by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 18th 2010 8:20am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 18th 2010 5:43am
Now That The Ringtone Market Is Collapsing, Are There Lessons For Those Who Are Jumping On The App Bandwagon?
from the this-won't-save-your-business dept
But the industry has a way of overhyping a fad that's happening "now," and betting it will be its savior.
And, of course, exactly what was predicted way back when is now coming true. The ringtone market has been on the decline for a few years now, as people realized they didn't need to pay exorbitant prices for a tiny snippet of music anymore.
This is why we should think carefully whenever we hear people claiming that "app stores" are the new saviors of various content industries (or, for that matter, the mobile industry). While app stores are a bit more defensible than pure ringtones, it's likely to still face the same basic trajectory, as people realize that apps are just data, and there are increasing opportunities for more open solutions to route around locked-down versions. People seem to think there's some sort of magic in "apps," but they're really just the same sort of digital content that has been hard, economically, to monetize long term. There are ways to do it, but simply assuming that apps alone will be the answer is likely to end in disappointment.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 30th 2010 6:00am
from the html-it-up dept
And yet... in all of that, it seems that many people forgot that original promise of apps all just being created in HTML. Indeed, if you look beneath the surface, you would realize that many iPhone apps really are just made in HTML and then compiled into being native iPhone apps. Using HTML alone, you can access many of the phone's features and certainly create all sorts of apps. But still, there has been general anger over Apple's mercurial gatekeeper activities. Back in January, we noted that Google had remembered the ability to create apps via HTML and had simply routed around the App Store. It made us wonder why others weren't doing it too.
While there have been a few "independent" app stores for the iPhone, they've all required jailbreaking the phone. And while that's now officially legal as per the Library of Congress, it's still not something your everyday iPhone user wants to do. So I've been somewhat fascinated by a new offering that's launching today called OpenAppMkt, which effectively creates a brand new app market for iPhones all via HTML (both the openappmkt app itself, and all the apps in it are HTML based). The experience is very much like the regular app store, with the small exception of having to tap the "add to home" button:
Overall, this fascinates me for two reasons. First, it's good to get more people realizing that HTML is already pretty damn good at creating app-style experiences, without having to create special compiled code and, second, it's a really clever way to totally route around Apple as a gatekeeper (without requiring a jailbreak), and is a reminder that even on "closed" systems, openness will often find a way.
from the don't-recreate-paper dept
In the mid 90s, a friend of mine was involved in a project to recreate magazines like Time on CD-ROM for the multimedia PCs of the era. The results were pretty cool, but the CD-ROM versions of the publications hardly replaced their print counterparts. Content has since moved from optical disk to the web, and now the allure of tablet devices has created a market for specific newspaper and magazine apps -- the number one paid app for iPad is a digital version of Wired, which sold about 1,000 copies an hour the first day it was launched. While it's a much better effort than some of the other efforts, more than anything Wired for iPad shows the weaknesses of media apps and demonstrates how the tablet remains a still-imperfect medium to deliver this type of content.Gartenberg notes that the iPad version is, in some ways, a worst of both worlds. It's not like the website, which is easily shared or emailed or discussed with others. Most of that functionality is effectively missing, which is really quite limiting for folks who are used to sharing the news as a part of experiencing it. Second, it doesn't allow physical notations or markup the way an actual paper magazine does -- or, again, the ability to easily share the magazine with others. You could share your iPad, but that's not quite the same thing...
Wired's efforts, like the CD-ROM efforts of the past, by has some cool features. A video clip of Toy Story 3 graces the cover and there are various interactive features, but more than anything else, it feels like a scanned in copy of the paper mag. Although navigation is better than most iPad magazines, it's still never clear when a screen should be scrolled down or just swiped horizontally.
He then goes on to point out the ridiculous economics. We've already seen other media publications come out with crazy pricing, but Wired unfortunately followed suit, and it makes little sense given the economics involved (which, Gartenberg points out is ironic, given editor-in-chief Chris Anderson's last book on "Free" in business models:
Even worse, the price point is hard to swallow. Charging the full cover price for a digital magazine makes no sense when I can subscribe to the paper edition of Wired for a year at a much lower cost per issue -- especially given that there's no paper, ink, shipping or distribution charges. Given the lack of flexibility, I'd assume there would at least be some incentive to get me to make the digital purchase, and even more so in light of the fact that the bulk of the content is already available online at Wired's website for free. It's ironic that Editor-in-chief Chris Anderson famously wrote a book called "Free" -- the Wired iPad app is the perfect case to try out some of those business models.Of course, the obvious retort is the damn thing sold like hot cakes when it was released. The real question, though is how sustainable will that really be in the long term? As more people realize how much they're paying, they may wonder why. And I'm still confused as to why publications like Wired hype up all these special features for the iPad... but don't offer the same functionality on the web -- which they easily could.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 16th 2010 1:34pm
from the oh-come-on dept
Take for example this story, sent in by iamtheky about how the University of Texas is trying to stop some former students from making an incredibly useful iPhone app for UT students, called iTexas, by claiming it infringes on their trademark on Texas.
The makers of the app, Mutual Mobile, have made a bunch of successful iPhone apps, but UT got upset last year when the company introduced the UT Directory, which put a much more useful interface on (you guessed it) the UT staff and student directories. After the University complained, the company felt that perhaps the use of the school's colors made it look like an "official" app, so they agreed to fix that part. When the company launched iTexas, it made sure that it didn't have the school's color scheme or do anything to make it appear as the official app. But it did make the app a lot more useful:
A free download, the app retains the searchable directory but also lists menus from different cafeterias across campus, tallies students' dining-card and Bevo Bucks balances, delivers class schedules, shows campus maps, and more.This sounds like a great and rather useful app. Exactly the sort of thing that the University should be encouraging, not just because it would help some alumni succeed, but also because UT students would likely find the app quite useful. But, that's not the way UT officials think, apparently:
On Feb. 1, the Mutual team learned that UT had raised another objection to its latest app, specifically to the use of the word "Texas" in the name. "As this name is confusingly similar to the Texas [trademark], UT objects to such use," reads a notice sent to the Apple app store by attorney Wendy Larson. UT's board of regents began trademarking university properties back in 1981. A list of protected trademarks appears on the university Office of Trade mark Licensing Web page; alongside more specific trademarks such as Bevo and Lady Longhorns is, simply, Texas.Lesson learned: don't try to make life better for UT students without first paying the University.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 12th 2010 11:11am
from the apps-can-be-copied-too dept
- Very, very, very few apps make very much money. We've been suggesting this for a while, and the numbers seem to support it: there really isn't that much money being made directly on selling apps, even on the iPhone. Sure, lots of apps may be selling in aggregate, but very few individual apps make very much money.
- Apps are still loss leader/low-margin leaders for hardware makers, and they know it. Sure, Apple wants app developers to be happy, but first and foremost it wants to sell more hardware, which is where it makes its money. And it knows as well as anyone that the more powerful the device is, the more reasons there are to buy the hardware. That means the hardware makers actually have incentive to push the price of apps down (or encourage free apps). This pressure will only get stronger over time.
- Apps can be copied too. This is the one that seems the most obvious to me, but seems to get very little attention from those who believe totally in the app revolution. Apps are still digital files and they can (and are) copied regularly. Thinking that putting everything into an app is an easy response by itself to unauthorized copying is a bit short-sighted.
- Future standards will break down some walls. While it won't happen that fast, and probably won't happen in all areas where apps exist, things like HTML 5 will certainly break down the walled gardens found on various app stores. Yes, native apps give a better user experience for now, but web standards will get better and better and allow more to be done via the web, totally bypassing any app gatekeeper (and paywall), just like Google did with Google Voice on the iPhone. We've seen this before. The desktop used to be ruled by client-side apps, and then lots of those apps went (or are in the process of going) web-based.
- App overload. While there is a group of folks who constantly get new apps, an awful lot of people get a few apps, get themselves comfortable and then never go back to buy another app. There are really only so many apps most people need, and once they have them, there's little reason to keep getting more.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 27th 2010 1:33am
from the app-store-or-the-web dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 21st 2010 7:20am
from the it-ain't-the-web dept
It does make me wonder, though, if people are betting too strongly on app stores, and not recognizing why it works so well in some areas. I also wonder if focusing on apps and app stores is going to make people miss out on the fact that web-based apps (that don't need to go through any app store) may overtake client-side apps. We've already gone through this on the desktop, and one by one, web-based apps have come along that match (or sometimes exceed) the functionality of client-side apps, leading many to turn away from client apps altogether.
Separately, adding another app store to another device may only serve to confuse (or annoy) some users. If you have an iPhone and a Kindle, and there are the same apps on both, which are you going to use? It may depend on the app, but my guess is that in most cases the phone is going to win out over an ebook reader.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 1st 2009 7:20am
from the it-wants-a-cut,-apparently dept
"Optus is currently working with Google to provide an Android application store to our customers, and we are optimistic it will be available soon."Except, of course, it shouldn't require any permission from Optus at all -- which is leading to reasoned speculation that Optus is blocking access to paid apps in the Android app store because Optus wants a cut of the revenue. This is typical of mobile carriers who keep wanting to believe that they're the tollbooth everyone needs to pay. Instead, the more likely result is just to drive mobile phone users to other carriers.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 8th 2009 4:39pm
from the ain't-looking-so-good dept
Newsweek is presenting some more evidence -- albeit anecdotal -- that the iPhone App Store isn't making very many people very much money at all. There are, certainly, a few folks at the top who are doing okay, but for most people there just aren't that many sales -- or the cost of getting those sales greatly outweighs the revenue that came in from them.
This isn't to say that the iPhone App Store is a failure. In fact, I'd argue it's been a huge success in making the iPhone significantly more valuable. But as evidence that there's a huge market out there of people willing to pay for content if it's just packaged up nicely? There's just not enough there to be convincing.