Two World’s Apart

I have been hearing more and more developers getting all excited about the world of mobile, comparing it to the early days of web. There are some similarities: rapid adoption, increased awareness of capabilities, increased expectations.

There’s a difference between what’s happening in mobile and what’s happened on the web, though. The web was an open standard, evolved from government creation and collaborative efforts. This openness allowed anyone to participate and to use the web as they saw fit. Ideas flourished, advances happened, new development environments were born and we were allowed to grow by connecting with customers in unique ways. If you had/have a great idea, you buy server space and throw your app out there and find an audience that you can directly connect with. It works on every platform (read: browser), more or less.

Mobile has not been and likely will never be like this. It’s a series of walled gardens and closed connections. Look at how far down the value chain we as developers are. Between us and the customer is the carrier then the hardware vendor then the store manager. Our products and prices are being commoditized. Our value as developers is only valuable in creating customer loyalty to a piece of hardware, with enough get rich stories to make everyone believe in gold. Have a unique idea? It can only come to fruition after learning a specific device’s nuances, paying the company for the right to develop, paying for certification, being subjected to weeks of testing, and then being tossed into a pit with 50,000 other applications, never being allowed to touch the customer or derive additional income from them again. Oh, and this is one platform. Do it again for every platform in existence.

Will this change? Likely never for software that runs on the devices. It’s impossible, once these opolies develop to break them down and open them up. But there is a way out. For those of us trying to make a living, pray that combination of 4G, Wi-max and Wifi makes the pipe wide and the connections constant. For it’s the web that bails us out of this mess.