Apple, Adobe, Web Analytics and Megalomania

What is it about social media and web analytics which turns CEOs into control freak megalomaniacs anyway?

Last week, it was Apple’s revision of the SDK agreement with developers barring all cross-compilers from use for developing apps heading for the Apple AppStore and which was first pointed out by John Gruber in this post. Most outsiders see this as targeting Adobe’s Flash platform, and it is rumored that Adobe is now contemplating going legal over the issue.

Last September, Adobe purchased web analytics firm Omniture. This was one of the deals where most peoples’ jaws dropped because Adobe’s flagship product is Creative Suite, which is a suite of applications for publishers and creative types.

Omniture’s products are used by business development types, who want to know where visitors are coming from, what sites/search engines refer them, etc. All of this is achieved through the use of tags embedded in each page’s source code. Whenever a request is made to a page, the tag calls a server and logging in that it has been called, including information about the user’s browser, geographic region, etc. With this data, the bizdev types then tell the designers and creatives how to further improve the content and pages, making everybody rich in the process.

Anyhow, that’s the idea.

What made the Omniture acquisition interesting was that in most company organizations, the bizdev and design/creative types don’t work that closely together, let alone use the same production tools. What Adobe proposed through the Omniture purchase was to bring both groups together in its new CS5 product lineup.

But two days before Adobe launches CS5, Apple releases its new guidelines for app development on the iPhone platform, which is aimed at cross compilers, but hits designers using Flash especially hard. For the record, I don’t like Flash myself, it hurts performance, fires up the fan, and is a general nuisance. As far as I’m concerned, real developers use C or a C-derivative language, not Flash.

But banning it!!!??? I believe that apps developed on Flash will probably sell less well in the AppStore, and that the smart Flash developers will say “Hmm, maybe I should start developing using Objective-C and Cocoa frameworks so that I can squeeze that last bit of performance out of OpenGL, etc.” Isn’t wholesale banning a bit much? Why not just let the market deal with the issue?

Now Apple has come out with a new zinger for the new iAd network: developers are not allowed to collect user analytics inside their own applications, while Apple is allowed to insert ads into applications. What does this mean if you are a developer?

  • Apple may insert other ads, even your competitor’s ads into your app, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • You cannot collect download and usage data so that you can improve sales of future versions of your app, but Apple can, and they will not share that data with you.

So if you are a smart app developer, what do you do? I’d say that you’d have to put on a business hat, and ask yourself:

  • Do I want broad coverage of a new app to test the waters and see if this app sticks? If so, sell on the App Store.
  • Is my app more narrowly targeted, and has more functionality? Then build a web version of it, and optimize it for the iPhone, iPad and Android platforms.

The most important idea behind the platform concept is that it needs to be fair to all players. The AppStore started great, but now it’s showing wear and tear. And that wear and tear is coming from business decisions by Steve Jobs.

Basically, Apple is showing that it wants to be the ultimate ad planner and ad buyer for mobile digital. But good ad planners and buyers don’t compete with their customers. That’s the most basic rule.

Through this action, Steve Jobs is going not only after Adobe’s Flash platform, but it’s Omniture web analytics acquisition too.

Steve, I thought you were a Buddhist? How about taking up golf and getting in touch with your softer side?