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James Thomson

Debug 57: iOS 8 Extensibility roundtable

Debug is a casual, conversational interview show featuring the best developers in the business about the amazing apps they make and why and how they make them. On this episode James Thomson of PCalc, Ashley Nelson-Hornstein of Dropbox, Bryan Irace of Tumblr, and Brad Ellis Pacific Helm join Guy and Rene to talk about Extensibility, its benefits and limitations, and the just-announced WatchKit.

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iOS developers being threatened with patent infringement over in-app purchase system [Updated]

Developer James Thomson reported on Twitter this morning that he's been threatened with patent infringement for his use of in-app purchases in PCalc Lite.

Just got hit by very worrying threat of patent infringement lawsuit for using in-app purchase in PCalc Lite. Legal docs arrived via fedex.

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Developer Spotlight: James Thomson of TLA Systems

TiPb's developer spotlights are like DVD/iTunes Extras for the App Store -- a weekly look behind the scenes at the programers and designers that bring you the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad apps and games you love. This week Rene talks with James Thomson of TLA Systems, and PCalc fame.

What's your name? James Thomson

What's your company called? TLA Systems - and yes, that does stand for "Three Letter Acronym". It was originally a fake company name I made up with friends to get us into trade shows while we were still students. I kept using it, and now it's a real company employing myself and my wife.

Where are you located? We're based in my native Glasgow, on the west coast of Scotland. It can be a bit dark, cold, and wet, but I wouldn't want to live anywhere else - you need the dark to appreciate the light.

What's your website address? http://www.tla-systems.co.uk/ and http://www.pcalc.com/

What's your Twitter handle? I'm @jamesthomson - that's my personal account, but I tend to use it for work too.

What are some of your apps? Our main app on iOS is the scientific calculator PCalc, which is in turn based on PCalc for Mac OS X. We're also known for DragThing, the dock app that pre-dates Mac OS X.

What other apps do you currently like? NanoStudio is great for writing music on the move - it's more powerful than GarageBand in many ways, and runs on my phone. I'm not really a musician, but I do enjoy tinkering. Shazam still seems like magic to me - it's invaluable for identifying background music on TV and in shops. RedLaser is the best app I've come across for barcode and QR code scanning. The Chambers Dictionary and The Chambers Thesaurus apps are also both very good. I'm also still playing Game Dev Story - it's a game all developers and journalists should play!

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Quick App: PCalc 1.7

James Thomson wrote in to tell us about PCalc 1.7 [$9.99 - iTunes link], and as usual, the prose is almost as good as the app. Almost.

One year ago, as the doors of the iPhone App Store first opened to the public, PCalc was there. One of only four hundred applications available, and a mere handful of calculators. Now, there are more than sixty-five thousand applications in the store, and calculators are second only to Twitter clients in terms of near-pestilential ubiquitousness.

Metaphorgeddon aside, while we mentioned the new version already, after using it for the day, it was obvious it deserved a closer look. Here are the updates again:

  • Faster startup!
  • Three and four-line display modes, including complete control over what appears on each line.
  • Multiple-memory support.
  • Optional HP48-style RPN behaviour.
  • Much nicer number display with the "Easier To Read" digits option. It's now actually easier to read!

It is indeed. I'm not a mathmagician like Leanna, but this really is the built-in calculator on Hulk-serum. Check out the screenshots after the break, and if you give PCalc 1.7 a try, let us know what you think!

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PCalc 1.6 Now Live in App Store -- As iPhone 3.0 "Universal Binary"?

PCalc developer James Thomson is one of our favorites because he not only makes great apps, but he seems to love doing it, and always figures out new, positive, and productive ways to get our attention.

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Developer Warning: Ad-Hoc Slots NOT Changeable

Apple's Ad-Hoc iPhone distribution method allows developers to register up to 100 iPhones or iPod touches so they can run their applications on them without having to go through the App Store. This is priceless for beta testing, educational environments, and other non-public environments.

Dragthing's James Thomson, however, has posted on a problem that just might bite a few developers right in their beta tests:

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App Experiments: From PCalc to TwitKitteh and Where it All Went Wrong

The App Store, even with 25,000 applications, is still a new market and one we're all, developers, users, and media alike, trying to figure out. Developer James Thomson recently did an experiment to see how Twitkitteh, a fun little app, would compare in terms of sales and earnings, to his acclaimed PCalc in the App Store.

The results? Thomson talks about them in a blog post entitled Where Did it All Go Wrong?

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Twitkitteh Give Away Winners

Thanks to James Thomson at Twitkitteh [iTunes link] for helping our awesome readers help their amazing cats express their inner lulz on the Twitter. James was gracious enough to pass along two iTunes App Store Promo Codes for Twitkitteh to two lucky TiPb readers, and without further ado, those are:

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TiPb Giveaway: twitkitteh for iPhone

We can't tell if twittkitteh (iTunes Link) is shrewd marketing or wicked satire at the state of the App Store and Twitter. We suspect it's equal parts both, finished with a good shot of lulz.

Says developer James Thomson:

Twitkitteh is, quite simply, the first Twitter application written specifically for cats.

For many years, cats have been unfairly excluded from this social networking phenomenon, but we at TLA Systems believe it is finally time to change that.

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TiPb Interview: PCalc Developer James Thomson Talks iPhone App Store and "Postmortems"

James Thomson is the acclaimed developer behind DragThing for Mac OS X and PCalc RPN Calculator for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Following up on his recent blog postings about the challenges involved navigating the still-nascent App Store business model for developers, and TiPb's own look at whether or not there's a "long tail" potential for the market, James was gracious enough to sit down (virtually) and share his thoughts with us about the issues facing 3rd party iPhone developers going forward.

TiPb: James, you recently blogged about PCalc in the context of a "postmortem". What was the reaction like to that article, and did it bring about any changes in your current thinking or how you plan to proceed with PCalc going forward?

James Thomson: Reaction was interesting. Many iPhone developers contacted me privately, and via the blog, to say they had encountered similar problems with sales after the recent changes to the App Store.
Some pointed out the "Availability Trick" to change the App Store release date for your software when you do an update, to make it sort higher up in the listings. I talked about that a bit in a follow-up post here. It's unclear whether it really is a trick, or just what you are supposed to do, but it does seem to work.

I've also tried a few other suggestions, like renaming the app to "PCalc RPN Calculator" to make sure it appears during searches for the word "calculator" which it didn't before. So far, there has been a relatively small boost to sales, but I'm not sure how much of that is due to my changes, and how much is just down to the overall publicity that the article generated.

I'm working on a small 1.1.1 update at the moment to fix a few things, and I'll likely add some more layouts and themes. The real question is what will happen to sales then. If they remain flat, with all the other changes, then I'm going to have to try some more traditional marketing beyond the Google AdWords adverts we are already running. To a certain extent, the blog itself /is/ a form of marketing - I don't think I can really deny that, given it is raising the profile of our software.

Read the rest of the interview after the jump...

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