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Desktops (Apple) IOS Software The Almighty Buck Apple

Sorry, Indie Devs -- Pop Apps Are the Future of App Store (imore.com) 103

An anonymous reader points us to an opinion piece by Apple blogger Rene Ritchie on the dim prospects for indie app developers, in the face of mass-market, big-name competition. From his piece: Big apps get all the attention these days, just like big movie, music, or book releases and indies get what little is left, when there's even a little left. The App Store is big business, and that's how big business works. [...] Apple could use its considerable power and influence to help shape the App Store economy into one more hospitable to indie developers. After all, those are the apps I love and the ones that dominate my home screens. But the truth is, even if Apple gave indie developers everything they wanted, it wouldn't matter much over the long term. It may help a few for a while, and a very few for a while longer, but the app economy and apps themselves are evolving. Brent Simmons has offered his opinion on the matter. He writes, The Mac has for a long time been overlooked -- first because Windows was so huge, and then web apps, and now iOS. For my entire career people have said that the Mac is a bad bet, that it's dumb to write Mac apps. [...] There was never a golden age for indie iOS developers. It was easier earlier on, but it was never golden. (Yes, some people made money, and some are today. I don't mean that there were zero successes.) And there's a good chance that many of the people you currently think of as thriving iOS indie developers are making money in other ways: contracting, podcast ads, Mac apps, etc.
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Sorry, Indie Devs -- Pop Apps Are the Future of App Store

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  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday March 13, 2016 @01:19PM (#51689865)

    It wasn't a "golden age", it was just a gold rush. And did people seriously think the "gold rush" would last forever? It's like any other gold rush, literal or figurative - a few in the first wave get lucky and strike it rich. Most of the people who actually made a profit were selling equipment or services to the prospectors. And after the individual prospectors skimming off the surface were gone, it took a large-scale mining effort to exploit the resources at a deeper level.

    The strength of indie developers are that they're able to move quickly with new ideas and on new platforms, but the new platforms don't come along all that often, and marketable new ideas are surprisingly hard to come by.

    • I think that the bigger problem is that even when you do have a good idea, it's difficult to market it in a world where most everything has to be free upfront and ad supported to generate its revenue in order to draw a crowd or you're pretty much limited to trying to build a massive user base and sell yourself to Facebook, Google, etc. so that the venture capitalists can get their payday.

      The only other real opportunity seems to be making a cheap game app that sells well at $.99 for a week or two before t
      • by jbolden ( 176878 )

        What you are describing is capitalism. Yes one of the main points in owning a company is to build a base to get acquired. A good idea product has to build a brand identity soon or it will be inundated with clones. Etc...

        It is a bit much to ask Apple to solve those sorts of problems.

        • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday March 13, 2016 @02:43PM (#51690155) Homepage

          Yes one of the main points in owning a company is to build a base to get acquired.

          As the Dot Com Bust proved overwhelmingly, companies that deliberately planned to get acquired by Microsoft — or Facebook, these days — often failed. It's not a viable business model. One of the main points of owning a company is to make money from selling product and/or services.

          • by jbolden ( 176878 )

            Of course it is a viable business model. If the payoff is high enough a high probability of success is not needed. That's why small stock mutual funds work.

            If I can get paid 200::1 on a 100:1 shot of winning I'm taking that bet every day long with 1/300th of my net worth. And by EOY I'm guaranteed to be way profitable.

            • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday March 13, 2016 @03:16PM (#51690287) Homepage

              That's why small stock mutual funds work.

              I prefer dividend-paying stocks that pay out profits as dividends.

              If I can get paid 200::1 on a 100:1 shot of winning I'm taking that bet every day long with 1/300th of my net worth.

              In short, you're a gambler and not an entrepreneur. If you're using your own money, you're doing it wrong. A viable business model would attract Other People's Money (OPM).

              • by jbolden ( 176878 )

                OPM is attracted to big payouts. That's what VC funds, angel funds and at a large scale stock growth funds are about.

                The reason I tend to agree with you on value is that people often overpay not underpay for growth.

                • > OPM is attracted to big payouts. That's what VC funds, angel funds and at a large scale stock growth funds are about.

                  And why an alarming proportion of such things are revealed to be pyramid schemes or simply disappear.

          • The problem is that you guys are both using the word "company" but one of you means "company" and the other means "venture-capital-funded-corporate-start-up."

            That is why in the context of a new company, I use the word "small business" to describe the traditional thing.

            • by creimer ( 824291 )

              That is why in the context of a new company, I use the word "small business" to describe the traditional thing.

              A sole-proprietor who pays the most in taxes. Not a smart strategy. An limited liability company (LLC) or corporation offers better tax advantages.

              • and most small businesses are indeed LLCs. Sorry, I'm sure you were attempting to add something, but can you explain what it was?

        • It's not just a matter of clones that are functionally as good as the original and therefor driving down prices, but cheap shitty knockoffs that are barely functional and are mostly designed to dupe unsuspecting customers. If I were Apple I'd be more concerned about how much damage that does to their brand and how it harms consumer confidence in their app store. I think they should take Google's route and put functionality in place to allow for refunds within a short window of time, or basically just don't
          • by jbolden ( 176878 )

            Apple does allow for refunds and has excellent fraud protection.

            I don't know of much evidence for widespread fraud in the Apple store.

          • Google (android) lets you use alternate app stores. For example, f-droid is popular.

            So somebody could fill this space right now. No need to wait for handset manufacturers (holding breath; LOL)

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            It's not just a matter of clones that are functionally as good as the original and therefor driving down prices, but cheap shitty knockoffs that are barely functional ...

            I am thinking if you have registered trademarks and done the proper legwork to protect your intellectual property, then anybody making a 'clone' or 'knock off' of your product confusingly described to appear like yours is a person you can potentially file a lawsuit against and recover for loss in court....

    • Yeah, but where is apper guy? Gold rush, is there an app for that?

      I think the whole idea is funny. "Indie" apps for a walled garden. It is hilarious. Anybody who is a serious independent is writing for open platforms, because those are the places that are welcoming to indies.

      Apple fans may have (a very very small percent) been fans since before it was popular, but even those, they have "brand loyalty" to a large brand. The indie mindset isn't really compatible with that. Indie people, producers or consumers

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jbolden ( 176878 )

        Stop redefining words. Indie means not working for a large company nothing more nothing less. Indie does not imply any position at all on distribution channels.

        • Some distribution channels are more open to 'indies' than others. Let's just say that Apple has a small aversion to 3rd party apps. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just that it's there.

          • by jbolden ( 176878 )

            3rd party means "non-Apple" that applies equally to the two person shop and Microsoft or EA. Again nothing to do with Indie vs. big company.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          You know what you call an indie developer with no distribution channel?

          Failed.

          A small developer really doesn't have the resources to devote many hours to developing an app that will then get approved or not by a single gatekeeper with no recourse.

          That's why the iGold rush produced so many press a button, hear a fart apps.

          • A small developer really doesn't have the resources to devote many hours to developing an app that will then get approved or not by a single gatekeeper with no recourse.

            The rules are generally clear enough for most apps that that's not even a concern - there are lots and lots of indie developers making money today doing just exactly what you suggest they cannot.

            But even for the fringe cases your basic premise is wrong. There is recourse; first of all you can appeal a rejection, or you can simply comply wit

            • there are lots and lots of indie developers making money today doing just exactly what you suggest they cannot.

              What do you mean by 'lots'? From what I've seen, only a few percent of indie app devs on iOS actually make any money.

              • What do you mean by 'lots'? From what I've seen, only a few percent of indie app devs on iOS actually make any money.

                Which is still a large number in absolute terms, since there are hundreds of thousands of registered app developers.

          • The mistake you made was that you conflated the word "independent" with "no."

            A developer with an independent distribution channel might be successful or not. Simply not being in the distribution channel you pointed at tells you nothing about their success or failure. Lots of independent authors do not benefit from a traditional "distribution channel" that promotes their work, and yet they make a lot of money. Many more don't sell anything. There are successes and failures with, and without, being part of a

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              When all apps must be signed by Apple to even load on the vast majority of fruity phones, there can be only one channel. You're in or you're out. And even when you're in, Apple can and has capriciously decided that you're now out.

              Side loading is an Android thing.

        • "independent" means they are not connected to the combined distribution system.

          For example in music, the mainstream labels participate in a system where they pay for store placement and radio plays. An "indie label" is not connected to that system; they sell their wares by traditional retail systems, be it a website, stores that simply chose to offer the item for sale, or directly at concerts.

          Otherwise, what is it that you're independent of?

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        I already know that you can't be independent and even offer your app for iPhone. You have to join their proprietary blahblah just to ask permission to distribute!

        Any developer with a Mac, an iOS device, and $99 per year can "join their proprietary blahblah" and submit apps for review. It's not like the consoles where you need to show evidence of things like "relevant industry experience", "financial stability", and "dedicated office", and it was considered a big event in 2012 when console makers eased up on "dedicated office". It's possible for someone new to the industry to build an iOS app business on bootstrap financing [wikipedia.org] out of a home office.

        But the consoles do ha

        • I already know that you can't be independent and even offer your app for iPhone. You have to join their proprietary blahblah just to ask permission to distribute!

          Any developer with a Mac, an iOS device, and $99 per year can "join their proprietary blahblah" and submit apps for review. It's not like the consoles where you need to show evidence of things like "relevant industry experience", "financial stability", and "dedicated office", ...

          And losing a finger isn't as bad as losing an arm. So what? Who cares? People who are choosing independent products and services, and those offering them, don't really care about your plea that gosh, it only costs a few thousand dollars to get set up to do iPhone apps. Here is the thing: Apple could offer me a free Mac, iOS device, and subscription to their proprietary blah-blah and it would still be a proprietary blah-blah and I would not agree to use it or make software for it. We don't care that there ar

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            People who are choosing independent products and services

            But are there actually a substantial number of people choosing, say, Android phones with clip-on gamepads rather than PlayStation Vita or Nintendo 3DS?

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      And did people seriously think the "[beanie babies | commodity | debt | real estate | stock | tech] bubble" would last forever?

      FTFY - For many people, yes!

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday March 13, 2016 @02:06PM (#51690029)

    Lost in all of this commotion is the technical reality, that most popular apps these days are not really that complex. That is to say, there's no reason a small indie of even just one developer could not make and maintain a pretty compelling application.

    This has gotten more and more true with easier to configure and maintain server components, such that you hardly even need to be aware of how to properly write and scale server code anymore. Vast numbers of frameworks to accomplish just about anything you can thinks of help on the client side.

    Never has there been a time when Indies could compete against a company of ANY size.

    So why have indies been fading away a bit? Well to start with, I'm not sure they really have - I think there are still a lot of indie devs plugging away and making a living.

    I think all of the recent publicity about this is because it specifically indies living in California that are having a hard time competing against companies - and that is because California and Silicon Valley has become a vast echo chamber, seemingly incapable of thinking up really original ideas - or at least thought processes are so in lock-step that one guy coming up with an idea there means 20 others will at the same time, some with easier access to funding.

    The one thing aspect that has become important for apps now is they MUST do marketing, you just can't build an app and call it a day. To be a successful app writing business, you must act like a business and not just expect customers to come to you because.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Never has there been a time when Indies could compete against a company of ANY size.

      You're just ignorant. An indie app can't pay half a million dollars or even $10K, in marketing in order to pay bots to download and rank their apps or even run a single TV ad, they can barely afford google ad-words.

      Neither Apple, Google, and now M$, want you to realize just how badly gamed their app ranking system is. Just look at "Flappy Birds" -- It was a shitty ripoff that paid a marketing bot to write reviews with markov chains (invloving thousands of instances of similar terms as "the devil", "insane

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Related Link: http://www.bluecloudsolutions.com/blog/flappy-birds-smoke-mirrors-scamming-app-store/

      • An indie app can't pay half a million dollars or even $10K, in marketing in order to pay bots to download and rank their apps or even run a single TV ad,

        The moment you said "TV ad" I simply stopped reading, as there are so many other channels of advertising that so much more effective and cheap... you simply have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

        Just a few thousand can get you very effective marketing in most channels.

        The one area I should have qualified was games; that is an area where I can see

      • Sorry, but I forgot to mention in the last message the other reason I know you are utterly ignorant of modern app sales is because you think app store rankings are the only means to success. Read what I wrote again, and think. App store rankings are the laziest possible way to gain some market share but even they may not do as much for you as you think. They are a short-term boost, not a long-term strategy for success.

  • It wouldn't behoove Apple - or anyone else - to reinstate the conditions that made the iPhone a good place for the indie developers. Before Apple had an App Store, there was Installer.app and Cydia. This was back in the 1.x firmware days, when the innovations that Apple brought to the table were "kinetic scrolling", "threaded SMS", and "the marriage of the iPod and the cell phone". Labyrinth, Tap Tap Revolution (later Tap Tap Revenge), and a few others got their start there. Before Apple supported MMS, some

  • Apple, Google, MS, Amazon, all want to control app stores but these big app makers will just turn into publishers/stores themselves. Time for policy changes right fellas? Probably too late

  • Vertical markets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Sunday March 13, 2016 @02:37PM (#51690129) Homepage

    Every time this complaint comes up I say the same thing. Stop writing horizontal apps. Indie developers can (and should continue) to focus on narrowly targeted vertical applications. You aren't going to write a better driving app than Google maps, Apple maps, Waze, Open... But you can write a better application for skiers that consolidate deals and account for reports of conditions. You can write a better app for hotel front desk applications to tie to the mobile phones of hotel maids in navigating which rooms have checked out vs. which have left vs. which still have people in them. You can write a better application for appliance installers which gives them information on which warehouses to pick up which parts in...

    There is still a wide open market for vertical applications. Horizontal is too competitive but so what? Vertical pays way better.

    • Besides the fact that your distinction between vertical and horizontal apps makes no sense ... what is what?
      This is certainly wrong: You aren't going to write a better driving app than Google maps, Apple maps, Waze, Open
      All of those map applications don't really work with european public transport. A few months ago they would not show the tracks of the trains. Depending on zoom levle train stations vanish, show up again, vanish again.
      And on top of that: I personally have encountered minimum 100ds of cases w

      • by jbolden ( 176878 )

        Yes the mapping apps do have errors. And that's after spending 100s of millions on them. Some indie's app would be far worse on average. In specific perhaps they can fix something but then that becomes narrowly focused.

        As for the interface I'd doubt that you could make that much on a better interface. Maybe one of the apps would let you change the interface and maybe you would be able to sell that interface but I doubt there are millions of customers who would pay $1 or tens of thousands willing to pa

        • I switched to small independent map app because I use it in the National Forest, and it has much better support for those roads. Also the interface has a lot of improvements for driving on windy roads. Instead of a single common denominator for-dummies interface, it has dozens of configuration options like traditional software.

          Spending money making the software more profitable does not automatically even improve the usability for a particular use case. It might make it better for a more common use case, and

  • When ebooks took off in 2010, I published my short stories as $0.99 and made more money selling ebooks than I did in selling first serial rights. Six years later, my ebook income is now a tickle. The market has changed as readers demanded longer ebooks from a series with a free starter ebook, a glut of ebooks have flooded the market, and Amazon is still behaving like a monopoly. Rather than bitching, moaning and groaning, I'm rebuilding the business and exploring new opportunities.
  • and are they related to Pop Tarts in some way?

    • Yes, but that term is no longer socially acceptable.

      We just call them appers now. I mean groupies.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You know the old saying: Dreamers open the new paths, companies draw the maps and banks charge the toll.

    Indies are the pioneers, the dreamers who open new paths. But they are no good roads, they are paths. Companies make what Indies did but much better because they have more resources and they are committed to do that, while Indies want to enjoy with new path. If they enjoy more earning money, they become companies, like google, yahoo etc.

    There was a golden age of Indies, but never was a golden economic age

  • The article is generalising to sensationalise and gain attention. It's about "indies" coming up with new features that the phone lacks but should be built in.
    This isn't about "indies" so much as about the recent pulling of FlexBright by Apple as iOS9.3 will provide that same functionality under the name "Night Shift mode"
    No point griping about Apple playing catch up with built in features. That's what their customers demand, indies don't matter.

    Indies (and I am one who lives off the proceeds of my iOS apps)

  • I released an app myself like a week or two ago and have not gotten even one person to use it... I have even given out promo codes to get the app free and still nothing.. The app is called 'Drop Distance'. It is on Google play and amazon app store. Contact me for pomo codes! Jeromestonebridge at gmail.com
  • The issue we have now is that apps are really cheap. It's pretty much impossible to have a sustainable living as an Indy developer on a $1.99 app. The smarter route to take is utilize apps as another marketing channel for a larger service. All of the big corporations have lots of more resources and don't need to make a profit with the apps they release. It will be nearly impossible to win this kind of battle.
  • Yeah, there's risks. Life is about risks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMFYs3gfgis

  • The fundamental issue is that more efficient distribution in a growing market benefits companies with strong brands and more resources, who can drive people to their products. I'd suggest that the App Store's handling infrastructure (sales, distribution, in-store marketing) makes it easier for indie companies to focus on writing apps, so they'd be worse off if they could only sell via their web sites.

    The "missing functionality" in the App Store - upgrade pricing and free trials - can both be effectively ach

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