Monthly Archives: August 2016

iPad Pro and Developers

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.Moshe Berman: “But expecting app developers to build professional apps with the current UIKit is like asking a chef to make a pizza with only flour, and water. Without more ingredients it’s not pizza.”

This is a really nice piece by Moshe and I’d encourage you to read the entire thing. Moshe has some really good suggestions for Apple, but overall the responsibility to create great professional apps lies with developers. I’m guilty of putting too much blame on Apple for poor App Store sales. It all comes back to the developer of apps to figure out their audience.

When I think of Pro applications for iPad my mind instantly turns to drawing, diagramming, and design applications. Things like FiftyThree’s Paper, Sketch, Acorn, Photoshop, Flinto, and even Adobe’s new Experience Design. All of the apps I just listed, with the exception of Paper, are Mac only.

There is definitely a feeling amongst App developers that people don’t want to pay for Apps. It’s proven to be true time and again as Indies fail with solid applications. Some shops, like The Omni Group in Seattle, have managed to keep their apps in the App Store (Mac and iOS) and by all accounts continue to do well. Something you’ll notice about Omni is the price of their iOS Apps. They actually charge real money for them, not some silly $0.99, more like $99.00 for the Pro version of OmniGraffle for iOS.

There are signs that even the best of software shops struggle to keep revenue for their iOS Apps where they’d like them. Panic, another of the best Mac developers in the business, noted in their 2015 report.

iOS Revenue. I brought this up last year and we still haven’t licked it. We had a change of heart — well, an experimental change of heart — and reduced the price of our iOS apps in 2015 to normalize them at $9.99 or less, thinking that was the upper limit and/or sweet spot for iOS app pricing. But it didn’t have a meaningful impact on sales.

As a result they mentioned raising prices. That’s not a bad thing. People that depend on Panic software to conduct their day-to-day operations will happily pay more for their awesome software.

That brings me back around to the Pro angle. We have shops like Omni and Panic creating Pro level applications with the existing features of UIKit. In the end it’s all up to developers to build Pro apps, find a pricing model that works for them, and market their apps.

Vesper: A Post Mortem

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.John Gruber: “What went wrong was very simple. We never made enough money. Why we didn’t make enough money, what we should have done differently to make more money — those are complex questions (which I’ll tackle below). But what actually sunk Vesper was not complicated. Even as a relatively popular app at a relatively high price (for iOS), revenue was never high enough. Brent took a job at the excellent Omni Group in September 2014, and from that point onward the writing was on the wall. We could have, and probably should have, shut Vesper down a year ago. But we loved it too much. Or at least I did.”

Brent Simmons: “This is the last app on the App Store where I wrote all (or almost all) of the code. Odds are excellent that there will never be another app written largely by me on any app store.”

It’s hard to make decisions like this. Vesper was the result of a lot of hard work by a small group of dedicated people. Vesper will be missed, by them the most.

The most fascinating part of this entire post mortem from John and Brent is the belief that creating a Mac App first may have lead to success. Obviously these guys know their Mac brethren better than I, but I always thought a subscription model was a better option for them, and I wrote about it in 2015.

I think the idea of a sustainable business is the right way to look at this, but pricing an app at $9.99 isn’t the proper solution. The proper solution is to charge for their “fast, reliable, unlimited sync.” That’s the value, the app is just a way to get to your data.

Obviously there are a few really great companies out there making a go of it but the market has changed so dramatically from the time Brent started Ranchero. At the time the Mac wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today and the App Store model didn’t exist. Sure, you still needed a great product and had to work hard to get the word out, but people still understood the value of software. Today iOS and Mac Apps have been reduced to commodities and commodity pricing. Most people expect free and get it from companies that make their money other ways, including services, which is why I think the service is the most valuable component. Does it mean you should only do services and not native clients, no. The client side provides the great experience and the service opens the door to the magic of data flowing from one point to another. Without both sides you can still have a great experience but it may not be as great as it could be.

Thanks John, Brent, and Dave for giving us Vesper.

iPad as MacBook Pro Replacement

On a Slack channel some friends were having a discussion about using the iPad as a daily driver replacement for a MacBook Pro. This is how I feel about the idea. Is it an impossible notion? No, not at all, but it would have to be a true replacement, it would have to change to fit me, not the other way around.

“If I could get an iPad Pro (9.7) that was as powerful as my 15in MacBook Pro, could run Xcode fine, and would detect proximity to a full size keyboard, monitor, and mouse and let me use them? Sign me up.

Until then. Can’t use it as a daily driver.”

That’s it in a nutshell.

Post Mac Apple

Recently Vivek Wadhwa of The Washington Post wrote:

Apple should release a version of iOS for non-Apple devices. This suggestion will seem like heresy to the brand’s loyalists, but it may be necessary for the success of the company.

Imagine those Samsung, LG, and Xiaomi smartphones having an original Apple operating system on them rather than the imitations they are presently running. Offered the choice, users would upgrade in droves. And those users would download new applications and sign up for Apple’s subscription services, giving the company a cut of everything they purchased, as well as valuable data and marketing opportunities. Google’s Android business would finally have a formidable rival.

First off, I don’t think Apple is in bad shape because they own less of the mobile market than Android. In fact, they make more money than all Android devices combined. So the thought of being a formidable rival is kind of moot, but that’s not what I wanted to write about, just an observation.

I think macOS would be a much better OS to OEM. Why? Well, Apple is paying so much attention to iOS based devices, the iPhone in particular, they’ve ignored their laptop and desktop computers for a very long time. In fact most of their computers are rated Don’t Buy by Mac Rumors.

Mac Rumors
Mac Rumors

Of course they’ve tried this before. Before Steve Jobs returned in 1997 Apple had OEM’d Mac OS to a few partners. Those partners were doing fine at the expense of Apple. When Jobs returned it was one of the first things he killed so Apple could focus on their core business, the Mac. Fast forward 20 years and Apple is as unfocused as ever. They’re building all kinds of stuff looking for the next iPhone. Here’s a hint Wall Street, I don’t think you’ll get another iPhone-like success for many, many, years.

Anywho, back to macOS on other hardware. Since Apple hasn’t shipped new Mac hardware for professionals in a long time professionals have either created their own solutions or switched to Windows or Linux. Yes, people are switching to Windows because their Macs are not up to the task. Those of us that live on the platform feel strongly about it. I love using the Mac and macOS to do my work but most people just see it as a hammer. They don’t have an attachment to the OS or the hardware. If you can get a PC with Windows that blows the doors off a Mac Pro and your production software runs fine on Windows, why not switch?

What if there were another solution to the problem? What if Apple selected a single OEM and allowed them to create high end hardware that runs macOS? That’s what I’d prefer to OEM’ing iOS to other mobile phone makers. The professional market may appreciate it too.

I know the iPhone and iOS are killing it revenue wise. That idea seems to be the driving force behind Mr. Wadhwa’s piece, but it would be really nice to have alternative hardware designs that don’t focus purely on thinness and lightness. I still love my SUPER FAT 15in 2011 MacBook Pro. It’s perfectly suitable for people creating iOS Apps or small Mac Apps. Folks editing Audio and Video or making movie magic the likes of Pixar and ILM need powerful computers. I’m sure they’d appreciate faster Macs every year or an OEM that could deliver faster, specialized, expandable, repairable, Mac alternatives running macOS.

Twitter + Tumblr

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.Imagine, if you will, Verizon purchasing Twitter now that they own Yahoo.

I don’t really want that, but at times I’ve wanted Twitter to have the ability to go beyond the 140 characters it allows. What if Verizon bought Twitter then did an interesting integration between Twitter and Tumblr so anything longer than 140 characters became a Tumblr post with a really nice embed for the tweet? Maybe Twitter could adapt Tumblr’s post types?

While they were at it they could use Tumblr for photo storage and allow at least a little bit of markup in the Twitter stream. I’d start with italic, bold, and native links. Oh, I’d also allow folks to use Markdown (yes, this is the Canonical Markdown) as an editing choice. Maybe just provide a rich editor that supports italic, bold, and links and a basic text editor for those of us that would prefer Markdown? The point is it would be nice to have some very basic formatting for a tweet.

Video has become so important to the web. Making it easy to record video, store it on Tumblr, and adding an embed to a tweet would be quite nice. It could be the next evolution in video from Twitter. First we had Vine, then Periscope. Tumblr could be the final version. It could complete with Facebook’s Live Video.

It feels like there is an interesting product in that mix somewhere.