The Idea Dude


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

An article in ComputerWorld today had the headline "Gold rush! Big money seen for iPhone, Smartphone app developers.". They quoted the Yankee Group Research as extrapolating the numbers to 2013 to be 4.2 billion. It said that 2.9 billion will go to developers and 1.3 billion will go to the people running the app store.

Being one of these developers in the game for almost a year, you would think I'd be jumping for joy hearing such great news. Alas, to me this sounds like the optimism of the dotcom crash. Here's the reality check.

There are only 3-5 major smartphone players running app stores of any significance. Assuming the numbers come true, Apple will probably take 60% of the 1.3 billion and the rest divided up between Blackberry, Google and Nokia.

There are easily over 30,000 mobile application developers, let's say 50,000 by 2013. Dividing 2.9 billion amongst 50,000 people is 58,000 per capita. Pretty dismal if you ask me. The harsh reality is that the long tail applies. Of the 80,000 apps in the Apple App Store, a handful (literally) will make a million dollars or more, a couple hundred will make several hundred thousand dollars and the rest (that's 95% or more) will never recoup their costs.

So it's all good news for the smartphone vendors but not as rosy for developers. (Sounds remarkably like Google Adsense, where Google makes billions and most of the poor blog owners are, well, poor, to the tune of making several cents a day). Sure, we'll continue to see the great story of how one guy spent one week to write a app that sold a million copies. These are the black swans of our age, it is unlikely they will ever repeat their success the same way again except if you're a big player with deep pockets and huge marketing budgets.

If I got a buck for every time some one came up to us and told us they had the next killer app idea, I would make more money than I would selling apps in the app store.

But this is the real world, life is fair and the majority will always be poor and few will be rich regardless of the industry. I just get disappointed because it's stories like these that make people flock blindly to the next paradigm. What's even worse, is the days to come, where small startups get funded with ridiculous amounts of money when the business models are not sustainable and built on hype. If you build it they will come is happening all over again. I lived through the dot com, this is another dot com in the making. We will never learn.

Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware, in this case, let the developer beware. If you believe you can build a set of applications each returning a reasonable amount of money over time, you have the makings of a business. If you believe you can write one app and make a million dollars, all you have is a dream. It can happen but don't bank on it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The power of the brand

Martin Lindstrom conducted an interesting experiment to see how brands affected our children. Most of the childen, in their pre-teens recognized brands by their logos and music jingles even though the logos were partially obscured. Even brands like Gucci didn't escape their recognition. Being bombarded by ads on radio, TV and billboards, these images become subliminal affecting our buying decisions without us even knowing about it.

My daughter inherited my Thinkpad a while back when I moved to a Mac for iPhone development. Recently she complained about the notebook being very hot and the battery not being very effective. Her tone led me to reply that although it was over a year old, her Thinkpad was one of the best and powerful notebooks on the market today. I don't think the message landed because all she said was "Maybe next time you shouldn't buy IBM". That, my friends, could be a signal of the beginning of the end for the venerable giant.

Seriously though, it did show that while the Thinkpad was a icon for us business types, it is not for Generation Y. I doubt my daughter would have said the same about my Mac which she grabs from me at every available opportunity. Functionally, either the Thinkpad or the Mac would amply meet her needs but that's not the point, is it? That is the power of the brand.

So the message to all the dads today is, if you want to be a hip dad, buy a Mac. Your kids will love you for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How rules make us forget common sense

There was a road rage incident recently that gave rise to an interesting article in our local paper. It postulated that the reason why our traffic issues are getting worse and not better is because we have too many rules. Rules give people a sense of entitlement and in the heat of the moment, we use the rules as ways of establishing our rights even though our common sense may say otherwise.

It all makes perfect sense. In many countries, lawyers use precedents and laws to get clients off on technicalities even if it may be clear that they were indeed guilty. Driving on our roads, I often see people accelerate to close gaps or push in when they could slide in behind instead. Somehow, understanding how the rule may work to our advantage gives us the right to do the wrong thing. Perhaps there is a Darwinian gene in us that warns us that if we are to survive, the weak must die. Somehow we have mistaken meek for weak.

Of course, without rules the concept of full-blown anarchy may even be a worse alternative.

Nevertheless, what happened to using our common sense and discretion? Can we even trust ourselves to do the right thing when called to do so? Or do we cop out by simply justifying taking the low road with the excuse that we were just following the rules.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fat grass and a lesson in patience

Couple of years ago, our lawn died a horrible death while I was away working in the US for over a year. It was the hottest summer and the family joined me in Atlanta for several weeks. On our return, we had our mini version of the Sahara. Adding to the fact our soil is mainly clay meant any form of rescue was futile.

Being a person with no green fingers, I took advice and added top soil with fervour which promptly suffocated the rest of the grass seeing that I had put too much.

Over the years, the grass slowly returned. I resisted all attempts to rip it all up and lay new grass. I guess I was stubborn (but probably more stupid than I care to admit).

Enter Fat Grass.

For really good grass, there needs to be a couple things done every year as I found out the hard way.

  • Wash the grass in spring to get all the salt off from the snow
  • Aerate the lawn at the beginning of the season by punching holes at frequent intervals using a special tool.
  • Add topsoil at least once a season to replinish what is washed away
  • Watch out for small white worms that attach the roots of the grass. The best way without using chemicals is to use nematodes early or late in the season. These are natural parasitic worms that attack garden pests like cutworms.
  • Fertilize several times a year if you have very bad quality soil.
  • Finally, reseed your grass every year. Grass like anything else has a life cycle and needs new grass to keep the lawn nice and thick.

    If you do all this, as I found out incrementally over the years, the lawn will be become your friend. The best way to fight weeds is to have really thick grass. Most weeds survive because their roots reach deep down. Grass tend to have shallow roots so the more grass you have, the more they will choke the weeds.

    Ok so what about Fat Grass. This refers to seeding the lawn with new grass to make it really thick um fat. The fat grass recipe can be found at the ChumFm blog. Top soil is great for existing grass but not for new grass because it dries out too quickly requiring a lot more watering. How to create fat grass?

    To seed new grass, mix peat moss (very fine powdery stuff that can hold 20 times it's weight in water) and vermiculite (white stuff, actually 2/3s clay) and add water until it is all spongy and wet. Then spread over the areas that require new grass. Sprinkle the grass seed on top of the peat moss mixture and water every day for 10 days. Around the 8th day, the grass should start sprouting and in a few weeks, a much richer and thicker (fatter!) lawn is the result.

    This bumbling gardener has been able to turn a desert into an oasis (ok maybe not an oasis but definitely a better looking lawn than most on my street). So you can too.

    The thing I learnt the most? You have to do all of the above and most of all exercise patience. During the 8 days, I endured jokes and friendly jabs like "Are they growing yet?" as I religiously went out to water the lawn every day.

    Who's laughing now!
  • Thursday, September 03, 2009

    Fart used to be a 4 letter word

    As of this week, there are no less than 167 iPhone apps dedicated to elevating farting to an art form or should I say fart form.

    That is a staggering number considering it used to be an embarrassing activity one tried not to talk about or share the love for that matter.

    I can only shudder to think what would happen if they all submitted updates to Apple at the same time. You definitely want to be a fly on the wall watching 40 reviewers testing all the apps simultaneously.

    I know Apple has the been on a drive to make all their products a little greener but this is ridiculous.

    Their impact on global greenhouse gases will only be known to the generations to come.

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Is Bistro Food, the next iPhone Killer App?

    Maybe not, but it got me excited enough to write about it...again. After the last blog post, I started browsing using Bistro Food and found a couple of neat recipes on the Food Network site. First thing I did was bookmarked them. That's when the penny dropped...

    I can't remember how many times, we used to run upstairs, browse to a website, print out the recipe. Weeks later, we would have paper recipes littered across the kitchen counter. With Bistro Food, no more!

    From now on, all my favorite recipes will be bookmarked with Bistro Food. And if the meal is a success, imagine how smart you would look, if you could whip out your iPhone at the dinner table and email the recipe to a friend right there.

    The snapshot below is a Paul Dean recipe for Strawberry Shortcake at the Food Network. Yum!

    We love all the apps that we write, but this one is going straight to my top ten list.

    Food, glorious food

    Food is by far our popular Bistro app on the iPhone. It highlights all the great sites like the Food Network that are formatted correctly for the iPhone. It is also the app that bookmarks are used the most often. Makes sense, I would too if I found an interesting recipe. Unwittingly, Bistro Food may be the best way to save all your recipes and have them at your finger tips.