Viral coefficients + store feature + branding + influencers = cool apps on iOS first

At LeWeb last week former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt was asked by an audience member why the coolest apps come out on iOS first. Apps like Flipboard and Instagram. He answered:

“”So my prediction is that 6 months from now, I think the question
is exactly right right now, and 6 months from now, you’ll say the
opposite. Because ultimately applications vendors are driven by
volume, and the volume is favored by the open approach that Google is
taking. That there are literally so many manufacturers who are working
so hard to distribute Android phones globally, that whether you
like ICS or not, and again I like it a great deal, you will want to
develop for that platform, and perhaps even first. So think of it as a transition over the next 6 months.””

Thing is, that doesn’t measure up with what lots of app developers tell me, and it doesn’t measure up with what you can see in the street.

Right after that an entrepreneur walked up to me with his app, which looked like Instagram. He wondered why the press doesn’t cover apps not designed on iOS. I said “come with me.”

We walked around the street at LeWeb. First person I ran into was Ayelet Noff. She is one of Israel’s top community connector types. Runs a blog called “Blonde 2.0.” But that doesn’t really explain her role in the tech scene.

“What kind of phone do you use?” “iPhone.”
Next up? Cathy Brooks, who does the same thing in SF? “iPhone.”

This continued with person after person until we got about 10 people. I think we saw one Android phone, nine iPhones, and no WP7′s. This was a crowd of European entrepreneurs and tech passionates.

“Had enough yet?” I asked the entrepreneur.

This matches what I have seen at conference after conference. Last year I spoke at the Where 2.0 conference. This is a conference with tons of hackers and mobile passionate developers and leaders. 80% of the audience used an iPhone.

Last week I had dinner with Loic LeMeur, who runs LeWeb. I watched him closely at dinner. He only used his iPhone. But when I started talking to him about mobile he quickly pulled out an Android and a Windows Phone 7 device. But it was obvious to me that his favorite device was iPhone. Do you think we talked about apps that only existed on WP7 or on Android? No way.

Other things I’ve noticed. Folks who study the app market, like Distimo, say that Android users won’t buy apps.

That gets discussed behind closed doors in Silicon Valley VC funds. Note that famous VC Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers has an iFund (they fund lots of famous iOS apps, including Flipboard, etc). When I asked Matt Murphy whether he was going to have an aFund or a WP7Fund he quickly answered “no.”

When I talked with Path CEO Dave Morin a week ago:

He told me how hard it is to build beautiful apps on Android. Tonight I asked him what the numbers were like?

“80% iOS, 20% Android,” he texted me.

Now, to be fair, not every developer sees these kinds of results. Bobby Ghoshal, CEO of Flud, says he saw more Android users than iOS users. The problem with his results is that he had a very strong competitor on iOS (App of the Year in 2010 on iPad, Flipboard) while his app had nearly no competiton on Android. Let’s see what happens to Flud when Flipboard moves over.

One major reason, by the way, that Flipboard continues to be Apple’s darling is that it hasn’t yet done an app for another platform. Developers tell me that Apple is much more likely to reward you with a “featured” spot if you stay iOS only. Path is one of the most public examples of a company breaking Apple’s unspoken rules and getting away with it (so far).

When I recently interviewed Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard, where he showed me his new iPhone app, I tried to nail him down about Android. He deftly didn’t answer the question:

What does that mean? Well, last week I was in the car with 955 Dreams CEO Kiran Bellubbi shortly after he learned that Apple had named his app, Band of the Day, as runner up for iPhone app of the year. He told me his servers were near melting down with thousands of downloads per hour.

Which gets me to the final point. Here’s why Eric Schmidt is wrong and will continue to be wrong: virality coefficient.

What is that? Well, it’s the ability to tap into an early user base and get that user base to tell other people about it.

Paul Davison, left, shows off a stealth app at a SF geek party

Meet Paul Davison. That’s him on the left. He has an app that’s still in stealth. I accidentally learned about it at a geek party today in San Francisco. I watched him work the room and get everyone in the room on his app. Nearly every person in that room was an iPhone user.

He has not yet gotten funding. His app will be the hottest thing at SXSW next year. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I took a picture so I could remember the moment I first got on this app but I was also watching how the San Francisco network works.

I wasn’t the only one watching the reactions and laughs that Paul was getting. Users, even though they were asked to keep it quiet, kept heading over to other parts of the party to tell their friends that they had to see Paul’s app. All had iPhones. I think I saw only two Android phones at that party and no Windows Phone 7 devices.

Watching this was me and a group of VCs. They asked for the app and business cards.

See, what do VCs look for? Virality coefficients. This is why they poured so much money into Facebook so early. The virality coefficient for that was about what Paul was getting today. In other words, one user is likely to tell four other users about this app. That’s extraordinary. Just listen to Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup, tell me about why getting a high viral coefficient is so important to businesses.

But it’s worse than that. Because investors want to see sizable adoption before they will fund any app, you gotta do the hard work that Paul was doing today: showing your app around and hoping that someone picks it up and starts spreading it around.

Will that happen with Android? It can. There are more handsets out there than on iOS. But, in my experience, it’s very hard to get the kinds of virality that you need to get funded on non-iOS platforms.

It’s also much harder to get the press, the folks who run the Apple store (they watch the press too and use it as a guide for what they should pick), and the VCs to take you seriously if you aren’t on iOS.

I don’t see this mix changing much. In fact, as Loic told me, he has moved back to iOS because of this and other reasons. That means that Google has its work cut out for it if it wants the sexy cool apps written for it first.

Now, when I talk with experts who help launch companies, like Mike Schroeder, who works at LaunchSquad, he says that Android is coming on strong. His clients, like Thuuz, a sports enthusiast app, are seeing about 65% Android/35% iOS and he’s pushing his clients to do Android and iOS together.

That’s good advice.

Now, who really is hurt by all this? Well, RIM is completely out of the game. No developers I know are building RIM apps on go-to-market entries.

Microsoft continues to struggle. It’s very rare to see a WP7 app demoed anywhere (LeWeb shows why, the only WP7 devices I saw there were owned by Microsoft execs/employees, or by app developers who were paid for their development).

Consumers who haven’t bought iOS devices will feel hurt, but generally only the better apps will get pulled over from iOS anyway, so are they really hurt? Well, only if they care about being on the bleeding edge. Most users don’t care so much, if they did, Android wouldn’t have the marketshare it now has.

So, all this really means is if you are struggling to get adoption, you have to care and if you like arguing OS’s out, like I do, then you’ll care. The rest of it will come out in the wash.

That said, Eric Schmidt will have to face more of these questions because Android isn’t changing the game that I can see. iOS is still king for early adopters.

UPDATE: Brian Hall asks “Are Android users simply cheap?”

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

60 thoughts on “Viral coefficients + store feature + branding + influencers = cool apps on iOS first

  1. @willgreen:disqus …I can‘t believe….My best friend’s mom makes $69 an hour on the computer. She has been out of job for 9 months but last month her check was $6576 just working on the computer for a few hours….Read about it here… NeedJob

  2. Robert, your use of asking people at a conference what phone they use only demonstrates the tech bubble you surround yourself with.  Walk around an average american city and you’ll definitely find a greater ratio of Android to iOS phones.  I do agree with the critique about which user-base on more likely to pay for an app and iOS users should be more inclined to pay since they’ve already demonstrated a commitment to spend more on their phones.

  3. There are so many variables in what is being discussed here that I’m surprised that so many CEOs wouldn’t discuss some of them. The apps you’re discussing are primarily ‘usage’ apps addressing the North American market, so when one says his numbers are 80/20 iOS/Android, there’s already something wrong (but not surprising, since it’s way easier to convince the VC ‘next door’ with an app that their mums and dads will probably use). The true question is: why Apple has been so successful so fast with their OS and AppStore? So let’s face the real fundamental ‘problem’ for a developer between iOS and Android, and it’s something that Schmidt doesn’t seem to think as relevant (of course he doesn’t): Apple’s genius, amongst other things, is to have made life easier for developers, and I’m not talking about App Store here, but the developers’ P&L and a much easier production to manage, from coding to QA. While one needs to develop only one SKU for iOS to access 100s+ million devices and one same AppStore with one same payment processing API (iTunes), Android continues the nightmare of device and market (understand: localization, currency, regulation) fragmentation: we’re talking about one universal market for Apple against hundreds of small regional ones for Google. While ‘we’ have flurry et al to tell us what’s going on iOS, one such thing on Android is impossible: we just don’t have enough time or cash to research, code, port, submit, certify, market for so many devices whose functionalities do not depend on Google but the OEM, and the OEM only. So until Google becomes an OEM as well, Schmidt will still need (huh?!) to justify the commercial viability of its platform, something SJ never had to do. But even that won’t resolve other problems when facing the next markets on Apple and Google’s roadmaps: China, Korea, Russia, Turkey. Do you know what’s going here? No, no one does.
    So no, iOS isn’t king for early adopters, it is king for us developers and publishers based in North America targeting the alpha population with enough disposable income to buy a new iPhone and a new iPad, at a premium that no other OEM can justify, every 18 months.

  4. As I always try to make the argument: It is not that people on android
    dont want to buy apps. It is just too complicated and does not seem safe
    enough to do so.  I am buying apps on my ipad (the ones which actually can be installed, case in point path refused to install because i do not have a camera – wtf).

    I have never bought an app on android nor do I see myself buying one in the nearer future on my phone, which is a samsung. do I have apps which would justify buying them? Yes. I am also not one of those “they have to be pretty” people, so my interest is more with tools and things like that. The reason I do not buy apps? I do not trust the app store to have my credit card.

    Now give me a decent working version of the Amazon store on Android and it would be a different story (I have tried and not managed to get that thing running on my german phone – probably the usual).

  5. The post really got me thinking. The following thoughts came to my mind:

    - Android outsells Apple devices. But users do not download as many apps as IOS users. More importantly they do not pay for apps. Has Google not paid attention to the last mile? Is the process of setting up credit cards and downloading apps not giving the right user experience? Does Itunes have a role to play in this? 

    - The Android numbers might be bloated with the a lot of cheap phones bought by users who do not download apps. For sure, they do not intend to buy apps

    - The fate of a platform is dependent on developers love. RIM, Nokia are classic examples. Apple gets this right. Featured apps, staff picks etc, reward developers and shows them the money

    - Cheap Android phones could have a play in enterprises. Think 1000′s Sales people using an Android phone and running a sales automation app. It’s happening in India and some other parts

    - User experience and design are key driving factors for app adoption, spread and retention. Android does not stand for this. Watch out of some cool Windows app that might come up in 2012. MetroUI is awesome and makes designers think differently. 

    - Key influencers are using Apple devices as Robert highlights and for sure this is a driver for apps download and spread

  6. Seems to me that we will reach a point where developing apps for both Android and iOS will be a competitive disadvantage. Companies that develop for both will not be as nimble as those that only develop for iOS.

  7. Great write-up Robert! While I say ‘Never say never’, but its true today is that the average Android users are not as engaged with their device as iOS user. Its a mix of many factors (beyond Apple’s UI and OS).
    1) Lot of Android phone are cheap, some are even free with 2yr contract. None of iOS devices are really cheap. So when people pay up big bucks, they usually try to extract more value off of it.
    2) Google doesn’t push paid apps enough. Google Marketplace still looks like a eCommerce site built in Web 1.0, and not designed to sell apps. Most users don’t even browse the marketplace online, they are downloading mostly through their device. There is hardly any additional marketing push from Google, like deals, app-of-the-day, featured listing, editors’ favorite, etc. From a app-developers perspective, its a dead platform.
    3) Google’s openness is its weakness. I find way too crappy apps on Google than iOS, just because its open and free to publish anything anytime, there are tons of hello world app. There is no gatekeeping, no quality-control, no legality (copyright, trademark) checking. So as a serious app-dev who’s trying to make a business out of apps, has little incentive to be part of the mess.

    I run an app-dev company (Robert did a video on one of our apps, iRewardChart), and we develop the same app on iOS, Android, WP7 and Amazon marketplace. The only alternative to iOS AppStore is the Amazon AppStore. Amazon is going to sell a lot of device this holiday. While the device doesn’t measure up against iPad, but its killer feature is pricing, and that’ll appeal to a lot of price-sensitive folks out there. Secondly Amazon knows how to sell, cross promotion, recommendation, upsell, these are all part of their DNA. Gatekeeping the app usually results in a higher quality app. This leaves currently Apple as Quality + Quantity, Google as NoQuality + Quantity, Amazon as Quality + NoQuantity. If Amazon adds direct support for more devices (phones and tablets), I will not be surprised if it emerges as the real Android store.

  8. I develop apps for Android and iOS.  The iOS versions out sell the Android versions almost 60:1.  In fact, I’ve made the decision to cease Android development next year unless something astonishing happens. I don’t think it will. 

  9. I think Path is a good/bad example because they do so much wrong on their Android version. They say it could be used as some kind of private journal, but doesn’t even get a single timestamp done. They release bugged updates, announce features in updates which doesn’t work then – even simple things like a Twitter authorization. There are options where you’ve to go to their website to change them instead of doing it in the app. From the people I know who tried the Android version most were disappointed which results in the low rating Path has in Android Market. So it’s no wonder they get just 20%. Once the rating is low it’s pretty hard to get people willed to try it out. 

    There had been a few of thoose bad examples. There are too many developers who think they can put release a 1:1 port of their iOS app in Android Market without making an Android optimized UI which uses the advantages of Android. Design isn’t everything and when it lacks in functionality it won’t be successful. There are also a few examples of great and beautiful Apps who launched on Android first like (http://www.any.do/)

  10. iPhones users are generally wealthy and don’t mind shelling out money for some unproven app. As more and more people use Android though, most developers will focus on Android first. This is somewhat similar to Windows vs Macs, when in the beginning there was only Mac, but when Windows took off, developers flocked to the Windows mass market rather than the Mac.

    I’m definitely not an early adopter. I’ll check out how gadgets work out with other people before I consider it. My Windows Mobile Samsung Omnia phone, and Android Dell Streak 7 tablet on mifi, combination, is ok right now, but I’ll see if the 4.65 size screen Galaxy Nexus on 4G can replace both of  them. The apps that I use the most on my Streak right now are free: Google Reader, Google Maps, Waze, Opera Mobile. I can’t think of paid apps that work much better than these free ones, given that I would have to pay for them.

  11. Its the hype thats created around this phenomenon that keeps it all going. Lets be real about a few things. While there may be nothing but iPhones at these uber techie events thats not the normal world. Both stats and people will tell you that Android has taken over the scene period. And the myth that this is because of “low end” Android devices should also be debunked. Most devs that I talk to will tell you that its high end phones downloading apps. But why even go that far. You see nothing but the high end Droids and Evos etc in person. Just about the ONLY low end Android device I’ve seen in person is one my niece bought when she needed a quick replacement.

    Now what were most devs probably working on as a dev machine before the iPhone…a Mac. So when the iPhone comes out of course they are going to jump at a device thats built to be a companion to their computers. I’d say many devs, tech editors and the like fell in love with it and are still in love with it today. But Macs only make up 5% of the computer market. Compare this with the user base the king of the internet, Google, commands. Gmail, Search, Maps, Calendar, etc. Thats a lot of people and when they get a mobile platform that ties into that very common ecosystem their going to jump on it.

    So here’s where the problem arises. The ultra techies are still in love with iPhone and probably should be because they are centered around Macs. When they go to develop something on their Mac what makes more sense thant for their iPhones. But you can take sense out of the equation. They just LOVE the ecosystem. I’d imagine many don’t even think about Android. But thats not where the general public is in terms of mobile platform preference. They are on Android. So these devs eventually have to come to Android….or maybe not. I also believe that the hardly growing user base of iOS consists of a certain type of people that are early adopters. They love to jump in on new social and sharing sites and try out just about every app that comes about. The Android crowd is more concerned with real day to day activities and tasks that help them with home or work more than having fun sharing this or that. Ironically this is why Android gets labeled as the geeks device when really its the other way around. It looks like geeks are on iOS tinkering with every new app that comes along. Android users are tinkering with their phones not because its a geeky thing to do but because they have so much control over how they can integrate their phones into their life flow.

    All the other explanations here about why there is so much love for the iPhone are pretty much hype. It was the first thing to integrate tightly with a Mac for those that are in love with Macs and thats just not a large slice of the population. All the talk of “truly loving your device” and other crap just doesn’t mesh with the real world. Everybody else went from the rising consumer interest in BlackBerry to the iPhone and then to Android where they seem to be enjoying the system.

  12. You do understand that ‘cool’ is very objectionable. I don’t consider Instagram or even Flipboard that cool. Nice, cute ideas but far from cool. Cool is things like robots controlled by Android phones (http://www.cellbots.com/) or how my phones home launcher automatically switches to an ideal launcher for using in the car when connected to certain bluetooth devices (like my stereo/https://market.android.com/details?id=com.google.android.carhome) or an ideal desktop launcher & clock when cradled. Or the fact that someone else might even have a completely different fresh idea of how a home launcher should look and work and can actually release that in the market before Google or Apple even thinks about it.

    Cool is using my face to unlock certain apps (even before Google did it and regardless of the security implications) simply because its open enough to allow that. Before Google has come up with a fix to their security issue there is already a facial unlock recognition app that requires you to blink.
    Tasker is cool, you can’t even create apps like the ones I listed for the iPhone and distribute them on iTunes.As you see, different people have different definitions of ‘cool’. I think innovative things are cool, or enabling poor people in other countries to do shit they never dreamed of on their super cheap 600Mhz phone. I guess that’s not really “cool”, but every body knows where the “cool” jock in high school ends up at the end of the day.

  13. Robert:

    A different data point – enterprise apps.  In addition to consumer apps, we make enterprise apps.  We essentially force every employee to use the app regardless of the employee’s phone.  In Android vs IOS, we see 80% Android vs 20% IOS.

    As we try to figure out what we are seeing in the heavy Android use, we also are experiencing way more technical support issues on Android.  The kids of issues we get are really basic – like not understanding the use of the menu button and the back button.  We are starting to believe that many Android users really do not use apps the way IOS users do.

    As we try to reconcile our experiences in enterprise apps which are very different from consumer apps, our belief is that lots of people with Android phones just “do not download and use apps.”  They use email, and web browsing, but they do not download apps from the marketplace.

    Developers may hate the curation model for Apple’s app store, but something about that model gets consumers to trust the model.

  14. Great recap.  I will refer people to this when they ask me why my apps are almost all for iOS.  Even though the learning curve is behind me (my apps are on iOS, Mac OS, Android, Windows Phone and even Samsung Bada) my iOS apps (3.2 million downloads and counting) account for 99% of my revenue.  Android users got their phone free and expect the same of apps.  But i think the real advantage is iTunes gift cards.  I buy them in bulk when they go on sale at BestBuy, Staples, etc., and it’s an easy gift… works for music, books, mac and iOS apps.  Google has an uphill battle there.

  15. Great write up, Robert.

    It totally matches my experience. iPhone users and developers love iOS and their devices, while most of all Android users don’t even care. Most of them don’t even know that their phone is running something called “Android”, they just want something that looks like the iPhone, but for a smaller price. They rather go for an “just okay” user experience than for a “great” user experience.

    About that ‘Android users won’t buy apps’ – 100% agree. In my experience, it’s much easier to pirate an Android app than to buy it. Just do some Google searching for a specific title. In most cases you’ll find a link to a pirated copy just two or three entries below the link to the Android Market.

  16. One thing needs to be added : to create an Android app you have to install Eclipse and code in Java. I don’t know any ‘cool’ (understand young and brilliant) developer who loves Eclipse and Java.

  17. Lots of people are, but they simply don’t have the fit and finish of full-blown iOS apps. They also don’t get into the app stores, so they don’t get distribution.

  18. I have come to the conclusion that Android is the new Symbian.

    Android has a large market share, but most users picked up whatever touchscreen phone their carrier provided that was cheap enough. They have no idea what apps are or why they would need them. The most advanced thing they do is browse the web.

    The 10% of Android users who are geeky enough to actually choose Android don’t buy apps anyway. Buying apps goes against their “open” principles. All the love coming from these users for Android does not apply for most users since the top 10% are rolling their own custom firmware, not whatever crap came with the device.

    On the other hand I don’t understand the love for iPhone. iOS app centric design just bugs me since it is totally missing any feeling of integration.

  19. These match the numbers I’ve seen across several apps as well.

    I personally think you’ve hit the nail on the head, and even mentioned that exact reason in an email to a journalist a few weeks ago.

    Recently one of our Android developers suggested an additional reason for the lack of downloads even though the market share is significant; many Android users buy based on price and aren’t as savvy about the Android Market. Many don’t even know they can download new apps.

    When marketing a few apps that we’ve launched I’ve REALLY struggled finding tech influencers that use Android. iPhone wins hands down in that community.

  20. Robert, great write up. When you do get back to writing for the blog, the pieces are longer and better. Thanks for the Brian Hall / Inneractive links, good reading there as well.

    I think the mass market will end up being Android. It’s clear no one really knows why Android users aren’t paying for apps, and figuring out the why is hugely important.

    The other thing that this reminds me of is YouTube. YouTube was nowhere. I had Blip.TV and Revver pegged as the “winners”. And then YouTube came from nowhere, on the back of (essentially) the mass market. Food for thought.

    1. My brother Ben told me he will never buy apps. I haven’t been able to convince him. He’s an Android user. I don’t know that you can convince those folks to buy apps. They just aren’t rational about the topic. So, when you hit a wall like that you stop fighting and figure out some other way to get paid or you stay away from them (fire them as customers).

      1. I would say that the 10cent app deal for 10 days that Google is running now for the 10 Billion Apps downloaded, is a sneaky/clever way to get people to set up Google Wallet or associate a credit card to their account. Get them to dip their toes into buying apps/content.

      2. I’m an android user, and have been for a year+ now. I regularly buy apps that I like (heck I bought Shazam!), and I love my android. I mean sure, I hate the fact that I have to wait for apps like flipboard, but I also love the way android works. Intents (an app calling another app, without directly knowing each others existence) for example is sweet. But again, I agree: most android users don’t, and wouldn’t buy apps. A friend of mine owns an android phone, and when I asked him why doesn’t he just pay for an app he answered: “Why would I? I have that other website where I can download any app for free!”..that’s just sad when you bought a phone for ~$200 and you can’t even spend a few bucks on a good app to at least support the devs.

        P.S: Love your blog, and this is my first comment! Yay ;)

    2. By the way, I always pegged YouTube as the winner. Why? Because they were more embeddable and had cooler content. No, it wasn’t because they were hosted on Rackspace (I wasn’t an employee back then).

  21. Brian Hall’s article is based on Gene Munster’s numbers, reported by Forbes: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/11/21/piper-jaffray-android-app-revenue-is-7-of-iphones/

    I would say that Munster’s analysis is a bit flawed as it  ignores ad revenue and ignores in app purchasing. http://www.insidemobileapps.com/2011/11/21/android-ios-revenue-piper-jaffray/

    Anecdotal data: Here’s one developer’s, who makes both iOS and Android apps, take on myths of not making money on Android.

    https://shiftyjelly.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/standing-up-for-android/

  22. I think that as long as Apple handsets are considered “ne plus ultra”, people will associate the apps thereon as “cool”.  I’m unconvinced that as the Android OS matures, and as handset makers start to make the Android handsets better and more full featured, that this will continue to be the case.  When the Droid 4, and some other fast, beautifully screened, no bloatware phones come out running ICS with a hardware keyboard, cutting edge people will start to pay more attention.  Google *has* to get Google music running internationally, though, and continue to improve the Android market. It wouldn’t hurt them (or someone) to write a desktop iTunes equivalent for the Android that doesn’t lock you into the Android ecosystem, though.

    Startup entrepreneurs are a tribe. At the moment, for some (to me) godforsaken reason, they seem to have bought into the entire Apple ecosystem. If Google/android can come up with one or two killer apps that only run on their platform (to start) and which the tribe values, I don’t think the tribe will be that loyal.  I really do think that the worm can turn in two or three quarters.  But perhaps I underestimate the extent to which Apple users identify with the brand. I’ve never understood it, so I may not be able to properly assess it.

    1. It’s clear you don’t get entrepreneurs. They go with best of breed because they don’t have time for anything else. Loic told me he has tried repeatedly to go with Android and keeps coming back to iOS. I used Android (a modern Galaxy SII phone) in Europe because my iPhone didn’t work. I went back as soon as I could. I just don’t like Android and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

      1. Uh, okay.  I run a reasonably successful company I founded. I belong to Entrepreneur’s Organization. I interact with hundreds of entrepreneurs every year from around the world. I’m also an electrical engineer/coder from way back. I’m not some ignorant hick who makes offhand comments on a blog. I’m not trying to argue from authority here, but your response is pretty frickin’ patronizing.

        I respect your opinion about the iPhone, and Loic’s, but just because you think it’s best of breed doesn’t mean everyone shares your feelings. At any rate, I wasn’t arguing that Apple isn’t leading.  My point was that iPhone isn’t granted “best of breed” in perpetuity, and that it is possible for them to be unseated in the future. The “virality coefficient” isn’t anything but the idea of the “network effect” from a decade ago repackaged for a new generation of mobile consultants.

        I have an iPad. I think Flipboard (and Zite) are amazing. But I’m not as ready as you are to assign Android/Google to the dustbin of history.  There’s no doubt that Apple has a huge lead and superior apps at the moment, although as someone who uses a number of O/S’s, I think it has a number of flaws too.  Having said that, before Android can gain serious momentum among the tech elites, it has to achieve feature/app parity with iOS.  As you point out in your article, developers who have written for iOS first have the advantage of only migrating the most popular apps to the Android platform, but if you look at the delta in capability/ease of use between Android and iOS (as a platform), I think that feature/feel gap is shrinking.

        When Android has been around as long as iOS has now, I’m pretty sure it will be the better mobile O/S (especially given the shorter refresh cycle of Android), plus the *average* consumer will have a bazillion more choices in terms of handsets, which I think is a plus (obviously people may differ on this point).  Google needs to start enforcing a little more homogeneity in the experience (i.e. Motorola, quit installing MotoBlur, or at least make it an option), but having used both O/S’s, I prefer Android. That doesn’t make you (or Loic) wrong, it just means we have different preferences.

        I’ve no doubt that your anecdotal evidence is a sign of a larger trend *among the startup community*. As you point out, though, Android is rapidly overtaking Apple in the installed base, so *someone* appears to be using Android handsets.  I think the average consumer is just as likely to tell their friends about a cool new app they found as the Silicon Valley illuminati are. An instagram-like app on the Android would be *just* as viral as an Apple one. The problem, as you point out, is that nobody is writing cutting-edge apps for the Android platform first. Perhaps Google Ventures should be investing in more mobile companies, if KPCB isn’t going to do an aFund.

        It really is a positive feedback cycle. As long as apps like Flipboard keep coming out first on iOS, people will keep wanting iOS devices, which will lead to more companies developing for that platform first. Once those most popular apps migrate to Android, though, Joe consumer might not be so keen to pay the price premium for those devices, with their corresponding quirks (closed ecosystem, can’t easily replace the battery, etc). But if those apps don’t migrate to Android, I think your point stands. 

        All by which to say, I don’t think any of the above makes me someone who “clearly doesn’t ‘get’ entrepreneurs”. I guess I’m too sensitive for blog commenting.

        1. The thing is you think I’m saying Android won’t make it. I’m not saying that at all. It’s just like the car industry. The coolest stuff comes out on Mercedes, BMW’s, or high-end American cars before they move down market to Toyotas. 

          You keep assuming that we will see bloatware free phones. Sorry, I have friends at carriers. That simply will NOT happen for the most part. That’s one thing that will set Apple and Google’s approaches apart. That said, does it matter? Microsoft beat Apple in an earlier battle. Google probably will win this eventually too. Just don’t expect the cool apps to go there first for a long time.

          You came across as patronizing and clueless because you couldn’t understand why entrepreneurs and CEOS (at Salesforce.com’s recent conference most of the 40,000 in attendance was on iOS) go with iOS. They go there because it is better and because it’s ahead. Simple stop. Once you stop fighting that then I’ll stop saying you don’t get it. You do get a lot, though, I’ll give you that. That said, it’s clear you haven’t really understood why so many of us go with iOS.

          1. Is bloatware a function of the carriers or the handset makers? My Motorola Atrix came pretty free of any carrier detritus, but it did come with MotoBlur, which until I unlock the bootloader and start using Cyanogen will be the bane of my existence. It significantly slows the phone down and sucks up bandwidth.  Perhaps now that Google owns Motorola, at least *they* will stop including it. I miss my Nexus One experience, which was clean and fast and really customizable. Perhaps the Nexus S is comparable, although I’m waiting for the Droid 4 before considering an upgrade.

            Do you have numbers on the Salesforce conference? I’m not trying to be a contrarian, but didn’t they have their iPhone app up almost a year before their android one? I would suggest that if that is the case, it would make sense for people dedicated enough to the platform to be at the conference to own a phone that supported it.

            I totally get why entrepreneurs and CEOs (and anybody, quite frankly – I don’t think as far as mobile handsets/OS’s go that there’s anything unique about that particular cohort) use iOS. It’s fairly simple to use, has a plethora of useful apps, and it has led the category for a while. I do think there is a large element of wanting to belong to the Apple tribe (note:I am deliberaely *not* using the word “cult”, as I don’t think ‘tribe’ is a pejorative) that makes people buy their products as well. Would you want to be the guy in that room above that couldn’t try Davison’s app? Hell, the other entrepreneurs in the room might as well have pantsed you, the embarrassment you’d feel. If your peers have a gadget, you want it, *whatever* it is: BMW, iPhone, or Sonos.

            I don’t think Apple will be able to maintain its lead (and apparently, I misunderstood your blog entry, as apparently you don’t necessarily think they will either). I just don’t think Android is destined to forever be the “Toyota” to Apples “Jaguar”. There are some pretty slick Android handsets out now and in the pipeline. If the O/S can catch up and (the 50 million dollar question, and the point of your whole article) apps get released simultaneously with iOS, I think Android can compete in both markets, which will give them an advantage over iOS, which I think can only compete in the high-end.

            Have you not come across *any* companies developing Android apps first in your travels? I wonder how much of that also has to do with the available developer tools (talk to RIM about that kiss of death).

          2. Bloatware mostly comes from the carriers, at least in the US. My AT&T was filled with it, mostly from AT&T My Samsung Galaxy SII had none of it.

            There are some Android first apps. I’ve detailed a few. Mostly in three categories:

            1. Things that do something with the keyboard. Swype, for instance.
            2. Things that do something with the dialer.
            3. Things that do something really crazy with wifi modems.

            But even then, it’s just a handful of companies. Not much overall. Everyone else is iOS first. At SXSW I wasn’t pitched a SINGLE TIME on Android. Not once.

        2. What do one’s feelings have to do with the performance of an iPhone? Is this a therapy session?

      2. It is really hard to separate our personal feelings from our analysis, which needs to be rational and objective, for we are humans.

  23. It’s interesting to note that VCs are betting on virality, and *not* potential return on investment. Not everyone can be an Instagram and pull off the “oh, my startup is popular, I don’t need a stinking revenue model!”

    1. Early stage consumer apps are all about virality and anyone who says they aren’t is an idiot. If you have a business model to take advantage of virality even better. But if business models matter, then developers would have another reason to stay away from ANdroid, according to this research: http://blog.inner-active.com/2011/05/android-developers-who-charge-for-their-app-can-say-goodbye-to-any-revenue/

  24. Eric Schimdt’s quote, as noted above, wasn’t exactly how he answered. Nitpicking ;-)

    “So my prediction is that 6 months from now, I think the question
    is exactly right right now, and 6 months from now, you’ll say the
    opposite. Because ultimately applications vendors are driven by
    volume, and the volume is favored by the open approach that Google is
    taking. That there are literally so many manufacturers who are working
    so hard to distribute Android phones globally, that whether you
    like ICS or not, and again I like it a great deal, you will want to
    develop for that platform, and perhaps even first. So think of it as a transition over the next 6 months.”

    1. Funny, I pulled the quote out of InformationWeek: http://informationweek.com/news/mobility/smart_phones/232300176

      I was there and I didn’t write down the exact quote. Yours sounds just as accurate. In either case, he was trying to say that market share will drive developers to develop first on Android. I think that’s not accurate. There are lots of other reasons that developers do things than market share. Hell, if market share mattered we’d all be using apps on Nokias, right?

      1. If i get it right,Apps are more useful on a smartphone,Does Nokia have any smartphone market share?I don’t think so!!!!

        1. Actually Nokia had a LOT of smartphone marketshare around the world. But they didn’t have a USABLE smartphone until they went with Microsoft Windows Phone 7 (coming on the market now).

          1. Sorry, I don’t agree. I’ve had an N9 in my hand. It’s nice, but it’ll never take off against Android or iPhones for various reasons. Interesting that Loic had one, and wasn’t using it, preferring his iPhone. That says volumes.

      2. I think the emphasis on him saying “first” is incorrect, it’s what everyone has been focusing on. If the quote above is correct and I believe it is, the emphasis is “develop for that platform, PERHAPS even first”. The point is over the next 6 months Android will not magically overthrow iOS as the premier platform for development, maybe one day, but 6 months is to short a time for that. Instead developers will no longer be able to ignore the Android platform. Its the end of iOS apps only; that’s the transition that will happen over the next 6 months. Developing for Android “first” is secondary to the problem of lack of development on Android period. That’s why “perhaps” is used as in it would be nice, but that’s not the point. It’s not semantics, its pretty central to Android’s strategy going forward. 

        1. There is an easy way for the iOS app developers to gauge interest from the Android camp. They can set up a notification request page for Android users. Viber had such a page before bringing their app to Android. This is where Eric Schmidt’s volume effect kicks in. I’m sure instagram developers were receiving thousands of messages like “When are you coming to Android?!?” every day.

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