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24 September
2009

The iPhone Doesn't Need Me

There's been a lot of discussion recently about the viability of the iPhone as a means for indie developers to make a living. As someone working on an iPhone app, i'm obviously voting with my code. The good gentleman from Austin, Manton Reece, wrote very poignantly:

But the iPhone doesn't need me.
And then a little later in the same post:
If you're a Mac developer, my message to you is the same: just because the iPhone is awesome and runs on Objective-C does not mean you are required to build software for it. Maybe your time would be better spent refining old apps or building new ones on the Mac. Maybe... the iPhone doesn't need you, either.
Of course, i have to take exception. My reasons for getting on the iPhone are twofold. Firstly, it's a really fun platform to develop for. There obviously are huge annoyances associated with playing in Apple's walled (and double padlocked) garden. I have to chant the secret incantation and do the sacred belly dance in order to get a new app to run on a device (or get an old app to run on a new device) and i haven't yet gone through Apple's dreaded review process. However, from purely an engineering perspective Cocoa Touch is really incredible and feels even more like Cocoa than Cocoa does. Creating a new platform enabled apple to jettison 20+ years of baggage and the results are downright liberating. Additionally, the constraints of the device give rise to apps that are focused and pure of vision. My own app is very focused and it feels like such a natural fit on the platform.

The second reason is that there is a real opportunity for my app to succeed. I'm entering a crowded market, but none of the apps in this space function in the same way that mine does. I think the part of Manton's post that i disagree with most viscerally is this:
It's also because most of the apps I would write have already been done, and in some cases done very well.
The image editing market was already sewn up by Photoshop when the indie offerings of Acorn and Pixelmator came out. Microsoft Word is the undisputed king of the word processing market, yet smaller more nimble apps such as Scrivener or Mellel continue to thrive and new offerings like Pagehand are still coming out. These apps provide something that their more established brethren do not and that's what users will pay for. This is especially true on the iPhone where (for better or worse) the pricing model makes it easy for users to try multiple apps that accomplish the same thing. Face it, how many Twitter clients have you purchased?

In the end, it comes down to what you can provide that users will want. The iPhone certainly doesn't need me, but that doesn't mean that users won't want my iPhone app.

Posted by kalperin at 12:46 | Comments (2)
<< Late Snowfall | Main | A Gallon of Milk and an Onion >>
Comments
Re: The iPhone Doesn't Need Me

Hey Keith. What I took from Manton's piece was not that you shouldn't write iPhone software, but that you shouldn't feel obligated to, just because you write Mac software. If you have an idea that you think will sell on the iPhone, by all means, go for it!

For me, I'm just starting out. I've made a conscious decision to focus on Mac software for building my business, because by all accounts it's WAY more stable. I'm doing iPhone contracts as well, and I do have a small iPhone app out, but I think the best platform I can build my company on is the Mac right now. One day, when I have a few shipping Mac apps and I can afford to dabble, or when one of my apps lends itself to an obvious iPhone tie-in app, I'll join in as well. But I don't feel obligated to dive in head first, just because it's the new hot thing.

Posted by: Mike Glass at September 24,2009 14:17
Re: The iPhone Doesn't Need Me

Mike, your strategy is sound and it's what i did for the first 1.5 years that i was in business. Right now, i *think* that the best opportunity for me (both as a developer and as an entrepreneur) is to build this iPhone app. I emphasize the "think" because no one really knows. Ask me again in six months and i'll tell you whether i was right or not.

Posted by: kalperin at September 25,2009 13:10
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