Sunday, February 1, 2015

The IOU of iOS

Chris Ashworth:

If some app developers “earn more than Hollywood stars”, and the median developer income is better than abject poverty… that doesn’t tell us that the App industry is healthy so much as at least slightly less insane than working as an actor. Which, and I say this as an actor, is true of, well, basically any other job. So, not much to learn there.


The sense I sometimes get with iOS is of work done in exchange for a vague IOU. A belief in the obvious technical and design merits of the platform, an acknowledgement of the unprecedented rates of adoption for these devices, and perhaps an excitement watching the stars strike gold. A culture thick with the pervasive mantra “mobile first”, which might make all the sense in the world to one kind of business endeavor, but may make no sense at all for other kinds of toolmakers.

Apple is not, I would say, directly (or consciously) responsible for promising something that iOS can’t deliver. But neither are they entirely neutral. They design the mechanics of the App Store. They design and construct how apps are discovered.


The 30% cut Apple takes really is huge. It also, I think, encourages us to build apps that are free. And if the apps are free, they’re in service to something else that isn’t free. Some software-as-a-service, or a product sold through another channel which can be made more attractive with a mobile extension. This gentle pressure to push the actual value outside of iOS strikes me as problematic, long-term.

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What I found to be the weirdest part of the Dediu post was the clickbait:

Put another way, in 2014 iOS app developers earned more than Hollywood did from box office in the US.

But Hollywood only earns around 15% of its movie profits from the US box office.

Having gotten the clickbait out there, Dediu then goes on to try to caveat away the clickbait:

Although the totals for Domestic (US) Box Office are not the complete Hollywood revenues picture, Apple’s App Store billings is not the complete App revenue picture either. The Apps economy includes Android and ads and service businesses and custom development. Including all revenues, apps are still likely to be bigger than Hollywood.

So, now we have to multiply the Hollywood movie box office by 6x to 7x to get a figure that is probably still larger than whatever amorphous definition Dediu is calculating for the "app economy". So beyond the meaninglessness of the comparison, even with the caveats, it's still wrong.

(Also, if we're going to arbitrarily enlarge the definition of the "app economy", shouldn't we include television production profits alongside movies to calculate the "Hollywood economy", which would make the claim even more egregiously wrong?)

A very different topic than the quite interesting one Ashworth is taking on, but thought it was worth pointing out.

@Chucky Thank you for going into that. I don’t think the Hollywood comparison really makes any sense.

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