Last Updated Apr 15, 2010 12:31 PM EDT
Over the years, and especially with its Windows operating system, Microsoft learned the value of owning platforms that attract independent developers. The company has made plenty of mistakes, ranging from developer allegations that Microsoft stole their work to heavy-handed efforts to push former partners out of a market niche. Overall, however, Microsoft knows how to work with independent developers, give them what they need to develop for its ecosystem, and enable them to make money from their efforts. That includes the following:
- Technology Roadmaps so developers know product strategy, and how to better target their efforts for an eventual financial return
- Information to help them design more effectively for the platform
- Marketing Programs to support developers when they approach customers and prospects
- A Robust Ecosystem with many points of entry, so software companies can choose what best fits their business model
- Flexibility and Patience to let the market decide what is true innovation and what is a waste of time
In short, Microsoft gives developers what they need and then gets out of their way. As a result, the company has a software ecosystem of a size and depth that outstrips virtually anyone else.
In contrast, Apple and Twitter don't get it. Apple has increased the amount of control it exerts over iPhone OS developers, actually limiting their choices in tools and programming languages. That has already caused more obvious disenchantment from developers than I can remember seeing for quite a while. Furthermore, the constraints also make it harder for companies to innovate for the iPhone OS platform.
As for Twitter, it has churned up its developers as of late, who are now worried whether the service will put them out of business. The social network has bought applications or announced plans to develop and release features and software that put it into competition with third party developers.
As VentureBeat has smartly pointed out, there are multiple reasons why Apple and Twitter have gone the control freak route. To do so intelligently, it's important to remember that a platform is exactly that -- a place where customers and other companies can do whatever they want to do. The more control you exert, the more you reasons you give developers to look elsewhere. It's a lesson that Microsoft learned well and used to dominate the world of personal computing for years. It also something that Apple and Twitter would be wise to consider.