Skip to main content

Ulysses And The App Store Monetization Problem


When iOS 11 drops later this year a good number of apps are going to stop working thanks to the switch of the platform to 64-bit. At least some of those apps will be ones that have been paid for and then been abandoned once the income stream dried up.

The problem for developers in the App Store is that it is only worth maintaining an app whilst new users are continuing to join the party. Once the point is reached where everyone who is going to pay for an app has done so, the developer is on a literal hiding to nothing.

As a result apps get abandoned and devs move on to something new in the hope of repeating that success.

App Store pricing trends don't help. Apps are cheap and whilst games can continue to bring in revenue through in app purchases - selling game resource or goodies to impatient players - most 'serious' apps don't have that option.

Enter the subscription model and one high profile app, Ulysses. The latest version has implemented an annual subscription. Something which hasn't been universally welcomed.

The problem, as with any subscription, is providing value. Ulysses previously cost $25 on iOS and $45 on MacOS. The new subscription is $40 per annum, which gets you both versions.

If you use both versions of the app, $40 annually doesn't seem a particularly bad deal on first viewing. Until you consider the price of an Office 365 subscription at $69 a year. The whole of Microsoft Office, Skype minutes and 1TB of OneDrive storage. Ulysses just isn't in the same ballpark.

Now there are fewer users of Ulysses, so development costs are more narrowly shared. However there's a much smaller development effort required for what is basically a tricked out text editor.

The validity of the subscription model isn't in question, so it's the pricing of the apps which are seriously out of whack.

In the old model of paid apps, it would be reasonable to expect a major version upgrade of every three years. It would therefore be reasonable to expect that a subscription would approximate to one-third of the original application cost, around $8pa for iOS and $15pa for Mac in Ulysses case. Forcing users to pay for both doesn't make a lot of sense.

Now all this is academic if enough users take up subscriptions to allow the developers to continue to maintain and update the app. That's the only metric which matters to both developers and users of Ulysses.

For the wider App Store it has more serious repercusions. Apple is pushing the iPad as a laptop alternative, but some of the apps that make that even partially possible don't currently have a viable business model. App subscriptions may work for Microsoft and Adobe, but that's because the economies of scale mean that you get an awful lot of capability for not much money. Independent devs can't get that kind of bang per buck.

If the subscription model fails for a high profile app like Ulysses and it isn't able to make the one off payment model work either, what future is there for serious apps in the App Store? And what future for the iPad as a serious machine?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

F1: Robert Kubica Impresses In Renault Test Run

The car may be old but its the performance of the driver that's the story here. Robert Kubica returned to F1, after a fashion, earlier this week with an extensive test run in a 2012 Lotus Renault F1 car at Valencia.
The age of the car and the circuit were likely determined by F1's current rules which ban testing, but the reason for Kubica being in the car is far more interesting. Considered by many to be a potential World Champion and certainly one of the fastest drivers of his generation, Kubica's F1 career seemed to be over after a 2011 crash whilst driving in the Rally of Andora. His Skoda Fabia was penetrated by a guardrail in the high speed accident partially severing his right arm.
Up until last year Kubica has been competing in rallying, with the expectation that the limited movement in his repaired arm would prohibit a return to single seater racing.
So this week's test is both interesting and confusing. Interesting because Kubica completed 115 laps of the ret…

F1: Robert Kubica's Williams Test Asks More Questions Than It Answers

Comparing driver's times at a tyre evaluation test like last week's Abu Dhabi event is difficult at the best of times, but when trying to assess the performance of a driver who has been out of the sport for six years, that difficulty level is raised even higher.
On the face of it Robert Kubica's test for Williams was a success. Fastest of the three Williams drivers present the headlines look promising. However, taking into consideration the different tyres used to set those times muddies the water considerably.
Kubica ran a three lap qualifying simulation on the new 'hyper-soft' tyre - which should have given him a two-second advantage. Correcting for tyres it would appear that Kubica was significantly slower than Sergei Sorotkin - who was on the harder 'soft' tyre - and marginally quicker than Lance Stroll, the team's only contracted driver.

Stroll's family fortune currently funds Williams, so there' no chance that he will be anywhere but in a…

Panos Panay's Defence Of Microsoft Surface Hardware Sounds Eerily Familiar

This weekend I went out with my ten year old daughter to select a laptop for her school year beginning in January. The schools requirements are quite specific, requiring a Windows 10 device, with a preference for a touchscreen and a stylus. She chose a Surface Pro, after trying a large number of different options. Having seen the way I use my own Surface Pro - and tried it herself there was only ever going to be two options - and the other was a Surface Laptop.
I tell you this so that you understand I am a buyer of Microsoft's products through choice, not compulsion. I'm on my third Surface device now. 
So when Panos Panay dismissed reports of the death of the Surface hardware line, I was very interested to see exactly how strong these denials were. Especially how they reflect what has gone before. To whit: Windows 10 Mobile.
Panay claimed that Microsoft is in hardware for the long haul. Almost exactly mirroring the words of Terry Myerson, when he claimed Windows Mobile was g…