquisition that they want to leverage, but this is the wrong way to go about it.  The right way would be to build features into the iPhone SDK that make it easy for developers to build Quattro ads into their apps.

The bad news is that the competition from Android App Stores remains weak with just 25,000 apps to Apple’s 140,000.  Silicon Alley Insider sums up its problems thus:

Android’s marketplace is suffering from device fragmentation, a lax return policy, weak volumes of downloads, and a lack of strong developer support.

and:

developers are not generating real revenue via Android apps

To these meaty problems I would add that they have nothing to match Apple’s range of monetisation options, including in-app purchases.  Outside iTunes payment options remain fragmented.

It will only be when the competition gets stronger that we will discover whether Apple has the capability to change its mindset.