Thursday, November 4, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
A few weeks ago, the Android Market merchant accounts were opened to Canadians and I was finally able to publish the pay versions of my Android apps. I had been waiting for this for almost two years. I made the first prototype of Speed Bones on Android before the iPhone version since I didn't realize Canadians were not allowed to sell in the Android Market. When I learned this fact, I bought a mac mini on eBay and ported the game to iPhone OS thinking I would publish the Android version later when Google updated their store. My apps had relatively good success on Apple's App Store staying in the top 10 apps of the medical section of the app store for more than 6 months.
About five and a half months ago, tired of waiting for Google, I released Speed Anatomy for free on Android supported by an Adsense banner. I would release the more advanced versions, Speed Bones MD and Speed Muscles MD when Google opened it's store to me. To my surprise, the game was much more downloaded on Android devices than on iOS devices at more than twice the rate.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Large global media businesses are being replaced with smaller ones that rely on a thin layer of web based automated business processes. This results in smaller more efficient teams and more cozy relationships all around even to the point where consumers have access to leaders inside the businesses through online commenting, forums, blogs, twitter and e-mail. It's the friendly family outlet on a global scale.
From the perspective of us creators, things are simplified a lot. The marketing and the accounting tasks of selling creations are reduced significantly such that we can manage it ourselves with very little help. This means, for example, that a 14 year old kid with a knack at coding stuff up can sell his work in the same stores as the big multinational companies and if he is good, it might have as much visibility and sell just as well. Very little capital and no investors are required to do a startup. Creators simply need to build great products. In my experience, the stores' mechanisms give a fair amount of visibility at a price much lower than anything available through traditional marketing mediums.
The smallness of the teams can be extreme. As an iPhone and Android developer, I am the engineer, the designer and artist for my products. I don't need a CEO, I don't need a conventional marketing department, I don't need a finance department. Everything is automated. There is no manual work to do transactions even internationally. If I was to employ another body, it would probably be another creator, not a business support person.
On top of all this, if creators need more help, they can use the same kind of low overhead online stores that they use to sell their creations for hiring employees that will gladly implement the more tedious parts of their vision. It's very easy to start relationships with artists, developers or assistants from lower cost countries such as Russia, Eastern Europe, India or the Philippines through sites such as Elance.
From the perspective of the consumer, it's good too. The first obvious benefit is lower prices, e.g. $.99 apps. Since overhead is very low, pricing can be lower. This effect is multiplied by the fact that markets are international and profits come from huge volumes on small markups. They also get a more personal and personalized products because of the cozy customer-creator relationship.
Another benefit is the reduced reliance on advertisement for visibility. Instead of learning about new apps trough ads, potential customers go to the store which will suggest the most popular and the newest apps and even make recommendations based on their own profile and past purchases. These recommendations will more likely match what they want instead of what advertisers are trying to push on them.
Of course, there are downsides for those who used to profit from inefficiencies in the legacy system. It's probably not a good time to have a pure business background in the tech sector. A lot of these skills are being commoditized and replaced by technology.
From the customer's perspective, the downside might be that the downward pressure on price and risk can prevent the more capital intensive projects from happening or else these projects are designed to constantly squeeze out money from them through things like in app purchases.
Tens to hundreds of millions of dollars are sometimes spent on creating console games, no one in their right mind would spend that kind of money if they didn't know they had the insider knowledge and contacts to have visibility and a good spot in the distribution channels or if they couldn't get the necessary margins to pay for huge marketing campaigns.
I don't think most developers want to spend millions when they have to compete for their spot in the app stores with $.99 apps that can cost less than twenty grands to make. The more grandiose projects may be at a disadvantage. If this is what you prefer as a customer, you might be disappointed in the selection in this new economy. In the new apps stores, we see that a lot of the apps that would be more costly to develop are actually remakes of old classics that are cheaper to make and likely to sell well.
There is cultural aspects to all this. Humans are social animals. People want to listen to the same music, play the same games and watch the same screen shows as their friends. Things that become culture are natural monopolies. They can be tautologically popular, popular because they are popular. People often won't even admit they like something if it's not popular enough. Large media companies used to make sure that when they spent huge amounts to create something, they could fill the distribution channels enough for cultural movements to form around their products. When this status was reached, it wouldn't matter if there were more enjoyable or less costly competitors out there. This is why control of the distribution channels by a few big players was important. As anyone who has witnessed the effect of being featured in a store, it's not the inherent value in the good being sold that carries the highest monetary value, it's having the most visible spot. The book you see going into a book store is the one that's going to sell even if there is a better one hidden in the back.
With the new app stores, creators are playing in a more democratic playground where algorithms often decide who wins. This means more control to the people. People actually chose who wins, but it also means that big original projects may never come to be.
Overall I think this new economy is positive as it brings more diversity, more choices, more opportunities at lower costs. There is tremendous business efficiency in this system. There's less waste, barrier to entry is diminished, old is replaced by new more quickly and there is less opportunity for monopolies to form. In a way, it's capitalism at its best an I'm excited to be part of it.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I am excited to announce that Speed Geography was just released on the app store. It is based on the same game engine as Speed Anatomy. When you play Speed Geography you will have to find countries like Papua New Guinea in Ocanea and capitals like Canberra of Australia (who knew?). Plus you get additional info from wikipedia!
App store link: itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speed-geography/id380325974?mt=8
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Speed Anatomy is now available for Android 1.5 and up in a free ad supported version!
As I have mentioned before, because I'm a Linux kind of guy, the Speed Anatomy engine was originally developed for Android more than a year ago. However, after development of the first prototype, I found out Google did not let Canadian paid apps on their Android Market. I ended up making and releasing an iPhone version instead. My plan was to release the Android version once Google opened the Android Market to Canadian sellers.
This never happened so last month I decided to go the ad supported route and release Speed Anatomy for free. The iPhone version had evolved a lot since the Android protoype and I was not sure I could achieve the same performance including the newer features and graphics on Android especially on the older 1.5 release. However, I and am very pleased with the results. The application runs flawlessly on my Android 1.5 test device (an LG Eve).
Coming soon: Practice mode and translations into other languages. Also Speed Bones MD, Speed Muscles MD and Speed Angiology MD will be made available for Android when Google allows us Canadians to sell on the Marketplace.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
To celebrate this achievement, I am giving away Speed Anatomy full version today. Go ahead and grab a copy!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
About a year ago, in the height of the financial crisis, I was temporarily laid off and I started developing a software product for the open source Android platform which I intended to sell in the Android Market an alternate source of revenue. After doing a first prototype, I discovered that not only were Canadian users of the Android platform shut out of the Android Market, the main store where users can download applications. Canadians could not purchase any apps, but also Canadian developers and businesses were not allowed to sell on this store.
I thought to myself that this was a temporary situation resulting from Google and the Android platform being in its infancy. In the mean time, I ported my app to Apple's iPhone/iPod touch platforms and became relatively successful selling educational software that help students learn anatomy. Even as an independent developer working alone, my apps dominated the medical section of the app store for more than 6 months. At the same time, I was waiting for Google's platform to open to my apps so that I could have a presence and compete there too.
It has been more than a year and the open Android platform is quickly gaining popularity. Canadians can now buy apps in the Android marketplace but Canadian developers and businesses are still shut out of this market.
A year is an eternity in the tech sector and the big players are starting to establish themselves as leading mobile software businesses before Canadians even have access to this market. We are in a situation where Canadian developers are not even able to sell the fruit of their labors to their compatriots who are free to buy apps in Google's store none of which are allowed to be from Canada. Canadians are not able to participate in one of the more rapidly growing and most lucrative facet of this technology. We are left out.
The new mobile devices allow us to communicate, email, tweet, talk and work. In the coming years, they may well become the main computing platform. Canadians are used to be pushed out of leading edge web music and video mediums which often become available years after everyone else in Canada but this time it is preventing our businesses to participate in the greatest innovation in technology since personal computers.
It is very difficult to achieve success when international competitors get a two years head start. Currently countries allowed to sell on the Android store include Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
How fast can you point to your liver or gall bladder? Do you know the difference between, the sacrum and the manubrium? Speed Anatomy is an addictive game that tests your speed and challenges your knowledge of human anatomy!
"This game is a blast! If you are at all fascinated with the way the human body works, Speed Anatomy is a must!" -http://iphoneapplicationlist.com
Impress your doctor with your cunning intellect on your next visit after playing Speed Anatomy!
-Earn points for precision and speed.
-Compare high scores with your facebook friends using OpenFeint.
-A magnifying glass appears when holding your finger on an image allowing you to achieve more precision and higher scores.
This games is fun for everyone and it makes life easy for those tackling anatomy for high school, university or medical school. Practice mode allows you to learn specific regions without doing all the previous levels. Review mode lets you replay all the mistakes you made in the last game.
*If you enjoy this game, please rate it in the app store. I greatly appreciate your support!*
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
"This game is a blast! If you are at all fascinated with the way he human body works, Speed Anatomy is a must!"
Friday, January 22, 2010
"We've reviewed your application iKB 1.0 and we have determined that this application contains minimal user functionality and will not be appropriate for the App Store."
I thought this might happen because of the unusual nature of iKB, an app based on Yves Klein's art and the color he developed: International Klein Blue.
I can see that this sort of post modern, new realism experiment would easily be dismissed by reviewers. The app basically consists a screen filled with blue (for a similar experience try this web site).
After the rejection, I wrote to the reviewer and urged them to reconsider taking into account the historical and artistic context of the app, the numerous websites dedicated to Yves Klein's art, the philosophy of the real and the unreal, the emphasis on a raw material and a on a unique and pure color and even the impressive market value collectors attributed to his paintings (one sold for $21,000,000 in 1962), all despite the fact that they were basically simple blue rectangles. iKB was priced at the bargain price of free! I also asked that they take into account the explanation I gave on the app's web site, the research I did to get the closest representation possible of Klein's color on an iPhone including aquisition of real ultramarine pigment which I then used to make the artwork for the app's icon.
One of the reason I did this app was that I thought Apple's platform was well suited as a medium to reintroduce Klein's work. Apple's design philosophy has many parallels with Klein's art. Listen, for example, to Jony Ive in the new imac promotional video "... just display and then no display." and then listen to Klein's monotone symphony, a note and then no note.
I did try to stretch the arguments and mentioned to the reviewer that if they really require more functionality they should notice the slight gradient in the blue color giving the appearance of a matt texture. It's even animated to the accelerometer using drawing functions only available in OS3 which makes the app incompatible with iPhone OS2.
In a nutshell, I asked that they don't reject the app for its immediate simplicity but that they look at the greater context.
I got a second e-mail saying I should add more functionality and resubmit. After a reply rejecting this idea, they called me on the phone to tell me I should do a gallery showing multiple Klein artworks and descriptions.
But this all goes against Kleins philosophy. And regardless, art shouldn't be explained, it should be experienced. Plus all the information and descriptions one could want is already available on the iPhone to any one who can be bothered to type "Yves Klein" in the web browser.
The point of the app was to make a direct impact and introduce Yves Klein through a transposition of his ideas to today's technology and media. Maybe you could call it a new virtual realism.
In the end it was another interesting experiment in what can get through to the app store. Maybe recognizing an art experiments is above what can be expected from a large scale review operation responsible for judging the level of parental control that should be applied to toilet humor apps and softcore pornography.
I certainly don't regret the time I have spent even if it didn't result in a virtual lineup of people waiting to download my app like when Klein presented "Le Vide" (The Void) exhibition consisting of an empty all white gallery.
Plus, I now have an artwork and an interesting conversation piece in my living room allowing me to introduce Klein and his awesome color to guests and visitors.