The 7 app developer moments that mattered in 2013
They came, they saw, they downloaded. Well, some of them downloaded.
Consumer interest in apps continued to climb in 2013, but for the developers who created them, the year was filled with a variety of platform changes, concerns over how user data is handled, an emphasis on analytics and more than a few surprising mergers and acquisitions.
Thus, FierceDeveloper is taking a look back on the year that was to put some of the biggest stories in perspective.
1. iOS 7 Launch: We knew it was coming, but Jony Ive did much more than make cosmetic changes to one of the industry's most popular mobile operating systems. Despite the inevitable grumbling from some of its critics, most Apple developers seemed quick to respond, augmenting current apps and games and creating new ones with iOS 7 features and functionality specifically in mind.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "It's a good time to cash in," Carson Barker, CEO of Appspire.me, said just a few days before the iOS 7 launch event. "[Developers] are going to want to get into that buzz quickly and capitalize on all the interest."
2. Google launches Google Play Games: Of all the announcements that came out of Google's annual I/O conference, this was probably the most significant for developers in that it opened multi-player game development to a much wider pool of Android app creators. And after the announcement, firms quickly stepped into the fold--suggesting this will become an area of increased competition for developer service providers in 2014.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "What takes the longest is getting across the multi-player concept," said Gavin Uhma, whose firm GoInstant launched its own service to rival Google Play Games. "You need to think about scenarios that weren't possible in the single-user paradigm. We're at the point where people really have to wrap their heads around that."
3. Bluetooth comes of age: After years of being largely relegated to users of those obnoxious earpieces, Bluetooth took a leap forward with the introduction in June of API 18/Bluetooth Low Energy, which manufacturers like Google used to create what are called Bluetooth Smart Ready Devices. That could mean big things for Android app developers, while Apple's use of the technology in iBeacons could create even bigger potential around location-based services.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "Hands-free audio was just the first wave," said Suke Jawanda, chief marketing offer at the Bluetooth SIG. "There are going to be so many use cases now."
4. BlackBerry's downward spiral: The company hoped for a comeback with BB10 and its Z10 and Q10 devices, but instead a lack of reputable apps and weak smartphone sales took a big bite out of the firm's market share. Some developer support remains, but it appears to be dwindling. Having the company seek out a buyer and then end the process didn't ease the sense of uncertainty, either.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "I think the BB10 will have a tough fight ahead to win back their market share. It is not always the best technology that wins out," said Daniel Jeppsson, founder of Funkoi Games based in Silicon Valley. "That said, I think there is a significant, entertainment-hungry, fun crowd of people that developers can cater to on the BlackBerry platform."
5. Curse of the patent trolls: After celebrating its first anniversary, the App Developers Alliance took on intellectual property disputes as a main area of advocacy, urging the government to stop firms that try to shut down developers based on overly-broad patents. Surprisingly, there was some response from New York senator Charles Schumer in the form of proposed legislation which would ease the investigation of potentially bogus claims.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "All they do is buy patents and sue," said Daniel Nazer, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "They wait for other people to sell and then they jump out of the shadows and say, 'We want a piece.'"
6. Developers become prime M&A targets: Facebook emerged as one of the big players in app maker acquisitions in 2013, first with Parse and later Onavo, both of which provide the social networking giant with expertise in mobile backup-as-a-service and mobile device management. Other big deals included Google's acquisition of driving app developer Waze and Apple's purchase of Topsy. However, it wasn't always clear if the developers were being bought for their app, their talent or both.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "Most likely you shouldn't go into a project in an attempt to be acquired through this type of transaction. If that is your strategy, you may be better off applying for a job at the company you think will be acquiring you," said Andrew Maltin, co-founder of MEDL Mobile based in Fountain Valley, Calif. "It must be something you really want to do. They will typically discard your technology so you must evaluate based on the job you are being offered."
7. Tizen tests the waters: Samsung released a slew of SDKs at its first developer conference, but its real impact may come from its collaboration with Intel and others around a mobile operating system called Tizen. Demos at Mobile World Congress in February were followed up by a considerable show of support for Tizen by dozens of other firms last month. This could be one of the biggest areas to watch in 2014.
What they told FierceDeveloper: "The fact that it's a Linux initiative is significant. There is deep trust there, which is helpful," said Appbackr CEO Trevor Cornwell. "There is also tremendous support from the infrastructure players like Samsung, like Intel, in making it successful. There are resources to make this go. Tizen also goes beyond what you can do in other places. There is the opportunity to have control over the device in ways that aren't permitted on iOS and on Android."
What did we miss? Use the comments section below to offer your thoughts on the biggest stories of the year, the products and services that mattered and the trends that will change your business strategy in 2014.