Category Archives: Uncategorized

In The Milking Shed

CowOccasionally towards the end of a project the anxiety of clients and also our team gradually increases until it reaches palpable levels.

Understandably so, budgets may be on the verge of being exceeded, timings and early mover advantage is slowly being whittled away, the frustration of moving towards the mirage of a release-able product, yet this oasis constantly moving towards the horizon.

Concerned clients might take to forums seeking an answer to the question “will my app ever be finished?”

Unfortunately some answers they find can suggest that developers make their cream by extending projects infinitum in order to charge more. It is sad but some people may have legitimately experienced this practice, but when clients receive this information it can be unfairly projected on the honest Developer.

In reality software development is quite nebulous and even very good work by client and developer doesn’t ensure that a vision is easily achieved.

I can tell you from my experience we love to complete a project. There is more joy and more opportunity in efficiently completed projects, than our extending projects by squeezing remaining drops of resources from our clients.

Instead our hope is to complete a project and only return to the project after the first version has been released, is enjoying good take-up and yielding returns so that our clients can invest these into additional development phases.

We also understand that developing the app is only the start, our clients need resources left to take the next step. Milking them is one way to ensure that repeat business is made impossible.

So to summarise:

– Every job we complete is a step closer to a new job and

– This job can take the form of a second phase because our client realises success

– or a new client through a positive referral by the client of the last successful job

– The closer we take a client to their limit, the less likely that any of these can happen.

Patreon – Support the Creative

patreon_logo_emblemIn my last post “Piracy – is no longer a Spade!” I was appealing to consumers of content to help the creators of content earn a living. I also appealed for some new ideas to provide consumers a method of directly contributing to the costs of this creative activity.

For some related content check out the The New Disruptors podcast Pompla Up the Volume with Jack Conte (Episode 39)

In this episode host Glenn Fleishman talks to Jack Conte a musician and entrepreneur, and one-half of the group Pomplamoose.

Jack explains why going on tour as a musician has not been a sustainable way of allowing fans to contribute financially to their creative endeavors. With Glenn’s help he also explains the an artist-supporting platform Patreon.

This platform facilitates the direct and ongoing connection between consumer and creator.

Check it out.

P.S. another couple of direct support platform that have recently been tweeted to me are:

TubeStart:  www.tubestart.com

Spondo:  http://spondo.com/

Piracy – is no longer a Spade!

With an election looming in Australia, I visited the websites of number of political parties in an effort to make my vote more informed.

Instead of becoming more informed I felt a little discouraged, this was a result of the apparent homogeneity between the major parties.

My survey of their online presence felt similar to comparing mobile phone plans. On the surface plans may look different but when you adjust for variations in call rates, data quota, flag fall and cash back offers, they can amount to a very similar monthly commitment.

I stress this observation of sameness is more a sensation, I can see differences between parties but running a country has significantly more variables than a phone plan and the scope that I can examine in one sitting is limited, so the sensation remains.

I have some general ideas as to why, I feel that media, journalism and even our education system are suffering similar kinds of blandness for the similar reasons. Another blog post perhaps.

But it was a visit to the Pirate Party site that presented a new dichotomy of emotions.

First I must shamefully admit to my superficial application of stereotypes to the candidates photos, but after cleaning the judgemental grime from my prejudicial glasses, I headed to their policy section where I was pleasantly surprised. The party were putting up some fairly constrained and in my opinion were addressing warranted reform to intellectual property laws. They weren’t advocating zero rights of ownership, but aiming to reduce extensions to the term of exclusivity and suggesting other methods to curb the abuses of legislation, abuses that can hold back innovation, or make it unnecessarily expensive.

However after my initial pleasant surprise, I paradoxically begun to perceive my growing disappointment that even the Pirate Party could not resist the pull to moderateness.

In my imagination, this party by its namesake should have been championing everyone’s rights to ignore other people’s rights. That it isn’t stealing, it’s sharing or of the afforded democratisation that is assisting artists to take back the power from the large corporate pimp machines of music labels and publishing houses. Plus any of the other catchy excuse that the kids of today herald.

Perhaps I am being judgmental again.

This is where I depart for the time being from my exploration of politics to give more consideration to the topic of this blog entry.

I have in the past found myself using excuses for piracy. My all-time favourite was that of non-consumption, ie I can’t afford to buy this software, thus they wouldn’t have gotten my sale anyway, so really they are not considering me as a customer, therefore I am not cheating anyone of any income – It’s quite an effective argument.

The flip side, if everyone who used the software could be counted upon pay their dues, then quite possibly the price of the software would have reached an affordable range.

This missing income lost to non-consumption is the “cost” that industries quote as a key reason for establishing SOPA and the like. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

However it is more accurate to recognise it is the poor cobber who pays the full non-disseminated price as the one who will experience the brunt of the costs. If more and more piracy occurs these costs may even become prohibitive for the remaining consumers leading to zero consumption or zero software.

Online music / app stores and the prevalence of devices have more or less proved this to be true. Where the price barrier is low and distribution is in the hands of the creators, direct access by customers makes it simpler and more gratifying to just purchase the content or software.

Ironically this behaviour is less true about the more costly to produce content and software, that being movies, TV and AAA titled games. Additionally it is often the most hard-core fans that are the biggest “sharers” of content, expressing the view “I torrent the episodes, but it’s ok – I buy the box set when it comes out.” This works fine until a favourite show gets pulled from the network and cancelled because it isn’t rating, even though it’s a hot seller in store as DVDs. My example, Firefly.

The traditional feedback device of “viewer survey” by networks is broken by online sharing, and I am sure that there is a significant percentage who torrented but didn’t buy the box set, so even that measure of popularity is broken.

This is the “Zero Sum Game” effect. The system is broken, the expensive process of TV production is not offset by the traditional mechanisms of ad paid for content, or paid access to the content across the networks.

Zero sales – zero income – zero TV

Perhaps this is because those greedy pimp machines are still in the mix and the prices are not as low as they yet should be, or worse that distributors hold back availability in certain territories forcing non-consumption. Groups such as, publishers, networks, and territorial distributors were all required in an offline model but are far less relevant today.

This is just disruption right?

Have not many industries distilled or disappeared because their model of business becomes unsustainable resulting from technology changes.

Does anybody still order ice for their ice cabinet? Or gas for their Car? Ok the second example is premature, but the car did on the large part disrupt the horse.

But unlike ice delivery and more like the petroleum industry, these pimping groups have power and connection that ties up the dissemination of content. So they are more shielded from disruptive forces and their demise is artificially slowed.

I can go some way to agreeing with pirates that fat can be cut from content distribution, but there is a fine line between those who want to pay for well-priced content and those who suggest “sharing” is fine.

Consider sharing with a more traditional flavour; Sharing is only possible when there is enough of something to go around. Sharing cake between 10 people is possible, between 100 requires a larger cake or less share to the eaters. This is economics, the rule is: resources are finite. Now let’s invent a cake copying machine (with 3D printing it probably isn’t too far away), but this fictional cake copying machine is perfect as it derives all required resources from zero point energy meaning more or less that it can copy cakes infinitum. Resources are no longer finite right? Wrong, there was one particular resource that I am most interested in considering, this is the time it took for the first person to invent the recipe and make the cake. Surely we want to protect this person and resource them so they can invent again. This is vitally important because I will certainly bore of eating the same cake.

I’ll leave it to you to amplify the same concept by considering the design and manufacture of a safe and reliable car.

It is important to recognise that in the cake and car scenarios, the baker or car designers are the ones spending resources that need to be distributed across all their customers and recouped, but in both cases cake or car, you keep costs lower if entities in the supply chain are few. Sure we will have to work out what to do with all the unemployed people displaced by disruption, but that is not a new challenge, just ask Detroit.

But is becoming closer to the customer a good thing?

Increasingly I hear from content creators, in particular artists in the music industry, there is a juxtaposition of having less supply chain. Being closer can develop stronger community and as this community are feely sharing the music, the artist’s popularity can quickly grow. However as a generation of fans have now grown up with the expectation that music is free and free to share, selling tickets can become the only sure source of income, leading to exhausted artists who literally sing for their supper every night.

In defense of some fans, I have heard that many recognise this and until we invent the Fictional Copying Machine , they understand artists too need to eat and buy necessities. These fans would love to have more direct ways of getting their contribution to the artist.

What about the movie actor, not specifically talking about the A-list variety, although they should really be the first to take a slight pay cut, but will they have to fall back to live theatre as a means to guarantee less sharing of their hard work?

This is where I think attention needs to be spent, not in changing legislation to protect redundant supply chains, but by installing better mechanisms for customers to directly compensate creative people. These viable alternatives will help these creators to bypass the traditional methods of product distribution.

This would lead to true and justified disruption of supply chains rather than just a symptom of a corrupting society who has lost its ability to respect others, a society who now call the “Stealing” spade a “Sharing” spade.

So before you sit down to an episode of Game of Thrones, or the like, instead spend the time thinking about how you can create new technology or methods that help creative people to put a few dollars in their pocket so they can create the content you enjoy. After that the episodes will be sweeter, I promise.

Regardless of your stance, since moving into further into the content and software business myself, I work very hard to ensure that my company is equipped with legitimately purchased software and that my personally consumed content is acquired through legitimate means. It’s just my policy.

By the way, because of this I haven’t yet watched any Game of Thrones, mainly because it hasn’t reached the legitimate channel for me. That channel being a family member who buys the box set so I can have a lend 😉

Call me an old fogey, but that’s the way I roll.

iPhone vs Android

iPhonevsAndroid

TUESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2011
First Published IN TECHSTATE MAGAZINE

Who Will Win?

The question I will attempt to answer here is similar to the question:

Who will win between Lleyton Hewitt and Greg Norman?

They both hit balls with stick‐type things right?

Confused? Well, it’s like the question I get asked all the time:

Who will win between iPhone and Android?

On the surface, the question seems to make sense, but the problem is trying to establish a basis for comparison. The question is asking me to compare a mobile phone device with an operating system.

Better questions include:

iPhone vs a phone supporting Android OS? 

The answer would be a technical review and comparison of the devices’ features.

iOS vs Android? 

This gets closer to the intent of the question, and could be answered by comparing qualities and features. However, it fails to shed light on the complete picture.

Who has a better business model, Apple or Google? 

Wow! That’s a significant question, but, as I will explain, this is a critical factor. The market is not just about making the best mobile phone or operating system.

The Findings

The answer is wrapped up in these questions among others, so let’s consider different factors.

Statistics

Market researcher, ComScore, has reported Google’s Android platform has surpassed Apple iPhone sales in the U.S. for the three‐month period ending November 2010. This places the share ratio of the Smartphone market at 26% Android and 25% iPhone. Three months is a short timeframe to indicate long‐term performance, and note that both have experienced growth through this period.

Technical Prowess

Over time, numerous reviewers have claimed (with an element of truth) the emergence of a new iPhone killer. However meaningful technical advantages are becoming difficult. Where phones once had a primary function of making calls and sometimes a secondary function, such as an MP3 player, smartphones are built to include every possible technology. It is inevitable that there will be a ceiling on useful mobile functions, and if smartphones allow you to have them all, there will be limited functional differentiation between devices.

Regardless of the truth in Apple’s claim that the resolution of iPhone 4 is too fine for the human eye to detect, there is limited scope for noticeable improvement in this area. Mind you, 3D might be a possibility.

Therefore, short of a revolutionary human interface development – battery life, storage capacity, and processing power are possibly the last bastions for manufacturers to get a leg up.

Operating System

Most aspects of the two operating systems are similar enough that users without extensive use of both platforms will notice little difference. Early differences concerned multitasking and instant notifications, with Android leading, but the iPhone iOS has now addressed most of these shortcomings. However, lack of instant notification of emails can be frustrating.

By far the most notable difference – and for many, this is the crux for choosing Android – is the proprietary nature of iOS compared to the Open Source status of Android.

This is the primary reason Android comes out on top in reviews. The dichotomy is that, being Open Source, Google places minimal restrictions on what phone manufacturers or carriers can do to the OS to limit or augment features.

There are also few limits on what a coder with malicious intent can do. The full architecture of Android is available to anyone – making it much more susceptible to viruses and security exploitation.

Android can also be used on any phone, ‘smart’ or not, but not all handsets will support all features offered by Android.

There is also a trend that Android OS versions are being released too rapidly for manufactures to keep up. This isn’t limited to last year’s models. Phones are being released now supporting Android OS versions that are a couple of versions behind the latest.

So Google might have a philosophy of no limits, but the double edge sword also means no limits on how people mess with the OS. This certainly elevates the benefits of an integrated software and hardware solution like iPhone.

So do those who champion ‘Open’ have wool over their eyes, or do they actually have something worth bleating about?

There are plenty of limits that Apple places on their OS to direct attention away from the limitations of their hardware, and they communicate the reason for this as ‘user experience’. For the most part this is true.

However there are also limits that Apple place, which seem to benefit their business model with no tangible benefit to consumers.

For example, although I can access the internet on my laptop using my iPhone, I do not have the same privilege of connecting my non‐3G iPad to the iPhone’s internet. If I could, this would negate many users’ reasons for spending the extra for the 3G iPad model.

Open Android wins hands‐down in this test. Although, if I didn’t battle with the ethics of it, I could jailbreak my phone and effectively have an ‘Open’ iPhone.

The last feature Android users hold over Apple is the capacity for Android to display in‐page Flash content. If Flash could be viewed in a browser on the iPhone, it would put a dent in the success of the iTunes App Store, so one can only think that Jobs’ rhetoric on Flash being battery‐hungry and providing the performance of a dead dog is an excuse designed to protect revenues.

However, if Flash access remains a reason for you to buy Android, I would recommend testing your candidate to see if the experience stacks up. A few YouTube searches for ‘Flash on Android’ will show that performance can lack.

Brand Power

Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but they did brand it with the iPod. So much so that MP3s on a website are still inaccurately described as a Podcast. Strong brands create a strong fan‐base, often loyal to the point of irrationality.

Apple fans make unsubstantiated claims of infinite stability, ultimate usability and downright sexy design. The same brand evokes the opposite reaction in digital anarchists, claiming Apple represents a controlling force to be opposed at all costs. This polarised view is only too evident if you were to read comments at the end of any online article. However, for what it’s worth, Apple has a brand advantage.

The App Store

Apple’s “There’s an App for that” campaign has been highly successful and highlights one domain where they still lead. While statistics are showing that the Android App store is growing faster than Apple’s, they have a long way to catch up. The US stores for each have Apple at around 300,000 applications and Android at approximately half that.

The question that should be asked of both stores is what percentage of Apps are unique and useful? For example, alongside our own App, Newton’s Cradle, which was the first of its kind, there are seven other copies of assorted quality.

There is no approval process for an App to get into the Android store, which is probably why it is growing faster, but is also likely to exacerbate the issue of cloning or useless apps for Google.

This lack of approval process is also seeing many dubious and possibly IP infringing applications appearing at the top of their charts. These include content and characters used outside of licence, emulators for other game consoles, and plenty of adult Apps – with ‘Naughty Dice’ rating number one in entertainment at the time of writing this article (I now have to explain to my kids why the dice are naughty).

But many users would appreciate these types of content and damn Apple for censoring it. After all, no one wants an Internet Blacklist right? Mmmm…

Carrier Deals

Android advocates say: “people want choice”

What is being ignored in this statement is that for many phone users in the US, where Android is experiencing its best uptake, there has actually been no choice.

In an article on Apple Insider, it’s reported that Jaffrey analyst, Gene Munster said: “Currently, Android phones outsell iPhones in the US”, however he also noted that: “in countries where the iPhone is available on multiple carriers and competes with Android, we see the iPhone outselling Android.” This is certainly the case in Australia.

While composing this article it has been confirmed that Verizon have announced that next month iPhone will be available on their network, removing AT&T’s exclusivity.

Business Models

There is now a remarkable shift in internet use, with more people accessing the internet from a mobile computing device than a desktop alternative.

Until Android, Google was at the mercy of phone manufactures or carriers who could provide exclusive preference to an alternative search provider, reducing the amount of search traffic Google can acquire and the correlating drop of in advertising revenue.

Ironically, as presented earlier, the open nature of Google has already seen some installations released without Google’s information products, defeating the whole exercise.

Although Apple have consequently created iAds in the iPhone OS, Apple’s main revenues comes from creating integrated hardware and software solutions and, more recently, percentages of transactions for content sold within their iTunes store. Revenue from advertising is just diversification.

Competition within the Camp

A pressure that exists in the Android camp that Apple doesn’t have to contend with is the competing between manufacturers using the same operating system. As the features on phones become more homogeneous this may cause price to become the differentiator, causing some manufactures to be squeezed.

This will have the effect of less choice (currently important to Android fans) or cheaper and inferior product in order to compete. This lessened experience may well cause market share to be lost.

Which leads into the next question of:

Will People Switch

At the moment there are probably few customers switching from one platform to the other. Market share is being gained at the expense of other phones, and there is certainly room for both to grow without stealing market share already won.

Old Kid on the New Block

While attention is being diverted by the activities of two platforms in question, Microsoft has been putting in a tremendous amount of work both from a technology perspective but more importantly from user experience in the development of the Windows Phone 7 OS.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the entry of the software giant that has proved that it can create an integrated hardware solution with success of the Xbox, and continue to innovate with the Kinect addition.

I have no doubt that Windows Phone 7 will have an impact in this space and may see the question rewritten with Windows 7 in place of iOS or Android.

For Developers

An important consideration as without these there would not be 500,000+ Apps between them.

Unfortunately for local developers, Android hasn’t been platform of choice due to Australians not being able to sell Apps on Android’s App store. This was finally rectified in October last year. Also the local take‐up of Android has also been much slower than the US meaning fewer customers to market Apps to.

However a benefit of Google is the lack of approval process realising an almost instant release.

Quite a few times our team has fallen victim to Apple’s App approval process and sometimes‐finicky rejections. The delay and uncertainty of duration of this process has also made it difficult for advertising campaigns to make use of the platform, especially in fast deadline scenarios. Mind you, the good folks at Apple have pulled out all stops for us on many occasions, meaning we have never missed a deadline to which they have our thanks.

The development tools of Apple are very good. The environment is within Xcode, and for simple Apps, Interface Builder works well. Their APIs are fairly straightforward and as a majority, well‐ documented.

Feedback from my team and other reviews shows Android is relatively straightforward to code for. However it is beset with an increasing lack of standards in hardware, resolutions and iOS releases, making it hard to ensure compatibility.

Something to look forward to is Windows Phone 7 Mobile. This will use Microsoft’s very mature development tools.

A recent coding competition in Budapest saw developers from three platforms: iOS, Android and WP7, have a live coding event.

The results of the competition saw the Windows 7 team trouncing everyone. Whereas the iOS and Android groups had created one page of the app, the WP7 team created a mostly working application, the Android team had most trouble with a component that kept crashing.

So what results from this evaluation of factors?

The Answer?

They both win!

It might sound like a cop‐out but for the time being there is plenty going for both platforms and so much market for them to share.

I expect that Apple will continue to make an excellent product and sneak in new innovations over time. Eventually they are likely to retain a lesser share but still have the potential to be the most profitable phone manufacturer. Apple will continue to pull in record revenues through percentage transactions on content sales, and will add to their family of devices that will use this content (Keep an eye on the Mac App Store and Apple TV).

Assuming that Google can keep control of an Open system and the dangers entailed, they will increase exposure of their content both free and paid and continue to earn revenues from these.

Their success is also the responsibility of many very large manufacturing and telecommunication companies that have much to gain from the success of Android, as long as they don’t cannibalise Android from within.

In Summary

Where Enabled will be focusing energies? We already have a massive experience base in iOS, and appreciate a great deal about the platform. Android is a little messier but is becoming a market that we cannot ignore.

My take is that over time the choice of platform will not be Android vs iPhone, but will become a preference based on price or brand.


So back to my nonsensical question… actually a more aligned question to Android and iPhone would be:

Who will win between the Goodyear blimp and an Audi A4?

But I’ll leave you to work out that parallel.