Already Hassan Bawab, founder and CEO of Magic Logix, a digital marketing agency and app developer, has seen one of his top developers quit after six years and switch to Android. ”They feel like they’re coding in outdated technology,” Bawab says.
Magic Logix’s Apple-turned-Android developer is just one of some 275,000 iOS developers in the US, but he isn’t alone in his frustration. Talk to iOS developers, and they’ll tell you the same thing: Apple is dragging its feet when it comes to helping developers create state-of-the-art mobile apps.
It can’t be much fun to be an iOS developer these days (and we’re not even talking about Apple’s developer centre getting hacked last week). For some developers, iOS 7 is a tipping point. With its elegant makeover and cool Apple features such as iTunes Radio, iOS 7 is designed to delight consumers, not developers.
“Apple is focusing more on the user interface,” Bawab says. “Good developers want to see more creative stuff happening on the functionality or features piece rather than how it will look.”
iCloud closed to developers
Much of the criticism is aimed at Apple’s iCloud storage service, a critical piece of mobility. As mobile users become more dependent on their cloud-storage accounts on a daily basis, iOS developers need the capability to access and integrate with iCloud.
But iCloud, at least for now, is used only for backup and restore. It’s not open to developers; they can’t tap into iCloud with their third-party apps. Apple has remained inflexible, even adding security procedures in iOS 7 that make it much more complicated, says Bawab.
“iCloud is a disaster,” says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and an iOS developer.
However, there are signs that Apple is recognising developer frustration, and it even hinted that it might loosen its grip down the road.
“I think you will see us open up more in the future,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at this year’s AllThingsD Conference. “But not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience.”
The longer Apple waits, the more developer frustration will grow. Great app developers build the consumer and enterprise apps needed for a mobile OS to flourish. A dearth of new, quality mobile apps, on the other hand, is the reason people jump to another mobile device.
“Developers build an app to fulfill customer needs,” Bawab says. “If they can’t fulfill it with iCloud, they can use a third-party API or switch to another OS.”
Money still talks and Apple has plenty to say
Of course, developers want to play for a winner and make some money, too.
This is Apple’s ace in the hole. Developers have made a fortune on iOS. Apple says it has paid more than US$9 billion in royalties to developers through the App Store. During Apple’s quarterly earnings call this week, Apple reported a spike in iPhone sales.
In developers’ eyes, more iPhones equate to more reach and payoff opportunity. Developers like Bawab are also expecting a surge of iPhone (and maybe iPad) excitement when iOS 7 is released to the general public in the spring. Developers also anticipate a flood of new money to boot.
“In the short-term, there will be a mad rush to retrofit all of the existing apps out there,” Mattt Thompson, mobile lead at Heroku, a cloud application platform provider, told VentureBeat. “Apple essentially wrote a US$100 million check to agencies and contractors with iOS 7.”
by Tom Kaneshige, CIO (US)