Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog



I was annoyed by a recent post to Slashdot. It references an article that makes the claim that the iTunes App Store (which sells applications for the iPhone and iPod touch) is hurting developers because of the pricing model that's allowed. Basically, the pricing model is open. Applications must be approved before Apple will list them but you can price them between $.99 and $999.99 (or they can be free). Developer's are apparently whining that with the availability of cheap (usually $.99 applications) it's hard to support serious development.

Stack of Money by Dani SimmondsThe request is that Apple "do something" to fix this.

This is bizarre. The claim is that because so many free or cheap applications have flooded the market, no one can compete. The analysis looks at cost to bring an iPhone application to market and the expected sales depending on its price.

Maybe the problem is simply that iPhone users aren't willing to drop as much money as developers would like. Maybe the current glut of free and cheap apps is a poor anticipation of actual demand by the developers. Some developers made free apps, sold the idea and hooked users and then migrated to $1 or $5 applications. These developers are making SOME money. Maybe not a lot, and maybe the iTunes App Store will never be a lucrative business for developers (although Apple seems to be doing quite well).

The success that small programming outfits have had is that they can leverage a nice API to work with that users can use in novel ways. At $1, many users are willing to buy without recognizing a brand name or being suspicious of a poorly made product. For independent software developers, this is probably enough to pay the bills. For larger products, the source of income is likely to be in the form of some integrated service (free iPhone application that interfaces with a $40 desktop application).

I don't see the dilemma. Isn't this what the free market is all about? If customers aren't willing to pay $20 for most applications for the iPhone, maybe developers shouldn't make them. On the other hand, if developers really can make a much more complex product with almost universal appeal, then even pricing it at $1 or $5, it will almost surely pay for the higher development costs. This is the way the world works.


iPhone Happiness

Well. I purchased an iPhone Thursday. Friday was NOT a productive day. In fact, neither was today. It's a great little tool and it's very handy.

One of the first things I noticed was that my voicemail messages (which get emailed to me from my VoIP provider) were NOT able to be played on the iPhone. Basically, they support WAV files but they must be in a specific format.

Solution? Well, I immediately thought that I could set up a spare email account on one of my domains and use procmail to run a conversion on the audio on my Linux box (and forward the results to my regular email account). I did a search and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had already been done (in exactly this way). However, after trying to get it working on mine I realized that it was a little messy since I was using virtual mappings (in order to store all email domains/users/aliases in a Postgresql database). Hmmm... So, I played around with maildrop (with which I was previously not at all familiar with). After much, much tweaking of permissions on folders (maildrop requires some odd and sometimes nearly conflicting permissions for things to work) I was able to get it to work as expected. I shamelessly stole the script that had already been created, emerged sox and some other utilities to support the conversion and fixed some bugs that I found along the way in my mail config (finally cleared out 250+ emails that had been queued up forever).

After all that, I still have a slight issue. A WAV file goes from being 60K to being 500K when I convert it to the "acceptable" format. Oh well. AT & T's EDGE network isn't the fastest for downloading 500K but I guess it's a lot better than nothing. It sure is nice to be able to get both your Cell voicemails and your home voicemails all on the same device. The iPhone is the first (so far as I know) cell phone to offer "visual voicemail" where voicemail is essentially downloaded rather then being available over one of those irritating "press 7 to delete your message"-type interfaces.

Phew... fun stuff. I've decided that since I spent the time playing with maildrop I might add some fun things (like system automation via email). There are definitely a few maintenance tasks that might be nice to automated via email. At work I have a proxy and email (at least from my work email account) is one of the few things that I'm allowed to use. I guess in theory I could run a really slow, email-based terminal session (email "ls -al" and after about 30 seconds get the results emailed back). That would be kind of cool. And a terrible security hole. 🙂

Sorry I've been slow on updating. I need to get back into the habit. Hope all my faithful reader(s) are well!