Interview with Christopher Penrose of Cosmovox

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cosmovox interviewAppCraver recently spoke with Christopher Penrose, the developer team behind Cosmovox. He answered our questions about developing apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?

Christopher Penrose: We started on the Tuesday after waiting in line for the iPhone 3g, July 15th.

2. What was the inspiration behind your app?

Christopher Penrose: I have developed music software for some time, since the late 80s. I had several ideas for music apps in mind before waiting in line at the Apple Store on July 11th. After spending 5 hours in line I came up with several ideas, including Cosmovox. I went with Cosmovox first as the idea seemed to be an innovative use of the iPhone’s accelerometer that I thought many people would find engaging.

3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?

Christopher Penrose: We decided upon $1.99 fairly quickly as the entry price point for Cosmovox. We may raise the price in coming months, as Cosmovox has a growing array of features. There are some similar music apps, which have fewer features and lack Cosmovox’s unique accelerometer interface, that seem to do well priced higher. I considered allowing Cosmovox to be free for a limited time, but I encountered intense hate in reviews for apps that used a similar model after the price was no longer free. I would reconsider that decision for future apps given that the App Store now requires ownership of an app to accept a review.

4. Roughly how many apps have you sold?

Christopher Penrose: We honestly have no idea. Cosmovox has been selling for 3 weeks and unfortunately Apple has not provided access to any sales data yet. Fortunately, they finally began taking steps toward activating our daily and weekly sales reports today, after I made a telephone inquiry yesterday. We were briefly as low as 76 in the Top Paid category after some wonderful publicity from The Unofficial Apple Weblog. In Japan and the UK, we are in the 70s in the Top Paid category at the time of this writing. The British and the Japanese tend to be more curious about synths and new electronic instruments, where Americans are all about guitars in comparison.

5. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? is there anything missing?

Christopher Penrose: I have developed using Cocoa and its predecessors for quite some time. I am fairly comfortable with the Xcode environment and at home with Cocoa touch.

When it comes to the SDK, unfortunately there is A LOT of potential missing. Sadly much of the potential is actually already available and has been left out deliberately. Yes there are amazing innovations possible within the current confines of the iPhone SDK, and we will see more and more of them. Yet, while I was standing in line on July 11th I imagined many more app ideas that were impractical because of the restrictions of the iPhone SDK but were totally feasible to make on a Jailbroken iPhone than I imagined app ideas feasible using the official iPhone SDK as it is today.

Leisuresonic has one super secret music app idea that we find amazingly compelling—it is based on some unique digital signal processing ip that we have in our vault—but it is totally impractical to bring to the App Store due to the iTunes music library sandbox. While it would run fine on a jailbroken iPhone, it is our hope that we will be able have it on the App Store with some negotiation in the future. Apple really really needs to give developers access to all media content on the iPhone—if they need to protect certain iTunes contracts, they should use the app screening process to determine whether an app is capable of mass gratuitous piracy (as all desktops they sell are already).

6. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?

Christopher Penrose: Leisuresonic is privately held—no angels have descended on us, nor do we have any outside backing or affiliation.

7. What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?

Christopher Penrose: I really like Midomi! Very cool idea and an intriguing business model. Would love to know how they are doing with it. I like OSCemote of course, but it really is a time-based art geek app. I like <a href="http://www.appcraver.com/dizzy-bee/">DizzyBee</a> a lot—I like the Japanese-like cuteness and the smoothness of its controls.
 My 3 year old son really really likes Adventure, and he can say the word “Cosmovox”. He smiles while he plays it but he can learn a bit it from his nearly 4 year old friend who is amazing at it. =)

8. What kind of features should apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?

Christopher Penrose: I agree with the mob that copy and paste should be there—this would also lead to other features such as web page text search in Safari as is available in the desktop version.
Eliminate the sandbox. Don’t make developers have to go to the trouble of making apps like AirSharing. Of all the Apps that should be rejected for duplicating functionality of the iPhone, in an ideal world AirSharing would be it—instead Apple has it featured. I am really glad that Avatron made it but really sad that it is necessary. All applications should be able to access any media—music, movies, images, text—that is available on the iPhone. Let the creative media apps flow—- let us Rip. Mix. Burn. And did I mention that we should eliminate the sandbox?
As much as I hate to be repetitive, and as much as I hate to quote Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

9. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?

Christopher Penrose: We did a lot of prototyping using surprising tools— the UNIX shell, and a wonderful media development environment named Max/MSP. Using prototyping environments can dramatically streamline the development of complex software. We also spend a lot of development time honing an Objective-C DSP framework that can be purposed toward many diverse music applications. Most of this DSP development was done in UNIX using simple prototyping-friendly command-line software. We used the iPhone simulator as much as possible since the executable install time is far faster on it. Once our frameworks were shored up and stable, and we had robust real-time audio classes available, we developed directly on the iPhone for Cosmovox. We were pleased that the latest XCode tools for the iPhone have dramatically increased executable install time. Hooray! Most updates for Cosmovox are done entirely on the iPhone and without use of the simulator at this point.

10. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?

Christopher Penrose: We may have another music app to submit to the App Store in a few weeks. It depends on whether we concentrate on adding new features to Cosmovox or we diversify at this point.

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