Why Twitter waited to take ownership of its iPhone and Android apps

Jul 13, 2010
Tech

Twitter was perfectly comfortable partnering with independent mobile developers before unveiling owned-and-operated apps for the iPhone, Android and other mobile platforms last spring, explained Kevin Thau, director of mobile for the social media behemoth. “A year and a half ago we didn’t have all the resources that we wanted, so we decided to partner,” explained […]

Twitter was perfectly comfortable partnering with independent mobile developers before unveiling owned-and-operated apps for the iPhone, Android and other mobile platforms last spring, explained Kevin Thau, director of mobile for the social media behemoth.

“A year and a half ago we didn’t have all the resources that we wanted, so we decided to partner,” explained Thau, who participated in the “Who owns the user?” panel at MobileBeat 2010 in San Francisco on July 12. “At the end of the day, we want to give people the ability to enjoy Twitter as a lightweight application in their pockets.”

The official Twitter app, in fact, is a descendant of Tweetie, arguably the best of the independent Twitter apps that flourished in the first 18 months after Apple opened the App Store. Apparently, Tweetie sparkled in a survival of the twittest.

“Times could not be better” for independent developers

While Twitter is positioned to play kingmaker within any digital realm it operates, Thau believes we are living in a golden age for independent developers.

“For young companies making apps, times could not be better,” he said. “As a consumer I’m really excited.”

Thau added that when carrier networks are eventually able to power the live video chat capabilities currently being “teased” within wireless Internet networks on apps like FaceTime for the iPhone, the app world will enter into a new reality. As for today, he cautioned, clicking multiple hyperlinks on smartphones still takes too much time “even on the best phones and networks.”

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Bullish on how carriers are responding overall to immense mobile media demand, Thau reserved particular praise for AT&T and Verizon.

“Everybody, particularly in San Francisco, likes to complain about AT&T’s network,” Thau said. “But you have to admire the company’s guts for (carrying) the iPhone. I also admire what Verizon did to hold onto market share and fight off churn.”

Google’s Android, of course, also benefited from the big “bear hug” it gave Verizon in the form of the Droid. It was through that distribution relationship where Google’s mobile operating system achieved critical mass.

The mobile road ahead

In a world with 250,000 iPhone apps and nearly 75,000 apps in Google’s Android Market, Thau believes the challenges and rewards for developers have never been higher.

“App developers are competing on user-experience and value,” he said. “The yield is higher than it has ever been.”

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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