The value of Apps

The online conversation on the Sparrow sale continues unabated. But in amongst all the vitriol, I found some amazing articles written long before the sale pretty much predicting how it is now. Here are some great quotes and links.

Guy English, in Software Sea Change:

An Application represents the developer’s best effort at creating software that applies the capabilities of the device to solving a specific problem. Making people laugh is not a problem an Application can solve; it’s not about the device it’s about the person using it.


Apps are not Applications – they are their own things. They are smaller. They are more fun. Apps are treats atop your technological sundae. They are not potential time sinks. They are neither burden nor investment. They each represent a nugget of fun, of fleeting amusement. Apps are gobbled up in the millions by people who would never rush so willy nilly to buy desktop software. Apps are Pop Software writ large in blinking neon lights.

Are Apps good business? No, they’re not. From a small developer’s perspective the App Store is a total disaster.

Kyle Baxter, in Entitlement and Acquisition:

There’s something important to learn here: since the App Store’s primary customers are mass-market, they don’t yet value apps very much, and are therefore only willing to pay a pittance for apps. For them, apps are simply entertainment, sometimes a bit more, but not much more.

Faruk Ates states what the customer’s perception is in When Selling Out is, In Fact, A Dirty Choice:

There is an implicit promise in the act of doing business. It is a promise of respect and mutual trust, where the business offers the customer something of value, for which the customer pays money. The free-but-paid-with-advertising model has made this promise blurry, but not absent. When a company sells itself to a bigger company as a talent acquisition, leaving the product—and, consequently, its customers—out in the cold as a result of this acquisition, it is a reneging on that implicit promise.

Kyle Baxter, responds to Faruk in In Response to When Selling Out is, In Fact, A Dirty Choice:

That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s a good situation. It isn’t at all. It sucks for customers that an application they like and have come to rely on will, at some indefinite point in the future, stop working for them and will not improve. This problem, though, has to do with the App Store’s structure. The fact is when charging for upgrades isn’t possible and isn’t expected, it’s difficult to make an application like Sparrow and succeed. Very difficult. We should spend our time trying to solve that problem, so more small developers can make a living building well-made, useful, focused applications on these new devices.

Rian van der Merwe nails it in The real reason we’re upset about Sparrow’s acquisition talking about how we tried to switch to a paid model, and it still was not enough:

The real issue is the sudden vulnerability we feel now that one of our theories about independent app development has failed.

Jim Harvey, commenting in Hacker News on AppCubby’s The Sparrow Problem incorrectly assumes the barrier to being an indie developer is getting lower, but I hope he’s not right in:

Indie developers may well go the way of indie journalists: while a few flourish, most wind up working for beer money.


Posted By Hilton Lipschitz · Jul 24, 2012 8:37 AM