iPhone Developer Spotlight: Mike Meyer at Weasel Floss Studios

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Mike Meyer, Principal at Weasel Floss Studios, is part of the team behind the recently released iBuddha. This is their debut app as a company, but not their first time developing together.  "iPhone ideas are everywhere," Meyer says. Here are his experiences.

When did you start developing apps for the iPhone? Did you have previous experience as a developer?

Our team got our start about a year ago doing iPhone apps at a major media company. We built an accelerometer-based adaptation of an existing mobile game, and the resulting game has been a solid performer in the kid's game section of the App Store. When our department downsized, we decided to develop for ourselves. Between us, we have decades of developer experience outside of mobile, and a fair amount of mobile experience (BREW, Java) as well. We're mostly new to Mac OS programming, but not to the Unix world in general, and we have worked in areas like animation and in embedded programming in the past. I started out developing in aerospace, myself.

What / how many apps have you made so far?

Our first app is iBuddha — you rub the Laughing Buddha's belly, he laughs, you get a fortune. We issued a paid version and also a free version with a smaller number of fortunes. It's been a great learning experience, we figured we'd start small, but we also like the way the app turned out. We have set a positive tone with the fortunes, and everyone who sees the app gets at least a chuckle out of the belly rubbing mechanic.

What type of apps/games/software inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?

I'm inspired by apps that extend the phone so seamlessly that you use them every day. I used to play stylus-based games on the Ninetendo DS a lot — I like games which accessible user interfaces. I figure if you have to memorize a bunch of buttons, you're working, not playing. The iPhone takes that ease of use even further. Ideas for the iPhone are everywhere, you need only ask yourself whether you'd like to have this functionality or information in your pocket.

How do you settle on the price point for your apps?

Our minimum price point is 99 cents, releasing a free app doesn't really tell us much about the market for our apps. We know people will download free stuff. I think the market has spoken pretty loudly for 99 cents as the price point for casual games and apps. If you've got known IP, or an especially deep game or application, you can ask for more, but you have to be realistic about the value of your app in such a crowded market. Don't invest big unless you know you have an audience waiting for your stuff.

What has been the best thing about designing for the iPhone?

After our experiences in mobile, the iPhone is a much richer platform, with good tools, and an ecosystem that doesn't require dealing with carriers. It's possible to really innovate on this device, which levels the playing field. 3.0 is going to take this even further, and will enable more sustainable business models.

What has been the biggest challenge about designing for the iPhone?

You're playing in a very crowded field now. The chances of being the first out there with an idea are fairly slim, so now you have to really concentrate on being the best of breed, and also on reaching your audience. Most iPhone developers are going to live and die on their marketing, not their programming skills. You can have the best app ever, and it's completely possible that nobody will discover it. You have to really build a brand.

Is your company venture backed or privately held?

Our company is privately held.

Do you have any other apps in the works?

We have a soundboard app on the way, and we're also working on another app which we think will open a lot of doors for us.

What apps do you have on your iPhone?

I've got Facebook and Apple Remote on page one, then a number of apps like Pandora, LinkedIn, and Urban Spoon. As far as games and entertainment go, I love Brian Eno's Bloom, Sudoku Unlimited and Sudoku Grab, the Motion X dice games. I still play Trism a lot. I prefer puzzle games. The one game nobody would expect me to have is Disney's Fairies Fly, but it's a great one for showing off how lush an iPhone game can look.

What do you like to do when you're not coding for the iPhone?

I'm an obsessive reader, but I also spend a lot of time at art events, roller derby, anything offbeat going on in L.A. I also draw and make music. For now, though, when I'm not coding for the iPhone, I'm studying coding for the iPhone.

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