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The App Store and the lonely developer’s times

There are more stories to tell behind the walls of memory than we can imagine inside a giant office building. Technology has accustomed us to great achievements: to cars that drive themselves, to robots exploring Mars , to all of us carrying a super computer in our pockets. But we remember too little about where it all comes from, and not everything has to be gigantic to become a legend.

In fact, the walls of the mansion in which we begin today are not plagued with wealth, nor does it belong to the high nobility. It is not a great castle – although for many years it was an empire – and in many ways, it represents a glorious era that since the arrival of the App Store , we are living again in a similar way. If we cross the ocean of time that distances us, we will land in 1984. But we are not on the West Coast of the United States, nor in a big city like New York.

The App Store and the lonely developer’s times
The App Store and the lonely developer’s times

The periphery of the city drowns out the sounds of the cars of the time. Rickety among the rest of the houses, we find a small attic , perhaps today already full of vines and a pile of dust piled up… Although at that time it was the center of an adventure that three brothers were starting . They were not entrepreneurs, nor did anyone sponsor them with a large sum of money.

That house was his parents’ house, and although it may seem like another one, the rest of us will know it as the “Dynamic Mansion” . And it was the beginning of something that will be familiar to you.

Paco Menéndez, programmer of one of the best video games of all times: “La Abadía del Crimen” (The Crime Abbey)

The Spanish example is one of many that could be given throughout the world, but it was a time that I lived close to – surely some of you did too – and it was full of important events that, as right and as good as they are, have been repeated again. In the mid 80’s, there was a tremendous piracy rate and video games were very expensive. One of the most important distributors in the country at the time, Erbe Software , reached an agreement with the big development companies to launch all their successes and new products at 875 pesetas (about 5 euros) instead of the 12 euros they cost at the time.

The software of the eighties was naive, brilliant and handmade: small binary art created in rooms and not in offices

That gave a boost in sales and breathed new life into small development teams that were often composed of only one or two people, mere artisan creators who start out full of curiosity at their parents’ house with a 48K Spectrum and then, are the ones who catapult an industry, as was the case with Dinamic and the Ruíz brothers.

After the so-called “golden age of 8-bits”, a lot happened: technology advanced at a different pace and that was so new, that not everyone went up to understand it. In the history of mankind, few worlds were discovered so daily and so often destroyed as in computing. Everything wanted to be more powerful, to go further, to amaze more… And in my opinion, it was lost certain bouquet of mystery and art that wrapped to the solitary programmers that created international successes in a room of their house.

In the App Store, apps were cheaper than any Spectrum game in the eighties

All this happened again with the arrival of the App Store . After going through the uncertainty principle of what a mobile-specific app store would look like, several things were achieved: first, Steve Jobs didn’t want expensive software . We started with the applications at 0.69 euros and the most expensive ones were about 9.99 euros: cheaper than the last success of a Spectrum game from the mid-80s. With one advantage: it was accessible from anywhere in the world, at any time, and would never run out of stock.

With the success of the App Store, came the change in the software: the games no longer had to be big hyperrealistic games, but had to play both with our imagination and with the pixels they handled. It was important to tell a story but also to do it quickly, getting into the plot and hooking it instantly, all in the most natural and intuitive way possible . In the same way as those games that amazed us as children with 8-Bit computers, created by geniuses and not by corporations.

One must applaud the care with which Apple looks after its developers, understanding that they are obviously the very heart of its system: this WWDC16 has been memorable for them, with a company that increasingly allows access to important parts of its operating systems – Siri is the key example this year. Tomorrow at Apple we will see a fantastic case in the App of the Week, an application that was born with only three members but has become a reference within its category, a clear example that no small goal exists with the right tools.

The Spotify Case and the 1992 iPhone

We should not be surprised by these things, especially if we have been in the business for many years: we all know that attacking or seeking controversy with Apple always puts your company or product in the media . This week we saw how Spotify tried to sell as an attack a move that directly violates the rules of the App Store with which they themselves have achieved more than 160 million downloads. In their latest update, not only do they not offer the possibility to buy the subscription to the service through in-app purchases from the App Store, but they provide links or contact to their own third party site to manage this subscription. This is not allowed in the App Store , but not for years now.

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Any developer can have an App in the App Store that manages the subscription outside the store, but no link can be provided through the App for that. An example is Microsoft’s own Office, whose application clearly indicates that a subscription to the service is required in order to be used. I think that the bad intention on the part of Spotify was quite clear when Jonathan Prince – public relations of the brand – published this tweet:

In it, he came to say that there was no link, although the reactions of the users of his platform were not long in coming. Even with screenshots showing that they clearly do not comply with the rules that as a developer, they signed up to publish in the store:

It is neither due to a surprise update of the agreement with the developers, nor a change on the part of Apple to harm Spotify because Apple Music is now a competitor. It is simply your store, your rules . The same as years ago, and yes, they will change: but to improve the payment that will be made to the developers – as discussed in the last keynote – because will now only pay a commission on the App Store of 15% , not 30% as so far.

Actually, Ross is “closer” to being the inventor of the Nokia Communicator than the iPhone

The next case of megalomania by book is Thomas S. Ross , who this week has sued Apple claiming that he was the inventor of the iPhone idea in 1992. Well, with small details such as the fact that he simply made sketches on a napkin , he never paid the patent fees, and of course he didn’t have a prototype nor did he detail how it could be done at the hardware level ( wanted it to have MS-DOS 5.0, that is ). According to him, the money will never be able to cover the moral damage of seeing his idea “stolen” by Apple around the world… although he is satisfied with the millions he asks for in exchange.

Oh, and welcome to July: a month where we will finally see the release of the public betas for the new operating systems presented at the WWDC16, an important turning point that puts us on the way to more global testing for what we will see after the summer. And while we are at it, welcome also to this new little weekly slot where every Sunday I will talk about the week’s theme, and what is to come. I’ve named it “Bandley 3”, the location on campus where the team worked to develop the Macintosh in 1983, crowned by the pirate flag designed by Susan Kare ( Do you want it in your wallpaper? ).

Because as you know, better to be a pirate , than to enlist in the navy.

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