Build, Buy, or Partner

Lot of angst in the Mac Community in the wake of Safari, Apple’s new Mac OS X browser.

Free is a very attractive price point to the consumer. Usually, free software isn’t a major competitor to the professional developer, because it doesn’t have access to the User Interface talent required to build a first-class consumer application. But when someone like Apple [or Microsoft] bundles your functionality, then you’re looking at a world of hurt.

Apple has the problem of balancing their own value proposition and the overall Mac ecosystem. On the one hand, Apple needs to emphasize the differences between them and Wintel. And on the other hand, Apple needs a robust developer community to insure that a full set of applications are available on their platform.

The digital hub and it’s ease of use have become an important Apple differentiator. I think it was a foregone decision that Apple would bundle that functionality. And if you see an Apple PDA in the tea leaves, then the combination of .Mac and iLife starts to look like a place to avoid as well.

What does this mean for the software developer? As always, you need to anticipate where the 800 pound gorilla will go and act accordingly. Apple will always be looking at their primary customer segments and the compelling applications in those segments for bundling. They need to make the choice between build, buy or partner. You need to make buy and partner much more compelling than build.