2/24/08
10:18 am

iPhone SDK Brings Up Distribution Issues

If you believe the rumors, the iPhone SDK is going to be delayed until March. But the SDK is more than just a “development kit,” it will most likely also come with a distribution method.
Two worlds collide here: the mobile phone world and the computer software world. In the mobile phone world, you get your application on a phone by making a deal with the phone company. And you need to have money and power to do that. They are the gatekeepers, and act as the distributors of the applications, collecting money and paying royalties to the developer/publisher. They only allow a few applications at a time, and have no direct way to contact them. It is all back-room deals.
On the other hand, computer software is a complete open distribution. Anyone can make a Mac application, distribute it, and collect money, keeping it all. Apple even gives us the tools to make applications, right down to an installer builder. Tons of 3rd party application companies, from Microsoft and Adobe to single-person shops in spare bedrooms offer great software. Apple also seems to be happy to feature everyone on the Apple.com Web site.
So which of these two extremes will be the model for 3rd-party iPhone applications? Will Apple insist that approved apps be downloaded only through iTunes store and then pay royalties? Or will Apple just open it up? Maybe something in between?
If Apple follows the path of the mobile phone companies and keeps a tight reign on distribution, then that is bad news. This has only lead to the stifling of innovation. For instance, the mobile phone companies favor boring game clones featuring licensed characters over innovative play. A single person with a great idea can’t hope to see their app on a phone unless they have the time and money to deal with business issues.
No matter how great the SDK is when it comes out, and how excited developers are about it, look for the distribution model to predict how successful 3rd-party applications will be.

Comments: One Response to “iPhone SDK Brings Up Distribution Issues”

    mike b
    2/24/08 @ 1:14 pm

    If we have to pay for these apps then without a doubt i will jailbreak my phone and im sure i wont be the only one

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