Ethics, developer friendly, cool – pick only two

By now the saga about Podcaster has spread across major blogs and marketing reviews, however the events continue to play out in a surprising fashion that WOM marketers and social media types need to keep following this closely.

One of the latest events was the re-blocking of Podcaster (re-linked to dev site). More detail on support for the developer here. When does enough become enough for a developer? When will the user-base care enough that these actions impact Apple’s sales? When will Apple notice, let alone listen to the negative press? Does Apple even care? The amount of negative press, bad mouthing, and questioning of Apple’s ethics is so intense, it’s almost a marketers nightmare. You might even believe that developers would run from Apple in droves with the poor treatment of the Podcaster developer.

Or not. Let’s look at the developer angle:

  • 2 months * 20hrs/wk * 4.3wks/month = ~172 man hours of work
  • 172 hr * $30/hr (min. dev. cost) * 1.2 (20% FTE load) = ~$6200 cost to develop an iPhone app like Podcaster.

Now a business would probably up the developer cost and FTE load, and determine that an arbitrary decision to block an application by Apple would nullify $6000 to $12000 in development costs BEFORE opportunity costs were factored in. That would be a bad decision, with an unknown return, and a high risk profile.

On the other hand, none of those costs matter to a hobbiest developer who just wants to develop for a shiny object and have a cool app. There’s street cred in building a cool app for the iPhone, then showing it to friends and other developers. For better or worse, most of Apple iPhone developers fall into the second category, and that’s where the real debate should continue.

To look at this potential developer backlash and see if one exists, social marketers would be tapping into the “groundswell”, as a prominent analyst firm would say, and digging through the sentiment to see what the net impact would be of such actions of blocking applications with no forewarning or clear guidelines. The current wisdom is to listen, become part of the conversation, and engage the groundswell. That approach and methodology does not appear to be one that Apple subscribes to at the moment or needs to monitor too closely. They have their own plans to combat vs. engage.

Apple was successful in combating some of the negative press when an article about a developer making $250K recently appeared in Wired. Over 250,000 iPhone SDKs have been downloaded, and the app store drove $100M in sales in 2 months. With numbers like that, does Apple need to care about the developers of Podcaster and Pull My Finger? I would, but then again, I don’t have the trendiest shiny object or massive marketing machine that Apple leverages so well.

I guess there’s always android, but if it’s not shiny enough. What then?

About Duane Kuroda

Business ninja, deal hunter, Internet marketer, and technology fiddler obsessed about growing companies and launching products. Currently at Peerspin, Duane’s past lives include Vice President of Marketing roles at companies leading micropayments, Internet video, and online communities as well as research and consulting for mobile advertising. Duane has spoken at conferences including Digital Hollywood and Digital Video Expo on topics covering monetizing online content and online video, has appeared on TechNowTV and KNTV, and has been quoted in various magazines. Follow Duane on Twitter: @dkuroda.

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