Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

An Apple App Star Explains Why He Won’t Work With Android

Smule’s Jeff Smith is one of the app revolution’s success stories. His start-up has generated some of the biggest hits at Apple’s iTunes app store, from novelty items like Sonic Lighter to more ambitious stuff like Leaf trombone.

The biggest hit so far: An ambitious novelty called “I Am T-Pain,” which allows users to record songs using the rapper’s sort-of-trademark “autotune” voice processor. If you don’t know what that means, best to check it out here. (Or check out the demo clips of T-Pain and other Smule apps at the bottom of this post.)

All this success has translated into real money–more than four million paid downloads, at something like $2.50 a pop. And this has allowed Smule to quickly raise $13.5 million in venture money from the likes of Shasta Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners.

I assumed that some of that money would be earmarked for moving apps to other mobile operating systems, particularly Google’s (GOOG) Android OS. Nope, says Smith–he’s working exclusively through Apple (AAPL).

Smith is part of a small but vocal chorus of app developers who say they don’t want to move to Android, even though it is growing quickly. His complaints: He doesn’t like the way the store merchandises its wares, and he doesn’t want to have to create different apps for each handset Android supports.

In fairness, Apple has its share of vocal app developer critics as well, and that group got louder this month during the iPorn imbroglio.

And if you wanted to be overly cynical, you could point out that Smule has been a featured Apple partner for some time. Smule’s products have gotten stage time during Apple product announcements and have been highlighted in the company’s press releases.

But Smith isn’t betting the future on Apple, either. His business plan involves generating revenue from other places besides the iTunes app store. I’ll let him explain in this interview, which we taped during Billboard’s Music & Money event yesterday.