Greg's bite: Android app developer blues
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Greg's bite: Android app developer blues

By Greg Mills

The well oiled machine that is the Apple iTunes/App store is a far cry from the Android apps stores. While there are stories in the press about various app developers beginning to write apps for the Google smart phones, there are also just as many stories about developer's serious problems dealing with that loosely controlled  "go to market" system.  

Google engineer Andy Rubin was quoted as saying the Android platform is "still seeing the 1.0 version of the ecosystem." The race to quantity has resulted in a quality program for Android Apps. The percentage of apps that crash all the time are much higher that what we see in the iOS platform. Looser controls mean less quality for the end user.

While developers moan and groan about Apple's stringent and less-than-transparent review process and express great anger at their control over both content and the working of the apps, Apple developers who do things right get paid. Some of them get paid big bucks -- and we are talking checks in the mail like a slot machine.  

Android, on the other hand, is a mixed bag for marketing that consists of at least three app stores and numerous ways to pay for apps -- if indeed the apps aren't pirated in the first place. Since there are countries with Android cell phones that don't have an official online store for apps, the piracy anti-market system prevails.  I submit that when people are trained to steal apps, it will be almost impossible to wean them off the free stolen programing and get them to begin to pay for apps.  

The closed Apple system of controlling hardware, OS software and App content creates order out of the chaos we see in the Android app scene. The process will work its way out, but the result will be profound and so great for the Android platform. Google is struggling to address the mess, but really is powerless to fix it.

The problems with the Android market are well known and the reasons are numerous as to why anarchy reigns in those app markets. First, the notion  of the "open source" operating system is both a blessing and a curse to developers. Since the OS is "open" in such a way it is easy to figure out how get around control elements to allow unpaid apps to work, that is exactly what has happened.  

Google tried to fix the piracy problem by putting an "authorization system" in the newest Android OS to force apps to confirm they were authorized with an online data base before launching. Great idea, but the new app authorization element was hacked within days and a "fix" was posted on line.  

Another problem is that while Google stands to make a lot of money long term on the Android market, they have a serious conflict of interest due to advertising that creates a cash flow to them, even on pirated apps. Due to the problems developers have getting paid though the crazy Android app store setup, a lot of developers look to advertising to get paid. Some smartphone users will tolerate abusive and obtrusive advertising and some won't.    

Another challenge to the Android app store situation is the coming "App Inventor Program", now in beta that will let anyone build a primitive Android app with a graphic drag and drop system.  This will flood the market with crappy little "hobby apps" that will further dilute the professional Android apps in an ever enlarging app store inventory. Finding the gems among the coal nuggets will be a trick a lot of Android phone owners won't be up to.  Developers are going to be quick to abandon a platform that won't pay them for their work as they were to come to it.

The addition of Rim's OS, HP's Palm OS, Mobile Vista 7, Nokia's OSs and Android to the Apple store means an awful lot of platforms for developers to choose from and a serious shakeout is certain to happen. For my money, two or three platforms are all that there is room for long term.  I see Microsoft, HP and Rim throwing in the towel first on creating a viable app store, followed by Nokia. Apple and Android are the only two platforms that are likely to survive. Look for Google Android to step in with a viable slate computer OS that should have been a natural Microsoft market. 

While the Android Hobby App program will create an interesting situation where apps are easy to build and post on line, the dilution of the Android app market with numerous weak apps will be profound.  Since Google doesn't control all the app stores that sell Android apps they won't be able to call the shots on how apps are accepted, displayed or sold.   

When Apple launches a drag and drop "Hobby App Developer program" they will be able to at least deny them access to the general app store or segregate the Hobby Apps into their own category from the professional Apps. Who cares if there are 20,000,000 apps at the Android stores if 99% of them are crappy and the good apps are deeply hidden in all the junk?  Apple is too smart to let that happen in the well ordered market they have created.  

Thats Greg's bite for today.

(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; His email is gregmills@mac.com )

 
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