Development models, business models

This morning I’ve been reading reaction to Robert Scoble’s post “iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5?” He interviewed a development shop which prefers delivering to iPhone via webpages than through Apple’s store.

The title reads strangely to me… it seems to be comparing a business path with a development path, and then implicitly generalizing the iPhone’s particular “HTML5″ implementation to all WWW browsers’ HTML implementations. This double ambiguity accounts for the divergence in subsequent commentary.

The “app model” in the title refers to using the iPhone’s native code system for developing a standalone app, then using Apple’s transaction/distribution system to earn a monetary return on the work. The “HTML5″ in the title describes one attribute of Apple’s Safari runtime — using a popular label applied to some of its features — but doesn’t discuss how the developers receive financial compensation from their audiences. The title compares two different types of things.

Among business models, Apple’s iPhone store accomplished a worthwhile goal: it provided a way for developers to focus on content development, then to receive money for that work. It also enabled iPhone customers to easily find new functionality while reducing their vendor-evaluation costs. Apple helped many iPhone developers monetize their work. That’s a very good thing.

The webpage world is still struggling with content monetization. Advertising is one path — selling your audience’s attention to third parties. Memberships and registration are another. Collateral merchandise (T-shirts, tipjars, concert tickets etc) are a third approach. But it has proven difficult to get compensated when digital bits can be so easily copied. Newspapers, television, magazines and other popular content providers are looking beyond “open” webpages, even looking into selling their own Internet-enabled devices. It’s hard to compare the business models of “HTML5″ with that of Apple’s store.

And for development models, I think the Nextstop developers will encounter a very different equation if developing beyond the iPhone’s implementation of “HTML5″… fragmentation of features across different runtime brands is a big issue, and this must be surmounted before attempting to reconcile different device form-factors. The little five-letter label “HTML5″ hides a multitude of shifting meanings.

Bottom line, “How do you get compensated for your creative work?” remains a big issue. Apple has taken a worthy step towards that goal. Others will take different steps. With enough experimentation we’ll discover better answers.

But comparing a business model with a development model… that can be as confusing as comparing ravens and writing desks, I suspect…. ;-)

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