WWDC 2011 keynote: diversify

This year’s WWDC keynote was one of the most significant of the last few years. Twitter integration and iCloud were the highlights for me, although at the end of the week I’m still not sure when or how I’ll be able to use either. But I love that it was a software-only event — that’s how WWDC should be — and I love that there were major new features on both of Apple’s platforms.

A few of the announcements seemed to have significant overlap (if not direct competition) with third-party developers, in particular Instapaper, Camera+, and the dozens of to-do list apps in the store. You can see some of that live reaction in a “collection of tweets”:http://tweetlibrary.com/manton/wwdc2011 I put together at the conference.

My first thought for Marco Arment was that he should come out with a new product. Not because I’m worried about Instapaper, but just because I’d love to see what he’d build next. “Marco is still upbeat on Instapaper’s chances”:http://www.marco.org/2011/06/06/safari-reader-and-instapaper for continued success:

“If Reading List gets widely adopted and millions of people start saving pages for later reading, a portion of those people will be interested in upgrading to a dedicated, deluxe app and service to serve their needs better. And they’ll quickly find Instapaper in the App Store.”

Yet here’s Dave Winer, “reflecting on when Apple competed with his product”:http://scripting.com/stories/2011/06/06/anotherGreatSboringsLovely.html:

“I think the answer is to find meaning in your work independent of what happens with the fickleness of the platform vendor and its developers. I went on to take the same software that Apple crushed and turned it into blogging, RSS, podcasting, web APIs, all kinds of cool stuff. And yes it did eventually make me a bunch of money. But not the way everyone thought it would.”

As Dave used to say, zig where they zag. Find the unique value in the apps you build and spin those out as separate products or use as inspiration for new features. Daniel and I have talked about this on Core Intuition: pull your app’s strength into a competition advantage by reusing code and adding more depth than anyone starting from scratch.

By playing to your strengths, you can do more, faster. Every indie Mac and iOS developer should be thinking about a suite of products.

“Justin Williams hits this”:http://carpeaqua.com/2011/06/07/the-agony-and-the-ecstasy-of-wwdc/ in the context of WWDC:

“Some people grow frustrated by Apple continually making inroads in existing developer’s territory, but it comes with being a part of the platform. The key is to ensure your product lineup is diverse enough that you can survive taking the blow Apple may offer at the next keynote.”

You should make the choice to diversify before you’re forced to make it, because WWDC is already a full year of choices rolled up into one week. Dropbox/Simplenote and iCloud, OAuth and Twitter.framework, iOS 4 and 5, Retain/Release and ARC. Like the “Persians deliberating while both drunk and sober”:http://skepticalphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/09/persian-strategy-deliberating-while.html (“via Buzz Andersen”:http://twitter.com/buzz/status/76502320514465793), if you make any real decisions during WWDC’s info intoxication, make them again a week later.

Marco has a clear advantage over his new competition, though, regardless of whether he creates new products or sticks with Instapaper. “Send to Instapaper” is built into every great Twitter app and newsreader. It took years to build such widespread integration, and it won’t be easy (even for Apple) to be on equal footing with such a well-loved and established brand.