Twitter has acquired Atebits, the very small company that makes Tweetie, the truly exceptional Twitter client for the iPhone. Tweetie is being renamed Twitter for iPhone, the price is going from $2.99 to $0, and it sounds like creator Loren Brichter will be working on an iPad version and maybe ones for other mobile devices.
The move is controversial, since it–along with the release of an official Twitter client for BlackBerry–puts Twitter in direct competition with the third-party developers who have built much of the Twitter ecosystem. Will Twitter still help to promote Tweetie rivals such as Twitterific? Will Tweetie Twitter for iPhone grab monopolistic market share among iPhone Twitter apps? Will any developer even bother to try and make money from Twitter apps when Twitter is giving them away? We’ll see.
For me, there’s one overriding factor here: Tweetie Twitter for iPhone is not merely a nice piece of software but one of the best pieces of smartphone software–for any purpose–I’ve ever seen. And I believe that Loren Brichter is among the most talented developers of user interfaces who’s ever worked on any platform. I expected that a larger company would acquire Atebits to get Brichter on board, and kind of feel that if a company was capable of convincing Brichter to join it, it would be irresponsible not to do so.
I’ve also thought that Tweetie Twitter for iPhone was compelling evidence that one gifted programmer can make better software than an army of people. Let’s hope that Brichter’s creation stays great, and that Twitter lets him loose to do equally amazing work on other platforms.