When Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 in Barcelona, Spain, last week, it did so without a lot of the flash that accompanied earlier product introductions. Samsung said it had boiled down its design priorities to a mere handful. As Samsung marketing exec David Park and others walked through these priorities, it struck me that they could provide an equally compelling roadmap for the developers who will be making apps for the Galaxy S5, or even competing devices like the iPhone 5s, for example.
The only thing that seemed to happen more suddenly and quickly than the success of Flappy Bird was the vilification of its creator after he shut it down. I think you have to remember that consumer apps and mobile games are entertainment, and there is a long history in the entertainment industry of superstars who have tried to walk away from their greatest success.
Talk may be cheap, but Alibaba is getting ready to start having some very expensive conversations with mobile game developers. Last month, according to a report in the South China Morning Post, the Chinese e-commerce firm said it was launching a new platform for developers to create mobile games, the kind of announcement that might not have gotten a lot of attention were it not for the pricey incentive that came along with it.
There are probably a number of app developers who would like to fling something painful at Rovio. And you could hardly blame them. Not that the creators of Angry Birds would be the only targets. Since the New York Times reported that the NSA and a similar organization in Britain have been culling personal data via smartphone apps, the floodgates for criticism and even hacking have been blown wide open.
There's been plenty of talk about the rising anger between the majority of workers and the elitist "1 percent," but in the mobile world developers are competing even harder to be in the 0.01 percent. According to Gartner, that's the percent of developers who will actually make money from what they produce. This finding quickly generated a slew of negative headlines like, "The sad truth is you probably won't strike it rich by making a mobile app" and "Nobody wants to pay for apps." What was missing from the coverage was the following quote from Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney: "Many mobile apps are not designed to generate revenue, but rather are used to build brand recognition and product awareness or are just for fun. Application designers who do not recognize this may find profits elusive."
Ever since high school, I've known guys who put aside time in their week, no matter what else is going on, to get together at one of their friends' houses to play console-based video games from early evening until the wee hours of the following morning. These kinds of parties have a particular ambience, if I can call it that, that is charactered by a deep focus and intensive competitiveness, and more than a little trash-talking. It's hard to imagine that same thing happening virtually, using smartphones--but that's where we're headed.
What Nokia did to Symbian and Meego app developers this month was the online equivalent to breaking up with someone via a Post-It note. In fact, the closure of the Nokia Store for Symbian on Jan. 2 was accompanied by a Tweet that would have comfortably fit on a small piece of paper: "That was it; we are officially closed. Thank you all for the past years!" For developers who remained loyal to Symbian, Meego and its long-established community of users, however, it would be hard to see the abrupt shutdown of the app store as a thank-you.
There is something incredibly sad and out of touch about KnowMyApp.org, a site created by the CTIA. KnowMyApp.org offers test results on the top 50 iOS and Android apps and attempts to estimate what kind of impact consumers could expect in terms of data use if they download it. What's branded as an educational tool becomes, in effect, a form of public shaming for developers and a tool to discourage app discovery in favor of conserving wireless spectrum. And it will do absolutely nothing.
Stop dreaming about a curved glass iPhone. Just stop. As much as Apple's latest patent may tempt developers otherwise, that's not the thing they should be focused on.