Why Robert Scoble is Wrong (And a Little Right) About Apps

Robert Scoble is no stranger to opinions. He has several of them, and he posts them on Twitter daily. Sometimes his opinions are valid, other times they can come across as blatant fanboy. That’s okay though, that’s what the internet is for. But he has recently taken the stance that the success of the platform is based solely on the number of native applications it has available.

While this view isn’t completely incorrect, it’s the only truth. What Scoble will constantly say whenever he comes across a new device (say Android tablet, or Nokia’s newest MeeGo device), he’ll say something like “cool device, but no apps so I won’t use it”, which again is his prerogative. But he often ignores one glaring fact. The iPhone became a successful platform without any native apps. When the iPhone first launched you could only do web applications, there was no native development kit to write native apps (outside of Apple). However, even without the native apps, the iPhone became an incredibly popular device. When native iOS applications arrived over a year later, it only further cemented the iPhone’s popularity.

So the iPhone, Scoble’s goto argument, was itself without native applications for the first year of its existence, but it was a good platform (the first of it’s kind actually) and this is why it gained the attention of developers (it’s popularity didn’t hurt either). Yes, now the iPhone has a large number of iOS applications in it’s app store, so do Android phones (yes, I realize Android tablet apps are lacking, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being worked on), and MeeGo will probably do okay as well. While MeeGo probably won’t be as large in market share as iOS or Android, Nokia sells most of its stuff outside the United States where there are a good amount of people who actually buy Nokia products.

Consider another argument of Nokia and the Symbian platform. Nokia and Symbian owned a nice chunk of the mobile phone market, especially outside the United States (this is something people forget about Nokia when they try to discuss its “irrelevance”). In fact up until recently, Nokia had more market share worldwide than Apple or Google’s Android. However the platform became meaningless in a market with iOS and Android. This happened mainly because Nokia was slow to catch Symbian up to what people were loving about iOS and Android and as a result people stopped developing for Symbian devices.

So Robert, apps are important, but what matters is a solid platform to develop those applications on. Android, Windows Phone 7, and MeeGo (iOS too) offer such platforms. Without a platform that is attractive to developers, there will never be any applications for it. MeeGo has the attention of developers. It might not be the ones in Silicon Valley, but they’re not the only developers on the planet. The platform is important, because the platform brings developers who then write the apps.

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