Migrating Life to the iPad


As a first-generation iPad skeptic myself. I have been quickly converted to the opposite side within 1.5 days of tinkering, downloading apps and discovering how the iPad can change my life.

Initially, I thought that I should wait for the second-generation iPad, which would likely contain forward and backward facing cameras, a faster processor, more RAM, better resolution, 4G network support (WiMax, LTE), etc… needless to say, I’m not too upset that I made the switch earlier than originally anticipated.

The ultimate use cases include the ability to connect to all my cloud-based documents, spreadsheets and presentations using documents-to-go premium (connects to Google Docs, Dropbox, MobileMe and other services) and to have a form factor that allows me to easily read RSS feeds (using Feeddler) and quickly clip news stories to Twitter, Facebook, email and Evernote. It also doubles as a good mobile blogging client (writing this post from WordPress for iPad).

Speaking of Evernote, I have also recently made the switch to clip and tag various elements of my life through its MacOS, Windows7, Google Chrome (browser extensions), iPhone and iPad apps — awesome!

Some essential news apps include Bloomberg, WSJ, NY Times, AP and Globe2Go (if you subscribe). For weather, get Accuweather Cirrus.

One disappointment was that I couldn’t download and register with Netflix, which I wanted to use for streaming movies and TV shows; Netflix, if you’re listening, please come to Canada soon!

I’ve included screenshots of my first 2 pages of apps for your complete review and you’ll notice that a few legacy apps from the iPhone have still made it to my list including Skype, which allows me to easily call anyone using Skype-out minutes (bonus: connect via Bluetooth handset for a very phone-like experience.


Page 1


Page 2

So, what am I still missing?

ngmoco’s “We Rule” Gamername Exchange


ngmoco:) recently launched a new mobile social game for iPhone called “We Rule”. It relies on a freemium revenue model allowing users the option to accelerate their in-game success purchasing “mojo”. Mojo is We Rule’s in-game virtual currency that allows users to instantly perform actions – rather than waiting a specified period of time – that result in gaining coins, a secondary form of in-game currency that is used to purchase new items. ngmoco used a similar revenue model (centered around saving time) in their last game, Eliminate Pro.

We Rule has a built-in social layer, which is actually pretty good for users that have already found their friends. However, finding friends and other gamers isn’t easy. As Canadians join the “We Rule” beta, many gamers are left looking to find other users and have turned to forum sites and paid sites to exchange data (gamernames, current levels, businesses owned and open) on becoming in-game friends to help one another outperform the competition.

Better than turning to forums, which require signing up (and sometimes associated fees), feel free to use the comments section below to list your information to exchange with others.

This is the preferred format for exchange:
Plus+ ID: sook
Level: 14
Open Businesses: 16

Gamers: Please feel free to check back in and leave a new comment (or exchange request) as you find your number of customers decreasing.

Product Management for Mobile Gaming


As an aspiring tech CEO, I have been told numerous times that being an “A+” Product Manager will provide the experience, understanding and discipline to become a great CEO and to lead an accomplished company.

I often provide strategy and product development guidance to some of our portfolio companies; however, I wanted a more immersive experience and to be part of the excitement of startup life. So over the last several months, I increased my assistance to a particular portfolio company in the Toronto area, which I believe is well positioned in the marketplace. Strategy discussions with management of this company led to a conversation to bring me on-board as Product Manager of a new mobile social game at the idea stage. Eager to help the company succeed and to gain additional experience, I undertook a more formal responsibility on evenings and weekends as Product Manager. It was a perfect fit for both the company (lacked product management capabilities) and my career ambitions.

As part of the team, I faced my first challenge: Figure out the best way to manage the development team and the product. I evaluated several methods of product development and eventually settled on SCRUM since it is ideal for agile development with rapid iterations and incremental updates — perfect for an iPhone game.

ScrumLargeLabelled

For product managers that are new to SCRUM, be sure to check out the SCRUM Reference Card (great overview) and beginners SCRUM Guide (fairly basic). These were helpful resources in my quest to better understand this product development process.

It was my next goal to conceive of a process to coordinate everyone’s collective efforts on the team to come up with ideas and potential features for the game and to convert that list into the Initial Release Plan and Product Backlog for the game. I created a spreadsheet in Google Docs and shared it with the team. I wanted to be a very transparent Product Manager and show the team everything that I saw — idea list, resource planning, timeline estimates, business value associations to product features, etc… I did this because I believe that transparency will help the team better understand my points of view and decision-making rationale.

Since I am continuing to learn, I invite you to have a look at the Initial Release and Version planning spreadsheets that I created to manage the product development process. Naturally, I stripped out any game-specific information, removed the names of people involved and altered values so that it would no longer represent our plan in any fashion. Other small changes to this public version include:

  • For the idea list tab, each item should be a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 16 hours only; tasks less than 4 hours should be placed on each developers Scratch Pad and aggregated into an item on the list; tasks greater than 16 hours should be broken down into components (if possible) to fit within the 4 – 16 hours window for ideal planning purposes.
  • Each developer would have his or her own “Scratch Pad” (the demo version only shows 2).
  • The only tab that was completely removed was the method by which we determine business value for each product feature.
  • The “Product Backlog” tab is dynamically driven from the “Idea List” tab and broken-down into version and sprint for each assessment; a tip for collecting the unique “Groups” is to export the long list of Groups from the “Idea List” into Excel and create a Pivot Table, then select the grouping and extract the unique elements to import back into Google Docs.
  • In the “Product Backlog” tab, you should determine your own complexity factor for the project  (a guide to determining this factor can be found in the SCRUM Guide linked above).

I would love to hear your questions, comments and (hopefully) suggestions to further improve what I have already created in hopes of making this effort more successful. If you would like a copy of my example spreadsheet, please let me know and leave me your email address in the comments section below; I’ll make sure to get you a copy either on Google Docs or as an export to MS Excel.

My next post will discuss putting this plan into action.

The Future of Contextual Mobile Commerce


In the early days of the gold rush to create location aware and contextually relevant mobile applications for smartphones, I was constantly bombarded with business plans that showed revenue models driven from advertising. Although advertising is a plausible way of earning revenue, there is a high level of inherent risk since those businesses are largely at the mercy of market rate CPMs/eCPMs and available ad inventory (unless you have a rockstar in-house ad sales team). Ad inventories are beginning to improve as advertisers are becoming more and more aware of the high interaction and engagement rates of mobile ads. However, for startups looking to differentiate in their niche, monetizing solely through ads is a risky road to travel. That being said, I believe that ads are still relevant  for *lite* versions of apps that supplement a paid model of some form and for monetizing certain consumers that would not otherwise become a paying customer.

Tim O’Reilly wrote a short article last week on the convergence of Advertising and E-commerce and I thought he hit the nail right on the head. He says that “E-commerce is the killer app of the phone world. Anyone whose business is now based on advertising had better be prepared to link payment and fulfillment directly to search, making buying anything in the world into a one-click purchase. Real time payment from the phone is in your future.” I completely agree. Square is a great example of real-time point-of-sale (POS) coming to iPhone.

In the article, O’Reilly arrives at this conclusion by making a few theories about what can be expected from the marketplace based on some recent announcements and common sense:

  • Google, Apple, and Microsoft will announce e-commerce programs akin to AdSense, in which retailers will register with “app stores” to allow physical goods and services to be bought as easily as apps
  • We can expect announcements of partnerships between phone providers and Amazon or Wal-Mart to fulfill mobile e-commerce requests

There are a number of mobile apps that are positioned well to capitalize on some of these trends such as foursquare and other mashups of local and geocoded information. IMHO, there is a more exciting category that is only starting to gain excitement. Companies like Layar, Tonchidot (Sekai Camera), Mobilizy (Wikitude) and TAT (Recognizr) are creating augmented reality browsers and applications that use location data and combine it with image recognition technology to recognize specific people or places in the physical world and allow the application user to interact with them in some capacity. I strongly believe that these are some of the fundamental technologies that will make this category of future applications possible. By linking interaction of location-aware data through to payment and fulfillment functions, one can point a phone at a local pizza restaurant and order a pizza to their home en route. Another example may be pointing a phone at a friend and performing a money transfer with only a few clicks.

What killer apps can you think of that combine hyperlocal, e-commerce and fulfillment?

2010 Mobile Trends via Forrester


I finally had the chance to review the 2010 mobile trends predictions from Thomas Husson, a Senior Analyst at Forrester. The report hit on a fundamental concept: mobile performed exceptionally well during the 2009 economic recession. To reflect on this, the industry has really been bullish from an M&A perspective. As the year came to an end, the M&A market began to pick up with a number of acquisitions including the now-over-hyped Google purchase of AdMob as well as the Apple acquisition of Lala (music streaming service). Thus far, 2010 has seen continued M&A activity, with emphasis on mobile advertising companies including Quattro Wireless being acquired by Apple and Ad Marvel being acquired by Opera. Larger industry players are plucking companies to secure their seat at the table to reap the profits that the mobile industry is beginning to offer maturing companies. There is also a flurry of investment activity surrounding mobile games companies (which I will leave for another post).

The 2010 Mobile Trends report offers these high level statements:

  • More brands will start taking the mobile web into account in their strategies.
  • Innovation in mobile payments will accelerate.
  • Google will shake up the mobile navigation business.
  • Location will start enabling richer mobile experiences.
  • Social Computing and mobile phones will expand their love affair.
  • Live mobile TV will be hyped again.
  • The OS arms race will heat up.
  • Application stores will continue to flourish, but none will replicate Apple’s success in 2010.
  • Some operators will want to reduce their increasing dependency on Apple.

Read the Forrester blog for a deeper dive into these trends.

My $0.02 on the “Live mobile TV” Trend
If you’re a die-hard TV fan, getting live TV to your mobile phone has been around for a while from Slingbox, which allows you to stream shows from your PVR/DVR at home to a BlackBerry or iPhone. In 2010, I believe much more than live mobile TV is going to heat up in the mobile video segment. Since mobile carriers are now extending the capabilities of their networks beyond 3G, such as the multiple WiMax network deployments by Clearwire/Sprint, higher-quality mobile video finally has rails that can support its intense-bandwidth needs. This means more services that will bring consumers music videos, concerts, plays, festivals, live sporting events, tv shows (live and archived), movies (full length and in bite-sized snacks) — and my personal favourite — video-calling. I’m quietly keeping my fingers crossed that the iPhone 4G supports video calls! One last thing, mobile advertising networks will likely be the default solution to monetizing “lite” apps; as mobile video continues to build traction, watch out for hype surrounding mobile video advertising to heat up.

Designing the Perfect Mobile Application Store


I briefly touched on application stores as part of my last post, Creating a Better BlackBerry Experience. After re-reading the post and reflecting on some of the comments, I felt that a more in-depth follow-up was required to discuss why the overarching design of a mobile application store is paramount to its adoption, usability and ultimately, success.

This post will focus on how I believe the design of BlackBerry App World (“BBAW”) can be improved for both enterprises and consumers.

BlackBerry App World for Enterprises

When BBAW was first released, many BES-connected users had problems downloading applications due to permission-based issues. RIM can’t do much to change corporate policies, but RIM can implement a highly-anticipated BBAW for the enterprise. I am proposing that RIM creates an enterprise app store, similar to the app store announced by MobileIron in December 2009. MobileIron’s enterprise app store allows enterprises to create a repository of approved content and apps, which employees can then download and use with the full blessing of IT. In addition, an enterprise can create device or employee categories with permissions for certain types of content. As mentioned by Kevin Fitchard of Connected Planet, “Salesmen, for instance, would find Salesforce.com’s app in their approved storefront, while a field engineer would not. Both field engineers and salesman could have access to vehicle navigation services, and while a desk jockey might be able to download that same application, the company could set usage restrictions limiting when he or she could use it (say, business trips) or require the employee to pay the monthly service fee in a separately generated bill.” To me, this concept sounds like an app store that would help RIM sell more BlackBerry devices to enterprises, help IT administrators and make employees more productive (and happy) when mobile. Obviously, a more tidy billing mechanism will have to be in place, since I’d reckon the majority of enterprise won’t want to pay via PayPal.

BlackBerry App World for Consumers

In creating v2.0 of BBAW, RIM has a lot of work to do. My last post discusses a few elements that need improvement including the billing systems, pre-loads and fewer bugs. I’d like to add a few more points to the discussion. To begin with, the billing system needs to be more dynamic and allow customers to attach credit cards to their profile for frictionless billing. The billing systems should also be flexible enough to power additional business models for application developers including subscription billing and in-application micro-transactions. Why not bring the minimum price-point to $0.99 as well?

Steven Berkovitz chimed-in to mention that with BES 5.0, there’s a full-blown web version of desktop manager; it uses an ActiveX control to connect to your Blackberry for operations requiring a physical connection and personal data is sync’d over-the-air (“OTA”). However, this functionality doesn’t yet extend to previously installed, licensed and configured applications. As a consumer, wouldn’t it be nice to buy your next BlackBerry, insert your SIM card, load your user profile from within an OTA-driven application and click “Restore Profile” to then have your data, applications (auto-detect new BlackBerry OS and download proper build for the new device) and configuration settings loaded onto your new device OTA? That is one step towards a BlackBerry device that can compete with future iPhone models in delivering the experience sought after by the ever-smarter and bells-and-whistles-seeking consumer today.

Many users are also confused by not being able to find certain apps in BBAW that show up for their friends or colleagues. By design, RIM only shows its users the apps available for their device. In a future version of BBAW, it would be nice to show users all the apps and allow users to be notified (by push, email, SMS, etc…) when the app is launched for their specific OS and device model. This could also give developers a sense of what devices are generating the most demand for their product so that they could focus their development efforts on the makes/models and locations that are going to yield that greatest financial rewards or user adoption.

Ubiquitous Access

BBAW needs to come pre-loaded on all (new) handsets. End of story. In cases where mobile carriers have a contractually dominant position over RIM on controlling content or applications available to mobile devices, RIM should provide those carriers with sufficient access and privileges to formally reject specific applications for use by their subscribers for their own reasons. In concert with these changes, RIM should enter into a formal revenue sharing agreement with carriers so that revenues generated from application one-time sales, subscriptions and micro-transactions can be shared. Once these deals are signed, RIM (or the mobile carrier) should push App World down to all BlackBerry devices. IMHO, this would be a win-win-win scenario for RIM, carriers and consumers.

If you were RIM, how would you design BlackBerry App World v2.0?

Creating a Better BlackBerry Experience


Over the last 18 months, I have had the unique opportunity to become entrenched in the mobile ecosystem from the viewpoint of business startups, independent developers and as a consumer. I walk around with a BlackBerry Bold and an iPhone and test smartphone apps in all shapes and sizes.

At the BlackBerry Partners Fund, we’ll invest in mobile businesses agnostic to the device that the application is based on; however, we expect that as a business owner you’ve chosen to target the right devices for the right reasons in the right market verticals. With that in mind, I get the opportunity to see the merits of developing applications for one platform versus another in a variety of contexts and business situations. From my experience, I have learned that generally, developers want to reach as many target users (or screens) as possible with the minimum amount of work, cost and time invested – and this makes a ton of sense!

BlackBerry Partners Fund is often perceived as the corporate venture arm of Research In Motion (“RIM”) – but it is not. RIM is an investor in the Fund and it is co-managed by RBC Venture Partners and JLA Ventures. As an employee of RBC, I don’t have access to internal information at RIM and I operate at an arm’s length from the company. However, as a fellow Canadian, I would love nothing more than to see RIM continue its dominance in the global smartphone market.

For RIM to remain one of the leaders in the marketplace, I strongly believe that a few fundamental changes need to happen at the developer level through to the end-user experience.

mobile-value-chain

Figure 1. Mobile application value chain from developer to end-user.

Developer Tools
As I mentioned previously, developers want to find the fastest, cheapest and quickest way (while retaining quality) to develop their applications. Many developers who develop for BlackBerry run into two huge fragmentation issues – the first at the device level and the second at the carrier level. My advice to RIM is to either acquire a company that has figured out how to port between BlackBerry models or develop an in-house multi-device porting tool that can be released as part of the BlackBerry SDK for developers. A tool with these capabilities would be helpful to RIM and to developers; there’s a simple equation: “BlackBerry-wide porting tool = more developers + more applications (net, on more handsets) = more revenues for RIM and developers + happier developers” (Note: No scientific studies exist to prove or disprove this equation). Just to be clear, RIM isn’t the only company with this problem. Device software fragmentation has been a problem for Windows Mobile for years and is now beginning to become an issue for Google Android. Microsoft is now trying to combat this with the Windows Mobile 7 platform by taking a standardized approach with no backward compatibility.

Application Stores
Application stores have become an essential distribution platform for mobile applications since the launch of the Apple App Store and are expected to reach $7 billion in revenue in 2010. One of the core elements to ongoing vitality in the app store ecosystem is the ability to create a seamless customer experience, which includes availability of quality apps and the ability to purchase apps easily and quickly, while on-the-go. RIM has a great start with BlackBerry App World (available via mobile and online), but for RIM to improve upon their current application store, I strongly believe that a number of things need to happen:

(1)    A credit card needs to be added to each user’s profile to allow payment beyond PayPal.

(2)    BlackBerry App World needs to come pre-loaded on all handsets; in situations where carriers keep “walled-gardens”, there should be rev share deals in place to push down App World and split revenues on pre-agreed terms with RIM rather than fragmenting distribution for developers who have a hard enough time distributing across all handset models.

(3)    BlackBerry App World needs to run faster and without as many bugs; it crashes far too often IMHO.

I’d like to further note that easing the end-user’s ability to purchase mobile applications would result in more revenues going back to developers who will in turn create more compelling applications for users (as seen in Figure 1, above). It’s a very nice cycle that would benefit RIM, developers and consumers.

Alternative or Cloud Device Management
I think that Apple maintained such a strong, early and rapid acceleration of mobile application adoption because of their centralized billing platform and iTunes. iTunes was a very smart way of leveraging a desktop application (used frequently) to create a simple management console for the iPhone. I believe that RIM should take on a similar strategy. My recommendation to the company would be to have each BlackBerry user create a profile online, hosted in the “cloud”, and accessible through a variety of interfaces. As a primary interface, I would suggest that RIM creates a plug-in that hooks into Microsoft Outlook (the most commonly used application by business users) that would allow full device management capabilities (updates, application purchase, install, sync, etc…); this would take place of the current BlackBerry Desktop Manager. I would also make alternative means of syncing the ‘Berry available such as a plug-in for Firefox or a completely online, hosted solution. However it is done, the core premise remains: make it simple for the user to update, backup, sync and install new applications. IMHO, the simplest way is to embed or plug-in to an existing application that is already running on the user’s machine for the majority of the day. Just like the proverb “out of sight, out of mind,” I believe the opposite is true here.

Readers, I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you agree with any/all of this post? Did I miss anything fundamentally important to RIM’s success going forward? Would you like your device profile and information stored in the cloud?

Note: These are my personal beliefs and do not reflect the thoughts and opinions of the BlackBerry Partners Fund.

Gartner: Top 10 Consumer Mobile Apps for 2012


Gartner, one of the leading market research firms, has recently identified the top 10 consumer mobile applications for 2012. The research firm listed mobile apps based on their “impact” on consumers and industry players, considering revenue, loyalty, business model, consumer value and estimated market penetration.

“Consumer mobile applications and services are no longer the prerogative of mobile carriers,” said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner. “The increasing consumer interest in smartphones, the participation of Internet players in the mobile space, and the emergence of application stores and cross-industry services are reducing the dominance of mobile carriers. Each player will influence how the application is delivered and experienced by consumers, who ultimately vote with their attention and spending power.”

Gartner reports that the top 10 consumer mobile applications in 2012 will include:

No. 1: Money Transfer
This service allows people to send money to others using Short Message Service (SMS). Its lower costs, faster speed and convenience compared with traditional transfer services have strong appeal to users in developing markets, and most services signed up several million users within their first year. However, challenges do exist in both regulatory and operational risks. Because of the fast growth of mobile money transfer, regulators in many markets are piling in to investigate the impact on consumer costs, security, fraud and money laundering. On the operational side, market conditions vary, as do the local resources of service providers, so providers need different market strategies when entering a new territory.

Other than SMS, another technologies such as USSD, NFC, or web applications may also play a role in increased mobile money transfer.

No. 2: Location-Based Services
Location-based services (LBS) form part of context-aware services, a service that Gartner expects will be one of the most disruptive in the next few years. Gartner predicts that the LBS user base will grow globally from 96 million in 2009 to more than 526 million in 2012. LBS is ranked No. 2 in Gartner’s top 10 because of its perceived high user value and its influence on user loyalty. Its high user value is the result of its ability to meet a range of needs, ranging from productivity and goal fulfillment to social networking and entertainment.

Some interesting services that already exist include: Foursquare, buzzd, and about 500+ iPhone applications.

No. 3: Mobile Search
The ultimate purpose of mobile search is to drive sales and marketing opportunities on the mobile phone. To achieve this, the industry first needs to improve the user experience of mobile search so that people will come back again. Mobile search is ranked No. 3 because of its high impact on technology innovation and industry revenue. Consumers will stay loyal to some search services, but instead of sticking to one or two search providers on the Internet, Gartner expects loyalty on the mobile phone to be shared between a few search providers that have unique technologies for mobile search.

No. 4: Mobile Browsing
Mobile browsing is a widely available technology present on more than 60 percent of handsets shipped in 2009, a percentage Gartner expects to rise to approximately 80 percent in 2013. Gartner has ranked mobile browsing No. 4 because of its broad appeal to all businesses. Mobile Web systems have the potential to offer a good return on investment. They involve much lower development costs than native code, reuse many existing skills and tools, and can be agile — both delivered and updated quickly. Therefore, the mobile Web will be a key part of most corporate business-to-consumer (B2C) mobile strategies.

No. 5: Mobile Health Monitoring
Mobile health monitoring is the use of IT and mobile telecommunications to monitor patients remotely, and could help governments, care delivery organizations (CDOs) and healthcare payers reduce costs related to chronic diseases and improve the quality of life of their patients. In developing markets, the mobility aspect is key as mobile network coverage is superior to fixed network in the majority of developing countries. Currently, mobile health monitoring is at an early stage of market maturity and implementation, and project rollouts have so far been limited to pilot projects. In the future, the industry will be able to monetize the service by offering mobile healthcare monitoring products, services and solutions to CDOs.

No. 6: Mobile Payment
Mobile payment usually serves three purposes. First, it is a way of making payment when few alternatives are available. Second, it is an extension of online payment for easy access and convenience. Third, it is an additional factor of authentication for enhanced security. Mobile payment made Gartner’s top 10 list because of the number of parties it affects — including mobile carriers, banks, merchants, device vendors, regulators and consumers — and the rising interest from both developing and developed markets. Because of the many choices of technologies and business models, as well as regulatory requirements and local conditions, mobile payment will be a highly fragmented market. There will not be standard practices of deployment, so parties will need to find a working solution on a case-by-case basis.

No. 7: Near Field Communication Services
Near field communication (NFC) allows contactless data transfer between compatible devices by placing them close to each other, within ten centimeters. The technology can be used, for example, for retail purchases, transportation, personal identification and loyalty cards. NFC is ranked No. 7 in Gartner’s top ten because it can increase user loyalty for all service providers, and it will have a big impact on carriers’ business models. However, its biggest challenge is reaching business agreement between mobile carriers and service providers, such as banks and transportation companies. Gartner expects to see large-scale deployments starting from late 2010, when NFC phones are likely to ship in volume, with Asia leading deployments followed by Europe and North America.

No. 8: Mobile Advertising
Mobile advertising in all regions is continuing to grow through the economic downturn, driven by interest from advertisers in this new opportunity and by the increased use of smartphones and the wireless Internet. Total spending on mobile advertising in 2008 was $530.2 million, which Gartner expects to will grow to $7.5 billion in 2012. Mobile advertising makes the top 10 list because it will be an important way to monetize content on the mobile Internet, offering free applications and services to end users. The mobile channel will be used as part of larger advertising campaigns in various media, including TV, radio, print and outdoors.

No. 9: Mobile Instant Messaging
Price and usability problems have historically held back adoption of mobile instant messaging (IM), while commercial barriers and uncertain business models have precluded widespread carrier deployment and promotion. Mobile IM is on Gartner’s top 10 list because of latent user demand and market conditions that are conducive to its future adoption. It has a particular appeal to users in developing markets that may rely on mobile phones as their only connectivity device. Mobile IM presents an opportunity for mobile advertising and social networking, which have been built into some of the more advanced mobile IM clients.

No. 10: Mobile Music
Mobile music so far has been disappointing — except for ring tones and ring-back tones, which have turned into a multibillion-dollar service. On the other hand, it is unfair to dismiss the value of mobile music, as consumers want music on their phones and to carry it around. We see efforts by various players in coming up with innovative models, such as device or service bundles, to address pricing and usability issues. iTunes makes people pay for music, which shows that a superior user experience does make a difference.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report Dataquest Insight: The Top Ten Consumer Mobile Applications for 2012.

Does Eliminate Pro Violate Apple’s Developer Agreement?


As an after thought to my last post on virtual goods, I published a comment discussing Eliminate Pro’s innovative play (or “experiment” says MTV Interactive)  on Apple’s changes to the App Store to allow for in-app billing on certain items. It’s been a successful experiment. As of yesterday, the game has been downloaded 500,000 times so far at a rate of about 25,000 an hour, currently making it the top free app in iTunes (via TechCrunch).

After some successful digging, playing the game and reviewing Apple’s Developer Agreement. Some red flags were raised…

Eliminate Pro, a game developed by ng:moco, is an action-packed first person shooter (FPS) game that progresses very slowly. The game uses this tactic to charge impatient users to play and progress through the game at a faster pace. The game allows users to buy more battery packs or cases (Power Cells) through the In-App billing system. This allows users to recharge faster, compete to earn more “credits” so that they can upgrade their fighter’s armor, weapons and other items (virtual goods). Power cells are the currency of the game.

What I want to know is where Apple is drawing the line in the sand in terms of what is considered a virtual currency and what isn’t. As per Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement (the “Agreement”), Apple states:

Additional Restrictions

2.1 You may not use the In App Purchase API to enable an end user to set up a pre-paid account to be used for subsequent purchases of content, functionality, or services, or otherwise create balances or credits that end users can redeem or use to make purchases at a later time.

2.2 You may not enable end users to purchase Currency of any kind through the In App Purchase API, including but not limited to any Currency for exchange, gifting, redemption, transfer, trading or use in purchasing or obtaining anything within or outside of Your Application. "Currency" means any form of currency, point, credits, resources, content or other items or units recognized by a group of individuals or entities as representing a particular value and that can be transferred or circulated as a medium of exchange.

Specifically, item 2.2 of ‘Additional Restrictions’ within ‘Attachment 2’ of the Agreement raises some obvious questions about how Eliminate Pro got approved. Eliminate Pro uses Power Cells (the virtual good that they sell) to buy additional energy (a resource) that they can use in a game to earn credits, which are redeemable for weapons, armor and other inventory items.

This seems to be in direct violation to the Agreement. Unless, however, Apple is okay with allowing “indirect” forms of currencies to work (Buy Energy > Spend Energy for Time > Use Time to gain Credits > Use Credits to buy Virtual Goods (weapons, etc…)). Some clarity please?

It would be great if some people (Apple execs, developers, anyone) could weigh-in on this matter. What types of “economies” or “currencies” can be established while still being compliant with Apple’s policies?

Please share your perspective below.

Geeks Love Halloween


The rumors are true. Technology geeks do have a thing for Halloween. Mashable scoured the web and found some great pumpkin carvings well representing the current state of web technology and social media. The Twitter Fail-Whale (below) is great and there’s a fantastic carving of Diggnation hosts Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose.
See more at: 12 Awesome Social Media Halloween Pumpkin Carvings.

failwhale-pumpkin

Source: Scott B. on Flickr via Mashable!

The iPhone App Store is also cashing-in on the Halloween frenzy. The App Store is promoting its “Halloween Apps & Games” section where you can carve virtual pumpkins with “iCarve” and play Halloween-themed games.

apple-store-smort-zombies

One notable oddity, a game called Attack Of The Zombie Bikini Babes From Outer Space was launched in the App Store two days ago. Smort (rumored to be Smule’s Evil-Twin by Techcrunch) launched the game. As TechCrunch puts it, Smort looked at common themes popular within App Store games, and generated a list: Bikini Babes, Zombies, Bombs, and Bloodshed. This game is the result of that (innovative? smart? creative?) thinking. What are your thoughts? (see video below)

Personally, I think this is really smart. Now, although this game doesn’t necessarily look that compelling, I think that Smort has the right thesis: Research. Build. Launch. Iterate. Repeat. App Store trends are constantly changing. Therefore, monitoring user behavior and download trends can lead to new learnings about your target audience.

My advice: If you’re a startup/entrepreneur, go research your market (do a quick market survey if you wish), build your app and launch it! Review your analytics/metrics, iterate and launch again quickly. There are some app-hungry consumers out there.