Wednesday, March 31, 2010

iPad apps to cost more say developers ahead of launch

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Applications for the iPad will generally cost more than ones for the iPhone or iPod touch developers have said.

They blame the extra work involved in designing for the iPad and the risk factor of not yet knowing how many customers will buy the device.

The iPad goes on sale on Saturday 3 April in the US.

"We are really testing the waters on pricing," developer Igor Pusenjack of Lima Sky told BBC News.

"For a lot of us it is an early experiment to see how people will react but I wouldn't be surprised to see prices go down to 99 cents really early as happened on the iPhone," he said.

Mr Pusenjack is the creator of an iPhone game called bubble wrap where you have to pop the bubbles in a set time. His two-man developer shop has sold 3m units at 99 cents (67p) and will price it at $1.99 (£1.35) on the iPad.

Likewise another game called Animoto, where users have to match the heads of cute animals, will be pitched at $1.99 instead of 99 cents.

"The pricing is really crucial and developers are looking at this as a more expensive device with a wider screen and that means the apps have to be more feature rich," said Jeff Scott, founder of the review site

"So what you have is developers thinking the app prices should be more expensive but the consumers thinking the other way around, that because this is seen as a larger iPod touch, we want 99 cents games or we are not going to be happy."

Return on investment

Depending on functionality and the number of features, the cost of designing an app can be anywhere between $200-$20,000 said developers.

For the iPad with its bigger screen and the opportunity to offer more bells and whistles, the stakes and development costs rise.

The actual size of the market is also seen as concerning with sales estimates varying wildly from 2m to more bullish figures from Morgan Stanley of between 6-8m in the first year.

"Everything is so up in the air with developers in the dark about the number of pre-ordered iPads that have sold," said Mr Scott.

"There are so many more questions now than in 2008 when the App store launched and today no-one knows if they are going to make any real money."

Mr Pusenjak agreed it is all a bit of a gamble, but probably a calculated one given Apple's track record with the iPhone and iPod touch.

"The hot stories in the early days of the App Store launch were about individuals making $250,000 in a month or two but that was because the number of apps was much smaller and the number of devices was 10 or 20 times what we will see with the iPad.

"I just don't expect the iPad to make anyone rich quick," said Mr Pusenjak.

'Betting big'

Back in January when Apple unveiled the device to press and analysts, the company said that the iPad "will run almost all of the over 140,000 apps in the App Store".

One of the most successful developers designing for the iPhone and the iPod Touch is Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative. He is the co-creator of Pocket God which is centred around a tropical island peopled by characters called The Pygmies.

Since launching 14 months ago, it has sold 2.4m units at 99 cents (67p) each.

Mr Castelnuovo will bring the game to the iPad for the higher price of $2.99 (£2).

"The simple fact is that even if the iPad is a tremendous success, it is not going to have the same install user market from day one that the iPhone and iPod Touch had."

ike many developers he is also not rushing to get his game out on day one, instead bringing it to market at the end of April or beginning of May.

"Even though everything on the iPhone and iPod Touch is compatible with the iPad, it probably won't look very good on the bigger screen so we want to give it more detail, make the islands big and lush and really do it justice.

"Also we don't have an iPad yet, which is a disadvantage, and we want to test the game and put it through its paces so we know there are no bugs and it works well and takes advantage of the screen, the tilt sensors and improved graphics," said Mr Castelnuovo.

Rohit Singal is the chief executive officer of SourceBits, an app factory that develops for a number of clients from Coca Cola to General Electric.

While nearly half of the 200 strong company is working on iPhone and iPad apps, Mr Singal agreed not having the device to try things out on was a concern.

"We are betting big on the iPad but there is a real worry in rushing out applications until you test them on the real device. There are bound to be some bugs until you can really try them out."

It is expected that as many as 1,000 new apps will be available on launch day.

Winners and losers

Despite some of the grumblings and caution, most developers seem to be embracing the iPad as another development opportunity.

A recent comScore survey suggested that browsing the internet will be the most popular activity on the device followed by checking email and then listening to music. Reading books and playing games came fourth and fifth in the activity list.

"The winners and losers will be just as varied on the iPad as they are on the iPhone," said Jeff Scott of 148apps .

"Stuff that is internet enabled like Facebook and Twitter apps will do really well, as will productivity apps and books and obviously games which will take advantage of the increased screen size."

Developers like Mr Singal of SourceBits believe the iPad will sound the death knell for one-off, gimmicky apps.

"Quality will shine more on the iPad than on the iPhone but with consumers looking for more functionality in their apps, those single function apps will fail and it will be the end of the iFart app that has done so well on the iPhone," said Mr Singal.

Amazon's e-book reader the Kindle could also face its greatest challenge yet with the iPad and its new iBookstore.

The website said the iPad will include all 30,000 free ebooks from online library the Gutenberg Project.

A number of online publishing houses have also done deals to have their libraries available on the new device on launch day.

The iPad will be on sale in parts of Europe, Canada and Australia by the end of April.


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