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In grade school, one of the key determinants of popularity on the playground was how quickly you were selected when the time came to choose up sides for basketball, baseball, or soccer. In the same way, the developing business model for the next 10 years depends hugely on which set of developer and ecosystem partners pick you.

However, unlike grade school, you might have more ability to influence this selection.

Do developers really matter?

Major companies like eBay, Microsoft, Adobe, Nokia, Motorola, Intuit and others have focused on the developer community. Within Web 2.0, the developer world is a critical consideration for technology companies. This applies even if your company isn't doing software or delivery on the Web. Developers have become what the channel was in the 80s: a necessary part of the chain that extends your reach.

Developing technology software and hardware has grown far beyond just coming up with a "widget." When vendors meet customers' needs, it's not a "design it, build it, sell it" loner activity. Today, technology is much more about connecting lots of different technologies and solutions. For example, Zillow is built using Google Maps and a housing database. Yet, Google Maps is built using Telcontar technology and Navteq. None of these individual companies is the entire solution. But the combination of different technologies allows a customer solution (or, in this case, many) to be created.

Thus, no one vendor creates winning solutions alone.

Only a few industry insiders know that Telcontar is the primary technology behind Google Maps. What the broader public is familiar with is Google, because it's Google that formed the developer community to enable a high number of applications to be built on the platform. This case illustrates that success occurs as more value is added to a platform, because the platform then attracts developers, businesses, and consumers eager to develop on it, use it, and transact business with it.

The multiplier effect

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Nilofer Merchant is the CEO of Rubicon Consulting (, a strategy and marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley that solves complex business challenges for high-tech companies.