Rajesh Jain, is the developer of CalcsPro, one of the more popular mortgage calculator apps. We got in touch with Rajesh recently to see how well his app has been doing in the App Store, to find out what else he's working on and what impact he believes the debut of OS 3.0 will have on his app dev plans.
1. First, tell me a bit about your company. How many apps do you have in the App Store. How long have you been in business and why did you decide to develop for the iPhone?
Well, I am an independent developer and am not affiliated with any company right now. Professionally, I have been related to the computer software industry one way or another for 16 years now, and have been developing for the Windows Mobile platform off-and-on. My daytime job was working as a pointy haired boss in a large bank. Programming is, and has been, a hobby for me and I love to learn new technologies and platforms. iPhone arrived on the scene with a bang, and the App Store made it possible for small, independent developers, like me to develop and distribute Apps cheaply. It was thus, a natural choice for me.
2. What is it that you think differentiates your company from other App Store developers?
In my app category — finance — I think I have a leg-up because I have been building mortgage-related apps, including calculators, for over 11 years now. If you have been house hunting in the US in the past 8-10 years, you have probably used software built by me or my team. Being a homeowner myself, I think I can appreciate the challenges a normal family faces buying and owning a house. That appreciation drives me to try and build the best software I can.
3. What do you think of the new 3.0 SDK? Got any ideas how you might change your apps to take advantage of all the new features?
Interesting is all I can say right now. Although on a pure technical grounds, it looks like a catch-up release — relative to competitors such as Android. It's definitely going to make it easier for developers to make new kinds of apps with lot more social features.
Yes, I am planning to enhance CalcsPro to take advantage of some of the new features. I think the one big challenge for developers like me would be the adoption of the iPhone 3.0 OS by the user base, especially on older devices. They don't want to splinter their user base between users on iPhone 2.x and iPhone 3.0 OS. I am planning such a drastic change in my app that I might not even have an option but to either abandon 2.x devices, which obviously is pretty distasteful, or develop two different versions, which increases the development time for me.
4. What's your take on the rumor surrounding a premium app section in the App Store for apps selling for $19.99? Think it's a good idea and if so, how do you think buyers benefit?
I think it is inevitable. The App Store has become crowded and I can't complain and for some category of apps, such as casual games, it just makes sense. I just hope, for the sake of the buyers, that there are no iFart or iGirl apps in that section.
5. It's been established that low prices often lead to high sales but not necessarily to high profits. What does it take to succeed in this marketplace?
Ah, the one big mystery! I wish I could be as confident as you are in making that kind of assertion. The revenue and profit models of most of these apps are totally out of whack. Personally, I think that if you make good software, and are able to show it, buyers are willing to pay.
6. Increasingly, bigger companies are entering the app biz with bigger budgets for dev teams and marketing. Whenever that happens in the software business, it's almost always followed by a shake out of the smaller players. Do you think that's what will happen in the App Store?
I think small developers will co-exist with larger players. Other than a few categories such as casual games, not many categories can boast the type of windfall in revenue we have seen in that category. So, I think that the micro-economic model inherent in the App Store will allow the existence of small players.
7. Dev cycles will get longer as buyers expect more from apps. What does that mean to your company and other companies? Do you foresee pricing climbing over the next year?
There are some inherent limitations to what you can do on a small screen. It would be interesting to see what happens but there would definitely be apps that cross the desktop-small screen boundaries. Now, if rumors about a larger screen iPod tablet are true, that would be game changing!
8. Many devs have concerns about the App Store pricing model. Has it been a problem for you and if so, what do you think is the problem and if so, what's your solution?
Oh yeah, there are many limitations. It doesn't allow try-before-you-buy model. It doesn't allow the shareware model. But by far the biggest limitation is to charge for large updates. You really have to put up a new app which acts against the interest of the buyers and the developers both. Some of these limitations will be easier to navigate with the In-App Purchases feature of the iPhone 3.0 OS.
9. Do you plan to release your apps in Nokia, Blackberry and other app stores?
Yes, I do plan to release apps for the Google Android platform; and maybe for Windows Mobile down the line. The terms of the Windows Mobile Store are not very clear to me right now. It seems they intend to charge $99 for App launches and updates--besides the yearly fee and the 30 percent cut of revenues--which will potentially shut out small players like me who rely on small, incremental, updates.