Friday, January 12, 2007

Apple, please do not forget the developers (again)!

I wrote my last post on the iPhone at midnight in Europe, right after "watching" the launch, then I went to bed. I woke up and I found out I was the only idiot who wrote something negative on the iPhone... It is sad to be alone... Since I am currently alone at home in California with family 10,000 miles away, it is even worst...

Jokes apart, I thought about it a bit more and I did not change my mind (double idiot). It is a smartphone, it has a limited market, you are going to sweat on the good looking screen while calling someone (I know you sweat as well, Steve) and it is nothing terribly new (check this image about an LG phone and let me know how different it looks... If LG had Steve Jobs, it would be a cool company ;-)

Probably, it is a great Video iPod with network connectivity. A cool looking PDA. A small networked tablet PC. Three niches. It is going to be all over Silicon Valley (and I am going to get one) but I stick with the idea that is never ever going to challenge the RAZR, until they have a mini or a nano.

That said, one thing is really bothering me, if it is true (never trust Apple rumors...): they plan to lock the phone completely, so that nobody will be able to add any application.
According to the NYT, Steve Jobs said:
“We define everything that is on the phone. You don’t want your phone to be like a PC.[...] These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them"
I beg to differ.

A locked device works well for single-purpose ones. Like an iPod. Multi-purpose devices (also known as smartphones, like the iPhone) do many things and letting the user decide what to do is key. We are quite different out there. The ability to add third party apps has been the reason why Palm has been successful (together with the synching capability). You can't lock a smartphone or people will develop for different platforms and innovation will go elsewhere.

Since I sort of represent the largest development community in mobile (we are getting close to one million downloads...), what I am reading is: go away, we do not want you. We won't be able to have the Funambol plug-in on the iPhone. No open source push-email. No open source PIM synching. No way to put all the apps that people built on our platform on the iPhone.

That is stupid. Where will our community go? To OpenMoko, first. To Microsoft Windows Mobile, second. If you are a startup and you have a cool app in mind, where will you develop it first? On Windows. Same happened for the Mac. If you have the next killer VOIP client, you will build it for Windows Mobile, not the iPhone. There, you will be stuck with whatever Apple gives to you. Even if it sucks or you do not want to get locked on iMac... Innovation will go elsewhere.

Outside developers are a phenomenal resource. Look at Google. They have the brightest people on the planet but the coolest products were written by non-Google people (then they bought them). Innovation came elsewhere. It is not different for Apple.

Apple, you chose to build a smartphone, not me. I was not expecting it. Now it is much better for you to let us develop for it... Niche smartphone with no developers is a niche of a niche. Lock the iPhone nano, which will do just two things well, it will be fast, small and supercool. Not that smartphone.

Man, I feel alone...