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Developer: 'Open is Broken', Android is 'Designed for Piracy'

Steven Blum
17

In the wake of Dead Trigger's decision to offer their highly-pirated app for free, developer named Matt Gemmell has written a polemical blog post slamming Android for being "too open." Gemmell's point is that while Apple's closed ecosystem is criticized by many in the Android fan club, at least the architecture of the ecosystem allows developers to make more money. He thinks Android has a broken business model.

“You search the internet for pirate copies of apps, then copy them onto your (regular, unrooted, non-’jailbroken’) device, and launch them,” Gemmell writes. “The system is designed for piracy from the ground up. The existence of piracy isn’t a surprise, but rather an inevitability.”

Gemmel thinks that no matter how popular the platform becomes, talented developers will run away from Android if they fail to make a buck. The only way for Android to attract these developers is to "lock it down."

"People have to get paid. There has to be a revenue stream.  You can’t reliably have that revenue stream if the platform itself and the damaged philosophy behind it actively sabotages commerce. If you want a platform to be commercially viable for third-party software developers, you have to lock it down. Just like in real life, closing the door and locking it helps make sure that your money remains yours."

"Open is broken," is the gist of Gemmell's argument. He thinks that while the philosophy is comforting – "an ideal, like true democracy" – it's actually impossible in a practical sense. He doesn't even think Google believes in it; they just want their OS on as many devices as possible. Gemmell thinks that what's good for Google isn't necessarily good for developers. 

"You have bills to pay. Life is serious. Pick a platform that knows it. Closed is better for business." 

It must be noted that Gemmell develops apps for iOS. What do you think of his argument?

Comments

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  • Ti Mo Jul 26, 2012 Link

    I think he's totally right.. And honestly, I betcha a lot more devs think the same way(can't blame them). And if more and more devs go away from Android... Well then there's not gonna be anymore android left in this world in 2-4 years.

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    Nick N. Jul 26, 2012 Link

    I'd rather live in an imperfect democracy than a perfect dictatorship.

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  • Steven Blum Jul 26, 2012 Link

    I agree; it's a big problem. So what should be done? Ban sideloading (how?) Allow Google to shut down other app stores (Goodbye AndroidPIT?), work harder to combat piracy? (Yes, please!)

    So far as I can see, the third option is really the only viable one. Google could (and should) work harder to prevent the proliferation of pirated copies of apps on Google Play. But outside Google Play is another story.

    The fact is, the open ecosystem really only benefits Google and consumers; not developers. And without talented developers, Android will become a wasteland.

    Consumers want and expect everything for free, from their Skype app to the latest RPG. That's just not realistic in the long term. Where is the money going to come from? Sure, in-app purchases help devs, but Android owners tend to spend less in-app than iPhone owners as well.

    Are we just cheap?

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  • Ti Mo Jul 26, 2012 Link

    Well Nick think about it this way...

    When you live in this country with an imperfect democracy and all the grocery stores suddenly move away from this country and move to the other country with a "dictatorship", because the Government of the democracy country doesn't do anything against the fact that everybody steals from the grocery stores, then after a while you can't live in this democratic country anymore because there's no more food.

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  • Donsaibot Jul 26, 2012 Link

    I'm not a dev so i can't really say much about it but if i were Google i would take a closer look at Google Play and think of ways to pay for apps everyone can use. Not everybody has a CreditCard or Paypal or can use their Phone bill. I didn't buy Apps just because i couldn't do it without having to get something that i would not use for something else.

    Open is broken is a bit extreme i think^^.

    And lastly i would like to say that you can't stop piracy. You can lower it with good ideas but you can't stop it.

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  • Steven Blum Jul 26, 2012 Link

    Good point...you can still jailbreak an iPhone.

    What I think Google needs to implement is an easier way to make in-app purchases. If, every time you buy something in a game, you are re-directed to Google Play, that's one more barrier to folks actually paying for things within an app. Apple makes it easy to buy anything with a single click; why can't Android do the same? Doing so would help developers make back the money they spent developing their apps and make Android that much more lucrative. While it doesn't solve the issue of piracy, it's still a win-win.

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  • Hartmut Holzgraefe Jul 26, 2012 Link

    Come on, we've had the same discussiuon ever since Bill Gates "Letter to the Hobbyists" [1] in 1976 at least, and with the exception of game consoles maybe the locked down platforms have never won. Why should it be different this time, really?

    On the other hand we've seen quite a few strong-DRM services go down, and all the payed for content with them. Sure, not likely going to happen with Apple any time soon, but still ...

    Most important for me though: being able to install stuff that i wrote myself on my own *and* my peer groups devices without having to jump through loops.

    --
    hartmut

    (who's rarely payed for software in the last decade, but has not used any pirated software for much longer ... unless the original producer has long abandoned the platform like with some legacy home computers from the 80ies)

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

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  • Donsaibot Jul 26, 2012 Link

    I personally would never pay for a Game on Android. It's just not worth it.

    It's really a matter of opinion i think. I played Angry Birds for free but i wouldn't pay for it even if it had more stuff etc but i did buy Superuser Elite altough i don't really need the premium stuff.

    It's a weird new Moral Code that people seem to have.
    I played the Minercaft Demo and i bought the Game after that but i didn't buy the Dark Night DVD (Pirated it) and to be onest i don't plan on doing it at least right now.

    From my Friends and Family i can say that if it means enough to them they will pay for it. Or donate if there isn't an Option to buy. It's a complex issue.

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  • DieBagger Jul 26, 2012 Link

    He's assuming that users follow developers, when in fact it's the other way around...

    And let's be honest, getting pirated app is as easy on the iphone (at least it was when I had one) as it is on android.

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  • Ti Mo Jul 26, 2012 Link

    @DieBagger: Not at all.

    Android process: You type the name of the app plus apk in google, download it, place it on phone, install.

    iPhone: Jailbreak with a tool, then add illegal sources to cydia, then install installous.

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  • DieBagger Jul 26, 2012 Link

    Yeah, that's a few hours (or a beer for a friend) and everything is installed (jb, cydia). From there on it's just as easy as installing apps from the store.

    Imo android has the right amount of openess, although I completely agree that they should do much more for their app developers.

    The most annoying thing is the number of (relatively) small alternative markets (hello androidpit), none of which really provide any real improvements (or even alternatives) to the google play store.

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  • Jesse Vidito Jul 26, 2012 Link

    true quality and success stems from passion and desire. Android is getting bigger by the minute and Apple knows it, and it scares them. the idea that a person would rather play with a robot equiped with all the bells and whistles that is available to all classes of wealth, instead of a piece of fruit that demonstrated the law of gravity to sir isaac newton. funny how the forbidden fruit that was once "closed" to those who didnt want to pay the steep price, later proved that all things can fall. sounds kinda familiar. let apple try their psyc warfare while hiding behind a mask of "highest standards" above all who cant or wont pay the price. it will be a devistating impact when that apple falls from the tree. all the while if the "down to earth " robot happens to fall, the impact would be minor and an entire planet of people will pick him up and dust him off.....Why?????? " passion " so many people create app after app and im sure many of them have made $0.00 doing so but they persist out of deep seeded passion driven by something way more rewarding than a fat wallet. they doit to be part of something that represents peace and freedom. something that brought this great country to open its doors to the people and for the people. I shall call refer to you all from this day on as the "Android Minute Men". They say "open is broken" i say "open shall not be out spoken" so let them keep their doors closed because "a closed door store will have fresh fruit no more" the farmers market preceded the world market and the farmers market will have a huge sale on "APPLE SAUCE" in the days following the "gravitational" decline of buissness and intrest in the store that decided who should be allowed to shop their overpriced and narrowly selected merchandise. I am a chess player. a game that takes no sides and remains well "rooted" after centuries. i especially love the games i play against the computer because its always exciting. my games against a bowl of fruit salad sadly i could not bear to finish. I have front row tickets to the bowl of fruit vs. the computer and boy i tell ya that exciting exotic and colorfull exterior wont distract the computer from acheiving its primary objective...... winning. because in a world where all is seen as equal.... the robot can have more passion than the passion fruit... thank you my name is jesse b. vidito IV and you have my full permission post this in the windows of the "High and Mighty" country club members only, kingdom of the I.O.S... smite me if you dare... because my robot eats apples.. thanks to a free app made available to me by the few and the proud. ANDROID MINUTE MEN. keep up the work men and women. im a steel worker and i will forge your armor if you forge the way. ibdabiz28@gmail.com

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  • Steven Blum Jul 27, 2012 Link

    DieBaggar, what would you improve about AndroidPIT? Tell me and I'll forward it to our lead developer. :)

    Jesse Vidito, I like the idea of these "Android Minute Men." You should probably run for president of Android with that speech! :)

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  • Ti Mo Jul 27, 2012 Link

    Improve the app! The apps alright on phones like the gnex but on phones like the hyc desire hd its painfully slow!

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  • Steven Blum Jul 27, 2012 Link

    I'll forward it on to the big men in charge.

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  • My name Jul 29, 2012 Link

    I think he is a biscuit head. Please, we r all pirates in some form and if he thinks apple is locked down he has another thing coming. If developers made apps worth a crap i would be happy to try and buy. Sad that they think such a simple app is worth 1 - more $$. Most apps are worth trying and uninstalling. Thus far on the android platform i have seen nothing worth my dime.
    Perhaps he should blog about something worthwhile.

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  • Steven Blum Jul 29, 2012 Link

    Well "name," I do agree with you that there are a lot of overpriced apps out there. But I also think the market is heavily skewed towards cheap or free apps because the big names out there can afford to offer their apps for free. NOTHING is actually free to make, and you've got to remember that.

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