I saw today that Apple has started charging for Xcode. For the non-developers out there, Xcode is a tool from Apple for building software for the Mac, iPhone and iPad. It used to be free, now it costs $4.99.
Seeing this reminded me of a Microsoft focus group I was invited to be a part of a few years ago. As a CTO who had decided to build everyone on top of free software, they wanted to know what it take to make me to switch to a Microsoft stack. I told them they were 10 years too late. You see, I made the decision to use LAMP stack not because it was cheaper, but because it’s what I knew. And the reason I knew LAMP stack was because that’s all I could afford when I was 15. The question for Apple isn’t whether businesses or experienced developers can afford their development tools, it’s the teenagers they should care about. And while $5 is still well within the average teenagers reach, it’s still a lot more friction than free. This is especially true since many teenagers don’t have a credit card of their own. What kid wants to take the time to explain to mom why he needs to borrow a credit card for something called Xcode, when he can jump over to Google and get Android tools for free?
Apple already charges $99/year to be a member of their developer program which you need to be able to distribute applications on the App Store. While this pricing hasn’t seemed to hurt them much so far, it’s short sighted even if the effects aren’t immediately apparent. I’m a huge Apple fan and I hate watching them repeat the same mistakes Microsoft made years ago.