Yet another app that was exclusive to Apple’s mobile devices is expanding to Google’s Android platform and elsewhere. What’s funny in particular about this app, Flipboard, is that the company behind it was co-founded by a former Apple employee who worked on the iPhone.
Flipboard, which offers a free app that reformats Web content into magazine-like pages, said on Friday that its software would be available for the Kindle Fire, an Android tablet, as well the Nook tablets from Barnes Noble and Android phones worldwide.
The Android version of the app will come preinstalled on Samsung’s Galaxy S III on each of the major American carriers: ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile USA and Sprint, the company said.
The move might create tension between the startup and Apple, which handpicked Flipboard as one of its favorite apps of 2010. But Flipboard said it was necessary to expand the app’s audience.
“They would love for us to be iOS exclusive from now until the end of time,” said Evan Doll, a co-founder of Flipboard who previously worked at Apple as an iPhone engineer. “But we’re trying to reach as big an audience as we can.”
“We’re trying to be Switzerland,” added Mike McCue, Flipboard’s chief executive.
Flipboard follows a trend of hot apps that started out as iOS exclusives but eventually decided to add Android. Instagram, which is in the process of being acquired by Facebook, started out with a camera app only for iPhones before moving to Android. And Smule, a startup that makes digital music apps for iPhone, recently added Android as well. All of these companies agree that Android brings in big numbers that can’t be ignored.
A bigger audience is not only important to Flipboard, but also to the publishers that are working with the company, because it increases the value of their content, Mr. McCue said. The publishers can sell ads that appear with their content in the app.
He added that making the app compatible with multiple operating systems and social networks helps safeguard Flipboard from competitors. Apple could produce a clone of Flipboard if it wanted to, but it would most likely only be compatible with Apple devices, and Google could do the same for only Android devices. “Even if Apple built an exact replica of Flipboard, we hope that we’d be able to have that ecosystem be more valuable than any one competitor in that scenario,” Mr. McCue said.