Battling for smartphone developers' hearts and minds

Competing head to head, Apple, Google, and RIM will present themselves as the developer's best friend. Whoever makes good on that promise will score big.

The battle for the hearts and minds of smartphone developers is on.

Earlier Wednesday, Google unveiled its Android Market which will allow anyone buying T-Mobile's G1 to download apps for the smartphone. Here's what Google had to say:

"If you're a developer, you will be able to register and upload your applications starting next Monday, 2008-10-27, when we've wrapped up a few final details. In order to make sure that each developer is authenticated and responsible for their apps, you will need to register and pay a one time $25 application fee. Once registered, your apps can be made available to users without further validation or approval."

Starting in early Q1, developers will also be able to distribute paid apps in addition to free apps. Developers will get 70% of the revenue from each purchase; the remaining amount goes to carriers and billing settlement fees--Google does not take a percentage. We believe this revenue model creates a fair and positive experience for users, developers, and carriers.

The timing obviously was coincidental but it follows by just a day Apple's earnings report where we learned that the company shipped 6.9 million iPhones in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Research In Motion announced that its long-delayed Blackberry, the Bold 9000, will go on sale early next month.

Each company will win fans who become enamored of this or that feature. But the fanboys, whose tether with reality got cut long ago, matter less than the developers.

Competing head to head, Apple, Google, and RIM will present themselves as the developer's best friend. Whoever makes good on that promise will score big. The iPhone is out ahead of the pack but nothing's set in concrete. In fact, Apple has had, at best, an uneven relationship with iPhone developers, and each side still is not sure whether it can trust the other.

As my colleague Stephen Shankland notes , the iPhone is about as locked down as possible.

"The App Store, while thriving, is a walled garden compared to the user-ranked, self-governing free-for-all that Google aspires to build with its Android Market download site. Google launched its Android software developer kit before launching Android to encourage people to write applications for the phones, whereas Apple only released its SDK much later and, only recently, partly lifted a nondisclosure agreement that muzzled developers from so much as sharing programming tips. And perhaps most clearly, the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1 built by HTC, comes with a USB debugging mode to let programmers peer into its inner workings."

If RIM and Google roll out the welcome mat, a lot of third-party developers will take notice. For more about this as well as an initial appraisal of the G1, I spoke with CNET Reviews' Kent German earlier Wednesday on the Daily Debrief.

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