Photo: Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider
Technology companies are often positioned as winners and losers, but that’s not really the case, according to Google’s developer advocate Don Dodge.For instance, Amazon’s Kindle can have a great future without killing tablets from Apple and Google, he said.
The market is so big that it’s ultimately up to developers to decide which platforms to develop for, he told us after he spoke at IGNITION West.
Dodge sat down with us to tell us his thoughts on innovation and the app marketplace.
BI: You just spoke on a panel about mobile platforms and what consumers want. At one point you brought up the Kindle and how in America we want winners and losers. Can you elaborate?
DD: Everyone wants to pick a winner and say iPhone wins and Windows Phone 7 loses. Or Amazon wins and somebody else loses. That’s really not the case.
If you look at the way Apple is approaching the smartphone business and the way Google is approaching the smartphone business — both companies are wildly successful, but are approaching it different ways. One doesn’t have to win for the other one to lose. So in the case of Amazon, I think they can have a very successful business, getting apps on Kindles. The phone app market will be predominantly on iPhone and Android.
BI: Did anything from the panel you were on (on mobile platforms and what consumers want) surprise you?
DD: The biggest surprise was that no one saw Windows or Blackberry or Symbian being able to gain significant market share. In the eyes of the people on the panel, it’s pretty much game over and it’s a war between Apple and Google. In my case, I don’t believe it’s a war at all. I believe Apple and Google can be very successful.
The market is growing so fast, it’s not that we are taking customers from Apple or Apple is taking customers from Google. The market is growing so fast, there is plenty of opportunity for both. For Microsoft, Blackberry, and Symbian, those players are in a very difficult position.
BI: So it’s really about getting developers to create applications for your platform?
DD: I think the battles are going to be won and lost with developers. Developers build the applications and if you have lots of great applications, then your platform can do well. If they don’t, it won’t.
It costs at least $100,000 to put an app on a platform. Most of these small app developers don’t have that kind of money to put it on the third, forth or fifth platform. They are always going to put it on Android and iPhone.
Spending money beyond that — they probably are not going to do it.
That’s what makes it difficult. If you put yourself in the shoes of a developer at a startup or small company, it’s too much money and too much effort to support all these other platforms, when they have a tiny market share.
When you can do two platforms and cover 70 to 80 per cent of the market, why should you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more to get those last few percentage points?
Unless HTML5 becomes so popular and so powerful that you can just develop for HTML5, I think it will be difficult for the other platforms to get significant share.
Business Insider: So what’s the hottest trend you’re seeing in mobile?
Don Dodge: The big opportunities are in convergence. Companies have been successful with local, mobile, and games, but the next big trend is where you see the convergence of these.
Location is a big part of games. People like to play games where they can interact with their normal surroundings — places and businesses that they go to everyday. It’s the convergence of doing check-ins and making check-ins part of the game. You can only do it with a mobile phone. You can’t do it with a laptop or Facebook. There are a few examples like Life is Crime, MyTown, and TapCity, and a few others. They are starting to scratch the surface of a game that is centered around location. There’s a lot more to be done.
BI: How is the Foursquare API being used?
DD: Many of these games use Foursquare’s API to automatically detect where you are and make you part of the game. Games are big. Zynga has proven that casual games can be interesting. When you introduce location to the games, it introduces another dimension to the game.
You want to make it so all the players don’t have to be in the same place at the same time. Once the game grows and you have a large audience, you can have elements of the game that are real-time and synchronous.