Apple’s approach to App Support on its devices is drastically different from the approach that Amazon takes. We’re going to consider the three main elements of an ecosystem - Platform (Apple, Amazon, etc.), Users, Developers.
Apple exhibits a very high degree of intelligence about these three elements. Amazon – not even sure Amazon thinks about this stuff.
iPad Mini = iPad 2 Screen Resolution
Apple announced iPad Mini. It sacrificed Retina Display to keep the screen resolution such that it matched the iPad 2 exactly.
Result: All 270,000 Apps that work on iPad 2 work on iPad Mini.
This is very, very intelligent. It shows that Apple understands the value of a strong app ecosystem. It perhaps also reflects Apple’s experiences where it saw Microsoft beat it by having a richer desktop application ecosystem. This time around it wants to make sure it has the richer and higher quality ecosystem.
Why is this great for Developers?
They have to do nothing and just get more customers. I can’t even explain how beautiful this is. It’s like someone saying – Good Morning! Your Customer Base and Earnings just went up 10% and you have to do nothing. And it’ll keep going up.
Why is this great for Users?
Users who buy the iPad Mini get each and every app that was built for the iPad 2. Apps right from the start. No having to wait for Netflix to optimize or New York Times to sell or Twitter to tweet-twaddle-tattle.
Existing iPad owners that add an iPad Mini or upgrade to one – their apps all work.
It’s not a random occurrence
Apple made it a point to allow iPhone apps to work to an extent on iPad 1. That did help both users and developers. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.
Kindle Fire to Kindle Fire HD = Apps don’t always work
Amazon, when it built the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, made it such that some/quite a few apps that worked on Kindle Fire just won’t work on HD and HD 8.9″ OR they will work badly.
Why is this terrible for Developers?
Forget getting customers for zero effort – with Amazon you have to make extra effort just to keep current customers. Developers have to accommodate three different screen resolutions and test on three different devices. If they don’t, then they are in trouble.
Why is this not ideal for Users?
The Apps they bought – some of them just don’t work on Kindle Fire HD and HD 8.9″. The range of Apps is less. Less developers will make apps because the effort to reward ratio is lower.
There also has to be a human factor. If you’re an app developer and it seems to you that the company went out of its way to make your life harder – Well, obviously your motivation will be less.
This Insane Approach to Apps isn’t a Unique Occurrence – Amazon is an expert at it
Kindle Fire with its three different devices and three different screen resolutions seems a joy when you contrast it with eInk Kindle App development -
- Kindle 2 with keyboard with number keys.
- Kindle 3 with keyboard with no number keys.
- Kindle Touch.
- Kindle WiFi with no keyboard and no touch.
- Kindle Paperwhite.
- Kindle DX.
- Kindle DX 2.
It’s like an exercise in how to make it difficult for people to make apps for your devices. Pretty sure it’s very difficult for magazine and newspaper publishers and authors and book publishers too.
Just consider the beauty of this – There are 4 Kindles that differ primarily in touch, keyboard, keyboard with no number keys, no touch and no keyboard. You would be hard-pressed to come up with a more efficient way of motivating developers to stop making software for your platform.
Also, please keep in mind that Amazon is asking for this at the same time as Apple is bending over backwards to ensure that ALL iPad 2 Apps just work on iPad Mini and that iPhone Apps keep working as iPhone updates.
It’s a drastically different approach. Amazon seems to think of App Developers as Onion vendors. Just use a different size box – now you need to have 1 kg and 2 kg and 5 kg onion boxes. Sorry, the 2.5 kg boxes won’t work.
By one measure Amazon has really improved
The glass half-full approach would be -
- Kindle eInk Apps have 6-7 different devices to support for a relatively small market.
- Kindle Fire Apps have 3 devices to support for a somewhat larger market.
At this rate, Kindle Phone Apps will get something that will make developers feel that Amazon actually put thought into how apps would fit into the overall ecosystem.
Are Apps just a tickbox on Amazon’s List?
It’s hard not to get the feeling that Amazon thinks of Apps as ‘something they should have available to get people to buy Kindles, so they can later buy other things’. As opposed to ‘Apps are a core part of the Kindle Value Proposition’.
Who knows. Perhaps Apps aren’t a core part of the Kindle proposition.
Whatever it is, it would be really, really nice if Amazon stole a page from Apple’s approach to Apps. When the next generation of Kindle Fire devices comes out, Amazon has two options -
- Add 2-3 new screen resolutions and turn Amazon Kindle App Development into a true nightmare.
- Put some thought into it so that life is easier for users and developers.
Making apps for different screens and different devices is not as simple as packing onions into different size containers. It’s tougher. Not to offend onion packing artists (are you crying because of what I said or is it the onions?) but it’s probably a lot, lot tougher.
This is an Android Device maker disease
It’s almost as if Android Device makers WANT to not have a good app store. They all make different types of devices with different screens and different resolutions. Consider this -
Between Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, Nook HD+ - There is only one MATCH when it comes to device screen size and resolution.
All the other combinations – they all have different screen resolutions and different screen densities.
Even in the one case where two devices have the same screen resolution and screen size (Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7) they have other differences. That means apps still need to be modified and retested.
Not only do Android vendors go to lengths to make their devices different from each other physically, they sprinkle on software differences and eccentricities liberally and thus make porting over apps rather difficult.
I’m not familiar with Galaxy Tabs and Note 10.1 etc. However, I’d be willing to bet that Samsung is afflicted with the same disease.
Android Device Makers should stop copying the design and UI and start copying the App Strategy
Users probably do not care very much for ‘lists that bounce back up’ and ‘animated page turns’.
They do, however, care a lot for having a good solid range of apps of high quality. That’s only going to be possible when the various Android Tablets stop trying to kill developers and users with small meaningless little differences.
It’s much, much easier to make apps for one market of 100 million devices.
Than to make apps for 7 different markets where each market is just 1 million to 5 million devices. It’s literally 10 to 15 times the work for a market that is 1/3rd the size.
Why change screen sizes from 8.9″ to 9″ to 9.1″. Does it really make that much of a difference? Make them the same and you’ll probably get economies of scale and get cheaper screens. There’s really little need to pick 1920 by 1280 screen resolution when someone else has picked 1920 by 1200. What is that 80 pixels going to get you (apart from fragmentation)?
If you’re starting off with a smaller App Store (Amazon, for example) then it makes ZERO sense to make it even smaller for your brand new Kindle Fire HD and HD 8.9″. However, that’s exactly what Amazon is doing. Unless Amazon changes its app strategy it’s just going to keep increasing Apple’s lead in Apps and Apple’s appeal to both users and developers. Same applies for all the other Android Tablet Makers – stop shooting yourself in the foot. Your only chance is if you make an app store that you can all share and devices that can use the same apps without ‘special taxes’ for each device.
Filed under: thoughts | Tagged: app strategy, kindle strategy | 3 Comments »