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.
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).
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.
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.
The Association of Shareware Professionals has renamed itself today to the Association of Software Professionals. I have written a guest post over on the ASP blog putting this name change into context. The article includes reactions from quite a few shareware industry veterans.
Alwin Hoogerdijk has created a ‘Software marketing’ Facebook discussion group. Personally I’m not a fan of Facebook, as will be obvious to anyone that checks out the howling void that is my Facebook account. But Alwin is a very smart online marketer, so I have tried to overcome my aversion to Facebook and joined the group. Just don’t expect me to care how you are doing at Farmville …
Bob Walsh has finally broken cover on his latest project and announced StartupToDo.com, an online community/web app for fledgling microISVs and web start-ups.
Starting a software business is a daunting prospect – you have a vast number of tasks to perform and decisions to make with limited time and resources. StartupToDo aims to speed up that process by providing a range of community requested/rated guides, community feedback on your website, a progress tracker, focussed discussion groups and more. Bob has put a huge amount of work into this and I wish him every success with it. A subscription is just $15 per month, if you pay annually.