Thursday, June 24, 2010

iOS and Mac OS X Developers Should Get Early Hardware Pre-Order

It's iPhone 4 launch day and seeing an iOS developer unable to get a device seems like a problem Apple could easily solve. Here's my proposal: Paid Developer Program Members Pre-Order Early!

Why Should Apple Do This?
I'm sure of three things about most iOS and Mac OS X developers:

  1. They really want to develop for iOS or Mac OS X
  2. They are gadget junkies and need a yearly fix
  3. They feel exposed when shipped apps aren't testable on new devices and only the simulator ahead of device availability
Apple can easily solve all these problems and engender goodwill just by letting paid developer program members pre-order and receive new devices a little bit early.

The Plan
The buy-in into this scheme is the yearly paid developer program fee, currently US $99/year. Of course, you have to try and head off abuse right away, so there are some limits:

  1. Shipped 0 Apps. Limit 1 Pre-ordered Device
  2. Shipped 1 App. Limit 2 Pre-ordered Devices
  3. Shipped 2-5 Apps. Limit 4 - 10 Pre-ordered Devices
  4. Shipped 6+ Apps. Limit 15 Pre-ordered Devices
It's almost exactly a 1 app = 2 phones algorithm, but you have to cap the more prolific developers from sucking up tons of inventory.

Using this benefit would have to guarantee receipt of pre-ordered devices at least 1 day earlier than the general public.

Of course the benefit could be abused, but Apple could have some significant penalties in place, like developer program revocation or elimination of the benefit for people found to be abusing the system e.g. buying and eBaying devices. That kind of penalty should be in place from the start. Any further device pre-ordering limit complexity, like pre-order amounts based on how recent app updates were published, I would avoid when the benefit was first offered.

More Upside, No Downside
This plan also gives bloggers or other smaller reporting organizations a chance to get access to a device before public launch day so they can prepare or finish off their content and publish on launch day. This would be the 1 potential device pre-ordered group.

The other additional upside for Apple and whomever are their cellular partners (*cough* hint) is spreading pre-order load out across more time. If Apple keeps producing very compelling devices, the rush to pre-order only gets worse the more devices that are sold the last generation. This plan splits the initial demand up.

I can't think of any real downside, other then the probable small amount of work needed to setup this developer program benefit. Seems like the benefits to all parties more than outweighs the cost