« iPhone SDK: Mobile reasons for optimism | Main | Asset or Liability? Context Matters. »

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c285b53ef00e550f260c68833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Scorpion, the Frog and the iPhone SDK:

Comments

hank williams

Mark,

Thank so much for the link and for the kind comments. As a very old school mac developer, also I totally agree with your analysis here about apple's general developer relations history.

Hank

Mark Sigal

No worries, and thank you. Apple has a hugely vested interest in finding the balance between their impulse for complete control and their need to develop a real thriving developer ecosystem.

The scenario where a real platform with killer third party applications and breakout businesses emerge around the iPhone and iPod touch literally becomes the disruption point from which they can leverage their way into Microsoft type of dominance.

Cheers,

Mark

cw

you wrote:
"they are in the operational mode of 'groping' what it means to deliver a proper SDK..."

Are you sure that's not a typo?

In any case, it seems fairly obvious to this reader that your (and Hank's) previous experience as Mac developers is predisposing you to assume the worst from Apple. Both of you are ready and willing to predict doom for Apple and the iPhone by assuming that Steve Jobs will repeat the same mistakes that Apple made in the past against Microsoft. Indeed, your use of the scorpion fable implies that it's inevitable.

While possible, I don't buy it.

Remember, Jobs wasn't even at Apple during most of those years - he was booted in 85 and returned in 97. I believe the recent success of Apple is largely due to Jobs et al rejecting Apple's outmoded strategies from the 80's and early 90's.

Have a little patience. Creating a strong platform is a major undertaking. Apple does not have unlimited resources. I seems to me that Apple is using it's resources to carefully build the integrity of the platform with security and robustness as key goals. It's somewhat hysterical to paint this effort as some kind of 'god like' desire for absolute control.

Mark Sigal

Hi CW,

Totally fair knee jerk to my post.

That said, if you read through my blog, you will see that I have now written six fairly lengthy posts on the iPod touch and its potential as a mainstream mobile Wi-Fi platform.

The general tone in the posts is HUGE believer, pre-disposed to be frothing at the mouth but entirely pragmatic about the good, bad and ugly of the device itself, the SDK/APIs and Apple (culturally speaking).

If anything, I will fund and/or personally launch startups targeted at the opportunity so put me squarely in the believer camp.

In fact, my immediately two prior posts are titled:

1. Mobile reasons for optimism

2. Mobility Lives! The iPhone SDK looks awesome

Quite the contrary to hysterical or doom-saying perspective, my sense is that Apple has certain pre-dispositions that are part of their DNA.

They are also very cognizant of how history played in the PC wars and want this chapter to play out differently.

Plus, they are dealing with a device where optimal performance in a resource constrained environment is essential.

And, creating platforms is hard. Pretty much every company that I have built is a platform company so I know this fact at the skin, bones and oxygen level.

In trying to reconcile these sometimes conflicting variables, they have explicitly stated that they are talking to developers, talking to key customers and basically working through what is an iterative process.

I believe that the blogosphere is part of that equation and try to put forth a balanced view, looking at the different angles.

The reference to 'grope' is an axiom that we use when looking at new innovations. Grope is the place you begin when you are starting in the dark.

Then you 'ship the idea' since history suggests that vision and tactical realities don't perfectly mesh in 1.0.

From there you 'fix' as certain things just don't work as promised.

And then you 'iterate' to the bullseye.

Grope-Ship the Idea-Fix-Iterate.

I hope that that was what you were referring to as typo. Again, appreciate the note.

Best,

Mark

RIch

Funny, upon reading I thought that devs were the scorpion, not the frog.

Apple: "Why did you create so many battery-sucking, bloated apps?"
Devs: "It's in our nature."

If you give developers access to things that can break stuff or reduce the user experience, they will do so. Obviously not all of them, but just as obviously not none.

And while Apple will be vetting apps, I dare say they'll be inspecting the source of every one for any bad practices or even deliberate wrongdoing.

The history of MS development shows us that developers will not (all) just "do the right thing". Giving them a more effective stinger just makes it that much easier to kill the frog.

Mark Sigal

Rich, your points are dead-on. That is the paradox Apple has to manage through.

Optimize for critical mass, grow the developer ecosystem as big as possible, and sacrifice performance by giving up control.

Or, optimize for performance at all costs and run the risk of alienating developers who will then go to where the love is greatest.

The right answer is probably somewhere in the middle but, either way, perception has a way of becoming reality.

As to the premise of developers being scorpions that is a dangerous perspective.

All customers work with their own complete self interest front and center, and they will shoot themselves in the foot in the long term to get short term gains so the challenge whether the 'customer' is end user or developer is to keep this principal front and center, and be respectful of the priorities of your constituency.

I have no illusions that any scenario is perfect, pain free or without compromise but there is lots of pattern recognition of what works and what doesn't, and part of the goal of this post is to underscore the fact that Apple brings some baggage to the party, which shapes the perception of their audience somewhat.

Mark

SleepyFox

I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned the financial aspect of signing yet. The $99/299 developer program sign up is small-beer.

Who do you think will pay for Apple to sign your application? Or are you expecting them to just sign it without looking at it?

Have you ever tried to get an application through the Symbian-signed process?

Example costs here: https://www.symbiansigned.com/app/page/overview/testhouses_info?th_id=1

560 Euros ($880, at inter-bank rate, not including exchange mark-up or commission) for initial submission + 380 Euros ($600) per resubmission. This is for the simplest level of signing (express). For many the lead times and general unresponsiveness of the test houses is a far bigger issue than the cost, though the cost is high enough to prevent me, an ordinary developer, from being able to afford to get my home-brew application through the signing process.

Think very carefully about the implications of this. Add to this the documented incompatibility between the GPL and the Apple SDK agreement and I think we can see that the iPhone has a long way to go before becoming a platform for innovation.

Mark Sigal

Hey SleepyFox,

I am not sure what your specific point is. At first, it seemed that you were suggesting that low cost of SDK program is a good thing, then you seem to be suggesting that the real cost is one part hidden (app signing costs) and other part very clear -- time delays.

As to incompatibilities between different licenses and what they mean, hey I wrote this post, so I am highly sympathetic to red flags and one has to assume specific words are there for a reason.

That said, I can only imagine that the language in a Microsoft developer agreement is completely onerous yet that did not stop developers from embracing the platform en masse.

Again, no editorial comment on Apple or even Microsoft, just commenting on basic point that when one thinks of 'platforms for innovation' you need critical masse, you need good tools, you need will developers and a supported ecosystem to proliferate the innovation.

Until I see otherwise, to me that is the dog of innovation and everything else is that tail, albeit an important tail.

Cheers.

Mark

SleepyFox

Obviously I wasn't clear:

The combination of signing fees and the incompatibility of the SDK agreement with the GPL effectively stifles grass-roots development.

If the only people developing for the iPhone are corporates then this isn't exactly the 'platform for innovation' that I was hoping for.

Mark Sigal

Hi SleepyFox,

I respectfully disagree with your assessment as it seems to suggest that $99 is a hurdle for grass roots. I would call it a basic sniff test of seriousness, especially since the distribution is built into the model via AppStore.

Plus, the premise that GPL is the only acceptable license model for grass roots innovation is a little to "all or none" for my perspective, but obviously the market will decide.

Appreciate the clarification.

Mark

Zimmie

I think that SleepyFox isn't aware that the $99 is a once-per-year fee that lets *the developer* sign as many apps as he or she wishes. There is no other company that apps have to go through to get signed. The apps instead go through testing to get into the App Store. That testing is "free" (read: included in the $99 per year iPhone dev fee). Compare to Symbian where apps are submitted to a third party for testing and they only get signed if they pass.

As for the GPL incompatibilities, maybe it's incompatible with GPLv3 because of the code signing aspect, but I see no problem currently with GPLv2, BSD, or other "Free Software" licenses. The GPLv3 is arguably less free than the GPLv2 or BSD licenses at that.

At this point, it's too early to say whether the GPLv2 will be compatible with Apple's final SDK license agreement or not. The current agreement matches up with every single developer kit or API that Apple have released early to developers in the last decade. When the final release comes around, they have *always* toned down the non-disclosure parts of the license if not removed them entirely.

Regarding code signing, they aren't using it to squeeze money out of developers or even to secure the system, really. They're just using it to authenticate the source of the application and to make sure it hasn't changed since the original developer distributed it. That way, they don't need to prompt the user with the "This application has changed! Do you want to allow the new version to access the keychain items created by the old version?" dialog or that sort of thing. The code signing certificate could cost less, but it has to cost something so that there's at least a minimal money trail in case a developer writes a virus or somesuch.

zahadum

O/T:

the list u have for 'books i'm reading' does not have its own separate url and rss feed!

the only url you provide throws the reader out to the amazon store. however as time goes on, the reader will not be able to access the previous books you have read or the future ones you plan to read (why dont you let your subscribers vote on 1/3 of your future reading schedule?)

please add one that will provide aggregation/navigation for long-form readers (maybe even support blogging for each of those items).

(ie those of us from the other end of the twitter psychodemographic spectrum need be placed in a space on your web site that is not full of distractions - a place where they can scan through reviews (via mashups from amazon etc) without fully leaving your site).

Kontra

Apple had to put together the industry's broadest and deepest arsenal to create the iPhone platform and defend against myriad competitors:

Who can beat iPhone 2.0?
http://counternotions.com/2008/03/10/iphone2-competitors/

The iPhone is considered a success today, but just go back about three years before they started the project and consider the odds:

iPhone: The bet Steve Jobs didn’t decline
http://counternotions.com/2008/07/16/bet-iphone/

So there's a huge range of considerations to navigate: technical, financial, operational, etc. It's naive to think that a $150 billion company can act as a straight arrow and expose all its thinking, plans and ambitions with transparent candor, particularly in a cut-throat industry. As a shareholder I would want my CEO to not telegraph company intentions, pre-announce products, reveal timelines, etc. In fact, I'd want him to obfuscate as much as possible, and send competitors into blind alleys.

Is this a bit rough on developers? Sure. But third-party developers are but one part of the Apple ecosystem. I'm sure developers would be looking for other platforms if Apple were still a $15 billion company, not a $150 billion one, regardless of the technical or, dare I say, moral merits involved.

The iPhone is not an 'open' platform because Apple is a commercial entity. It's not likely to commit suicide by allowing competitors to suck off easy profits out the platform it has faced great odds to build. Frankly, there are no 'open' platforms in the mobile industry: if carriers want to 'close' something they will. Ask Android when and if their partners actually ship real phones.

So, yes, Apple will make profit-based decisions that will inconvenience some developers. That's not likely to change. Apple will make curatorial decisions on its own platform. Get over it, please. Since you may not be aware of Apple's plans, you may find some of its decisions arbitrary and capricious. That may also be because you just don't know what they have in store.

Copy&paste is great example of this. Just how hard could this be, right? Why not let third party developers quickly implement their own! Let a thousand flowers bloom. Just think through the gestural and future-platform ramifications of this for a nanosecond. I sure am glad Apple won't allow/encourage developers to do this.

As a platform provider, Apple has very diverse constraints compared to developers'.

Mark Sigal

Hey Kontra,

I appreciate your comments, and definitely get the many paradoxes that Apple must navigate to accomplish its goals.

In fact, in my post 'The Chess Masters,' I pretty much argue that Apple and Google are without peer:

http://thenetworkgarden.com/weblog/2008/03/the-chess-maste.html

And I have a seriously vested interest in Apple's success since we sold one of my companies to Apple - Me.com - as part of the Mobile Me initiative. I'm no Apple basher, to be sure.

That said, I have been working with Apple on and off as a developer/partner dating back to the early 90s so the points I raise are based on long history with the company, and also awareness of what it takes to build a successful platform.

Mind you, Microsoft is/was no angel but they did manage to win the hearts and minds of developers in a way that Apple never has (before iPhone SDK), and you know the axiom about those who ignore history being destined to repeat it so I only consider it a good thing to shine a light on these things.

Cheers,

Mark

Kontra

Mark,

Would you not agree that Microsoft's 'devotion' to developers (and ISVs) is one of the key factors that has prevented it to rapidly get into new markets with new tools, paradigms and platforms which may be necessary but undesired by its 'legacy' developer base?

So I look at this as an unpleasant but not quite avoidable consequence of making an omelet and breaking some eggs. Yes, it would be nice to have 20/20 hindsight and never make mistakes. But then the company would be moving very slowly and not taking the right bets.

Mark Sigal

Hey Kontra,

Your perspective is certainly a valid one but I would argue that Microsoft's undoing has been a product of three things, and ISV's have been passengers not drivers in each of these cases:

1) Legacy mindset that precludes them from reinvention or self-cannibalization (not to mention the fact that supporting so much legacy across so many system types is incredibly hard).

2) Loss of innovative, competitive culture post Gates.

3) Years of bad karma, antipathy from MS partners experiencing one too many zero sum outcomes at the hands of Microsoft. One only has to look inside Intel to see that glee at work -- and they have certainly benefited second most to Microsoft from Wintel.

For more fodder on this topic, check out:

Microsoft and the Collapse of Communism
http://thenetworkgarden.com/weblog/2007/03/microsoft_and_t.html

ISVs haven't stood in the way of Microsoft failing to become Google. They certainly aren't the delimiter on Microsoft failing to deliver iPod or iPhone.

If anything, ISVs have been frustrated at all of the baggage and general sloth that Microsoft forces upon them, and their unwillingness to embrace truly open standards.

That's been my experience, although in fairness to them, I think Apple is trying to emulate the MS playbook, albeit for proprietary integration across hardware, software and services that Apple controls so I think the moral of the story is that anytime you have competitive, "winner take most/all" types of markets, some blood will be spilled.

Kontra

"anytime you have competitive, 'winner take most/all' types of markets, some blood will be spilled."

On that we agree.
Remember all the teeth gnashing by certain developers when Apple declared itself not to be NeXT, unwilling to venture into the enterprise? This latest tempest is just that, egg breaking, blood spilling.

nike shox

Remember all the teeth gnashing by certain developers when Apple declared itself not to be NeXT, unwilling to venture into the enterprise? This latest tempest is just that, egg breaking, blood spilling.

The comments to this entry are closed.

FIRST-TIME VISITOR?

FOLLOW MY TWEETS

READ MY COLUMN

PLAY AND LEARN WITH WALLACE

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Blog powered by Typepad
    Member since 07/2005