Recursive Awesome in the Press
Local app developers unsure of iPad’s niche
By STEVE ALEXANDER, Star Tribune
Apple’s new iPad tablet computer may create a broad new market for Twin Cities companies that write applications, or apps, for the iPhone.
But local app developers, who are among the thousands of firms nationwide spawned from the iPhone’s popularity, remain a bit unsure of what that opportunity is.
“It looks like a great device,” said Keith Pichelman, chief executive officer of Concrete Software Inc., a 20-employee developer in Eden Prairie that has about 25 iPhone apps. “But who is going to buy it and what is that person going to use it for?”
“No one has a clue what’s going to happen with the iPad,” said Justin Grammens, co-founder of Recursive Awesome, a Minneapolis firm that writes iPhone apps for clients such as Best Buy. “Some people say it’s the next greatest thing in computing, but I don’t believe that. However, I do believe that having more Apple devices out there will help companies like us that are developing apps.”
The best news for local app developers Wednesday was Apple’s claim that nearly all existing iPhone apps would run on the iPad “virtually unmodified” — which means it will cost developers little or nothing to offer their apps to iPad users. Their companies operate a high volume, low-cost business, typically selling apps for $1 to $2.
Apple also offered developers new software tools to make it easy to tweak iPhone app graphics so they’ll look better on the iPad’s larger screen.
“I’m going to download it and check it out,” Grammens said.
Others plan to take a different route.
“I’m going to buy an iPad and see how my existing iPhone apps work on it,” said John Muchow, founder of 3 Sixty Software in Deephaven, a one-man operation that hires contract programmers. “I want to see if my apps look good, and whether it makes sense for me to take advantage of things that make the iPad different from the iPhone,” such as an optional plug-in keyboard.
Source: Star Tribune
Developers chafe under stricter iPhone specsBy WENDY LEE, Star Tribune
Tech entrepreneur Dan Grigsby said his faith in Apple’s iPhone is slipping and he’s calling it quits.
Two years after opening popular Mobile Orchard, an iPhone podcast and development website, Grigsby is shutting it down. He is among the developers worldwide who say they are fed up with the growing restrictions Apple is placing on developing iPhone applications.
“I made a pragmatic decision to leave,” Grigsby said. “I felt like I was constrained and things I wanted to be able to do. … Apple stood in the way.”
Apple Inc. recently announced it would further limit the programming tools that developers are allowed to use for the new iPhone OS 4 and iPad, among other changes. The changes sparked controversy in the tech community because they shut out software maker Adobe Labs from bringing its Flash platform to the iPhone.
As a result, developers say, it can take longer to launch an iPhone application compared with those on other smart phones because it must meet Apple’s stricter standards. Disgruntled developers say the latest restrictions will hamper Apple’s abilities to compete against Google’s Android operating system, which allows developers to immediately sell applications instead of going through Apple’s sometimes lengthy approval process.
But analysts said the restrictions make sense, given Apple’s corporate culture. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has a history of wanting to make its programs adhere to the company’s style, from MP3s sold at its iTunes store to its computers, analysts said.
“Apple is betting that consumers prefer the iTunes model. [It] is a very controlled model, yet at the same time, it seems to be winning in the marketplace,” said George John, chairman of the Marketing Department at University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “It’s a bet Apple is taking, that uniformity achieved through control will overcome the variety that comes from lack of control.”
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
For Grigsby, the restrictions hampered any excitement he felt about the new iPad.
“I was soul-searching,” Grigsby said about his ultimate decision to leave iPhone application development. “I needed to do work in a space where I don’t always need to ask permission first.”
A longtime developer and digital entrepreneur, Grigsby oversaw the sale of two e-commerce start-ups — Merchant Planet and PayMe.com — and co-founded two of Minnesota’s largest events in the tech and Web community. A year ago, he spent a couple of months on a slot machine game for the iPhone that Apple rejected. The game would have spun images of various iPhone app icons and give users a free application if the icons lined up. The rejection and frustration almost caused him to quit, but then he decided to stick it out.
His company, Mobile Orchard, an iPhone developer news site and podcast, was founded in 2008. It was a profitable company, earning the bulk of its sales by selling on average $1,000 in-person training sessions on how to become an iPhone application developer, Grigsby said. He declined to state annual sales.
Others stick with Apple
Other local software developers said even though they aren’t happy with some aspects of the new policy, they are still moving forward with plans to create future applications for the iPhone.
“At the end of the day, if you want to play on their platform, you have to follow their rules,” said Sam Schroeder, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Recursive Awesome, which builds iPhone and Android applications for companies such as Best Buy Co. Inc.
Schroeder said one of the changes in Apple’s policy is not allowing third-party programs that can track how consumers use the iPhone applications. Schroeder said that change could potentially cause his company to spend time removing such programs from about half of its 10 iPhone applications.
Schroeder said he wished Apple’s policies were less restrictive. Developers have to wait for approval from Apple until their applications are available for sale to users, unlike other platforms, such as the Android.
“In the Android market, you are innocent until proven guilty,” Schroeder said. “At Apple, you are guilty until they decide you are innocent.”
“There’s a lot of competition for people who develop apps,” said Michael McGrath, CEO of the Thomas Group, an operations management consulting firm in Irving, Texas. “If someone wants to not work with Apple, hopefully they will have other business opportunities, but they won’t affect Apple at all.”
Grigsby insists he’s leaving iPhone application development for good, although he will still use his MacBook and iPhone for personal use.
On his blog ( www.mobileorchard.com ), Grigsby said he didn’t expect Google to pay him to make a community website for the Android, but suggested he is interested in doing so.
Days later, Google sent him two Android phones.
Source: Star Tribune
Can Android survive its forks and fragments?
by Molly Wood
Rejoice, ye Nexus One owners, for you and only you are the lucky recipients of multitouch. And I’m wondering: does this software update for this one Android phone spell serious trouble for the whole endeavor? There are now, on the market, Android phones running versions of the OS that range from 1.5 to 2.1, and the Nexus One keeps pulling farther ahead of even the once-mighty Motorola Droid. There are brand new reports that Google has forked its mobile OS, and Android drivers have been removed from the Linux kernel. And developers are feeling unhappy with their profits from the Android Marketplace and left out of Nexus One development altogether. Is this supposedly open-source, unified mobile OS forking and sporking its way to a developer revolt? And can a mobile OS without a thriving army of app developers ever hope to take down the iPhone?
Nexus One, the anointed one
It’s not completely unusual for mobile phones to be running different versions of their respective operating systems, or to be unable to upgrade. Older Windows Mobile phones running Windows Mobile 5.0 or 6.0 can’t be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.5, and even support for upgrades from 6.1 is spotty and on a phone-by-phone basis. But it is unusual (and confusing) that phones currently for sale–or even upcoming, like the Motorola Devour, which will ship with Android 1.6–are carrying such widely varying versions of the OS. And that, coupled with the variances in the phones themselves, is making the job of developers a heck of a lot harder.
“The game has changed a lot with multiple devices and different screen sizes and different processors and manufacturers,” says Justin Grammens, founder of Minneapolis-based Localtone, a mobile app development company. “The one thing that’s been really frustrating is that the carriers are putting out phones with Android 1.5 on them, still. I don’t know why any carrier would put out older versions. I would hope that Verizon would see [the Nexus One upgrade] and say, we should push this out to the Droid, too.”
So, is it the carriers’ fault that certain phones have better versions of the OS? Well, kind of. A Verizon spokesperson says Google pushes out the software upgrades, they test them, and they decide when it’s appropriate to push them out to devices. However, the software may not be compatible with older or lower-powered phones, or, she suggested, some phones may get older–or maybe just lesser–versions of Android so as to maintain “diversity of choice” and “a different price point.”
For its part, Google said the carriers do indeed have control over which phones get updated when. A Google spokesperson says, “Not all Android phones are managed devices. Google operates the [over-the-air] server for devices branded ‘with Google’ or ‘Google’ (as with the Nexus One). However, it is not at Google’s sole discretion to issue software updates. Our partners, such as OEMs and operators, decide in the majority of cases when and what updates to issue to their customers.” So, ok, it’s the carriers’ fault, then.
But hang on: Google’s not totally off the hook. The company has claimed that the Nexus One and its 1GHz Snapdragon processor simply has the horsepower to support multitouch, while, apparently, the (roughly) 600MHz Droid does not. I guess we’re to assume that the little Droid Eris, with its 528MHz processor, couldn’t possibly handle multitouch or the 2.1 upgrade. Except I think that’s probably horse dookie. The Palm Pre and diminutive Palm Pixi are similarly powered and both support native capacitive multitouch. And the Android 1.5-powered HTC Hero is running multitouch just fine, thank you very much. And we know that the Droid and most of the other Android phones on the market have the hardware support necessary to enable multitouch. In sum, almost any of the current crop of Android phones could offer the additional features of 2.1, but…they just don’t, because of a combination of carriers wanting variable pricing and Google wanting specially branded Google phones with all the bells and whistles.
I can certainly understand, at least to some degree, the rationale that different phones at different prices provide more or fewer features as appropriate. But it seems like those features should maybe come in terms of speed, screen size, number of megapixels and so on, especially if the result of all these versions and phones is that developers ultimately run for the hills, tearing out clumps of hair as they go. And let’s not forget that the Symbian mobile OS just went fully open-source, so developers in search of a less controlling app development environment can look that way if Android gets too annoying. So, can Google overcome and keep the Android app machine chugging? Maybe, but it’s going to take some nurturing, and Grammens and other developers aren’t exactly feeling the love.
“They released the Nexus One without even releasing a developer kit so no one could test any applications against it,” he says. And the multiple versions of the OS, the multiple devices, the carrier confusion and the occasional developer snubs do suggest that app writers and Google might have slightly different goals. After all, he says, “at the end of the day, I think Google just wants to sell ads.”
Overall, Grammens is still optimistic about the Android opportunity. He says he sells plenty of apps in the Android marketplace and thinks that if Android phones and the iPhone ever end up in head-to-head competition, the phones will speak for themselves. And I agree, to a certain extent, but Google also has every chance to blow it at this crucial juncture. You don’t have to have a completely hegemonic, closed-source platform like the iPhone to succeed–and it’s not like iPhone developers are loving the willy-nilly app-approval process on that side of the fence, either. But it sounds to me like Google needs to get its apps in gear, communicate better with its developers, and do a better job of explaining to consumers like me why some phones will get more Android love than others. It’s time to do some PR, now, or I fear the Android experiment will power down just as it’s starting to get some traction.
New technologies, savvy developers in line to give iPhone a run for its money
By Arundhati Parmar
F&C illustrationThe numbers are eye-popping.In just 15 months since it opened its App Store, Apple reports that it’s had 50 million customers, who’ve downloaded a total of 2 billion items, selecting among some 85,000 apps that have been developed.No wonder so many application developers in Minnesota and elsewhere love iPhone and the App Store. And …
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