As the software industry continues to mature, it’s interesting to see the progression of platforms and applications. After watching the launch of the iPhone SDK, it’s interesting to compare Apple’s strategy with other platform strategies (Windows, Google, Salesforce, Facebook, Intel).
Traditionally, Apple has been extremely protective of it’s use model, wanting to make sure that each product it developed would be simple to use and believing the only way to ensure that was to develop the applications themselves or with a great amount of scrutiny. The iPhone was released as a closed system, providing key functionality that consumers wanted to pay large $$ for in order to have in their hands. The novelty of the original slowly wore off and the need for additional applications grew; enter the iPhone SDK. It’s interesting that by releasing the iPhone without the software, they are now able to market their platform as having already reached a significant customer base and therefore encourage the software developers to develop for this platform with gusto. Since they still control the distribution channel, they are still able to ensure a positive user experience for their customers while opening up the potential revenue stream to the existing customers already. What’s really interesting, is that as additional software developers create excellent applications for the iPhone, it actually increases the draw to the platform itself.
Someone once said, that every great platform started with an even better application. Google, Salesforce, and Facebook all have their own platform strategy after providing excellence in search, crm, and social networking. In order to attract an ecosystem around a platform, you have to get a very strong user base for the killer application that really shows off the strength of the platform. Once you have that, the ecosystem can quickly begin to be self reinforcing as Apple’s is likely to be. Then you have a cash cow.