(Cet article est aussi disponible en français)
Ever since I own a computer, I want to become a firefighter… errh , no, I want to become a Mac OS X developer. To me it means creating apps, coding them, selling them and making enough money out of it that I can make other apps , even better ones. And on, and on. That wish is about to come true. But first, why didn't I start before? I did actually. When Mac OS X 10.0 was released, I was not totally stranger to the platform, having developed in WebObjects for several years. I mostly created small utilities for friends or for myself, getting to know the tools and the platform. I hope nobody finds these apps on the internet, it would be embarrassing.
When iOS 2.0 was released (at that time, it was the iPhone SDK), the virus bit me again, on the iPhone this time. So I developed several apps since june 2008, both for me (321Run, GPSRecorder, MetaEditor) or for clients.
Thanks to Apple and to the AppStore, my bad marketing skills were taken care of, and I was able to make enough money to one day consider becoming a full time indie. Since I did code for the iPhone,the itch to code for the Mac grew stronger. But making an app for the Mac is much harder. I was joking about it saying to Daniel Jalkut"When I grow up, I'll become a Mac developer, like you" (tweet unreachable, thanks Twitter!).
Except it is much more complex and you need to make a bigger effort to release an app that compares in features and design with the other apps on the market. First of all, the UI is bigger, AppKit is at the same time bigger and older and also more complete (too complete?). The Mac software history is also something to take into account: users have expectations. The grand debut of Mac OS X was a time to restart all clocks, but since then there's been new apps, new APIs, new uses. If you want an app that compares, you have to be on the same level of features, and thus the first attempt is harder to make.
So I took a shortcut: I bought an app, to code it some more and publish it, make it mine.
I asked Kristof Van Landschoot to sell me his app he launched one year ago Deck, and he accepted. Why this one, and not another one? Simply because I like it and I like what it does: playing music. Finding an app that belonged to my centers of interest was key. I have to like it, and use it, even if I'm the only one who ever uses it. Deck is leveraging your iTunes library to allow you to play your music as albums, one by one, as if you were playing them on a deck. Deck is a new way to appreciate and rediscover your music, without launching iTunes and all its features (iTunes Store, AppStore, Video rentals…). An app that does one thing, but does it well: play your music.
Buying an application
Buying an application isn't easy, nor is it so difficult. It's just risky, and a jump into the unknown. Luckily, I didn't do it without advices several stories of apps that have been sold/bought have arisen since 2006, and the app market exists. Daniel Jalkut was one of the first one to tell he was about to do it, and he did it (twice) with success (I'm using MarsEdit to write this post btw). I contacted him while I was watching his C4 presentation. He gave me sound advice and comforted me in my opinions regarding the valuation of the app. Justin Williams also told his stories, but him as a seller. I tried to get into his mind while reading his slides from 360iDev. Ortwin Gentz also bought his first iPhone app, leveraging the boost it gave him to become a successful publisher/developer. His story too was interesting, and he wrote the numbers in plain sight (as did Daniel).
Still it didn't make finding a price so easy, as each case is different. The usual model to value an app is how much it made during two years. And in that case it was not working: Kristof seems to be as good a marketer as me and the sales of Deck have not been what he expected. At the same time, he spent a lot of time creating an app which worked, so he couldn't sell it for nothing. So I decided to buy a forecast, my own forecast of what the app should become to be profitable, and pay him some royalties on that fair scenario, and if I over-succeed, I pay him too a fair share. He is therefore interested in my success: the faster I reach my sales, the more he makes. If I don't reach my own goals, it is 7 000 euros that I have to give him over the course of several years, and I already gave him a part of that money. I don't have all that money yet, so I need to make a successful launch.
It's been almost three weeks that I received the keys to the app. I had little issues to solve, things that were not working as I wanted (for example, the app included podcasts as albums). In that time I corrected those little things, and got to now the app better, which is vital too for support. I localized in french too, and prepared it for the Mac App Store, as I don't intend to sell it directly. All this makes a 1.1 which I sent to Apple for review to the AppStore (or not). Immediate future plans are to be ready for that launch (my first launch). I quickly want to extend to other languages the localization efforts. It is key for us European developers I think, as we need to be close to our local markets. The UI is next on the upgrade path. As soon as I have money to pay a gaphic designer. Of course, I need to add some expenses in PR and advertising to make sure the app has coverage and sales.
I'll continue to keep you updated on my efforts, strategies etc. If you have questions, don't hesitate to comment.