TiPb Interview: bjango's (and iSlayer's) Marc Edwards on the Mac to iPhone Transition and the App Store Outlook

Marc Edwards is one of the well known team behind Mac Dashboard Widget aces iSlayer and iPhone development house bjango, whose apps include Jobs, Cities, Darkness, and Phases, and he was kind enough to sit down and talk App development and ecosystem with TiPb.

TiPb: Your team is famous for their Mac OS X Dashboard widgets, was developing for the iPhone really the easy transition some have suggested?

Marc: For us, yes. Our widgets have used Cocoa plugins for quite some time. A lot of widgets are straight HTML, Javascript and CSS though, which is very different to what's needed for iPhone apps.

Was there anything substantially different about developing for the iPhone? If so, did you learn anything that you will effect your future Mac development?

The biggest lesson seems to be quality. Apple have some great bundled apps, so if you want to fit in, you'd better make sure you spend as much time as they do on the small details. The effective hit area of a human finger also means you have can only have a small number of buttons on screen at once. That keeps you on your toes—almost everything has to be contextual, which is quite different to traditional Mac development.

With some of Apple's built in Apps, like Stocks, Weather, etc. seeming more like OS X widgets than real Apps, there was once speculation that Apple may open up a widget platform for the iPhone as well. With both WebApps and App Store apps, do you think there's still a place for a dedicated iPhone widget development system?

There probably isn't much point in a development platform between web apps and App Store apps... Apple can and will keep on extending WebKit, allowing for better web apps that look and behave more like App Store apps. That's probably enough for anyone who doesn't want to develop using Cocoa.

So the line between the two is close enough to not warrant another choice. But hey, who knows what Apple will do!

There been ongoing controversy about the App Store and how to both get exposure for apps and earn a fair living off their development. Do you think app developers are currently racing to the bottom, and pricing themselves out of business, or do you think volume and building user base will prove a viable model long term?

I don't think pricing is as much of an issue as others seem to. We're talking about a platform with millions of users (don't forget iPod touch users when adding up the total). A huge portion of those users seem to buy apps.

If anything, I think we will see some more expensive apps appear, as all the small ideas get done well enough that each app type has a clear winner. Once the low hanging fruit is gone, developers will probably head towards bigger projects.

Either way, I'm not sure less than $5 is a bad pricepoint for an app. Just make sure you have a very good, very small team developing it and you'll be fine.

Now that the numbers are approaching 10,000, what could Apple do to make iPhone apps more discoverable by end users?

Search results ordered by rankings. A "newly popular" section might work too. I think it's going to be fairly difficult to keep iTunes as it is for music while making it work for the App Store too. I'm sure they'll figure it out though. These kinds of things have been working well on web 2.0 sites for years.

What are your thoughts on the new "rate upon deletion" feature of iPhone OS 2.2? Is this unfair to developers who may get more negative reviews now? (fair disclosure, I've only give 4 and 5 star reviews to Apps I've deleted).

For Apple to build better search and ranking tools, they need all the good data they can get. Right now there's a lot of fairly average apps on the store, so I don't see how rate upon deletion should be something any decent developer should worry about.

I've also rated some apps well on deletion. Maybe a rate after 20th launch would be good too, although you don't want it to get in the way too much.

Thanks Marc, we really appreciate your taking the time!

bjango is the website, and the apps are all available via the iPhone App Store (iTunes Link)

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

TiPb Interview: bjango's (and iSlayer's) Marc Edwards on the Mac to iPhone Transition and the App Store Outlook

5 Comments

The key thing I took out of the interview was the comment about detail. What sets Apple apart from its rivals for me is that it just gets things right, very few small niggles.

I agree with his idea to have users review after twenty launches. But I'd go even further and make it so that "no" reviews can be made immediately after downloading.
It really disappoints me when so many people say an app is the "Best App Ever" when they haven't even yet experienced it's many problems. Likewise, those who say that it simply "Doesn't Work" with no explanation either because they didn't read the instructions, read disclaimers, or take the time to consider their own careless mistakes.
Maybe each app could be tested by a small group of people who could leave reviews that would appear when the app first hits the store.

you know, just to comment on that 'rate on delete' thing, if you're going to rate on launch, you'd be better off rating when someone quits the app. push home button "You've used this application for a while. If you like, rate it below. You won't see this window again."