[FoRK] $100M for iPhone Developers

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Fri Mar 7 07:32:45 PST 2008

On Mar 7, 2008, at 6:23 AM, Luis Villa wrote:

> I agree that it is a vastly superior device but I guess I don't see it
> as so superior that there is a multi-million dollar business hidden in
> there.
>
> Or to put it another way- are there even any KPCB-sized companies
> whose software is OSX-only, much less iPhone only?

I'm not sure it's a valid comparison;  OSX is definitely the second  
(or third, if you count desktop Linux) platform in the end-user  
computer space.  OTOH, the KPCB bet seems predicated on the idea that  
the iPhone is a qualitatively new platform, fundamentally different  
from the devices that came before it.  Whether or not you think the  
new fund is a good idea is probably directly related to whether and to  
what degree you buy that hypothesis.

>> The whole distribution thing (App Store) is huge.
>
> Why? No other platform has decided that's a good thing.

Two responses:

(1) The fact that nobody's done something before doesn't mean it's not  
worth doing.

(2)  In fact, I'd say that in essence it *has* been done before, just  
slightly differently.  I recall back in the day when we were doing  
Ding! learning a surprising and disheartening fact about PC users:   
something like 85%+ of PC users never installed an application (not  
counting games, content CDs, AOL and so on) on their PC --- they just  
used what came bundled.  Getting into vendor bundles was THE means of  
getting third-party apps "out there" --- in effect, the vendor bundles  
were a kind of "store."

That observation of market behavior helped spur a mass exodus in the  
software apps business from desktop software to Web software.

I'm not sure to what degree this holds anymore, users are somewhat  
savvy than they were at that point 10-odd years ago.  But nonetheless,  
it's worth pointing out that it's error-prone to try to extrapolate  
from our experiences as geeks to the behaviors of the mass market of  
non-geeks.  In this case, users have become used to using e.g. the  
iTunes Store, and that presumably low-friction experience could  
translate nicely to software purchasing.

In any case I think it's safe to say that *without* this sort of thing  
you're *never* going to see a mass market for native apps on this  
device.  Even with the momentum that it's got I wouldn't expect to see  
a mass market retail presence for this stuff --- buying software off- 
the-shelf in some brick-and-mortar outlet is going the way of the  
dodo.  And buying and downloading and installing onesies from  
individual developers' web sites lacks some of the advantages of  
centralization and consistency of user experience that a consolidated  
"online" market for apps would have.

Again, I think Apple has learned some significant lessons from the  
iPod, and I for one am interested in seeing whether or not these  
lessons translate to the iPhone.

$0.02,

jb


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