Over the last four months I’ve turned from a naive Google fan-boy buying into the well known “Do no evil” motto, to a jaded app developer who thinks he’s seen it all (but probably hasn’t) on the front lines of the Android market.
It’s been a wild ride, and it’s certainly not been fun.
That’s not to say that I think Google is darkest, purest form of evil that ever stalked the Earth.
Far from it.
What I’ve learned is that Google is a business that is trying and succeeding in making a profit, and whether I succeed or fail as an app developer is irrelevant to the company.
Google’s core market is advertising, which is why they purchased the Android OS back in 2005. At the time, the directors must have looked further ahead than the next quarterly statement, unlike most companies these days, and what they must have seen was a world that was moving towards a mobile future. It also must have been obvious to them that if they wanted to remain relevant after this transition, they would needed to make sure the Apple, Nokia and Microsoft didn’t control the browsers on all mobile devices, or they’d be sure to block Google’s access to eyeballs, which would be very bad for business.
The key to Android’s success was a decent supply of applications for the newly launched devices. Google must have realised that it was going to be hard to convince established iPhone developers to invest resources to port apps (it’s still difficult today), so rather than pay them to come, they simply made it cheap to become an Android developer and limited paid app sales to a few regions. This forced developers with limited resources to produce lots of lovely free apps to try to emulate the boom that was occurring on Apple’s iOS platform.
Fast forward to the present, and we have a situation where Google has probably achieved far more than it thought it would with Android. The future is secure, at least for a few more years.
And that’s the problem.
App developers were a means to an end, and that end has been achieved.
That’s why Google provides such miserable support to developers. We’ve done our bit, and for every developer that walks away in frustration, there’s a dozen more who dream of the hitting the big-time.
Google aren’t being evil, they just don’t care.
It’s also why developers were recently banned from the Android support forums. Some of us had kicked up too much of a fuss when we went to the media because we couldn’t contact Google about payment issues that had been going on for weeks.
Rather than fix the problem, Google shot the messengers. It’s cheaper than implementing a proper support service, after all.
Developers are now are left with an email system which largely isn’t monitored by humans. I should know; out of numerous problems I’ve tried to report over the last couple of months, I’ve rarely had contact with a human, and even when I do get someone, nothing is achieved and they usually stop responding to my emails. Sure, the problem might eventually get fixed through other means, but it’s not because of email support.
No, it’s not time to move on and I’m not dropping Android. I love Android and no matter what anyone says, I’ll be sticking with it, while it remains popular.
What I am going to do is cut as many Google products out of my life as I can and start using other services. No more “G” anything, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
As a first step, I’m going to start providing Solar Explorer on alternate stores, beginning with Slideme. I came to this decision earlier today after reading an interesting article that compared different app store performance and showed, quite possibly, that Google’s market isn’t the only viable app store anymore.
I’ll know soon enough, and I’ll report back here how things are going.
Android is all grown up now and may no longer need the financial support of Google to make it in the world.
Google had better think carefully about how it continues to treat the developers that are largely responsible for the platform’s success, or they may find that the developers don’t need Google either.