My partner and I created an iPad game for cats. We wanted to get some extra marketing boost so we contacted friskies (purina). In Nov (2010) I exchanged a few emails, and talked to them on the phone about our game. I sent them a video and they told us they loved the idea and they would get back to us. Then one day, silence. We didn't hear anything for months.
Then a couple weeks ago they released the Friskies "Games for Cats" which are suspiciously similar to our game. The blogosphere exploded. "Friskies releases creative iPad game for cats" "Friskies is oh so clever etc."
We were pissed. But sales improved. A lot.
I tried to track their rankings so I searched for them on the AppStore. Hmm, thats odd. I couldn't find them. It turns out /they didn't make native apps/ they were "simply" HTML5 pages on their website that you open in browser .
So what was/is happening is people see "Friskies iPad Game for Cats" they grab their iPad and search for "game for cats" on the AppStore and then they find our game and we profit.
Also, most people who have cats and iPads don't even think to look for a game for their cat. So by Friskies putting marketing into this they actually increase the size of the market (to be honest, I hope they run a TV commercial advertising their "ipad game for cats").
Moral #1 of the story is: BigCo might steal your idea, but they will likely mess it up and it can end up helping you.
Moral #2: high water raises all the boats
 I realized HTML5 is a "real" app, but most normals don't yet view it that way. They expect to find apps in an app store.
The question MS had to answer was if this functionality was crucial to the operation of the OS. The TCP/IP stack apparently was deemed so. IE wasn't deemed crucial.
The difference between MS and Apple is that MS had a desktop monopoly. Apple has no such monopoly in mobile devices. Although if Apple keeps touting their 90% tablet market share, they could inadvertantly put themselves in the middle of antitrust crosshairs again.
I know Marco has said that he would not use legal means to stop Apple -- but he shouldn't rule it out forever. Because trust me, Apple would have no problem doing it to him.
Apple is educating Marco's market about deferred-reading. They are inevitably going to add far more people to the total market that they'll take from Marco. As the market expands, he needs to capture smaller and smaller fractions of it to remain successful.
Meanwhile, Apple may have also done Marco a positioning favor, by establishing a low end market that he can position a niche against. He calls it the "deluxe" market now (which it is; the $5 I spent for iP is some of the best money I've spent on the app store), but that also leaves an opening for a "Pro" niche that commands an even higher price point.
I'm sure this situation leaves Marco with a lot more teeth gritting than he hoped to have. I don't want to downplay the situation. But I think Marco's got as good a shot as ever to make something big out of iP; maybe an even bigger one, albeit with more alpha.
They tried to destroy Netscape through a number of illegal means. Their defense was to argue that IE was nothing more than a component of Windows, which was and is correct. If they had merely shipped IE with Windows they wouldn't have broken any laws, but that was never really the issue; it was only the issue MS wanted people to focus on.
The only monopoly Apple has is a monopoly on iPhones. Their only interest is to make their product as attractive as possible in a market jam packed with innovative alternatives, and history is filled with instances where features are added to an OS at the expense of a previous 3rd-party add-on.
I don't think there is any comparison between Microsoft of the late 90s and any tech company today, when it comes to monopolies and anticompetitive behavior.
If I were Apple legal I would advise against explicitly stating tablet marketshare.
If the market were years-old and Apple was buying out competitors and paying retailers to not stock alternative devices, then there would be a problem. But they're not.
This is something that people continously get wrong. What are perfectly legal practices for a non-monopoly may no longer be legal once you're a monopoly.
For example, if Apple had a monopoly on mobile phones it might be illegal for them to block "replicated" functionality in their app store. Today its perfectly legal, but in a monopoly situation, its not.
For example, one of the things that MS was accused of was not allowing OEMs to put Netscape shortcuts on the desktop. If Windows wasn't a monopoly that's a perfect fine requirement. And as it stands today, Apple has strict requirements for what can get preinstalled on their phone/tablet by carriers -- virtually nothing.
Another thing MS was accused of by Netscape was withholding technical information. Apple does this today. In fact the Camera+ app, not only had to find technical information w/o docs, but once it did find the information, Apple removed their app from the app store. Imagine if MS removed Netscape once Netscape found the info they were looking for.
MS was also accused of "Giving Internet Explorer Away". All of these new features in iOS are basically free. Again, giving away something at below "cost" is fine if you're not a monopoly, but might be illegal when you are one.
MS was also accused of making it difficult (financially or technically) to remove IE. Again, you can't remove IE in WP7 or Safari in iPad, AFAIK. Both perfectly legal.
Now I'm not saying MS was in the clear. They were in fact a monopoly and did these things. My point though is that Apple is treading this line with the iPad. With the iPhone they're too small of a market. But with the iPad being the dominant tablet (by a huge margin), they're behavior, which would be perfectly legal for the iPhone, is now questionable.
Consumer end - we are the leaders in tablets
Judicial end - we represent a very small percentage or personal computers which can come in tablet form
I just think they'd be prudent to be cautious.
Microsoft got in trouble for telling manufacturers not to ship Netscape.
But here's a question for you -- do you think Verizon, Walmart, or AT&T can disable any Apple provided functionality and have Instapaper run on first use? If one of them found a way to do it Jobs would shut it down so fast that they didn't know what hit them.
"Real's 64-page complaint accuses Microsoft of "tying" its Windows Media Player to its Windows operating system, shutting out competitors such as Real and instantly achieving
"virtually universal distribution." From October 2001 to March 2003, for example, Microsoft's "tying" ensured that Windows Media Player was preinstalled on about 95 percent of PCs shipped, the suit reads. By contrast, it continues, RealNetworks' digital media player was preinstalled on less than 2 percent of the estimated 207 million new PCs shipped.
RealNetworks said Microsoft has failed to share important information about the Windows code, thus hurting the performance of its RealPlayer product. For example, Microsoft refused to disclose details about certain security features, preventing Real from using them directly, according to the lawsuit.
Other charges allege that Microsoft used contractual restrictions and financial incentives to "force PC makers to accept Windows PC operating systems with the bundled Windows Media Player and to restrict the ability of PC makers to preinstall or promote competing digital media players."
According to the suit, PC makers told Real that their contracts with Microsoft kept them from removing or changing the status of a Windows Media Player; promoting RealOne subscription services during the first run of a new PC; and providing a desktop icon for Real Networks. "Microsoft's agreements with PC makers are exclusionary and anticompetitive," the suit concludes.
The suit also says Microsoft's pricing practices stifle competition. It alleges that Microsoft effectively forced competitors to provide free versions of their software to compete with Windows Media Player--a practice that has resulted in significant losses for RealNetworks. "Microsoft's below cost pricing, separately or together with Microsoft's other exclusionary conduct, poses a dangerous probability of creating a monopoly in the digital media markets," RealNetworks said in the filing. "
Non-Apple platform sync seems to be the biggest missing feature, but what else is there that folks would pay for?
But that's where the broadened visibility will help significantly. With whole new classes of people discovering this category of App, wishing that it did X, and searching around for alternatives that provide X, he'll probably see an uptick in people asking him about features like X that he's in a far better position to quickly iterate around than Apple is.
The new features in 3.0 that Marco seems to think are the differentiating features are the ability to see friends' saved articles and editorial content. The editorial picks are pretty good, but nothing that you couldn't get with Reading List. The social integration works if you know people who have Instapaper.
But those first three are really the nicest bits, in my opinion.
I have to derail here. What inspired you to do this? Sounds like a fascinating idea.
I want to improve the cat/human connection by letting the human use the iPhone to control the mouse on the iPad. Keep a look out for that feature in the coming months.
The hardest part about adding that feature isn't the bluetooth communication between devices. (That's easy, Apple provides sample code.) Rather, the most difficult part is designing an interface that is easy to use.
I can't tell you how many iterations we've been through to design a way to pause the game that is 1) hard for cats and 2) memorable and intuitive for humans.
I call this the Game-For-Cats-Law-of-Touch-Screen UI: any UI feature that is too hard for a cat is too hard for your average iPad user.
I am partly in awe of your skill and this extremely insightful comment, and partly terrified.
Look in the app store for a Baby App called Rattle. It has a simple, effective way to get to the menu that babies can't do by accident.
It has a little "i" icon that, when held, brings up a non-obnoxious, non-modal, hardly noticeable translucent text message saying "drag this down with 2 fingers". Do so, and the menu appears. Do anything else and it reverts back to the game.
Here's my smaller dog playing with a sound board: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshu/5702009514/in/photostream...
I also knew the guy who made the original, best voice recorder app too. He made a mint, but then Apple made it a native app, and his app pretty much died too.
Never underestimate the potential of the platform-owner to take what he wants from your business.
- - - - lots of features w/ mainstream appeal - ->
- - - - has network effects -- - - - - - - - - - >
- - - - wants to be cross-platform - - - - - - - >
| LARGE MARKET
| .-- instapaper?
.-- MMS | |
| | |
hard SPECTRUM of DIFFERENTIABILITY easy
| | |
| | |
`-- voice | `-- music
SMALL MARKET |
My point is that it's not as simple as you make it out to be. There's plenty of room on iOS for a better calculator (like PCalc); plenty of room for portfolio tracking, even for special-purpose camera interfaces.
That is clearly not the case with MMS functionality.
Your objection is isomorphic to the claim that IP has "network effects", and phone numbers, and zip codes.
Do you actually disagree that MMS is in a different position that Instapaper? Or are you just infuriated by my silly ASCII graphic?
I'm not sure there's a more wrong way of looking at it. Apple didn't make an MMS app to steal some dev's profits. They made an MMS app because it's an obvious natural app to make and put on every phone.
Never underestimate the potential of an early entrant to whine about the loss of their perceived feifdom.
This is a generalizable pattern for survival for all the other apps Apple "killed" today - you can still compete for any users that don't live 100% in the Apple ecosystem.
Readability seems to render articles slightly better, too, and more often keeps the byline, which was the most annoying part about Instapaper for me.
In theory it automatically sends the articles every morning, although I've found that the automatic sending is a bit flaky. I would (as a matter of public record ) happily pay for the service if that feature were more reliable.
Apple claimed that IBM's entry into the space was a good thing because it validated the concept of personal computing, of which Apple had been a pioneer.
Then IBM proceeded to eat Apple's lunch, even though (in the opinion of many) Apple had the superior machine.
(Edited slightly for style.)
It seems to me you're stopping the story in kind of a weird place, there.
Apple's market cap is currently something like half-again as much as IBM's. Apple became a better company for the competition, and it's impossible to understate how much their current success benefits from the vast explosion in personal computer adoption that IBM's entry into the market brought about.
Competition makes products better. Increased awareness brings a lot more people and money into the market. Marco is a smart, talented guy who is well-poised to benefit, here.
Unless the argument here is that Marco is a dumb guy who for some reason isn't in a position to pivot quickly and react to change, I'm not seeing any parallel here with what happened to Apple in the early 90s.
Marco's still the market leader here. He has to fuck up before he's in the position of needing a turn-around. I'm not sure why you're taking it as fait accompli that he will be unable to react appropriately; he's a smart guy.
But as for being market leader, as soon as this ships in iOS he won't be that. Would you have wanted to be Netscape when MS started bundling Internet Explorer in their OS?
That's been true in recent years. But who would have thought it remotely possible before The Return of Steve in mid-1997? Before then (and for some time afterwards), many people regarded Apple as a zombie company.
A pessimistic response is logical and probably the only rational response. There's simply no way to compete with Apple's Reading List because Apple's made it that way.
Now that that syncing is going to be free and available to every user of iOS 5, the Instapaper bookmarklet installation process just got simpler, not harder.
Marco has the best response.
He’s rightly convinced of the superiority of his product. Apple is chasing him at his own game. When people realize that there’s a whole untapped market for content reading services he’ll definitely stay the upscale, market leader in the field.
But I doubt he is that optimistic on the inside. This is for reasons other people have already properly identified in this discussion (e.g., the Apple product will always have the better integration).
So Apple just went out and ate this guy's lunch. That's pretty much it. You may argue it is ok, you may argue they have a right to do that, but let's not pretend it did not happen.
I use the 'reading list' functionality of Instapaper. I have only used the social and editorial aspects to see what they were about and nothing more.
Quite the emotional rollercoaster for Marco - http://www.betabeat.com/2011/06/06/apple-killed-instapaper-r...
He's clearly thought of this possibility, as evidenced by his post in late April about the potential impact of Reading List on Instapaper.
I use Instapaper for the multi-browser support (mostly in Firefox), but also for the Kindle support, both for reading in Kindle Webkit browser and as downloads.
I think Marco has a big chance to catch the long tail of read-later'ing.
If you look at desktop Safari's Reader Mode… It is a fantastic feature but I don't think I ever heard of anyone I know using it.
It should've been implemented in iOS Safari long time ago, btw, this is where it's been missing.
It's a tough break, I'm sure he didn't expect anything like this before the Lion preview. I hope his business can survive.
Until Apple pulls the plug on Instapaper. Let's hope that never happens.
There is your added value.
If proven essential, none of the platform is safe for him to rest on his laurel.
So, I'd like to say I'm surprised too but all too often he pans the platforms as well as acts like he's making enough revenue for the hassle.
I use Chrome, so no.
Marco is also correct about social. A simple commenting system and a highlighter and a red envelope would be useful. People want insightful quotes highlighted and commented, and want to be validated when people reply to their messages.