Developing Perspective

#51: Fear the Robot


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note in iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 51 and today

00:00:13   is June 4th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:17   All right, so I'm going to have two topics today. The first one I'm going to talk about

00:00:22   is Android and general multi-platform development. And that's something I've talked about before,

00:00:29   if you're curious for kind of like the back issues you can go to show 0.8 and show 5 and

00:00:35   that's 0.8 because that was sort of in my earlier run of shows where I was still working

00:00:40   on how to do podcasting and so the quality is not as great but hopefully the content

00:00:44   is still pretty good. But this is you know sort of comes to mind and is relevant because

00:00:49   today Instapaper launched for Android which is in some ways you kind of wonder it's like

00:00:54   did you know did hell just freeze over like pigs are flying through the air I mean it's

00:00:58   a crazy thing. And you kind of think, well, that's a bit surprising. What's going on with

00:01:03   that? And it's a funny thing because in many ways, it speaks to, I think there are three

00:01:10   parts that always come to mind when I think about multi-platform development. And they

00:01:15   are money, support, and what is your goal? And I'm going to kind of walk through those

00:01:21   three things in general. And specifically, I'm going to be kind of talking about it from

00:01:25   from a perspective of if you're an independent developer, which is essentially the target

00:01:29   of this podcast, that's what I am, that's what I know, that's what I can talk with some

00:01:34   authority on.

00:01:35   So, this is sort of focused in that regard.

00:01:37   If you're a large company, if you're developing an application for a Fortune 500 company,

00:01:43   you probably have different goals than if you're an independent developer.

00:01:46   Independent developers typically don't have a lot of resources.

00:01:49   There are a lot of resources both in terms of time and also both in terms of money.

00:01:56   And even beyond just money in terms of cash flow, it's money in terms of risk that we

00:02:01   can bear.

00:02:03   If I make some bad choices and my apps start doing terribly or I make a big bet on something

00:02:10   that doesn't pan out, that could impact my family.

00:02:13   That could impact a lot of things that I care a whole lot about.

00:02:16   And so my risk is not so.

00:02:19   I don't have a lot of risk tolerance, I guess is what I mean.

00:02:22   And so generally, maybe it's fair to start off in saying at this point I've essentially

00:02:27   abandoned multi-platform development beyond the multi-platform part of work developing

00:02:33   for iOS, developing for iPhone and iPad within that, as well as developing for the Mac.

00:02:39   So I develop on three platforms right now, and the second part of the show I'll talk

00:02:43   about maybe a fourth that I may be developing for soon.

00:02:46   But they're all within the Apple ecosystem.

00:02:48   I'm honing a skill set, both in terms of technical knowledge, as well as an experience just in

00:02:55   an understanding of how the market works, how things work within the Apple ecosystem,

00:03:01   that I think is very difficult to then take that and move into another platform and do

00:03:06   it successfully.

00:03:09   And I just, in general, I would say for most independent developers, it just doesn't make

00:03:14   sense to move onto these other platforms. They're not as good by almost every measure

00:03:19   that you can kind of think on where there's a lot of people who are like, "I love, you

00:03:22   know, very, I've heard very few people, for example, I'm going to be picking on Android

00:03:25   a little bit because that's sort of the topic du jour." But typically the people who like

00:03:31   Android and kind of other, you know, the vocal minority of people is typically, you know,

00:03:37   they're tinkerers. They're people who enjoy playing. They're very kind of, you know, sort

00:03:42   of a Linux-y feel to me, maybe. And that's great, and I'm glad that they have a platform

00:03:48   that they can work on, but that does not mean that there is a lot of money to be made there.

00:03:53   And if there's no money to be made, I don't know why I'd be working on that. I do this

00:03:57   for a living. This is how I make my money. My mortgage payment comes out of the app sales

00:04:02   that I make. So it's important to me that I'm going to put some time and energy into

00:04:06   something that I can see a return on that. And financially, I've never seen a good return

00:04:11   on Android. I've abandoned my apps at this point, really. I think the last update I did

00:04:15   was, I don't know, six, seven months ago, and I barely even check in on the sales anymore.

00:04:20   And certainly I'm sure sales are not doing well now because I decided to abandon them

00:04:26   months ago, but those months ago, the sales weren't much better. I mean, things haven't

00:04:31   fallen off dramatically in a way that leads me to think, "Oh, I just neglected it and

00:04:38   and it kind of fell off on its own.

00:04:40   And just sort of that being said, it's just there's no money in it.

00:04:45   I've never found-- I very rarely hear of people who've--

00:04:48   they go onto Android and they're like, oh my goodness,

00:04:50   why haven't we been doing this all along?

00:04:52   There is so much money here.

00:04:54   Versus I've heard many times people go into the app store, the iOS app store,

00:04:58   and they suddenly-- they hit it right and they start making good money

00:05:02   and they start making a living.

00:05:04   And I'm not even necessarily talking about making millions of dollars,

00:05:07   being the next temple run, being the next Angry Birds, whatever

00:05:10   it is.

00:05:11   I'm talking about making a living, whatever.

00:05:14   Say as a goal, making $100,000.

00:05:17   Say you take that as a goal and say,

00:05:18   I want to make $100,000 in a year.

00:05:21   I think your odds of doing that on the App Store

00:05:25   are orders of magnitude higher than they

00:05:27   are on the Android App Store.

00:05:28   I think that's just the way it is.

00:05:30   And I'm sure there's some people who are out there hacking

00:05:33   on the edges of the Android App Stores who

00:05:36   making good money but I just either I've never met them they're very quiet or

00:05:42   they don't exist and it's hard to know which one's which but that seems to be

00:05:47   the way this sort of the way things work. Alright so the next thing I was gonna

00:05:51   talk about is and this is supporting multiple platforms and this is a

00:05:56   huge pain you know it's sort of the difficulty of supporting multiple

00:06:00   versions of iOS difficult not great you know like I have a whole drawer

00:06:06   full of devices with all different versions. I've got an iPad on 3.2, I've got an old iPhone

00:06:11   running 3.1, I think. And I've got all kinds of flavors of 4, all kinds of flavors of 5.

00:06:17   You know, I support all these different devices, all these different screen resolutions, and

00:06:21   all these different iOS versions. That's a big pain. You start to get into Android, and

00:06:27   I think this is a thread I've heard and seen in my own data to back it up. The vast majority

00:06:33   of support requests you get for Android are, "This doesn't work on my blank." And that

00:06:39   blank is almost certainly some phone you've never heard of. It's the HTC Super Fantastic

00:06:46   Super Califragilistice. You're like, "I'm sorry. I can't help you." And that just makes

00:06:54   you feel terrible. Like every time I see one of those emails, it's like, "Okay, here's

00:06:58   someone who's expressed an interest and potentially parted with money to use an app that I'll

00:07:03   that I've created and I can't help them.

00:07:06   I mean, I could go out and buy an HTC Supercalifragilistice,

00:07:10   but, okay, so I go out and buy a phone for $600

00:07:15   to support one user?

00:07:16   It just doesn't scale.

00:07:18   And I don't think I can create a user experience

00:07:21   that I feel comfortable with on Android.

00:07:24   And that's just, it's a weird way to say it,

00:07:27   'cause really it's you and somebody that say,

00:07:29   "Well, that's the customer's choice."

00:07:31   but ultimately what I want is to create excellent experiences for customers.

00:07:36   That's why I'm an app developer.

00:07:37   That's why I do what I do.

00:07:38   I really love when people come back and say, oh man, that was awesome.

00:07:42   I had a six hour plane ride that I was not looking forward to.

00:07:45   I got an audio book.

00:07:46   I listened to it.

00:07:47   It made a fly by.

00:07:49   Fantastic.

00:07:50   Or it made my commute better.

00:07:51   And so I'm happier when I get home to my kids.

00:07:53   I mean, there's all kinds of things that I hear.

00:07:55   And it's like, that's awesome.

00:07:57   But I just can't create that experience on Android or on any other platform.

00:08:00   I've tried Windows Phone 7, I've tried a whole bunch of stuff.

00:08:03   And it just doesn't work.

00:08:05   And then the last thing is I want to talk about what's your goal.

00:08:09   And this is something that everyone's situation is different.

00:08:13   And I'm coming at this from an independent iOS developers,

00:08:16   or really an independent developers perspective.

00:08:19   My goal is to enjoy making software, doing something

00:08:22   that I find interesting and engaging, and support my family doing that.

00:08:26   And those things right now, I find that on the iOS platform,

00:08:30   is the easiest place for me to do that.

00:08:32   That's the best place for me to do it that I've found so far.

00:08:35   I can meet that goal by making iOS apps.

00:08:39   And I've been doing it now for three years, something

00:08:42   like that, full time, supporting my family.

00:08:44   I mean, that's fantastic.

00:08:46   That's longer than any job I've had at a single company

00:08:50   at this point.

00:08:51   And it's great that I'm doing that directly with customers,

00:08:54   directly with people who enjoy what I do.

00:08:57   And if your goal is thousands of users,

00:09:01   if your goal is to have brand awareness,

00:09:04   if your goal is to have a feature

00:09:07   that you can put on a checklist that says,

00:09:09   hey, we're better than XYZ,

00:09:12   then maybe moving to multiple platforms works

00:09:14   and makes sense, but I just, I think you'd be better off.

00:09:18   And this is, maybe it's a bit interesting way to say it is,

00:09:20   I think you'd be better off being exclusively

00:09:23   an Android developer, then you would be necessarily trying to develop for all platforms. I think

00:09:30   if you're a small company or if you're a focused development team, because I don't think that

00:09:35   you can do that well. The thinner you spread yourself, the weaker you're going to be. And

00:09:42   so, anyway, just a few thoughts about Android. I said I've talked about it before, show 5

00:09:48   show 0.8, which are in the show notes. But it's just, it keeps coming up over and over

00:09:54   again. And I keep I've tried, I have tried to make it work. And I've never been able

00:09:59   to get it to happen. I've made apps for Amazon App Store, for the Google App Store, for the

00:10:05   Windows Phone App Store. And across the board, that all those enterprises have failed, I've

00:10:10   never been able to make it work. And I did the same similar kind of app in both platforms.

00:10:15   always iOS is always better. So that's where I'm gonna be and I said basically

00:10:19   I'm just abandoning everything else and I'm just kind of almost bored with this

00:10:24   topic now. I'm just gonna move on like I don't really care I'm just gonna focus

00:10:27   on Apple there's enough it's like there's enough pie there for me to you

00:10:31   know for me to share in for to keep me going for years and years I think so

00:10:36   anyway that's the start off. And the second thing I'm going to talk about

00:10:39   which is sort of interesting saying that I'm done with new platforms is

00:10:43   is talking about addressing slightly the all the rumors and speculation about

00:10:48   Apple TV

00:10:49   and about apps and SDK for that. If you're not familiar with the Apple TV it's a little

00:10:53   puck that you plug in an HDMI port into your television

00:10:57   and you can, you know, essentially consume content on it.

00:11:02   And I would say that is the best way to think about it. It's definitely a dead horse

00:11:06   that's been beaten many times of this "Oh, you will use the iPad for

00:11:10   you know, consumption or creation and all this, it's like, I think the iPad you could say

00:11:14   fairly comfortably is

00:11:15   primarily designed for consumption. That's what, I'm sorry,

00:11:18   the Apple TV is designed for consumption. That's what it does.

00:11:21   It's a big, big, high resolution screen with audio.

00:11:24   Now, you may be able to combine that with other devices in interesting creative ways,

00:11:29   but the actual TV part, you know, is a fairly passive, non-interactive thing,

00:11:35   and so that's kind of where you find yourself. And

00:11:38   If you've used an Apple TV, you could definitely see where Apple could go in terms of creating an SDK for that.

00:11:45   There are apps currently that run on that. There's a Netflix app, there's an MLB app, there's an NHL app, there's a podcast app.

00:11:53   I'm trying to think of all the others. There's all kinds of these little apps whose purpose is to allow you to access content in a useful way.

00:12:01   And I think that would be a really interesting and useful thing if Apple opens up next week at WWDC.

00:12:06   I think out behind. I think one thing I have learned over the years is if Apple creates

00:12:10   an SDK and creates a platform for something new for developers, it is very worthwhile

00:12:15   to explore that. I've done it when the App Store launched pretty close, when the iPad

00:12:21   launched, when the Mac App Store launched. In all cases, I've created apps targeting

00:12:26   ideally for day one. For the iPhone, I was a little bit late, but on the iPad and Mac

00:12:32   App Store, I was there on the first day, and in all cases it's been worthwhile.

00:12:36   Either I've recouped my investment in terms of time and energy, or even just the things

00:12:43   that I've learned and the enjoyment that I derive from that, I think I've always made

00:12:49   it worth it.

00:12:50   So, anyway, just something that I'll probably have a lot more to say about that as we go

00:12:54   on, talking about some of the other parts of Apple TV.

00:12:58   next week. I'll be recording at WWDC in case you were curious. I'll probably do a show.

00:13:03   I'm hoping to do five shows while I'm out at WWDC. I'm getting a little special mic

00:13:08   mount and things so I can take all my equipment off to my hotel room. And I'm hoping to kind

00:13:12   of walk through the keynote and sort of part by part and kind of walk through it in on

00:13:18   each of the days. So look out for that. And if you're not at WWDC, hopefully I can provide

00:13:24   as much as I can, and a lot of it's NDA'd, but I can kind of give you some of the flavor

00:13:29   and the color of what I'm absorbing in the sessions.

00:13:32   But anyway, that's it for today's show.

00:13:34   I hope it was useful, and as always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, I'm on

00:13:38   Twitter.

00:13:39   I'm @_davidsmith, and if you'd like to follow this particular podcast on Twitter, it's @devperspective,

00:13:46   D-E-V, perspective.

00:13:48   And otherwise, I hope you have a good week, happy coding, and I will talk to you soon.

00:13:52   Bye.

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