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Programming The Almighty Buck Apple

Road To Riches Doesn't Run Through the App Store 305

Posted by timothy
from the handful-of-winners dept.
Etienne Steward writes "Turns out that while a few fortunes can be made with Apple, Steve Demeter made most of his money by buying Palm (of all companies) at $1.76 and selling at $12. Apparently, there aren't as many iPhone App millionaires as we would like to be believe. From the article: 'In almost a dozen interviews conducted by NEWSWEEK, Apple consultants and programmers jettison the idea that the App Store is a world of easy opportunity, or a fast track to quitting the rat race. Instead they describe an anxiety-wracked marketplace full of bewildering rules, long odds, and little sense of control over one's success or failure. "It's kind of a crapshoot," says Demeter, who spent the last two weekends partying in Las Vegas and New York. "I think we've reached a point where people are thinking I shouldn't quit my day job for this."'"
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Road To Riches Doesn't Run Through the App Store

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  • Perhaps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:48PM (#29749755) Homepage

    Perhaps if he wants to be successful, he shouldn't spend his weekends "partying in Las Vegas and New York" and instead spend it on development and marketing. I've heard a wacky rumor that can help.

    • by statusbar (314703)

      Now you are just crazy rumor mongering...

      --jeffk++

      • Re:Perhaps (Score:4, Informative)

        by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:30PM (#29750289) Journal

        And well, he was quite successful (like the article says in right the beginning)

        Two years ago, the 30-year-old computer programmer became one of the first people to sell his product—a puzzle game called Trism—through Apple's App Store, a virtual marketplace where third-party software developers connect with customers wanting downloads for their iPhones. He pulled in $250,000 in just two months and quit his job writing code for ATMs. Demeter's success caught the eye of Apple's public-relations team, which profiled him in an inspirational video at Apple.com and gave him a shout out at its June 2009 World Wide Developers' Conference (WWDC). Media hailed the San Francisco resident an "App Store Millionaire" who would never have to work again—a happy financial reality that Demeter confirms. "Nine-to-five is no longer a concept for me," he tells NEWSWEEK.

        Which seems quite successful for me. He then used the income to buy Palm stocks at low price and selling at high. He didn't specify how much he got out of it, but I guess it's enough to spend a few weekends partying in Las Vegas and New York.

        And the app is over two years old.

    • that the software industry is hard. Years back, circa 2000, I heard that 90% of games lost money.

      Considering that 90% of the Apps in the app store are crap to begin with, 9% are decent, and 1% good, and even less are great - I'm not sure what is expected?

    • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Draek (916851) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:32PM (#29750301)

      Perhaps he's already successful and prefers to *spend* the money he's already got rather than making even more for e-peen purposes. That'd explain why he's being cited in Slashdot and Apple's website, too.

      Hell, as much as I dislike the concept of "partying", I believe the world would be a much better place if successful enterpreneurs were as him, rather than succumbing to their greed and small dicks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:49PM (#29749767)
    "I think we've reached a point where people are thinking I shouldn't quit my day job for this." - DUH!?
    • by geekmansworld (950281) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:52PM (#29749801) Homepage

      Surprise surprise: programming for the iPhone is as lucrative as programming for any other platform.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Surprise surprise: programming for the iPhone is as lucrative as programming for any other platform.

        True, the easiest way to make money is to find a gig writing boring-ass vertical market iPhone software. The hardest way is hoping your "casual game" catches on.

        The most interesting part is that the iPhone market has expanded beyond casual games into the more corporate stuff.

      • by nmb3000 (741169)

        Surprise surprise: programming for the iPhone is as lucrative as programming for any other platform.

        At least with most other platforms you know in advance if your target audience will even be able to run your program. And then, even if your program is accepted, every day is another day that Apple can revoke your program for any reason they care to make up -- essentially rendering it meaningless.

        Windows Mobile may be an inferior platform, but at least it can run whatever you want, whenever you want, for as l

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by recharged95 (782975)
        Huh?
        • $99/yr for standard access to the store.
        • $20+/yr for OSX upgrades (Apple forcing you to upgrade)
        • $1200 for a Macbook (sorry, I'm a Linux person, so I need a MacBook, etc...)
        • $199 for a iPod touch (before the 3G S came out and I have a G1 phone already!)
        • $75/mo for the best internet access (SDK updates are 2.7GB since it includes XCode!!!, also, my apps are media heavy at 100MB per app)--and the app uploader tool sucks.
        • (and $120 for a data plan if you need it)

        That about $2K to get my 1.99 apps out the doo

  • Another shocker (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moogied (1175879) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:51PM (#29749791)
    Whats next? My money tree won't grow?? Come on people, there are very very few "easy ways to get rich", and the few ways that do exist typically involve f'n over everyone else, and you ending up in jail at some point.
    • Re:Another shocker (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:08PM (#29750037) Homepage

      True. Most get-rich-quick schemes won't get you rich.

      Just think about the economics of the thing. When there's some get-rich-quick bandwagon that everyone is jumping on, it's going to quickly turn into a highly competitive situation due to everyone jumping on the bandwagon, and opportunities will become limited. Or if it doesn't becomes competitive and opportunities don't become limited, that means your in the middle of an economic bubble. Sell what you can while the bubble is big, and you might not lose your shirt when it bursts.

    • by sirwired (27582) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:24PM (#29750201)

      Speak for yourself pal. I am waiting for my "Google Money Tree" kit that I just ordered online! It was even free!* I am on my way to easy riches! What? You are skeptical?! A Mom from [insert geographic location here] just made [insert some amount between $2k and $3k here] last week! If it worked for her, it'll work for everyone!

      SirWired

      *Free period lasts for 4.2749 days, and must be canceled via papyrus sent via carrier pigeon to avoid monthly charges of [insert credit limit here.]

    • Or once one finds the way. It won't work again... Especially once the word gets out. Oddly enough most rich people actually deserved to be rich.

  • by eln (21727) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:52PM (#29749813) Homepage
    My iPhone farting application is way better than all the other farting applications, and yet I've only had 3 downloads so far! Sure, my application costs 2 bucks more than anyone else's, but it has the largest selection of flatulence noises in the business, and the ads are very unobtrusive. I really don't understand why I'm not a bazillionaire by now. Seriously, this thing took me 3 hours to write, and I want my damn money!
  • Turn on your iPhone, access the app store, sort top 25 by income, see any indie dev.? there is your answer, now go get a real job
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yes, get a job working for some one else, don't bother trying to make it on your own~

      Is that what you are saying? Really? really?

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:00PM (#29749913)

    It's definitely not easy to even earn a little money on the App Store with just a good game, much less get rich. I am the developer of a game on the App Store and have not been paid a single cent from Apple yet. The game is highly polished and has great written reviews and even good reviews from professional sites. It's only $0.99 to $1.99 (depending on sales). We've had a few hundred sales since the beginning of the year. Apple only pays if you break $250 for each region, not for all regions combined, so they keep what little we've earned indefinitely unless we make more sales. I'm not going to whore the product out by mentioning it here; I just want to get the message out that this is what's up with the App Store to other potential developers. I logged over 500 hours developing that game and haven't received anything for it. So not only is it entirely possible you won't achieve success, but you might waste a lot of time and resources in the process. The process of getting any information from Apple was miserable, and they treat developers like shit. I used to have a lot of faith in Apple's good will and have been a long-time Mac head, but after this experience, I'll still buy Macs, but I will NEVER do any other kinds of business with them again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by chromatic (9471)

      I'll still buy Macs, but I will NEVER do any other kinds of business with them again.

      Why would you still buy Macs, if you feel that strongly about Apple?

    • I feel your pain, but to be fair, even if you hit the minimum and were paid $250, that's still not worth 500 hours of work. Apple may not do enough to promote newer or less popular apps, but it's not completely their fault if the app doesn't sell.

    • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:20PM (#29750151)

      I logged over 500 hours developing that game and haven't received anything for it.

      Well... What's it called?

      I mean obviously if you don't name drop exactly what the game everywhere no one will buy it ;)

      • Well... What's it called?

        "500 iFarts"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LDAPMAN (930041)

      "I'm not going to whore the product out by mentioning it here"

      There's your problem right there. Thats the difference between being an entrepreneur and and being just a programmer. If your not going to bother to mention your app...why should Apple.

      • by Itninja (937614)
        I was going to sat the same thing. Of course it entirely possible the anonymous coward was really a Microsoft developer trying to astroturf some hate for Apple. In the absence of anything to motivate me otherwise, I always assume the role of jaded cynic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tylersoze (789256)

        Well I'll whore mine then. ;) http://www.rickb.com/iphone [rickb.com]

        I think my apps are well programmed but suffer from my lack of art skills, which I am attempting to rectify. :) I have a day job as a game programmer, so my iPhone diversions are merely a fun hobby, I'm not really looking to get rich from it.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          I have a day job as a game programmer, so my iPhone diversions are merely a fun hobby, I'm not really looking to get rich from it.

          MEMO
          FROM: YOUR BOSS
          SUBJECT: YOUR NON-COMPETE AGREEMENT

          You forgot that we own all inventions, code, ideas, and your soul, even if it was done entirely off the clock. Thank you for developing the game for us. Now give us *our* money and *our* source code.

          • by tylersoze (789256)

            Haha, thankfully I don't work for a company like that. Every developer here has an iPhone app on the store. :)

      • by OakDragon (885217)

        I'm not going to whore the product out by mentioning it here

        There's your problem right there. Thats the difference between being an entrepreneur and and being just a programmer. If your not going to bother to mention your app...why should Apple.

        Given the context of the conversation, I think it would be OK to mention the app... or at least make a signature pointing to it.

      • by Davak (526912) *

        I'll whore out our little game we just released. It's free, fun, and addictive.

        http://qdideas.com/gtf [qdideas.com]

    • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Informative)

      by tylersoze (789256) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:42PM (#29750407)

      Actually they've lowered it to $150 per region now. I'm still waiting on my first pay out too. Although if they make the revenue cutoff too low, you'll get killed by bank wire transfer fees (hello bank, why in the #$!@ are you charging me when people put money *in* my account!)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apple has *ALWAYS* treated their 3rd party devs like this. They have done this since the Lisa. Mid 90s it cost 20k+ for a dev kit plus 2-3k more for a dev box. I could setup 10 MS devs for the same amount of money. Its better now (closer to free) but it will take awhile to recover from that.

      iPhone devs are just the latest gen to figure out something. If you are a consumer of Apple and Apple only you get a pretty sweet experience. If you are a dev for their platform you feel like you just had someone r

    • by jo42 (227475)

      Ask yourself, does anyone know your game even exists among the 99,999 other games on the App Store?

      The App Store's #1 success is also it's #1 failure -- it is frickin' hard to find the golden needle in over 125,000 haystacks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nametaken (610866)

      Apple only pays if you break $250 for each region, not for all regions combined

      That's evil. This sounds like one of PayPal.com's schemes to boost ledger numbers by locking up other peoples' money.

    • by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @08:32PM (#29751859) Journal

      Apple only pays if you break $250 for each region

      WTF? I mean, never mind the each region bit, even if it was for all regions combined - WTF? That's your money that they're keeping.

      So to recap:

      * They decide who can write software for the phones you've bought.
      * They take a whopping 30% cut (I've never heard of such a high cut for this kind of service - most download sites are free).
      * They don't pay you at all if it doesn't hit $250, and that's done on a per "region" basis.

      I've never been an Apple fan, but I had no idea of this.

      If we're going to have Apple stories all day long, why don't we hear some actual important news about them, instead of stories like "OMG Apple are so great, you can now access this website On YoUr IpHoNe, no phone could do that before!"

      • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @12:04AM (#29753287)

        They take a whopping 30% cut (I've never heard of such a high cut for this kind of service - most download sites are free).

        You are lying through your teeth or are so far past ignorant that you have no business posting, then.

        Apple: 30% commission for hosting, payment processing, customer access
        Palm: 30%
        Microsoft: 30%
        Android: 30%
        Handango: 40%
        Verizon VCast store: 30%
        Blackberry: 30% (recently cut to 20% for some developer accounts)
        Nokia Ovi: 30%

        So in fact, Apple undercut Handango, the biggest prior comparable service. The other app stores have all followed suit with the same commission rates.

        They don't pay you at all if it doesn't hit $250, and that's done on a per "region" basis.

        All stores have minimums for payout in order to reduce the overhead of fees and payment processing. Payment is done per region because sales are done per region. If you never clear $250 in sales, you will get paid when you close your account. Otherwise, you will only be paid every time you reach $250. If your sales are so low that this interval is several months apart, it is unlikely that it would matter in the first place.

        Other stores that only pay out at given market minimums: Google AdSense ($100), Amazon Marketplace (once every two-four weeks), direct credit card processors (most have a minimum of $100/week).

        That's your money that they're keeping.

        So is your bank. So is your boss, since you only get paid on an interval. Those are the rules you agreed to when you decided to participate.

        You obviously have little experience in the business of payment processing and selling through a distributor. This is par for the course. The fees, as demonstrated above, are right in line with the others, the payout minimum is a common practice, and developer membership rules are an integral part of every store, differing only in the qualifications and approval process.

        No, you just wanted to bitch about Apple again because simply ignoring the stories you're not interested in is beyond your abilities. Who cares if you like Apple or not? Neither the article nor your misinformed criticism of the store practices singles out anything specific to Apple. TFA capitalized on the name for Internet attention; Slashdot did it for ad revenue; you're doing it because you think the Apple whining is somehow less pathetic than the Apple ass-kissing. Every branded entity has blind fans, but Apple and Microsoft haters are a special breed of sad.
         

  • Oh sure, there are a few gems out there, but good god.. You have to wade through THOUSANDS of crappy useless apps. Not only that, but everyone seems to think 0.99 is a great price to sell an app that does nothing. Oh hey, sticking advertisements into it? Yeah, that gets your application deleted pretty quick, too!

    Wake up people, if you wouldn't do this for an app on your Mac/PC, don't do it for the iPhone/iPod.

    • I don't know in your region, but in mine, 18 of the top25 health care apps are ideal weight calculators that do exactly the same, put your age, put your height, done
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:04PM (#29749973)

    And the lesson is, "just because you have a distribution network with the potential to reach millions of users, you'll still probably sell fuckall."

    Welcome to the real world, iPhone devs.

  • "I think we've reached a point where people are thinking I shouldn't quit my day job for this."

    Umm, in commercial software?

    STOP THE PRESSES!

  • is like running your own business. Shocking~

    • by e2d2 (115622)

      Agreed. As someone who started a software company and failed, I can vouch that there's more to it then just software. Much more. Have a plan and make sure it's more than just "If you build it they will come".

      The main lesson learned? Money is the life blood of business. Have a great credit line or a lot of cash. Tales of bootstrapping a business on $5k charged to a credit card leave out the inevitable need to actually pay for things beyond that. They are fairy tales spun to entice the reader and make the sub

  • by Zadaz (950521) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:12PM (#29750081)

    If your app isn't featured or favorited or otherwise supported by a major marketing push, you're doomed.

    The little band of freelancers I work with have produce two games. One for ourselves. It was really very good, which bombed at the store. We've sold just a few hundred. We're small, we don't have a marketing budget.

    The next game we bade was honestly no very fun. It was okay, not complete crap, but not great. It's been in the top 50 for several weeks.

    What's the difference? That second game was done for a Major Developer who was able to spend 20x as much on marketing as development. (No joke.)

    And even for them, there's no money in it for them. They're only there to show a success to shareholders and that they're beating the competition in a competitive marketplace. Couldn't have the independent devs getting the top spots, now could they? That'd be embarrassing.

    • by jjohnson (62583) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:15PM (#29750107) Homepage

      Couldn't have the independent devs getting the top spots, now could they? That'd be embarrassing.

      You make it sound like it's their fault that your excellent indie game isn't in the top 50. Why would anyone think that strong marketing isn't needed in a crowded marketplace?

      • Sounds like they're doing the iphone app for street cred more than as a way to make money. Reminds me of the saying "with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine".
    • by Itninja (937614)

      The next game we bade was honestly no very fun.

      Maybe the games are so rife with typos that players don't care how fun it is. I have seen more than one game out that showing my 'High Scoe' or that I am on 'Level Too'.

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        The next game we bade was honestly no very fun.

        Maybe the games are so rife with typos that players don't care how fun it is. I have seen more than one game out that showing my 'High Scoe' or that I am on 'Level Too'.

        Maybe someone set them up the bomb?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Zadaz (950521)

        Good point, I should have submitted this post to testing before releasing it.

  • Easy money is an phemeral subatomic particles, existing barely long enough to detected before decaying to something else. The moment an opportunity to make easy money appears, it begins attracting people. These people competing with each other, which makes the money hard, not easy, to get. Thus, the easy money decays into the same kind of hard-to-get money you'll find anywhere else in an economy.

    Really, any time sometime tells you there's a fortune to be had, he's trying to sell you something.

  • Go figure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sbeckstead (555647) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:22PM (#29750175) Homepage Journal
    So some idiot gets rich buying stock and we get the startling conclusion that it's not the app store that makes you rich.
    Getting rich has always been a combination of sweat, luck and keeping your eyes open for an opportunity. Brilliant reporting, just brilliant.
    • There is no such thing as a free lunch
    • To make money in the stock market, buy low and sell high
    • The more people eating a pie, the less there is for each person
    • Working hard does not automatically make you rich
    • No one has to buy your stuff
    • Publishing an iPhone app does not make one rich, famous, or desirable
    • by geekoid (135745)

      "There is no such thing as a free lunch"
      I had one today.

      "To make money in the stock market, buy low and sell high"
      Or get a bailout

      "The more people eating a pie, the less there is for each person"
      Which is why the money is in selling the pie tin.

      "No one has to buy your stuff"
      Unless you spread FUD.

      "Publishing an iPhone app does not make one rich, famous, or desirable"
      true.

  • I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that trade for you.
  • The real deal... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sitarlo (792966) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:28PM (#29750245)
    I actually left my job and write iPhone and Android apps for a living. I haven't had a hit better than top 100, but I still make money. A prolific game developer can earn an honest living on the mobile platforms if they diversify their titles across genres and deliver decent apps. I also make money consulting with marketing firms who are using the iphone as a marketing platform. I made more at a regular job, but I'm happy to give up a little cash for the freedom I now have. In the past decade professional software development has become mundane and more tedium than creative. The iPhone and Android have become creative outlets for me. The app store isn't perfect but it has allowed me to break the chains of cubical bondage. It's not easy though. It takes a lot of balls to escape the systematic chaos of work-a-day life and step out on your own. If and when I re-enter the stupid, pointless, and utterly insane working world, I now have a couple of years worth of Objective-C, mobile platform, and smartphone development experience to put on my cv. Yeah, the app store and Android market aren't millionaire nebula, but they are good for a lot of other reasons.
    • by Wiarumas (919682)

      Great. Now program me a Simtower spinoff. Oh, and a Stronghold one too. Maybe a Harvest Moon one too if you get around to it. I'll pay $2.99 for each. Thanks, I'll be waiting. :)

  • by ivan_w (1115485) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:30PM (#29750279) Homepage

    Come on.. who cares..

    Appstore ? Amazon ? E-Bay.. Whatever...

    Is this Geek story ?

    Who cares about the marketroids doing biziniss ??

    Because they are using a "geeky" 'a.k.a the internetz' to do that biziness doesn't make them geeky !

    Ok.. I didn't read TFA.. but I didn't feel like it!

    I want to read about "quantum physics".. "the ultimate programing language" or "the most prominent hardware architecture"..

    and NOT about some sleazy company making money with some lousy marketing scheme..

    Sorry.. you may mod me -1 as much as you like.. won't change my mind !

    --Ivan

    (PS : No.. I won't post AC - Because.. I stand by what I say !)

  • by e2d2 (115622) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:37PM (#29750363)

    You can always find a job using one of the many job apps available in the app store.

  • Besides telling us something that we should all already know - it is actually quite hard to become rich - some of the stories are either more complex than the author is letting on, or quite obviously a result of bad business sense.

    1.

    "It's kind of a crapshoot," says Demeter, who spent the last two weekends partying in Las Vegas and New York. "I think we've reached a point where people are thinking I shouldn't quit my day job for this."

    But it did allow him to quit his dayjob! If not simply on the initial reve

  • Bear with me for this imperfect analogy: A have a few of friends who have written tech books. One of them kept doing it over the years. If the question is wether the money he has made from advances and royalties paid well, the answer is flatly "NO." The pay is quite small compared to the amount of time that has to be sunk into the project. But he keeps doing them. Why? The *real* benefit is that now he's an authority on the subject. This drastically increases his (and his consultancy's) value and ha

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