I just had my 2 week holiday and I thought of a lot of things in life. From the upcoming plan of buying a house which will cost a fortune to the app economy which I never thought of before.
I like free apps. I like free stuff. But who’s gonna pay for it?? Especially apps that cost a lot of money to develop and maintain. Not to mention that there are growing amount of apps that need to be connected to the internet to work. Servers are even more expensive to buy and maintain. Manpower and expetise are not cheap.
My background is computer science so I know the hurdle of getting simplest things in software to work properly. Now, imagine how much time one team will spend to get complicated features up and running.
Big developers have enough money to invest on apps that people do not know yet what they will do with them. In time, they will learn how to use them and by the time many people use them, profits will come. Indie devs on the other hand, do not have huge capital. They tend to start from scratch, building an app that offers very few features. As more customers buy their apps, they improve their apps, adding more features. One thing for sure, they will be dead soon or DOA if they do not offer anything unique or new.
Take Brushes for example, they used to be featured in one of Apple’s Keynotes (product announcements, not its’ Keynote app). Now, look where they are now. I’m not sure if I can find any drawings made by using Brushes anymore. The app itself has not been updated for nearly a year. Sketchbook Pro from Autodesk seems to have kicked Brushes out of the game.
Instapaper is another example of an app created by an indie dev. The creator isn’t exactly a newbie. He’s actually the famous Marco Arment. From the start, he decided that people must pay for the app. On top of that, there is a subscription fee, one dollar a month to use all Instapaper features. I think what he’s trying to build is a sustainable business model. Readability recently annouced that they no longer accept any payment that would go toward supporting writers who registered as writers with them. Pocket has not annouced their business model. I’d hate if some of these great free apps devs go under.
While some of Instapaper’s competitors are offering similar or more features for free. I don’t think they have sustainable business model. They are simply giving away something that can be sold. Those devs whose apps are free are actually destroying the market. It’s like operating a factory and my new competitors need to enter the market. They cannot enter the market without giving extra incentives, that’s why they will lower the price. The lower the price, the lower the margins. Some people can thrive in that business model only if they sell enough quantity. But smaller businesses will soon disappear. I want to see some of these devs actually work their way up by building apps, not by sellling themselves to big corps like Instagram. Or they are actually aiming to be bought…
For a sustainable business model alone, I have decided that I will support these indie devs as long as they keep their apps developed and updated. I don’t mind if the updates may take longer time than big devs apps updates. I do think they have plenty of chances competing with the big boys.