Apple officially opened an App Accelerator — essentially an incubator for developers creating apps for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and the Apple Watch — in the Indian city of Bengaluru on Friday. The objective is simple: getting developers in a country where 97% of smartphones run Android to dip their toes in the Apple waters.
Indian developers can sign up for free at the Accelerator where experts known as Apple Technology Evangelists will brief about 500 developers each week on developing for Apple’s platforms. According to a press release, Apple will also work with developers on a one-on-one basis to offer detailed app analysis and feedback to enhance their apps on Apple’s various platforms. Apple CEO Tim Cook had first announced the Accelerator during his visit to India in May 2016.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Marketing who is in India for the launch, told Indian technology news blog Gadgets360 that Apple wants to “accelerate the quality and innovation of the apps that are being created [in India]” and to “bring some of our unique Apple expertise close to developers who are making their great software.”
It’s easy to see why that might be crucial for Apple. Thanks to Android’s dominance in emerging markets like India, developers in these countries often develop their apps for Android first, and, in some cases, Android only. More importantly, engaging with local developers would allow Apple to understand the needs of the Indian market and help tailor future versions of its operating systems to its needs, said analysts who spoke to BuzzFeed News.
“India is home to more than a million software developers, so Apple naturally wants to get as many of them as possible hooked to the Apple ecosystem,” Neil Shah, Research Director of Devices and Ecosystems at market analysis agency Counterpoint, told BuzzFeed News. “Not losing this vast talent pool to other players like Google and Facebook is essential for them.”
Shah also points out setting up a centre like this also allows the company to win brownie points with the Indian government, with which it has been grappling for months to be allowed to set up Apple Stores in India. The country’s stringent laws require certain kinds of foreign companies to source components locally before they can set up a retail presence within India, something that Apple has been resisting. “Setting up an App Accelerator in the country would help Apple show its commitment to contributing to the Indian economy by generating software jobs,” said Shah.
Apple's collaboration partners at launch are Practo, a $600 million health-tech startup based in Bengaluru, and game developer Reliance Games. But some iOS developers in India told BuzzFeed News that they wish Apple had reached out to smaller developers in the country rather than wealthy startups with dedicated Apple development teams.
“I think companies with small teams — between 5 and 40 people — are the ones that would really benefit from Apple’s Accelerator,” said Shashwat Pradhan, founder of Emberify, which makes an iOS life-logging app called Instant. “Having hands-on guidance from Apple would be great for indie developers like us who can’t really afford to go to WWDC (Apple’s annual conference for developers) in California every year.”