The Idea Dude


Monday, July 27, 2009

Great Wall of Apple

So we chilled out a little last week after finishing a major update to Signature which hopefully will be available in about a week awaiting Apple approval.

We're always promoting the little guys, like at TheGoodBlogs showing the lesser known bloggers. At the Apple appstore, there are over 75,000 applications clamouring for your attention. Unfortunately like Google search pages, people rarely go beyond the first 2 or 3 pages which means if your app is not in the Top 100 of either recently posted or most popular list, you're on a downward spiral to nowhere fast.

We decided to create a wall of app icons (similar to the physical wall they did at MacWorld. This time it's virtual. Here's a small screenshot of a typical wall.

Check out full size image at The Great Wall of Apple.

Each category has several walls each holding 120 icons. There are 21 categories so you could spend quite a bit of time, browsing the walls.

Don't forget to click on the top right hand corner of the wall to see the next part of the wall.

Have fun. We did.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The way you make me feel

I was thinking a lot about consumer buying recently. If we were all logical we would be buying practical cheap cars of the same color. We would all wear the same clothes and sensible shoes. But we're not logical at heart. We love to emote and what drives our decisions to buy is how something makes us feel.

Which is why products like Apple, Ferraris, Chanel and other great brands can charge a premium for their wares. They have figured out how their products can make you feel good. Why else would we pay 3 times more for less food at a fancy restaurant. Because you feel pampered, special and somehow, because of where you are, even the food tastes better than it would in diner next door.

It's an easy thing for a marketeer to grasp. Much harder for a technologist or software developer (in general). We're taught that technology is king, the more cool features the better. The reality is trying to figure out what the latest impression you can leave with your user as he or she finishes using your application. That will ultimately determine whether you have a raving fan.

For software it means, make your user firstly fall in love with your icon, it's the thing they look for and the first thing they click. Secondly, make they feel empowered, i.e. you helped them do something significant in their task and they enjoyed doing it. In short, make them feel like a king.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Economics of iPhone App Development

If you follow the tabloids, you would believe that every iPhone developer is driving around in Ferrari or at least some German pedigree sports car. Judging by the number of people, friends, family and strangers who have approached us with the next million dollar iPhone app, I would put that perception to be categorized as 'widely held' if not in the 'urban myth stratesphere'.

The reality is many apps don't make enough to even cover the cost of the software development licence of $99 and the $1,500 to get a Mac. I surmise most developers are either keeping their day jobs or driving humble Asian vehicles with double mortgages to boot.

The economics of the iPhone apps have drastically changed in the past months. At the beginning of the year, there were probably 5,000 apps kicking around costing you $70,000 to buy all of them. Today, it's more like 70,000 apps and a cool $160,000 if you wanted to own all of them. Of course, it is an impossibility given that the limit for your iPhone is around 148 apps. But that is one way to measure the market cap of iPhone apps, i.e. what would it cost to buy all the apps.

8 to 10 months ago, the shortage of apps and major players meant relying on Apple to promote you in the AppStore was a sure fire way to success. Lots of eager iPhone, iPod users and less apps, you could rely on a ton of people to try and buy your app. Today, you would likely disappear from the front page in a matter of days and even hours depending on your category.

Add to the fact that major content players (both movies and games) with big budgets are using the the iPhone platform to extend their marketing and sales reach make it really tough for smaller development shops from surviving, let alone show a profit.

So the typical developer goes to bed each night praying that someone like MacWorld will give them a review or they would hit the jackpot and be featured in What's hot! on the Apple web front page.

If you've dabbled in Google Adwords or Facebook in the web world, a 10 to 1 return is phenomenal i.e. 1 person buys out of every 10 clicks. Generally it is more like 20 to 1 and often more. I have scars from that adventure too! When you pay 15c a click or the more usual 20-50c a click, you'll quickly realize the traditional marketing techniques are a sure fire way to hell if you're selling a product for 99c.

On that other hand, if you're an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch fan, this is an awesome place to be. With some amazing free apps to choose from, there's very little that you can't do these days with the iPhone. And if by chance you bought an app that didn't turn out the way you hoped, the cost was less than a double Mocha at Starbucks.

I'm both a fan and developer. The Yin and Yang of Apple iPhone development. The bitter and the sweet. To be fair, life isn't any easier anywhere else. We've had several clients making forays into the digital web world with less than stellar success to put it mildly. Making apps for the iPhone is no different. Lots of sweat and tears and hopefully a little bit of luck (maybe lots of luck).

Browse the app reviews and you'll see the people get more angry over a missing feature in a 99c app or even a free one than they would about not being able to format a paragraph in a $299 word processor. It's a pretty weird thing that's for sure.

Despite it all, we still get excited by the number of people who use our apps. Whether it is to put smile on someone's face with a Kiss Stickie or a Bunny, or being part of someone's productivity when they use us to add a cool signature to their email. I just wish I could get them to pay $29.99 instead of $2.99 for each.

As the Eagles song goes, "It is not the center of the Universe, but it is where I want to be."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Free iPhone ebook

If you like George MacDonald, we have a couple of free eBooks for download in the iTunes appstore. Enjoy!


The Golden Key and Other Stories is a collection of 6 fairy tales by George MacDonald.

Although written more than a centuary ago, these tales are feel fresh and modern.

As George MacDonald once said, "I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five".

The six stories in this volume include:

1. The Golden Key - It's found at the end of the rainbow, but what does it open?
2. Cross Purposes - The fairy queen wants a mortal or two at her court.
3. The Lost Princess - Can a princess change her spots?
4. The Shadows - They know more all about the human heart.
5. The Giant's Heart - A re-telling of a Norwegian fairy tale.
6. The Light Princess - A lack of gravity makes her too light-hearted, till a prince comes along.

We made the top 100

What a pleasant surprise after 4th July. Just released Signature Lite, a free version of Signature for the iPhone/iPod Touch over the weekend. Both the free and paid versions are in the top 100 for Business. With over 1000 apps in business (over 69,000 this week in the appstore), we feel pretty good about our efforts.

Signature Lite is currently in the top 30 for Business apps after 2 days, telling us there's definitely a need for jazzing up your email instead of the customary "Sent from my iPhone".