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Android DRM Open Source Piracy The Almighty Buck

App Developer: Android Designed For Piracy 596

Following news this week of a game developer who turned the Android version of a game free because of piracy concerns, software developer Matt Gemmell has written a lengthy post explaining why he thinks Android apps are laboring under a broken business model. "People have to get paid. There has to be a revenue stream. You can’t reliably have that revenue stream if the platform itself and the damaged philosophy behind it actively sabotages commerce. If you want a platform to be commercially viable for third-party software developers, you have to lock it down. Just like in real life, closing the door and locking it helps make sure that your money remains yours. Bad behaviour has to be more difficult than good behaviour - and good behaviour means paying for your software." He also has some harsh arguments about some of the assumptions and philosophies underpinning the an industry built on an open platform. "Nerds like to say that people care about choice at that level. Nerds are wrong. Nerds care about choice, and nerds are such a tiny minority of people that nobody else much cares what the hell they think. Android is designed with far too much nerd philosophy, and open is gravy to those people because it’s synonymous with customization. ... Open is broken as a money-making platform model, unless you’re making the OS or the handsets. Most of us aren't doing that."
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App Developer: Android Designed For Piracy

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  • Wait a sec... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashikiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:42PM (#40756637) Homepage

    Isn't this the same app that was "pay to win"(pay for the app, then pay another $6 to win, then pay more, and if you do anything that causes a loss in data on your phone, you get screwed out of everything) and people just said: "screw you and shove it up your pie hole." Pretty sure it was.

    • Yup. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Grog6 ( 85859 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:02PM (#40757019)

      Amazingly, the people who can use an Android phone won't pay for an app like that. No shit Sherlock. I mean, Whodathunkit? Non-idiots won't buy garbage.

      When I imagine the developer who wrote this app, I think of the girl in the Vonage commercial:"Puppy!" :facepalm:

      For him to be successful requires a large number of idiots; apparently, the Android crowd won't be that, and he's miffed.

      The people "Pirating it" probably wanted to show their friends how stupid i(whatever) users are.

      Before the "pirates" go back to playing Counterstrike...

      I judge coworkers on ability by what apps they have on their phone; it makes it a lot easier. :) (My phone makes calls. Only. Yeah, you can still get those.)

    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:22PM (#40757351)
      I will add to this that the Android apps I've written and released for free in the app store have yet to be pirated!
    • Re:Wait a sec... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zaelath ( 2588189 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:23PM (#40758267)

      Looks to me like it's gone from $1 to free malware.

      Unless the dev can explain a reason why a game needs:
              retrieve running apps
              Allows the app to retrieve information about currently and recently running tasks. Malicious apps may discover private information about other apps.

      Other than the obvious reason that it wants to know everything you're running on your phone to report back to the developer.

      Fuck him and his shitty 30 year old game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:44PM (#40756679)

    Windows as a platform, at least until Vista/7/8, did nothing to enforce app piracy. That was left purely to the developer. App development was as open as could be - MS imposed no restrictions on distribution and left DRM and similar to the application developer.

    Can the author of this editorial kindly explain why there are numerous profitable applications for Windows, during the XP era?

    • Who says that Windows works? Unless your the size of Microsoft or Adobe, being successful on Windows in this regard is really hard.

    • by mmell ( 832646 )

      App development was as open as could be

      Can I have some of what you're smoking?

    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:57PM (#40756911) Homepage
      My thoughts exactly. If being designed for pirates means that they do nothing to stop pirates then Android is designed for pirates. As is Windows, Linux, OSX, and probably every OS except iOS. Not counting consoles that is. That doesn't mean its impossible to make money selling applications for those platforms.
    • by dingen ( 958134 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:09PM (#40757149)

      First of all, I don't think selling games for Windows is all that profitable, at least when it comes to single player / offline games (which is the bulk of the Android games). Piracy is huge, that's why the whole industry shifted towards consoles and online during the last decade or so. I'm sure there are some AAA games generating money, but it's pretty much a "the winner takes it all" situation. I'd be glad to be pointed to evidence stating the opposite, but I'm under the impression it's just a handful of publishers who are getting rich and the rest of the industry isn't getting a lot out of selling PC games.

      But more significant I think is the fact that Windows is basically a monopoly and for most users synonymous with the PC. People don't think about using Windows, they aren't choosing it consciously, which means the demographic of who is using Windows is pretty much "everyone". So despite the insane amounts of piracy on the Windows platform, that demographic still includes a lot of folks who don't know how to pirate a game or don't mind paying for a game and aren't all that interested in piracy, because everybody uses Windows.

      Android on the other hand is in a whole other market. There isn't a clear monopolist when it comes to handhelds, there are all sorts of platforms competing for a piece of the mobile pie. Android appeals mainly to two huge groups of people: 1) the tech savvy folks who like an open platform, but also know how to pirate software and to 2) people who are looking for a bargain. The result of this situation is that the number of Android users who are actually willing to pay for their applications is very, very low.

      In my view, this is why it is *a lot* harder for Android to be a profitable ecosystem for developers than it ever was for Windows.

      • by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:20PM (#40757331)

        Android appeals mainly to two huge groups of people: 1) the tech savvy folks who like an open platform, but also know how to pirate software and to 2) people who are looking for a bargain.

        Really? So there are no Android users in between these two extremes? 10,000,000 people have bought the Galaxy S3 which is an expensive phone. You are trying to say that all of those people are tech savvy people who "know how to pirate software"? Millions of people bought the S2 in its heyday. Are you saying the same thing about those people? And if it's all about the tech nerds buying the expensive Androids why aren't they all just getting Galaxy Nexus's since that's the one with the unlockable bootloader out of the box. Android appeals mainly to two huge groups of people: 1) the tech savvy folks who like an open platform, but also know how to pirate software and to 2) people who are looking for a bargain.

        Now that we've explored your hypothesis and found it lacking, has it occurred to you that there are actually people out there that walk into a phone shop with plenty of money to spend, look at the options available including Blackberry, iPhone, Windows, etc. and then *gasp*, decide to buy Android because they like it? If that hasn't occurred to you then maybe you should have a look at your biases.

  • Offensive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:45PM (#40756685)

    It is "nerds" who invented all the platforms this person is selling or not selling stuff on, and it is "nerds" who wrote the code he sells. The term "nerd" is offensive and derogatory. At this point, I don't even care what he is talking about because I'm so pissed about how he is saying is.

  • by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:45PM (#40756697)

    What if someone finds a way, *GULP*, to root iOS devices like they do with those Android phones!?! They'll be able to install pirated iOS apps!

    The entire market will crash, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... it'll be mass hysteria.

    And then Matt can say he warned us all.

    • What if someone finds a way, *GULP*, to root iOS devices like they do with those Android phones!?! They'll be able to install pirated iOS apps!

      Rooting an iOS device requires some effort, some risk. Not much but it doesn't take much to deter people from going that route. In contrast on many Android devices rooting is unnecessary, just going into settings and allowing apps from "unknown sources".

  • Sold! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:47PM (#40756717) Homepage

    "Nerds like to say that people care about choice at that level. Nerds are wrong. Nerds care about choice, and nerds are such a tiny minority of people that nobody else much cares what the hell they think."

    I think this guy just sold me my first Android phone. Also:

    "If you want a platform to be commercially viable for third-party software developers, you have to lock it down."

    Yeah, because no one ever could figure out a way to make money selling Windows software.

  • by JCCyC ( 179760 )

    ...acording to this tantrum-throwing butthurt loser.

    And nobody ever made money selling software for it.


  • Just like Windows was designed for piracy.

    Sure, blame all your inabilities to adapt to different distribution models on your target platform. :rolls eyes:

  • it DOES matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:52PM (#40756815)

    Last summer I interviewed at a startup that was trying to hire 4 people to work on a collaborative mobile game. I got an offer but didn't take the job, but the lead architect said they were targeting iOS and not Android because of the piracy situation on Android. The money is on the iOS side. We can all guess about the reasons, but that's the simple reality.

    • "We can all guess about the reasons, but that's the simple reality."

      accidentally making the right decision based on incorrect data is a terrible, terrible way to go about life, and an even worse way to run a business.

      pirating is easiER on android, but it's still difficult enough that anyone with a rational time / money balance isn't going to bother. trust me, the average android user isn't prowling torrent sites and installing potentially malware infested hacked applications onto their device.

      the real reaso

    • A few years ago we discussed that already here. A key difference is that for Android there are lots and lots of free (ad-supported) apps available, while for iOS the norm is that apps are paid for (at least that was then; I don't know the current situation on the iOS side). As such the amount of money spent by iOS users is orders of magnitudes higher than that spent by Android users; Apple generally targeting the up-market users with more cash to spend helps as well.

      As of now, I have many apps on my Androi

  • This has been fixed (Score:4, Informative)

    by itsphilip ( 934602 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:52PM (#40756817)
    People are casually forgetting that Google introduced the option to DRM your apps with Jelly Bean and beyond. This is a problem that has essentially been fixed, especially as manufacturers roll out the new version of Android (which is the real problem with Android: that might never happen in the case of many phones). It's a year out probably before lots of people are actually running Jelly Bean, but the process has begun.
  • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:53PM (#40756831) Homepage

    Yeah, never heard that before. "It's not my fault, OMGTEHQQS clearly, you don't pay for it not because my idea isn't super awesome, and sucks, it's clearly because you're all pirates and steal my software for how awesome it is."

    Right, is that what you're telling your investors?

    Oh, and every fat nerd who doesn't take care of themselves isn't constantly thought of by every hot woman in the world simply because other people have pirated their hotness, or is just too orgasmic to think about.
    It has nothing to do with their lack of ambition to be a good catch.

    Your software does not have the power of Axe.

  • Piracy... RIIIGHT. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:53PM (#40756837) Homepage

    I'm needing chest waders after hearing his excuses.

    Sure, being a mediocre at best title isn't an excuse for "stealing" it- but in the same vein, even with fairly SOLID DRM in Google's Store model, he couldn't cut it and blames piracy (I want to see PROOF before I buy his "piracy" excuse...).

    This is just bullshit spin. Seriously

    • by Doctor_Jest ( 688315 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:09PM (#40757151)

      The thing that cheeses me off about the entire post is his dismissive about "nerds" as if they are the cause of all his "piracy" ills. First and foremost, market share IS a good indicator of what people want, and Android has that market share. Sure not any single phone manufacturer has Apple beat, but the PLATFORM of Android is eating iOS's lunch, relatively speaking, and continues to do so, in spite of the recent updates to the Apple handset line. I'm not knocking iOS as a platform... if people like it, people like it. But it seems to me that if this blogger was paying attention, he'd realize that people don't WANT a locked down DRM infested, closed and obnoxious to the paying customer platform. THAT is why they pick Android over iOS.

      I'm sorry, but this guy's got a boner for iOS and thinks he can't do anything until Android is as locked down and "secure" as his preferred platform. That's not just delusional, but like we nerds say "WE don't CARE what you think."

      • He's dismissive of "nerds" because he sees himself as a minority he is not a part of, and a group that should be both dismissed and attacked. His stance is offensive and, frankly, we're all better off that he's just a developer posting on a blog and not a lobbyist or politician who could truly damage our rights and freedoms.

        Instead, he's just an asshole with a blog.

  • by exabrial ( 818005 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:54PM (#40756849)
    I just paid for a $10 app. Why? Because it actually does something useful: (http://www.backcountrynavigator.com) as opposed to your iCrap application. In additiona, the company actually remembers the "old fashioned" ways to sell things... you know, marketing, sales, and support. I was able to install the demo version and test out all of the features (it wasn't crippleware) to make sure it worked as advertised. The app is also top notch as far as Ux and does what it says it does. The marketing video and "how to use the app" are also top notch. The purchase button was right there, so before I could even go to the piratebay, I hit the purchase button.

    You want people to pay for apps? Stop producing iCrap... or make your apps free, because that's about all they're worth.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert@slashdot. f i r e n z e e.com> on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:55PM (#40756871) Homepage

    Piracy exists on every platform that ever had any relevant level of market share...
    Windows does nothing to hinder application piracy for instance.

    Piracy popularises the platform, and what would you rather have, 10% of a million users, or 90% of a thousand users? Some will pay, some won't, and those who don't usually wouldn't have anyway, but on the other hand they are increasing your user base, viewing your ads and have now heard of your company and may well recommend your apps to their friends, some of whom may well buy them.

    Windows succeeded largely because both it and the applications running on it could be pirated. If it was not possible to pirate windows, then a significant proportion of the world would be running something else, either linux or something else that they can pirate. Were that the case, MS would have significantly less influence over the market, their paying customers would be less locked in and a lot of those who buy software would be using alternatives too.

    MS pretty much owe their existence to piracy... Bill Gates even admitted he would prefer users to run a pirated windows than a competitor.
    So do Adobe, if everyone who pirated photoshop used something else then it would have a lot less mindshare.

  • Lock Down (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:57PM (#40756921)

    If you want a platform to be commercially viable for third-party software developers, you have to lock it down.

    Fuck you, control freak asshole. If you want to sell your products then you need to provide a compelling case to your customers. Otherwise, you need to accept that your shit will be pirated and you need to figure out if what you are selling covers your cost. And if you're feeling real insecure, figure out your own security system.

    But don't go saying that I need to be treated like the enemy by my own property. My property is mine and will do as I say. You are welcome to have your software on my property, but it isn't going to bow to your demands and fulfill your wishes.

    Mat Gemmell is an authoritarian asshole who hates that people are free to do with on their Android devices. I bet he hates PCs with a burning fury and would prefer I have no freedom whatsoever. I bet he's pissed that I can choose not to buy his software. Fuck him.

  • by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:57PM (#40756925)

    Oh Gosh, "Open" is broken as a money-making platform model!

    This isn't an attack on Android, it's an attack on anything open-source, anything that gives the user the slightest bit of control or freedom. Yes, we are much better off in a completely locked down ecosystem where we can't even change the default browser, where you had best hope the owners of said ecosystem don't decide to compete with their own app that does a similar thing, or you'll get wiped off the one-and-only app store without a care or an explanation from them.

    Yes, I'm blatantly talking about Apple here. However, I don't mean to sound like I'm ragging on iOS, or Apple in general, I'm merely pointing out that the opposite end of the spectrum has its own set of issues as well.

    Android does have a piracy problem, but it stems mostly from a single tickbox that allows you to install apps that don't come from Google, the same tickbox that lets you install alternative app stores that don't necessarily have the same limitations or guidelines as the Play Store. If you take away that tickbox, I'm not sure the ecosystem will benefit more than it will be hampered.

    Plenty of developers seem to be raking in the money on Android, they just use a different approach than they do on iOS. Instead of "Pay up front and be done with it", it's more "Get it free and supplement with in-app purchases" or "ad supported". Angry birds did the latter, Dead trigger (the one the "Piracy" reference was made about earlier this week) did the former. Their app is getting a lot of press, I will be interested to see just how well they do now.

  • by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:58PM (#40756931)
    People jailbreak and pirate apps on the iPhone as well. It's not even hard from what the people I know who own an iPhone. I'd say the people buying Androids probably are going for it because it's cheaper, or that their are Options that are cheaper. People want Options when buying a phone because they want to see if their is something closer to their budget. We've seen lots of things showing how iPhone users and Apple Users are more willing to part with their cash. People who are Cheap or are less willing to part with their cash might be more willing to go with a Pirated version before they consider buying it, but that's just me making assumptions. I don't understand the fascination with getting apps on my phone. A few apps are needed to make it useful beyond a phone, but I prefer my PC for PC tasks and my Consoles for my Gaming tasks.
  • by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:01PM (#40757001) Homepage Journal

    So, the author has a theory, that sales on top of a fundamentally open platform have an inherent problem because the platform itself is "built for piracy".

    Android may be open, but Ubuntu Linux is even more open, no? I mean, on Android you've got a bunch of closed-source components, particularly around payment processing and app purchase, right?

    It's going to be very interesting to see how Steam fares on Ubuntu. How many developers are going to sell their games for Linux this way? Once things have been out for a while, how will the piracy rates on Linux, Windows, and MacOS (for the same application via the same delivery mechanism) compare to each other?

    Also: I wonder what the author thinks of GoG. They seem to be making enough to stay in business, even though one of their selling points is "no DRM, at all, period, ever".

    (Frankly, I think the bigger reason Android has more of a piracy problem than iOS has more to do with the number of budget phones on prepaid plans that run Android. Leaving all other issues aside, Android's considerably more likely to be in the hands of a cheapass than iOS is.)

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      I can honestly say that I have purchased more PC games from GoG in the last 12 months than I purchased from all other sources put together over the last 10 years.
  • Or maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by funkylovemonkey ( 1866246 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:05PM (#40757085)
    make apps good enough to pay for? I hear a lot about piracy on cell phones, I don't see a lot of evidence of it. I know a lot of people with android phones, I've never really seen any of them pirate an app, even those who regularly pirate software on their PC or whatever. Why? Because most apps aren't worth pirating. I have a handful of apps that I've paid for because they're valuable and unique enough for me to do so. Most I don't, because most apps are so simple, even if there is a good paid app available there is almost certainly a free app that is just as good. Sure I could pay for a nice alarm clock or twitter manager, but I could also download one of the hundreds that are available for free or are supported by ads. Adding a tirade about "nerds" just makes me think this guy maybe should have taken a few minutes to breath before writing this up. If you want me to take your opinion seriously, how about not insulting me throughout?
  • by sixtyeight ( 844265 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:06PM (#40757111)

    In addition to a lot of the arguments being made here against Mr. Gemmell's rationale, he's not even thinking creatively about the alternative ways a revenue stream could be generated. Case in point: I just played a Flash game yesterday that shows a video ad while loading. The ad unlocked additional features of the game for that playthrough.

    But Mr. Gemmell doesn't consider developing new, innovative possibilities like this. He just wants the cash, and will happily use the "locking down" of other peoples' machines on a widespread basis to achieve this. Where's the "locking down" of the property rights that are supposed to come with buying something, like an Android? If it's my device, why wouldn't I have root? It would be apropos if Mr. Gemmell made enough money to buy a car, only to have it stolen within the first couple of weeks.

    Mr. Gemmell makes it sound only right for companies and developers to "protect" their [currently-only-imagined] profits, but it comes at the expense of the property rights of the users. So he argues for further inroads on users' access to their own machines, while attempting to make it seem natural, fair and just.

  • It's true. Android isn't popular because it's "open", it's popular because after the iPhone launch handset manufacturers were clamouring for an OS to compete with it, and Google just happened to have Android under development and told everyone "Here, you can use this. It's free." The handset manufacturers clamped onto it because it meant they didn't have to go to the trouble of developing their own modern mobile OS.

    If Microsoft, or even Palm, had had their shit together at the time, Android may have just been a niche OS today. But they didn't, so here we are.

  • by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:37PM (#40759601)

    I put up a folding table in my yard to sell lemonade for $50 a glass. For some odd reason people are passing me by and purchasing my competitors product.

    It's all the fault of the company that made the folding table They need to do more so that people like me can succeed.

  • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @12:13AM (#40760517) Journal
    Is he saying nobody developed software for Windows because it wasn't locked down?

Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.