Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Blackberry to force YOU to pay for their app mistakes

The failed mobile app platform that wants to force you to help

The failed mobile app platform that wants to force you to help

Blackberry has outrageously demanded that app developers be forced to support their platform, at the developer’s expense – that whenever a mobile app is released, app developers should be forced by law to also release a version of their app for the Blackberry platform.

In the late 90s, Blackberry was a popular platform. But they lost their crown to Apple and Google Android, because there was one crucially important aspect of their business which Blackberry neglected – their app developers.

Developing for Blackberry was difficult and expensive – from memory, you had to pay thousands of dollars for the Blackberry development environment, then you had to pay hundreds of dollars when you submitted a mobile app, for Blackberry to evaluate it. As a result, hardly anyone developed mobile apps for the Blackberry platform.

When Apple iPhone exploded onto the scene, Apple’s focus on encouraging mobile app development gave their iPhone platform an unprecedented level of versatility – and swept previous incumbents like Blackberry from the field.

If you were CEO of a company which had just been so soundly outcompeted, what would you do?

The obvious solution, you could attempt some product innovation, you could try to find a way to tempt consumers back to your brand, by addressing its shortcomings.

Or you could do what Blackberry has just done – run to Washington, to try to force mobile developers to support your platform, by convincing politicians that your proposed anti-freedom law should be passed in the name of ensuring “equality”.

If Blackberry gets away with this audacious attempt to force others to prop up their business, to pay for their mistakes, this madness won’t stop with Blackberry – the law will apply to any mobile app platform, no matter how obscure.

Where do you draw the line? If some mom and pop business releases 500 phones, do you have to support their platform as well? If a Taiwanese manufacturer creates a new mobile OS, which has no presence whatsoever in English speaking markets, could they sue you if you fail to support their mobile app platform?

And of course, it won’t be long before other industries take notice, and start clamouring for “neutrality” laws of their own, to secure market share through government fiat rather than product innovation.

This madness must be stopped. The potential for this proposal to stifle innovation and crush startup businesses is breathtaking, but Blackberry doesn’t care. All they can see is a possible opportunity to convince legislators to force developers, anyone who commissions an app, to give Blackberry’s business a boost, without Blackberry having to pay a penny. Given Blackberry’s dismal market share, none of the effort devoted to creating blackberry apps is likely to yield a profit – but the “Blackberry Law” would still force you to provide an app for their system, at your own expense.

How to write a mobile app

A nice graphic to denote writing your own app

Writing your own app can save you money and be a lot of fun

Writing an iPhone App or Android App is expensive. Even the simplest mobile apps usually need at least a week or two of skilled developer time to construct.

If you have technical skills, perhaps past coding experience, one obvious solution to save money is to write your own app.

Why write your own app? Beside saving money, writing your own app can be a lot of fun. Writing an app is a creative experience, like painting a picture or composing a song.

How do you start?

You could do what I did – invest hundreds of hours of your time into learning how to create apps for your mobile app platform of choice.

Or you could ask an expert for help – you could cut through all the time consuming trial and error, and ask me to help set up your development environment.

I can get you started with app development essentials:

  • How to set up your development environment.
  • How to create your first app
  • How to transition between different app forms
  • How to create fancy graphics and transitions
  • How to package your app for publication on app store
  • What is the best development option for leveraging your previous coding skills

How long will it take?

The length of time it takes to get started with app development depends on your previous coding experience, and what mobile app platform you want to start with.

For example, if you have a background in developing web apps, you could leverage those skills by using a cross platform development environment like Cordova, which provides a framework for creating an app using HTML web pages.

If you have a choice of starting with iPhone or Android, I recommend you start with iPhone – though the Apple development environment only runs on Apple Mac computers. The Android app development environment is more difficult to set up than the iPhone app development environment, and creating your first Android app is a steeper initial learning curve. However, once you are past the initial learning curve, both environments are very similar in terms of the effort required to create an app.

If part of your app is too complicated for your current level of experience, I’m happy to assist, by creating blocks of code which you can insert into your app. But you can still potentially save a bundle by developing as much of your app as you can, yourself.

Lesson Plan

My recommendation is to start by booking 3 x one hour sessions, spaced 1 week apart.

  1. First Lesson – setting up your mobile app development environment.
  2. Second Lesson – developing your first app
  3. Third Lesson – deploying your app to app store or play store

You can book additional lessons as required. I charge $100 + GST per one hour session. The lessons are conducted using Skype, because Skype lets you share your computer screen, so I can see exactly what is happening, and give you realtime advice on how to achieve you mobile app development goals.

Contact me now for more information on how to develop your own app.

British PM – Ban encrypted mobile apps

Messaging app image used in The Guardian

Messaging app image used in The Guardian

British Prime Minister David Cameron has stirred controversy with a new push to ban mobile apps which allow users to communicate via secure, encrypted messaging.

According to The Guardian;

The prime minister has pledged anti-terror laws to give the security services the ability to read encrypted communications in extreme circumstances. But experts say such access would mean changing the way internet-based messaging services such as Apple’s iMessage or Facebook’s WhatsApp work.

“In extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call, to mobile communications,” Cameron said. “The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not.”

My biggest concern about this kind of well meaning but wrong headed initiative is the depth of ignorance it demonstrates, about what is and isn’t possible, and how tech works. You can’t stop people using encryption for communication – even if messaging mobile apps were somehow banned, people could still use encrypted websites to communicate.

But you can cause a lot of trouble for fledgling domestic high tech industries by introducing ham fisted regulations, which put domestic businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage in the international market.

This controversy harks back to the 90s US crypto controversy. The US government banned the export of encryption technology which was difficult for their supercomputers to crack, classifying it in the same category as high tech military weapons. An ingenious response to this silliness was illegal immigrants, who had the export restricted encryption code tattooed onto their bodies, which made it illegal to export them.