Category Archives: news

Announcing a new date for my ‘Start your own software business’ course

AH111220CO-2000x1297I ran my first ‘Start your own software business’ course in November last year. It was a lot of work to write the course and organize the logistics. But I am very pleased with how it went. I have had a number of enquiries about the course since then, so I am announcing another date: 22/23 March 2014. As previously, the location will be Swindon, England. The course is limited to 10 people (first come, first served) and there is an ‘early bird’ discount if you book by  07-Feb-14. For more details (including comments by previous attendees) go to the training page.

My new ‘Start your own software business’ training course

Things have been a little quiet on this blog as I have been busy on some new projects as well as continuing to work on PerfectTablePlan. I am announcing one of those new projects today.

Start your own software business

A two day intensive training course on how to create a profitable business selling your own software product

22/23 November 2013

Swindon, England

There is a lot more to running a software business than knowing how to program. The last 8 years of running my own software business have been a huge learning experience for me. In this course I am going share as much as I can to help others succeed with their businesses. This is the course I wish had been available when I started out. I am looking forward to getting out from behind my computer and meeting aspiring software entrepreneurs.

There is a £50 discount if you book before the end of September and the course is limited to just 10 attendees. If you have ever dreamed of escaping your cubicle and becoming your own boss, what are you waiting for?

Click this link for more details

I am just beginning to publicise the course and I would really appreciate a mention on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, social news sites etc.

Upgrade your Adwords accounts before the 22nd July – or else!

google adwordsGoogle will automatically switch all Adwords campaigns to ‘enhanced’ on 22-July-2013. If you don’t do it before then, Google will do it for you. And you can be confident they will be thinking of their interests, rather than yours. The changes are mostly bad news for those of us that sell software for desktop computers. In particular you can no longer choose not to bid for clicks on tablet devices. I would like to have more control over how I bid on different platforms, not less, so I am not happy about the changes. However your choices are either to upgrade your campaigns to ‘enhanced’ or close your Adwords account.

You can at least bid less for clicks on mobile devices. If you are selling downloadable software that doesn’t run on mobile devices, I recommend you set your bid adjustment much lower for mobile devices. My own analytics data tells me that mobile devices only have one tenth the (measurable) conversion rate of desktop/laptop computers. So I have set my mobile bid adjustment at -90% for mobile devices. Presumably you can set it to -100% if you don’t want to bid for mobile clicks at all. I don’t understand why advertisers aren’t being given the same option for tablet devices.

Note that you can’t set a mobile bid adjustment for CPA campaigns. However Google should notice the lack of downloads and sales on mobile devices and adjust the mobile bids down for you automatically.

Upgrading is pretty straight forward and should only take a few minutes. More details on the software promotions blog.

Nearly all UK business websites now technically illegal (EU sites to follow)

On the 26th May the rules on the use of cookies changed for UK businesses. You now have to explicitly ask every visitor to your website if they want to opt-in to ‘non-essential’ cookies. This includes tracking and analytics cookies. The penalty for not doing so is a fine of up to £500,000.

No, I’m not joking (unfortunately). You can read some rather vague official guidance about it from the Information Commissioner’s Office here:

Changes to the rules on using cookies and similar technologies for storing information

You can also see the ICO’s implementation of this policy on their own website with the ghastly pop-up shown below (click to enlarge):

So it seems that we are going to have to show a hideous and scary pop-up to every visitor that comes to our site. Nearly all of these visitors will inevitably choose the less scary sounding default and opt-out (why would they opt-in?) which means that our precious tracking and analytic data will suddenly become a lot less useful. So a less pleasant user experience for customers and a huge reduction in useful data for vendors. And to what benefit? I really don’t mind if vendors collect aggregated data about how I arrived at their site or what pages I visit while I am there. The more I read about the new rules the less workable and useful they sound. It looks like the sort of monumental, fur-lined, ocean-going, balls-up that only governments are capable of.

The situation remains fluid at present. The introduction of this new law has been so shambolic that the UK government is giving businesses 12 months grace before they start enforcing it. I don’t even know if the ruling applies to businesses based in the UK, web servers based in the UK or any website with UK visitors (if you do know, please comment below). Perhaps Google et al will dream up a technical solution that keeps the EU happy without me having to make any changes to my website. Maybe pressure from businesses will force the government to back down. Perhaps someone will find a loophole (e.g. setting up a company outside the EU to host your website). Or maybe so many businesses will ignore this ridiculous law that it will be unenforceable. I am going to wait a few months to see how things play out.

This change in the law comes from an EU directive, so any of you reading this in EU countries other than the UK can stop smirking – it is coming your way as well.

For more information see:

(Photo by Delfi Jingles, some rights reserved)

Al Harberg’s Software Marketing Glossary

Al Harberg (best known for his press release service for software vendors) has created a useful glossary of software marketing terms. Al knows a lot about marketing software. His glossary is 107 pages/53k words long and includes quotes, book review and feature articles. I particularly enjoyed some of the more tongue in cheek definitions e.g. “System requirements: A poorly cobbled statement of techie talk that software developers use to lose sales” and “Idiot customers: Clients who don’t understand every aspect of your software immediately”. If you don’t know what active voiceAIDA, astroturfing, cloaking, CPM, fast follower or purchase order mean, now is your chance to find out.

microISV pub meetup in Wiltshire

I am organizing an informal pub meetup in Swindon for anyone interested in talking about the business of software in general, and microISVs in particular.

Date: Thursday 27th January

Time: From 7:30 pm.

Location: The Sun Inn, Swindon, Wiltshire, England. The pub is not far off the M4, Jn 15 and has plenty of parking. The food is usually quite good. Post code: SN3 6AA (note it isn’t the only pub along this road, it is the one opposite the petrol station). Map .

If you are intending to come I suggest you email me, just in case of any last minute changes of plan.

App stores set to dominate future software sales?

Following the success of the iPhone app store (over 6 billion downloads to date), app stores are becoming more and more of a feature of the software landscape. In case you missed it, Apple announced yesterday that there will be an App Store for Macs  ‘within 90 days’. In summary:

  • The Mac app store will be tightly integrated with Mac OS X, including automatic install and update.
  • There will be restrictions on technology, for example Java apps will not be allowed.
  • Apple will keep 30% of any revenue from sales.
  • $99/year subscription for developers.
  • Developers will still be able to sell their software outside the App store.

It is easy to see why Apple would want to do this:

  • A potentially huge new revenue stream from third party Mac software sales.
  • They get even more control over the customer experience.

And this could have advantages for Mac users:

  • Simpler payment and installation.
  • Screening out of low quality apps and malware.

And potential advantages for Mac developers:

  • Mac users might buy more software if it is easier to do so.
  • One main channel to concentrate your marketing efforts on.
  • Some of the boring infrastructure of selling software (licensing, shopping cart etc) can be taken care of by Apple.

But the disadvantages are all too obvious:

  • Your app could be rejected outright. And you won’t know until you submit it for approval. Apple are judge, jury and executioner. The iPhone app store has been infamous its capricious and opaque approval process.
  • 30% is a huge chunk of revenue. Typical payment processors take 5-10% of revenue. Where the new app store cannibalises existing sales (and it is hard to see that it won’t) vendors will lose 20-25% of existing sales revenues.
  • New apps and updates will be delayed by days or weeks as they go through the app store approval process.
  • A single centralised app store is likely to make it harder for niche/long-tail apps to make any sort of living. Certainly this is what seems to be happening in the iPhone App store.
  • Apple are control freaks and have traditionally taken a rather heavy handed approach with developers, including the liberal use of NDAs. The app store will give them even more control.

And worse might follow:

  • Apple makes a lot of their money from selling over-priced hardware. It may be in their interest to drive software prices down so they can sell more hardware. $5 is considered expensive in the iPhone App Store.
  • This could be the first step to making Mac OS X a closed system, like iPhone, where only Apple approved apps can be installed.

I guess they can’t piss off developers too much – a computer without third party applications isn’t going to be very attractive to customers. But I am finding it hard to work up any enthusiasm for a Mac app store. If it is successful I can either be in the store and give up a lot of freedom and cannibalize exisiting sales at a much lower margin, or stay out and be shut out of a large chunk of the market. It isn’t an attractive choice. As my app is written in C++/Qt, rather than Objective-C/Cocoa, I am not even sure that it will be eligible for inclusion in the store. I could just abandon Mac OS X, but Microsoft is also rumoured to be working on their own app store (despite the failure of DigitalLocker). That is a truly terrifying prospect given the awfulness of their ‘Works with Vista’ approval process (I speak from personal experience).

Suddenly web apps are looking more interesting.

Mike Dulin, 1944-2010

I was very sad to read in the ASP forums at the weekend of the death of ASP President, Mike Dulin. Mike and I crossed paths a number of times. I met him several times at ESWC and SIC events, often listened to his Shareware Radio podcasts, interviewed him for this blog and exchanged quite a few emails related to the Shareware is dead – long live Shareware! article I wrote recently for the ASP blog. I spoke to him by Skype only a few weeks ago. Despite long term health problems, Mike devoted considerable time and energy to the ASP and it was under his leadership that the ASP finally managed to drop the word ‘shareware’ from its name. Mike was a colourful character and his energy, gravelly voice and sense of humour will be sorely missed in the ASP and at industry events.

Photograph courtesy Anna Metcalfe

Hacker Monthly

Issue #3 of Hacker Monthly leads with the Lessons learned from 13 failed software products article that I posted here in May. They even put my face on the front cover, despite my warnings about the effect this might have on sales.

Hacker Monthly is an interesting experiment. It takes the most popular articles on the Hacker News site each month and repackages them in an attractive magazine format. This makes for some very varied content, with articles ranging from business topics to advanced programming techniques. It is available both as a paper magazine from MagCloud ($9.95+shipping) and a downloadable PDF (free) and is supported by advertising revenue and donations. I wish them every success with it.