Category Archives: Software in General

Our thoughts on software and usability

1 Million Apps = 7 Free Apps per Person

I’m glad Palm is giving the Pre everything they’ve got but I gotta tell you, I’m a little worried. Current estimates place the sales at around 150K units sold. Not bad, but that’s around 1/2 of what the original iPhone did in two days two years ago. (Although it’s pretty close to the Android sales numbers.) meanwhile, the SDK still isn’t out, and the hints we’ve seen of it suggests that we could face some pretty powerful development limits.

The latest announcement of a million downloads is nice and all, but considering the apps are free, that means each of the 150K users have downloaded 7 free apps. The most impressive thing about this is that Palm is actually doing a pretty darn good job of convincing the tech blog sites that this is a big deal.

To put this in perspective, Apple has over 2,700,000 downloads each DAY for the past year*. And many of these are paid apps.

It might be hard to believe but really, I DO want Palm to succeed at this. I’m just disappointed because I’m just not feeling confident that they will. I’d LOVE to see another strong handheld in the market – it’s good for business! I just feel like maybe we’re seeing more of the same problems that have plagued the company for the past few years.

* To address something I am sure will come up, reports indicated that Apple sold 2.2 Million apps (free AND paid) during their release weekend so the overall average isn’t far off.

Desperate Marketing

stacy There are certain marketing techniques that just scream desperation. They move the retailer from “dignified and disappointed” to “creepy stalker.” It’s something that could happen to any retailer, us included, in tough economic times. When times get tough people start tossing around all sorts of ideas, searching for something – anything - to change their fortunes. Fortunately, I like to think we’ve avoided this so far, but I ran across one painful example of this yesterday.

Read on after the jump for the whole story… Continue reading

AppStore Prices – Is Cheaper Really Better?

pricesOver at the Apple iPhone Group at Yahoo, a discussion has cropped up about application prices in the AppStore. We think (and hear) about this a lot, so I want to take a minute to talk about application pricing (on any mobile platform). It is a topic that is important to developers, retailers, and customers alike.

So, if you’re curious to hear a developer perspective on pricing, read on after the jump! Continue reading

eWallet for Mac Update

Just a quick update on eWallet for Mac. Contrary to what I’ve seen posted in some of the blog comments, we are in fact making eWallet for Mac. As a matter of fact, we’ve ALWAYS planned to make eWallet for Mac at some point. This is something we’ve had in the works for a few years – pre-iPhone even. If you want to know more about eWallet for Mac, check out the rest of the post after the jump!

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Does iPhone User = Mac User?

There is a perception out there that iPhone users are Mac users. Now before I say more, let me make it clear right now that this is NOT a “Which OS is best?” article. From a business perspective, the quality of the OS doesn’t matter to me as much as how many users of a particular OS are out there, and whether they will buy our software. I PREFER a high-quality OS because of the cool stuff we can do with it, but in the end its about which OS will pay the bills.

O.K., Disclaimer complete!

I’m still looking for a solid study on this, but from everything I’ve seen so far (based largely on our own sales information) it just isn’t true that iPhone User = Mac User. I think part of the reason for this is that according to one estimate, the total number of Mac users in the world (adjusting for recent increases in market share) is around 22,750,000. This doesn’t adjust down for the number of these Macs that are sitting on desks in computer labs of schools. So the number is probably lower. We’ll go with it though.

The total number of iPhones expected to be sold by end of this year is at least 14,000,000. This doesn’t account for the fact that a lot of the 3G sales were 1st gen users replacing their old phones. Still, like the 22m number, we’ll go with it.

So, what is a reasonable estimate for the number of Mac users who are buying iPhones? 20%? I’m betting this is high, based on what I know about smartphone ownership in general, but let’s go with this as a conservative number. I say conservative because 20% is 2 to 3 times the marketshare (depending on the estimate you use) of Mac in the computing market. So with 20% adoption rate I’m suggesting that Mac users are 3X more likely to buy an iPhone than a Windows user.

So, even at 20% adoption rate among Mac owners, this means that only 4.5 million of the 14 million iPhone users have Macs. That means that twice as many iPhone users have PCs. Throw in the fact that we also have a VERY big Windows Mobile market, and you can see why Windows has to be our first priority. To put it simply, Windows iPhone users are (at the moment) still where the money is.

At the same time, we absolutely see the value of Mac as a platform for our products. (I just saw a new build of eWallet for Mac the other day and it’s really coming along.) The reality though is that Mac isn’t a “core” platform yet. It falls into the “emerging” category. Of course as you all know, we don’t ignore emerging markets. Where you go, we go. It’s just that most folks aren’t there yet.

I hope that this article will help folks who say “Seriously, dude. Why on Earth do you have an iPhone version but no Mac version?” to better understand the numbers behind our decision making process.

My Release Philosophy

I know everyone is waiting with bated breath for the release of the sync component for iPhone. I’ve heard the grumbling and I don’t blame people for being impatient. And what I talk about here isn’t meant to make you feel happy or wash away frustrations. I just want to address these concerns, especially for folks new to dealing with Ilium Software, so you understand the way we do things.

I’m also writing this because when we first created this blog, we told you that we’d give you a little insight into what happens behind the scenes at Ilium Software. The things I talk about here really highlight the sort of decisions and challenges we face everyday. So if you’re interested, read on after the jump! Continue reading

The Trouble With the No Reboot Challenge

Let me start by saying I think it’s great that Mike at Mobile Jaw and Chris from GearDiary are doing this. It’s a neat idea and I’m looking forward to the results. At the same time, while I think this idea is interesting, it also has some inherent flaws. Again, I’m not saying their idea is a bad one or that the results won’t be interesting. I just feel that since our app is one of the ones being used in the experiment, and could thus be blamed if the device still crashes, that I need to say a thing or two about this idea.

So if you want to hear my take on device stability and the “No Reboot Challenge”, read on!

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Copy and Paste – Do You Need It?

It’s Soap Box Time! Matt Miller over at ZDNet recently wrote an article about Copy and Paste. His question was whether or not people really need Copy and Paste. To me, this is really one of those “you don’t miss what you don’t have” sort of scenarios. Fifteen years ago, the number of people who would have “missed” the internet if it went away was pretty small. Today if the internet went away, entire corporations would go under, governments would fall, and scores of stores would go belly up in a few hours.

OK, so Copy and Paste isn’t quite like that, but my point is that no one will miss Copy and Paste on a device like the iPhone until they have the power it gives them. Want a good example? Think back to the release of the Windows Mobile Smartphone. People were having fits when they moved from a Windows Mobile Pocket PC. Many simple day to day tasks suddenly became a nightmare of keypad re-entry. Sure, the iPhone has a better keyboard than those early Smartphones but we have a clear test case where no one realized they needed something so badly until they had it, then had it taken away. In the end, guess which device got Copy and Paste?

Now I realize that Matt’s use scenario doesn’t really seem to support this. Clearly he doesn’t do a lot of copying and pasting, but a lot of users do. I for one am a heavy copy/paster. Many of our customers are as well. Furthermore, even hand entering one or two 50 character redirect URLs can make you hate your device. And is that really the sort of experience Apple wants their users to have?

Not having Copy and Paste also stifles the creativity of developers. It’s one more tool that a clever developer can use to make your iPhone experience even better. For instance, right now we can’t copy password and usernames into Safari on the iPhone. The best solution available? Write our own web browser and include it with eWallet! Talk about software bloat!

In some ways cutting back on choices can make life easier and better, but at other times it prevents you from getting the most out of an experience. In the case of Copy and Paste I absolutely believe it’s the latter.

People might gasp to hear me say it but there really are scenarios where Apple would do well to take some lessons from Microsoft’s experience!

Fabulous Handheld Spider

I’m getting ready to go on vacation, so of course I checked out new games I can load onto my Pocket PC and bring with me. I’ve been addicted to Spider on my PC for a few years now, but never found a good implementation of it on a handheld until now. But Astraware has finally done it – made a version of Spider that’s actually playable on a handheld.

It’s hard to do – the screen is small, and you can’t use handy keyboard shortcuts for hint or undo like you can on a desktop. But they’ve solved the problem with a mode that shows all available moves, so you don’t have to go to the menu to see each one (why didn’t Microsoft do this in their version? It’s so obvious once you think of it), and an Undo button right on the screen. The cards are as big as they can be, and the stacks resize as they fill up.

This is a lesson in usability for handheld developers. (No, I’m not playing games. I’m learning about usability. Really.) There are 12 different solitaire games in the package, and it looks like the others are just as well implemented. Brilliant job, Astraware. And thank you – the flights and airport are going to be a lot more bearable for me now.