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The new Whites – Worthy Polycarbonate Successor

A couple of days ago I got a chance to take a first feel of the new “low-end” MacBook. Well, it’s not so low after all.

For a while it looked like Apple would totally abandon the plasticBook line in favor of making everything out of Aluminium Unibodies. Though there still seems to be a magic line for quite a few Mac buyers at $1000. The cheapest Pro starts at $1199 and personally I would prefer if this would be the Thousand-Dollar-Laptop, but there’s also something psychological or maybe historical that entices Apple to continue the white line.

Maybe it’s because you can more easily affix stickers on a shell that’s made out of Polycarbonate? Hey it’s just a fancy pancy word for Plastic, so it would not mind if your kids stick some cartoon characters on it, next to the glowing Apple logo. Reimagining the fruit as just having been handed by the evil queen to Snow White?

These days when I get asked, “Oliver can you recommend a Laptop?” you can guess my answer: Mac and if you absolutely need Windows, run it in Bootcamp or virtually. Turns out the school director already had been Mac-infected for at home, so my suggestion to also get a Mac for use at school fell on fertile ground.

Being the resident Mac-Maniac I was asked to set up E-Mail, printing and install Office. In turn I asked to be recorded while unboxing the beast.

I had almost forgotten to mention this video on my blog. But then I saw on YouTube that the views already had surpassed my previous video of Unboxing a Magic Mouse. So I felt compelled to also provide an honorable spot on my blog for it.

It appears that while the Magic Mouse is way more hyped as being revolutionary and many people openly discuss if it’s worth it, the audience for white MacBooks is an order of magnitude larger. Or put differently, way more people are looking for the cheapest method to enter the Apple ecosystem, than are in the market for a fancy new mouse.

The White MacBook again pushes the envelope. Now the shell is made of 2 big parts and the top feels like plastic, the bottom like a powdery rubber. No firewire, No more seperate line-in. That’s now combined into the headphone jack. I supposed to be able to use an iPhone headset for remote-control and external Mic.

You now get up to 7 hours worth of battery life with the enclosed big battery. Now all mobile Macs have no user-servicable battery any more. So you will have to bring your favorite toy to the store and get it replaced there in 2-3 years when the retainable charge drops below a useful mobile working endurance. There’s been much discussion about the user-friendlyness of such an approach, but having now doors or stickers on the bottom of a laptop goes a long way to give you even more the feeling that “Mac just works”. Being a Windows administrator by day and seeing lots of notebooks, I honestly believe that even the simplest mobile MacBook blows any other Laptop out of the water in terms of ease-of-use and industrial design.

While we are still waiting for Apple’s answer to the netbook craze – which will not come this holiday season – the new white one is the perfect choice to give as a first Mac to your kids or wife. Daddy can still have a shiny aluminum Pro on his lap and thus be the king of the castle. All coming together in perfect Apple-Harmony for Christmas.

Q&A with iPhone Business Owner Selling for $100,000

Brice Milliorn

After I had laid out my analysis about Brice Milliorn offering his iPhone Apps Portfolio for sale on eBay, I got contacted by the owner/seller himself. He offered to respond to any deeply probing questions I might have. Journalistic curiosity got the better of me and so I constructed the hardest questions that I could think of.

Here are his answers, verbatim and unedited.

1. You claim to produce 86% of your income from the USA, yet none of your apps appear in the top 100 in any category there. What is your explanation for this?

There are 100,000 apps on the app store and my apps pop in & out of the top 100 from time to time. Also obviously a Top 100 is only a 0.001 percent of the total app store product mix, considering there are 100k apps out there now.  So just because you don’t show up in the Top 100, doesn’t mean you don’t sell a lot of apps.  And furthermore, it is good that my apps are being recognized internationally as well.

2. If your business is still growing (and would grow more with “proper marketing”) how do you explain the steep decline in average royalties for the past 30 days compared to the 60 or 90 days range?

Lack of marketing, lack of updates, lack of attention, and o’yes 100,000 apps on the app store!

3. You say “a person who can market them will have much better results”. How can you predict that if everybody knows that after an initial sales spike there is only a long tail to farm on?

Marketing 101, see below.

4. What’s your factual foundation to claim that “the numbers may be better” as a sales argument?

Marketing 101, and I know this because the spike in sales that you saw (see charts on link list at bottom) was because of the little marketing that I did have time to do. Also a lot of these apps can have focus marketing, meaning they deal with certain areas of the US, so marketing can be focused on that area or that segment of people (i.e. College Students).

5. How did you yourself arrive at the number $100,000?

  • Well I like what I am doing, don’t have much time but still like it, for me to give it up, a big number would need to be paid, 100k is that big number.
  • However when valuing the business, I think it is a small price to pay. When you value real estate you look out 5-6 years. If you take my sales and look out only 2-3 years, this business will pay for it self easily.
  • I also arrived at this number by looking at the two previous cases that I know of (see below for 2 example cases in question #10) of iPhone developers selling their business and after talking to them about their situation.  These apps were sold between 5k and 10k each, I am selling 87 apps for 100k, that is $1,149 each.

6. Currently it is unlikely that you will find a buyer. Small guys don’t have the money. Big guys don’t see an audience. What’s your plan B? Would you also be willing to only sell shares of your company to interested investors? Like $10,000 to get 10% of your monthly royalties would be around 36% annual interest.

I wouldn’t say I won’t find a buyer? I have had over 100+ emails inquiring about it further and there are 70+ watchers on ebay right now. My website has had over 3000 hits in just 3 days, the ebay auction has over 3000 page views as well. I have no plan B. Like I said above, I like what I do and to get me to sell it would have to be a BIG number. Not willing to sell shares of company. 100k, take it or leave it.

7. Or how about only asking for a certain percentage in cash and getting paid a percentage from royalties over a certain period?

Again, not willing to do this, 100k take it or leave it, I enjoy what I do.

8. There is a guy named Joe Madox who is seemingly interested. When defending your offer it sounds like he has already made up his mind to try to come up with the sum. Or is a friend of yours?

This guy has asked a lot of questions, more than anyone. He owns a publicly traded company. He was thinking about paying me in shares of his company. I declined, cash only.

9. You are saying you’re selling “your business”. Does this include the legal entity plus bank accounts belonging to it? What’s this “collateral” you speak of?

Selling the assets of the company, meaning the 87 apps, not the name of the LLC or the LLC itself, little confusing I realize.  The collateral is all the source files, the website files, images, everything the user needs to run these apps and update these apps and completely relinquish these apps from me!  No bank account b/c not getting the LLC, just getting the apps themselves.

10. Based on what legal foundation do you think you can sell your business at all? Sure you can sell a corporation, but how does Apple deal with such a sale?

I am selling my programs, not Apple, not my LLC. There have been previous developers who have sold their business fine, I contacted them to ask questions, got a response from them, said everything went smoothly. Here are those two examples…

Example 1:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Top-Tens-iPhone-app-source-code-and-website_W0QQitemZ260457053112QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Computing_Software_Software_SR?hash=item3ca4733bb8&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14#ht_946wt_1167

Example 2:

http://blog.secondgearsoftware.com/2009/10/bitbq-acquires-fitnesstrack-emergency.html

11. How big is the business risk of your news providers cutting your sports-related apps off?

Well I have fended them off so far but there are a lot of hoops to get around with these apps, a new person starting these types will take weeks and weeks of trial and error with Apple before it ever gets approved.  There are also other news providers I could always use I am sure.

12. In Summary I must say that you are doing a very bad job at presenting your business as something worth purchasing. Anybody who has the money to spend on your company also has the financial sense to want to see a good business case. You fail to present it. We all don’t know what will be in 3 years. Apple may still dominate the Smartphone market. Or it may not. And also coming out of the crisis it has become extremely hard for anybody to get a loan for 100k for a business.

I think we all know, the only company to better the iPhone, is Apple. And the economy is/was bad but there is always someone with more money than they need looking for a golden opportunity.

13. Therefore I suggest that you need help in 1) compiling the numbers in a more transparent fashion, 2) maybe even going so far as to providing the apps.db from MyAppSales for download (It does not contain login data, which is on your keychain), or a ZIP of your past financial reports. 3) formulating a plan B as outlined above.

I am NOT going to give out the individual numbers but I will break them down more. The reason I will not give out the individual numbers is because my best selling ones will then be duplicated.

These numbers are again from AppViz as of 11/07/09.

  • Rule book Apps 8,712
  • Sports Related Apps 12,479
  • Friday Night Lights, ANTZ, & iSpy 4,533

Any further questions can be direct to me at jbmjbm22@me.com.

Also further info can be found at the following redirected sites:

JBMJBM, LLC iPhone App Website

http://www.jbrice.com/iphone

JBMJBM, LLC Sell Page (with CHARTS)

http://www.jbrice.com/sell

JBMJBM, LLC Ebay Sell Page

http://www.jbrice.com/ebay

JBMJBM, LLC Press Release

http://www.jbrice.com/pressrelease

MyAppSales 1.0.11 – Review Forwarding and Fixes

Always towards the middle of the month I seem to accumulate so many fixes and tweaks from my user base so that it I feel pressed to formally release a new version. For 1.0.11 I fixed several minor things and as a bonus I added the possibility of forwarding all reviews for one app via in-app-email.

Changes:

  • FIXED: Users with multiple vendor IDs would get an error message because of the extra vendor selection screen in iTunes Connect. Now always the highest vendor ID is used.
  • FIXED: Users who enabled passcode protection would never get any reviews being downloaded.
  • ADDED: In-App-Purchases have a alphanumeric trasaction code. This is now changed from IA1 to 101 so that it can be saved to the database. There is no reflection of IAPs in the UI yet. Previously such lines would have gotten ignored.
  • FIXED: Added agent string so that app icons can be be retrieved. This fixes Apple’s recent change requiring an “iTunes” agent string.
  • FIXED: Even if the language code for a store was the same as the chosen target language reviews would still be tried to be translated.
  • FIXED: Users who updated from earlier versions have a service type “HomeDir”. The previous workaroudn was to remove the account and create a new ITC account in Settings. This is no longer necessary and done automatically.
  • FIXED: Deselect report row if chart has no row.
  • CHANGED: Shortened Back Button to “Apps” on review screen.
  • ADDED: You can now forward all reviews for an app via In-App-Email.
  • FIXED: Removed gray shadow of app subtext on app tab which would cause blurry look.

So if you have translated reviews behind one app, you notice the new forward button in the upper right-hand corner…

Review Export 1

You can now e-mail the developer (or yourself) all the reviews as an invaluable source of inspiration to improve your app! In-App-Email also supports landscape view by the way.

Review Export 2

Version 1.0.11 is tagged in the Subversion Repository. You can either update your source from there or opt to update from trunk where development is continuing. Tagged versions are always a stable milestone while in the trunk I make no such warranty.

Note: if you checkout a project from any repository you have to set the project root to be the repo you set up to establish the link. I noticed quite a few users always doing exports when it is so much easier to only push “SCM – Update Entire Project” to get the latest version. So please go into the project settings and make the connection.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 21.20.51

Why I won't purchase an iPhone Business for $100000 today

We’ve been reading about it on Twitter for the past 2 days, now even TUAW picked up the story of an iPhone Developer who wishes to sell his entire business for $100000. Leaving out of our consideration that probably nobody has this much money around anyway it’s still an interesting impulse to start thinking of how much your own iPhone business would actually sell at…. should you ever WANT TO sell it.

With the seemingly limited journalistic means of TUAW all the author came up with was some general quotes and rants. I dug a bit deeper and think it’s interesting to write down what I found in neutrally evaluating this offer. TUAW repeats the seller’s offer on how he will support you, hand over everything, yadi yadi yadi.

But we all are children of numbers and algorithms. So I think we deserve a little bit deeper analysis. This I will attempt in this article.

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Detect Roaming

hhyyy9 asks:

It’s possible to detect when device goes on roaming or out of home network and turn on / turn off the data connection?

Well, yes and no. Yes to the part of the question about detecting. No to changing a system setting.

You have no direct access at all to roaming or home network information. Probably via a private framework but Apple does not approve of apps using those. Though you could infer the currently used data network from the IP address range you get from the currently active cellular connection. Each provider will have certain IP ranges and if you collect these ranges then you could build up a database to detect such network switching.

Also wheres the point? There already IS a setting that allows you to disable data roaming.

general network

The fact remains that you still cannot mess with the data system setting, but only work within your app.

But this would not be an worthy Dr. Touch post if I didn’t share some cool knowledge, this time how you can get all the current IP addresses of your device. Something like “IPCONFIG /ALL” on Windows or “IFCONFIG” on Unix.

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Magic Mouse has landed

After waiting 10 days – the Apple Store website claimed “ready in 4 days” – my order has arrived. Yesterday I got slightly nervous when I tried tracking the package and found the number was shipped to Manila one month ago. But there was another shipment with a different reference number below it, showing that the package has left Prague and was on it’s way to Vienna.

This morning I found two packages on my desk and so I recorded a quick unboxing ceremony in my lunch break. Thankfully I had a colleague hold my iPhone 3GS, he’s done a good job capturing my emotions. ;-)

After you free the Magic Mouse from it’s Snow White glass coffin you might also feel tempted to kiss it to life. But instead it comes to life if you turn it on and seek with the bluetooth assistant. It gets recodnized as a regular mouse, no gestures yet. Then you need to look for software updates and download the mouse-related update. After a reboot the mouse settings panel changes to something similar to what we are used to from the glass trackpad of the Unibody MacBooks.

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State of the Art in Cracking Apps

With the number of apps on the app store soon reaching the big 100.000 it is only logical that piracy continues to flourish. At the beginning of this year a tool named Crackulous promised to make it easy for everyone to become a pirate, claiming to be the solution to a flawed app store. At the time of this writing Crackulous version 0.9 is public and the next version 1.0 is being “in development” for more than half a year.

Piracy is a thorn in the side of all small time iPhone developers who can hope to make around $10 per app per day. Those hard working coders now face the likelyhood of  loosing half of their revenue to pirates making it continuously easier to get the apps for free. According to latest numbers of Pinch app to 60% of apps in use are in fact cracked copies.

There are several things that you can do being such a developer who sees a at least a portion of his potential income being stolen.

  • cease to protect and consider pirated apps as additional advertisements
  • pay hundreds of dollars to a professional protection service
  • do some research and collect together methods to detect cracks and modify your app’s behavior if you find it is cracked
  • join the AntiCrack community to gain access to our repository and put this into your apps, mix and match, use what you like
  • or the fatalistic option is too cease making iPhone apps alltogether

I encourage everyone to do a bit of his own research to understand the techniques that are out there and maybe develop a couple of your own. But for everybody who still wants to try to do at least something we made AntiCrack.

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Alternating Tableview Cell Backgrounds

Wanner asks:

“How can I make my cells alternate colors across multiple sections if the sections don’t always have the same number of rows?”

A nice effect that you sometimes see in table views like the app store app is when you alternate the tableview cell backgrounds between light and dark shades of a color.

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I predict: No Mac Tablet before Summer 2010

In his recent article The Apple Tablet OS & User Experience Mike Rundle speculated on several scenarios regarding which OS and UI to expect from any coming Mac Tablet. It’s an interesting read. Now there are a couple of things that are absent from public discussion which I am trying to shed some light on.

iPhoneOS is actually a branch of MacOS which is basically an open source OS based on BSD plus many Apple-specific additions like the proprietary Window manager. This was said multiple times by Apple employees in passing. Apple is working very actively to reintegrate “learnings” and also iphone custom code they needed to specially create for handling multi-touch back into the MacOS version that’s to come after Snow Leopard. Touch is only one thing, another thing thats still missing from CoreOS is the advanced power saving techniques that make the iPhone work a whole day. An absolutely essential thing if you don’t wont to recharge your tablet every 3 hours.

Then there is the matter of chips. The mobile parts all rely on ARM and even the chip company that was acquired by Apple probably will license ARM cpu designs and build them. Intel seems to just not cut it in terms of battery endurance versus processing power. Intel begs to differ, but Apple seems to have set it’s sights on using ARM as the main platform for all their mobile devices. The current MacOS can only be built for Intel, support for PowerPC has been discontinued for 10.6.

I think what’s happening right now inside Apple is this: They are trying to achieve what Microsoft has abandoned eons ago: a unified CoreOS which can be built for a variety of cpus. One possible reason besides the platform’s age might be to free up manpower to work on ARM being the second possible build platform for CoreOS. Apple might also drive a dual strategy and choose whatever chip platform has the most endurance for the needed performance at the time of manufacture. With a unified OS they could switch CPUs at a whim and thus can get better prices for their CPUs.

This will be also the platform to power the iPad. Apple will not compromise on the technology just to make it compatible with current generation binaries. Though most likely in a future version of XCode you will just have to change the build platform so that you can rebuild your iphone app for the ipad. And in some circumstances you’ll have to rearrange the UI elements and resize static images where used. So I guess a month in lead time should be sufficient for most app developers to get a couple of their apps rebuilt.

It will still be Objective-C though…

The most important question is which strategy would make Apple more money: an open OS for which anyone can write and sell apps. Or the iphone strategy where they make 30% on each sale. Clearly the latter has proven to be an enormous boon for Apple. So why should they change it? It is very likely that iTunes for Macs will get a Mac app store at the same time that a iPad section opens on it because both will you will be able to purchase CoreOS apps (Apple hopes also to sell much more games this way) via iTunes.

Actually I don’t think we will see the iPad shipping at the beginning of 2010 as some sites predict. It might be technically “done” already, but the OS is still missing. If Apple continues their recent pattern then we can expect Mac OS X v10.7 “COREpard” in Summer 2010. That will be the time when we will see the iPhone 4G being released as well as the iPad.

In any case we developers can look forward with anticipation of added profits from additional platforms and being able to sell almost identical content several times: for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Mac.

MyAppSales 1.0.10 – Multi-Account & Push Notifications

Exactly a month and 2 days have passed since the latest update and you guessed correctly: this is a major one. It brings two technologies into MyAppSales that I was kind of afraid to try because I was fearing the technical difficulties and the work that was necessary to make them work. But now that they are in, I’m glad I did.

Changes:

  • ADDED: Smart Multi-Account capability. You can now add multiple ITC accounts and the reports will be downloaded. Note that the UI is still the same, so reports will appear individually, always showing all apps. This will be addressed in a future version.
  • FIXED: The Passcode Lock also appears if the app resigns active status.
  • FIXED: Some financial reports from January 2009 or before would cause a crash because Apple was using full country names previously, some with strange abbreviations.
  • ADDED: When a new report is downloaded my server is anonymously pinged and saves the availability time. The first time a new report is encountered a push notification is sent out.
  • ADDED: Different types of accounts are now supported. To begin with you can setup multiple ITC accounts and one Notifications account.
  • ADDED: Notifications via the 3rd party app Notifications can now be subscribed or deleted via adding and removing of the account in settings.
  • ADDED: The myappsales:// URL scheme is now supported to open MyAppSales to a specific report screen. This is used by the push notifications to open up the daily reports page where you can see the new report appear.

If you are upgrading from a previous version then it will appear as if MyAppSales is downloading all reports again. It does not really duplicate the reports and you can just let it run. But you may also quit the app via the home button after the first such download. This is necessary to establish the smart app groupings. MyAppSales figures out which apps belong to which group (aka account) and will use this fingerprint in the future to intelligently establish which account a report belongs to and if it is a duplicate. This approach also allows to detect from which account manually imported reports are coming and sets up the app to get reports from totally different sources in the future. One such service will be allowing you to share sales data on specific apps with selected users.

Multi-Account Type SelectionI have to use a 3rd party app to do the push because only Apple approved apps can do push notifications. But I can piggyback on their service to make the experience identical as if MyAppSales had notifications itself. The only differences are that you have to set up a Notifications account and that MyAppSales cannot directly deal with notifications while its open. So if you are the first to see a report and you get the notification just click “Cancel”.

It is recommended that you make a local copy of the database via the built-in webserver. There should be no problems in updating, but in some rare cases manual changes might be necessary. And it never hurts to have a backup.

Version 1.0.10 is tagged in the Subversion Repository. You can either updated your source from there or opt to update from trunk where development is continuing. Tagged versions are always a stable milestone while in the trunk I make no such warranty.