Editor's desk: iTunes, App Store upgrades, wide-screen iPhone, features, and more
Sick as a dog. It never fails, a couple times every spring and fall, I get a sinus infection that makes me seriously wishing my head would just explode and get it over with. But no such luck. I still have a site to run. And a column to get done. For the people who are still alive...
It also seems to be the time of year for iTunes to hit the news cycle, both with rumors about an iTunes 11 refresh and a lot of media angst about whether or not iTunes as it currently exists is a bloated, hot mess.
Well of course it is. It has to be. iTunes is a way for Apple's mostly Windows-based iPod, iPhone, and iPad consumers to buy media and manage their devices. It was the only way until iCloud, and it's probably still the primary way.
Tempting as it might be to think iTunes on Windows is Apple's way of getting payback for Office on Mac, it's simply been easer to maintain the port of a single, multi-purpose, monstrous app than to implement an alternative. It's also been easier to direct customers, mostly Windows customers, to a single, multi-purpose, monstrous app than to implement an alternative.
Want to activate your iPhone, iPod, or iPad? Connect to iTunes. Want to buy stuff to put on it or sync stuff over to it? Connect to iTunes. And because of that, iTunes remains a single, multi-purpose, monstrous app on OS X as well.
When Windows compatibility isn't necessary, like with Mac Apps, you get a separate Mac App Store app.
It will take a long time for a critical enough mass of Windows users, especially traditionalists, to shift off iTunes and onto iCloud. It will also take a long time for iCloud to become functional enough to make iTunes for Windows unnecessary. Apple will know when that happens by the download and usage numbers.
And when they do, that's when iTunes will change. On both Windows and the Mac.
Upgrade pricing has also made it's way back into the news. Almost 4 years post-App Store launch and, a few hints to the contrary not withstanding, Apple still doesn't provide a way for developers to charge for upgrades. We're not talking about bug fixes or even minor feature enhancements either. Not 1.0.1 or even 1.1. We're talking about major new versions of software, like 2.0, 3.0, etc. Software that takes time and incurs costs to develop.
That's bad for developers and bad for consumers. Sure, the idea of free updates forever sounds nice, but it's not manageable. It's like your boss telling you he's not paying you for work you did today because he already paid you for it yesterday.
Conversely, just because I bought a hamburger at McDonald's today, doesn't mean I get free hamburgers every day for the rest of my life. Just because I paid to see Batman Begins doesn't mean I'll be let into Dark Knight Rises for free. And just because I bought Tweetie doesn't mean I was entitled to Tweetie 2 for free (or any other stand-alone version 2.0, 3.0, etc. app for that matter).
No one can run a sustainable business like that. And I want developers to have sustainable businesses because I want more, better, deeper apps.
I had the opportunity to speak at Cocoaheads Montreal last Tuesday on the topic of app marketing. It's something near and dear to my heart for a couple of reasons. First, before I ran iMore I worked in enterprise software marketing. Second, now that I run iMore I see tons of apps with tons of potential fall on the App Store with a whimper instead of an explosion, get very little attention, and disappear.
You absolutely need to make a great app, but you also absolutely need to tell people about it. Just like you wireframe and mock up the design and plan and code the functionality you need to strategize and execute the product marketing.
Be in the App Store day and date with that great new feature Apple really wants to show off, so they and the media show you off along with it. Find the sites that write about the kind of apps you make and engage them directly and passionately. Talk about the problems your app solves (not "my app does XYZ" but "if you need XYZ, that's what my app does"). Be easy to work with -- have assets ready for Apple if they want to feature you immediately, have advanced promo codes ready for key writers if they want to do release day reviews. If there's a legitimate reason to have web-based accounts that offer additional functionality, don't abuse them but certainly use them to directly engage your user base.
The App Store might be a gold-rush-come-lottery but that doesn't mean you can't stack what odds there are in your favor.
Last iMore heard, Apple was sticking with the 3.5 inch screen size, though it wasn't "set in stone" and could be slightly bigger. A confluence of events led some to speculate that Apple could go wider instead of just bigger. Closer to 16:9 than the current 3:2. Apple has lots of prototypes in the labs, which is why there are so many rumors about different sizes and cases of iPhones and iPads. We haven't heard anything about a 16:9 iPhone, but we have heard Apple is (perhaps still) discussing or experimenting with alternatives to the current Home button. Could these experiments come together into an almost all-screen iPhone?
It raises the kind of problems for developers and apps that Apple has thus far avoided by retaining the same aspect and pixel ratio in iPhones since they first introduced the original iPhone. Given how long Apple is leaving older devices on the market as well -- for example, the 2009 iPhone 3GS is still sold as new -- it would be a long-lasting problem as well. Boxing 3:2 apps, like Apple does with iPhone apps on the bigger iPad screen, wouldn't create the premium phone experience Apple is known for.
- iPhone 4S six months later: A group of us from iMore, Mobile Nations, and the podcasts shared our thoughts on the iPhone 4S a year-and-a-half into the product cycle. How's it holding up? Is it still competitive? Would we recommend it to a new buyer today?
- Flipboard vs Zite vs Pulse: iPad personalized magazine app shootout!: Ally takes a look at her three favorite iPad note-takers/text-editors and figures out which one is the best and for whom.
- Could carriers rebel against the high costs of Apple’s iPhone?: Chris Umiastowski takes a look at the iPhone's popularity relative to its subsidies and how that may concern the carriers.
- How I use my iPhone 4S as a therapist: Georgia shares how she uses her iPhone at work.
- Solving the case of the missing iPad apps: The best clock, voice recording, weather, calculator, and stock apps alternatives: Leanna goes looking for replacements for the apps Apple intentionally withheld from the iPad.
- From the Editor's Desk: The alternative Android dictionary: Phil Nickinson reveals the dirty little secrets of dirty little blogs
- BlackBerry Porsche Design P'9981 Review: Kevin Michaluk pays $2K for a BlackBerry and tells us if it was worth it.
- iCloud’s First Six Months: The Developers Weigh In: Federico Viticci interviews prominent developers about the current state of iCloud.
- Nielsen is wrong on mobile: Josh Clark of Global Moxie tackles the concept of mobile as a second-class experience.
- Instagram is the best, Instagram is the worst: Chris Ziegler and Dieter Bohn get into a good old fashioned "duck season/rabbit season" row over the value of Instagram.
- The Mac App Store Needs Paid Upgrades: Wil Shipley explains why upgrade revenue matters under the current software business model.
Fever's still up and so am I. Let's see if fixing that second part fixes the first.