I’ve been taking the temperature of the mobile developers around the world on the news that Apple has — as TechCrunch reports — decided to remove any application that includes ‘overtly sexual content’.
Leaving aside the hypocrisy (again, TechCrunch is on the money), this is a serious, serious problem for mobile developers.
It’s all very well having to jump around the ridiculous and occasionally bizarre acceptance rulings that we’ve all heard about — but very quickly, those became standard. Sort of standard. Developers did the British thing: Grin and bear it. At least you knew where you were. Sort of. As long as you followed the semi-mythical ‘my-friend-said’ approach and submitted your app, all things being equal, you’d get approved and bish-bash-bosh, you were live in the app store.
Indeed I know of many developers who are very careful not to count their chickens — that is, they warn their investors (or their partners) that their app might not get accepted. They take every possible action to avoid any hold-ups at the acceptance stage, then, once they get the confirmation from Apple, they can dance the night away. Millions of dollars will arrive forthwith.
At least, that’s what most developers are hoping for. Developing for the iPhone is more or less a lottery. A real lottery. Some people make it big, most don’t — but, like buying a lottery ticket, at least you were in with a chance.
Now, however, the game has changed slightly.
The risk factor is significantly higher.
We’d all hoped that this was behind us, that — after the last debacle, when Phil Shiller was wheeled out — Apple had got the message: Stop arsing around.
There’s an issue now. A massive problem. How sure can you be that your application won’t be removed for some weird and wonderful reason? What happens if Apple decides to move into the baby market by creating a series of products and services for mothers-with-babies? Does that mean that Apple would switch off the thousands of baby applications currently in the store?
Or maybe not.
The problem is, we don’t know.
So now your investment profile is going to have to change. Because the platform is so easy to develop for, I think the short term impact of this increased uncertainty will be low. Very low. But it means when the rest of the marketplace catches up — when the likes of Nokia’s Qt running on Symbian and MeeGo begins to arrive in terms of an addressable population of hundreds of millions, there’s going to be an opportunity to win over a lot of developers by offering certain and predictable terms.
Likewise, Android and BlackBerry should be stepping up to the plate to make it clear that — in the light of this news from Apple — they won’t change the game overnight on their developers, that they’re committed to protecting their developer interests.
If you were sitting pretty earning a recurring $10k a month each from your 5 ‘babe’ apps on the App Store, you’re hardly likely to be that well disposed to Apple this week.
RIM? Nokia? Symbian? Android? Let’s be hearing from you please!