Developers: why you should build for Android tablets

Google Android 3.0 Apps

OK, maybe Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field is wearing off a bit and I might feel differently in a week when I get my iPad 2, but after playing with my Motorola Xoom a lot more tonight and seeing just what “no apps” looks like, I got something to say to developers:

You should build for Android. Before you build for iPad.

Here’s why.

1. The bar on Android for getting noticed is VERY VERY VERY LOW! I mean it’s so low that I feel that I could write an app and get noticed tonight. Even a crappy app. Even one that does nothing but make fart noises. While on iPad you better have an Angry Birds or Foursquare or Instagram killer just to have a prayer of getting Techcrunch to pay attention to you. Hint: your app isn’t yet as good as Angry Birds, Foursquare, or Instagram, so stay away from Apple.

2. Yobongo is learning tonight the hard way that crowds = death if you aren’t ready. Yobongo released today on iPhones to a decent helping of hype. Yet the reactions I’ve seen from people on Twitter aren’t very happy. Why not? Because it wasn’t perfect. It only released in three cities and the community hasn’t had a chance yet to figure it out. If it were released on Android first, there are far fewer users, but they could have slowly onboarded people (most of whom would be tech industry insiders, since that’s pretty much the only people who have Android tablets so far) and they could have worked out the kinks, then released a few months later on iOS.

3. It’s tougher to monetize on Android, which forces a scrappier corporate culture. There aren’t 200 million credit card accounts sitting there, so you gotta be smarter, scrapier, and more inventive to get revenues in. This helps you build a better company. Plus, when you REALLY need to show revenues, like right before you raise your series B, you turn on the iPad apps then. Investors are happy. You’re happy. You gassed up at the right time!

Fossil's concept watches

4. You can build stuff that you can’t on Apple. Like Fossil, who will ship new “connected watches,” pictured above (they work with Android phones), this year. Those aren’t possible on Apple’s system.

5. Android’s OS is tougher to build on. In my experience it’s buggier than iOS. Apps crash more, and have features that don’t work. Again, the bar is very low on Android. On iOS the bar is MUCH higher. Plus, if the Android Tablet world follows the phone one, there will be more fragmentation, so you’ve got to build testing and distribution systems that are gonna be more prepared for weird stuff than if you build for Apple. That’ll make you more agile eventually and you gotta bet that Apple will eventually be forced to change its app infrastructure quite a bit in the future to respond to competitive pressures.

6. You can help define Google’s marketing and maybe even win a spot on the Google jet. Google hasn’t yet figured out how it will sell its tablet OS. Apple has. So, if you create a killer app on Android, you’ll probably get invited in to work with the Google teams on future OS’s and you’ll probably get invited to demo on stage at Google IO. The chances of you creating the next Flipboard on iOS? Give me a break.

7. You have access to APIs and features Apple lacks, which will help you make an industry-defining app. Let’s say you want to compete with Flipboard or AngryBirds or one of those hot iPad apps? How would you do it? Well, PC World has a list of some of the things, like notifications and widgets, that Android has but iOS doesn’t. Use those and if you get on Oprah your app will look more finished than your Apple-only competition.

8. Building a “smooth” app on Android is harder. When I played with the iPad 2 yesterday I noticed something. Dragging and dropping felt smoother on the iPad than on my Motorola Xoom. That shouldn’t be if you just looked at the specs like Gizmodo did. More on that next weekend when I get my iPad 2 and am able to really compare it to my Xoom. But, there’s something here. If it’s harder to build a “smooth” app on the Android, that means you’ve gotta find some coding tricks that might help you make a freaking awesome iPad app later. After all, remember all those great Russian coders who came here after learning to code on crappier machines than existed in the West? Yeah, I do.

9. When you demo your app people will ask how you got an iPad 3. I’ve been showing around the Xoom and people notice it’s not an iPad, and are intrigued with it. That’s 70% of your marketing challenge right there. Getting them to pay attention to you so you can tell your story. Imagine you show up at SXSW in a week with an iPad. No one will pay attention. Show up with a Xoom and your app on it? Everyone will. Why? They want to believe that Scoble’s wrong and that there’s actually apps on that thing! 😉

10. There’s a ready group of fandroids, as I learned yesterday. These people believe in the OS, Google, and the future of Android and will push you to every influencer or journalist out there. Yeah, with iOS you’ll get on Oprah if you build the next Flipboard, but, again, do you really have a shot at doing that? With 65,000 apps to compete with? No, not really. But you do have a real shot of getting every fandroid to wear your Tshirt and leave comments in every Techcrunch post or Scoble blog about tablets until they review you.

11. Fred Wilson and Fortune will think you are a genius!

12. You can iterate faster on Android. On iPad you need to wait four to ??? days for Apple to approve your app. On Android your apps get added to the marketplace much faster, usually in hours.

Since I’m gonna be an unabashed Apple fan for the forseeable future, I want Apple to have some real competition so that they feel like they will lose their empire at any moment. It’s GOOD for Apple fans to help ensure real competition exists. Otherwise we’ll never see any real advancements from Apple and we’ll never have any future choices about hardware or OS’s to try.

So, world’s developers, I’m calling on you to develop killer apps for Android and ignore all the idiots like me who are pointing out that there won’t be any users this year for your apps. That really won’t matter. Anyway, I expect Google has a strategy for getting apps and we’ll hear more about that soon.

So, smartass Scoble, why not build for Windows tablets? Or HP’s TouchPad? Or RIM’s Playbook?

After talking to a bunch of developers and others the past few days, including some Sand Hill Road VCs, it’s clear that Android is going to take the #2 spot pretty firmly. Why? Because Android phones already have plenty of apps, and that will position Android tablets in most people’s minds as the best alternative to the iPad. HP has distribution, yes, thanks to its position as #1 computer maker, so it’ll take #3 slot. I just don’t think it’s the strongest app platform to compete with iPad. RIM seems like it’s really struggling to figure out how to take the #4 slot and, anyway, it seems like it’s going with some sort of Android app compatibility strategy anyway.

So, since I want Apple to have strong competition, I’ll urge you to build Android apps.

Who’s in?