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When Platforms Compete, Developers Win


2725774710 be624fc36bWe've learned that a platform is only as good as the developers it can attract. That's why platforms are working extra hard to get your attention and keep you happy.

Just this week, for instance, The Next Web reported that Facebook launched a program to provide their app developers with subscription services. According to the article, Facebook recently launched an API to provide a way for developers can set up subscriptions and in-app purchases. As with Apple, Facebook takes a 30 percent cut.

It's a way for developers to monetize their Facebook apps and provides another revenue stream for Facebook.

Glenn Gruber who is AVP of travel technologies and mobile solutions at Ness says this is all part of a push by the major players for developer mindshare. He believes that in many ways, the developers are the platform.

Gruber says that Apple has clearly made developers a priority and that has paid off (and it didn't hurt that they were first to market with the app store concept). "If you don’t have people building for the platform, there is less value for everyone in the ecosystem. Apple has done the most to make their platform a mecca for developers. They have paid out by far the most to developers.

In fact, Tim Cook boasted at the 2012 World Wide Developer Conference that developers had raked in more than $5  billion from over 30 billion downloads to date. That's a lot of dough, and when developers see that, they want a piece. "It’s no wonder that most app makers develop for Apple first and then port to other platforms later, if at all. And Apple apps are usually superior to versions on other platforms," Gruber said.

When platforms fail to attract developers in sufficient numbers, it can undo them as we learned with PalmOS and Blackberry.

As for Facebook, Gruber thinks it's a good move on its face (ahem), but if it really wanted to get the attention of the developer community, it might have lead with a more aggressive split than the industry standard 70/30. "Had they done something like an 80/20 split or be really aggressive with 90/10 for some limited time to get developers moving quickly, the announcement might have really gotten developers’ attention," he said.

As it is, he's not sure it will attract much developer momentum. We shall see, but with Facebook making this move away from the Facebook credits idea (one I never liked) and providing a way for Facebook app developers to monetize their products in a more conventional fashion, Facebook is at least trying to find ways to make the platform more attractive to developers.

And whenever the big players compete for your attention, it's always going to be positive -- whether it's development tools, monetization strategies or promotional help.

Photo by Chris Radcliff on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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