$999 hope

“Huge post from Craig Hockenberry”:http://furbo.org/2009/07/10/year-two/ on the App Store. Lots of good points. I especially like the insight comparing it to the music store, the need for upgrade revenue, and ideas for improving discoverability.

Where I have a problem is at the $999.

Not for support or early access to new versions of the iPhone OS, that’s fine. ADC Select and Premier members are used to paying for non-essential bonuses. The issue is whether we should pay extra to work around a problem that Apple has created for themselves and developers.

And I totally respect that Craig is just throwing out a bunch of possible solutions, hoping that something will stick, that Apple will start to pay attention and draw inspiration from the community. “As he said on Twitter”:http://twitter.com/chockenberry/status/2577781479: “I just want to put money where my mouth is.” I think the $999 figure speaks to just how painful this process has become. Luckily developers are also natural problem-solvers, forever hopeful even when desperate.

But just as the $99 fee to become an iPhone developer didn’t filter out the junk apps and unserious developers new to the platform, neither will throwing more money at the problem make it go away. The gold rush is still on, and we should expect app submissions to only accelerate.

Most importantly, let’s take a step back and remember: it was Apple’s choice to build a closed system, one in which they alone could approve and deny apps. The idea that we should pay extra because they underestimated how much work it would be to approve thousands of apps really bothers me. It would be punishing developers for Apple’s own failure.

“Colin Barrett pointed out”:http://twitter.com/cbarrett/status/2576856894 that Apple loses money on free apps, when you consider server overhead and review staff. I find it difficult to believe that Apple is doing anything except raking in the cash from the App Store. After all, they are used to giving away bandwidth for a number of products: Safari and QuickTime downloads, iLife and iWork software updates, not to mention updates to Mac OS X itself.

From an article back in May, “Techcrunch also assumes”:http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/14/about-those-iphone-app-store-numbers/ that Apple is doing quite well off the App Store:

“$1 million a day means that Apple would be making $300,000 a day (its 30% cut). Extrapolated out over 10 months (the approximate age of the App Store), that would be about $90 million.”

I want to believe that there is a solution to this. A quick reading of “AppShopper.com”:http://www.appshopper.com/ shows that on some days up to 100-200 apps go live on the store. That’s a lot of apps. But Apple is a large company, and they’ve surely dealt with more difficult staffing problems than hiring some people who know how to use an iPhone.

Other than a handful of exceptions in the jailbreak community, iPhone developers are playing by the rules Apple created. The burden is on Apple to deliver fast reviews, and it’s something that all developers deserve, not just a select few with extra cash to burn.