If you have followed RedMonk for any time you’ll know that we are strong advocates for open source and open standards. Open ecosystems create more economic and innovation opportunities than closed systems. So far, so Adam Smith. Well over the last couple of years two companies in particular have challenged some of our basic tenets- namely Apple and Facebook. As the Internet has driven business, so we see more barriers to entry being raised.
Open creates opportunities but its also important to note that in the main customers and consumers don’t buy open- they buy the best user experience. The best packager therefore invariably wins in a given tech wave – Apple and Facebook are master packagers, just as in other recent waves Google, Microsoft, Dell have been. Best packager may not take all, but they usually take the lion’s share.
We’re fairly pragmatic at RedMonk though, for all the attention to open. Thus – it probably hasn’t gone unnoticed that our new RedMonk Analytics service is behind the firewall, for paying clients only. If data is the new Intel Inside, then of course we want to play. Are we learning from Apple? Perhaps. But we’re also using the platform to showcase other data sources such as Infochimps.
And, of course, Apple’s influence is rather more significant than RedMonk’s. Never mind 20th century style barriers to entry however – what about barriers to participation? The platform with the most volume, which is invariably the platform with the most developers, wins – often because the developer experience has been packaged so well.
But developers shouldn’t write to closed platforms if they are concerned with economic opportunities, no matter how slick the user experience. Apple is currently doing everything it can to capture developers. Its platform choices and policies make it very clear developers enter the Apple ecosystem at Apple’s pleasure. If Apple is displeased, the developer may find their route to market cut off. I call this the Permission-based Web. So far Apple remains the web developer’s workstation of choice. But this could be changing.
I came away from Adobe MAX last month having seen the future of digital publishing and engagement. And guess what? It’s multiplatform. That’s right- there is this cool thing called HTML5 coming. People love to say how Adobe will get killed by HTML5, but its seldom remarked that HTML5 also carries significant implications for Apple’s current business model – the Permission-based Web.
I saw Martha Stewart’s new app, and she doesn’t seem to want her peonies to open on only one platform. The iPad may be first, but Stewart is clearly betting on Adobe’s tool chain rather than a particular device. Adobe made it very clear at Max that its tool chains are now going to support HTML. Adobe is now contributing to Webkit, through Google. If there was a single over-riding theme at this year’s MAX it was that the iPad is just another piece of glass. A hot piece of glass undoubtedly, a beautiful place to create engaging user experiences. But not the only game in town. The Dell Streak does web experiences very well indeed. And it just got Android’s latest version 2.2. Then there is the Galaxy Tab, as reviewed by Android evangelist Tim Bray.
Just to encourage me to post today I noticed this from Fred Wilson. He is a sharp and influential investor and I will quote him at length:
I saw two HTML5 apps yesterday. One running in my Android browser. The other running in the iPad browser. They looked and worked exactly like their mobile app counterparts. It was a mind opening moment.
There still are issues. When I went to show one of the HTML5 mobile apps later, my mobile data connection wasn’t there and I couldn’t load it in my Android browser. But a friend told me you could cache all the elements, including the database, on the phone and deliver an offline experience in HTML5 in the browser.
I’ve always disliked the idea that we have to download apps on our phones when the apps we use on the web are loaded in the browser on demand. But I’ve accepted the mobile app paradigm as something we will be living with for the next five years.
Yesterday Rupert Murdoch announced he wanted to take his behind the firewall news and make it available only on the iPad. That should do it. Enter the Daily. I guess that unlike his august UK news organ The Sun it won’t have tits on page three. Because Jobs doesn’t like that kind of thing, which annoyed the German news industry, which is fond of der busen. Bild Digital’s CEO Donata Hopfen says:
“Today they censor nipples, tomorrow editorial content.”
Now the first thing that struck me is that the video says the web site is “iPad optimised”. But the real point is that it’s a web app, not an iPad app. It’s written in HTML5, and Zeit controls customer billing and everything else- its not an app store app, its a web app. As IA explains it:
But, however exciting the app store might be—there is no rational reason to neglect the most obvious iPad news platform: The website. The chance that you sell your app will only rise if your have a strong presence in the browser—given, that it’s worth the money. Developing an HTML based news app is not just cheaper and faster, it also gives you more editorial and technical control over your contents. More importantly, HTML-apps are in many ways more convenient for the user: They’re easy to use, they’re more medium appropriate and in that sense: more appealing and—they’re free. No long downloads, no “how do I get to…”, no weird crashes, no trouble to share, copy, paste, comment, tweet, link to. They just work.
Sounds good doesn’t it? Apple on the other hand pitches its enterprise app store program like so:
Gain access to resources that will help you develop proprietary, in-house iOS apps that you can distribute to employees or members of your organization.
[Hey Apple] The 1970s called and they want their proprietary models back. Its 2010. HTML is indeed the future. Microsoft says so. Adobe says so. Everyone says so. Everything else is a bridge to take us there.
The same goes for developers.
I look forward to seeing how, if at all, Fred’s epiphany affects Twitter development (Fred is a major investor in the company). At the moment Twitter is building native Android, Apple, and Blackberry apps, all slightly different. Does that make sense?