I know this headline is going to net me a lot of hate mail from users complaining that it's sensationalism. That may be the case, but, it's also a reality. Because in the future, what developer would continue to work on apps when they could be sure that most users would soon download them for free, exclusively? And when we're already talking about horror scenarios: What would Android be without apps? And how many customers would still buy Android, if there wasn't an app for everything?
We don't have the exact figures but you don't have to be a fortuneteller to know that it would be a lot less.
Unfortunately this nightmare isn't just something we've dreamed up. We've just received a press release from a Chinese developer team announcing their development of a „Napster“ service for Android apps. The service allows every user to upload his/her app to the cloud and pass them on to their friends, for free, including pay-apps. In plain English that means that most developers without the protection of a robust and functional licensing system stand to loose substantial revenues.
According to the company's press release:
When Android users swap apps, free or paid ones, among friends, how would developers and Google make money from the millions of downloads? Disruptive? Indeed! A Beijing based angel investor commented on Cloud, “It breaks off the value chain of the present app market."
The developers are more then aware of the fact, that they are encouraging theft. Conscience? –404 file not found– What's more, in the press release they say consumers should use their „service“ because „it's more fun“ to trade apps then reward developers for their hard work. This is more then college students trading a couple of songs on their university network; this is a highly professional assault on the Android economic model. Where the film and music industry had other revenue channels available to them, allowing them the necessary leeway to successfully manage the economic burden that piracy represents, Android developers are dependent on the market system. Larger developers, just like film studios maybe able to absorb the loss, but this will create a potentially prohibitive burden for small and medium sized developer teams. This is disruption by design and the company in question knows it.
If the cloud service is successful, we stand to loose Android-developers in hordes. I think it's obvious enough that I am very skeptical of the development of this „service“. What these developers are offering is, simply put, illegal. Not only are they opening themselves up to prosecution but also the customers, who make use of their service (at least in Germany) And justifiably so! This is why I want to avoid tempting our readers and will not mention the name of the questionable developers. We don't need to offer illegal file-sharing services another stage to work on.
It's important for me to express how dangerous this could be for the community. I recently had a conversation with the CEO of a major game workshop, who is currently struggling with the depressing effects of illegal downloads on the branch. For the development of a complex Android title, the company had invested around a seven figure sum. But shortly after the game's launch the company had a sobering revelation: more then 90% of all instillations were cracked (i.e. illegal) copies. The repercussions are enormous. So much so, that the company is currently considering developing for iOS exclusively and ceasing all Android production.
To quote the Chinese developers, who are hopping to revolutionize the Android App Market:
But will Google and developers allow this happen? Will they be sued and end up being shut down like Napster, or they will be followed by millions phone users as the app rock stars, we don’t know. But one thing is certain, people will share apps with other people, with or without permission, with or without Cloud.
I sincerely hope, that both providers and users of this platform will face the full consequences of their actions. But this may be easier said then done. This is, of course, a Chinese company; not a country known for respecting copyright and developers hard work.
The simplest solution would be if Android users were intelligent enough to ignore the service. What do you think?
We've tested the program. Unfortunately, it works fantastically. And there are already hundreds of Android apps in the cloud.