Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Local developers give thumbs-up to new Apple policy

Local iPhone developers have welcomed Apple's announcement last week allowing developers to add in-app purchasing to free apps. This is a change from its previous policy of only allowing in-app purchasing for paid apps, but not free apps.

For buUuk and SG Buses developer Muh Hon Cheng, the change means "no need for a lite version, less maintenance by developers, and a less cluttered App Store."

Mugunth Kumar of SG BBOM and StationAlarm SG believes this move will help fight iPhone app piracy. "Piracy in the App Store gets drastically reduced," he said. "Even on a jailbroken iPhone, you can't 'install' an in-app purchase.

"Apple expects developers to 'remember' what the user has purchased. In case he deletes and re-downloads the app, all in-app purchases he did should be available for free.

"With such a framework in place, installing a pirated app and requesting a feature can be easily thwarted. As I read somewhere today, it's like tricking Amazon to ship a book you never ordered."

2359 Media co-founder Zhou Wenhan believes this will help developers improve their market reach. "If you think about it, free is a great way to demonstrate the utility of an app," he said. "Free also increases the app's distribution base. For apps that have an in-app purchasing model, they will now be able to use free as a trial model thus reaching more users and money.

"In-app purchase will make it easier to convert these trial users to paying ones."

Lim Thye Chean, the CTO of an IT firm and father of programming prodigy Lim Ding Wen, believes that the change has the potential to be revolutionary. "This is probably one of the biggest developments in the iPhone App Store. I am surprised that many see it as just as a combination of LITE and PAID app.

"In-app purchases allow developers to SELL anything in their application. This means everybody can create their own STORE! Instead of selling an application ONCE, it is now possible to do recurring revenue in the application.

"With the new development, it is now possible to distribute anything for FREE and charge for anything in your application. This means you can give away an eBook reader and sell the books, give away media store application and sell the media, etc. This works worldwide and allows developers to open worldwide stores for anything." (Anything, in this case, subject to Apple's approval as Apple can block developers from selling stuff that Apple thinks conflicts with the company's business model.)

Gibson Tang of AzukiSoft sounded a cautious note though. He believes that there will be a surge of developers making use of this new ruling to introduce in-app functionality, but only a small one. "But my bet is that the surge will not match Apple's expectation when they reversed their decision," he said.

He believes that not allowing the sale of virtual currency is the major stumbling block in getting in-app purchases off the ground. "Virtual items have always been bought with virtual currency and players are used to purchasing virtual currency with real cold, hard cash," he noted. However, he does not see Apple allowing the sale of virtual currency any time soon because it raises the issue of gambling. "Apple has always been a stickler for protecting its brand and image."

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