A few years back, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft made quite a stink at a Microsoft Developers conference by getting a bit out of control during a presentation. By now most of you have seen this in one form or another on YouTube. I've included the Developers^4 Monkeyboy remix below.
It may be a bit unsafe for work - might want to turn your sound off before watching.
UPDATE: Ballmer gave a little Monkey Boy taste at Mix08...check it out.
Even though the delivery lacked a bit of what Steve Jobs would probably call "taste", the message was clear. Developers are going to make the platform. They certainly did for Microsoft. Any argument against switching to the Mac platform usually begins with "XXX Windows application isn't supported". End of story.
In its own strange way, Ballmer's little tirade really did show developers that Microsoft was eerily serious about supporting them and that they would be looked after by Microsoft.
Apple's history with developers hasn't always been cordial. The infamous case of Apple "stealing" the premise behind Konfabulator (which was later bought by Yahoo) and calling them 'Widgets' is just one instance. The Shelock and Watson issue is another. The takeaway is that developers don't trust Apple as much as they could.
I think with today's SDK announcement (that I covered here), Apple is saying, "This iPhone is the platform of the future. If we don't want to repeat what we did with the Macintosh (eventually losing almost all market share and becoming niche), we better start doing things like helping developers and making serious plays for the enterprise."
So what do developers get? First, there is $100 million in seed money out there in the iFund. That sounds great (better than the $10 million from Google) and will certainly help some small development operations to get off the ground.
What is really interesting is the development platform. Not only does Apple provide the tools to build the applications, but it also has the delivery/hosting method in place and handles the marketing and Credit card transaction as well. For this they take 30% of the sales - which seems very fair.
So the example application I used in my story: Say you sell it for $10 and there are 20 million people out there with iPod Touch and iPhones who are potential customers, even if only 1/10th of 1% of people buy it, you are looking at $140,000 paycheck from Apple. Not bad. Come up with something like Facebook and you are a millionaire, over and over every month.
This development model will look familiar to those who have worked with the Sidekick development platform (based on Java) and is probably a good indicator of why Microsoft just shelled out half a billion dollars for it recently.
Apple, in turn, gets to keep tight control over which applications hit the iPhone and keep it from crashing the device - or competing with its positions. It remains to be seen how many applications get picked up. Apple is known to be very picky.