Developing Perspective

#205: AILW - Economics of WatchKit Apps.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of No2

00:00:22   talking about WatchKit. Sort of a follow, I guess, in some ways of the last episode

00:00:26   to that feels like it was forever ago. But anyway, so I'm going to talk a little bit

00:00:31   about WatchKit. And specifically, later on in the show, I'll be talking about the economics

00:00:35   of WatchKit apps, some of the more business side of things that I think lend themselves

00:00:39   to a podcast rather than a blog post. But I'm also going to talk a little bit about

00:00:43   a blog post series that I've started doing and not just like mentioning it in terms of

00:00:49   hopefully that's kind of interesting if you're interested in developing it respective in

00:00:52   the first place, but also why I'm doing it and kind of the broader lesson that I think

00:00:58   I've been able to teach myself from that process that I think might be more generally applicable.

00:01:03   So if you don't know, I recently started a series on my blog where I talk called As I

00:01:09   Learn Watch Kit. And functionally it's really just me sitting down and probably a few times

00:01:16   a week, putting something out, some kind of, you know, thoughts, ideas, half sort of finished

00:01:23   concepts, things that I'm doing around WatchKit as I go between now and, you know, whatever,

00:01:29   say next February when Apple Watch launches, though who knows, maybe we'll keep going thereafter.

00:01:35   But the reason I'm doing it, you know, in some ways it's just to be helpful. Like, it's

00:01:39   a new technology, it's exciting, it's fun, I kind of enjoy diving into it, I've been

00:01:43   really, you know, I've started building some cool stuff with it and it's really kind of

00:01:46   fun. But it's why am I doing this? And largely, it is because I've been, I guess you could

00:01:53   say I've had writer's block recently. Like, in the back of my mind, writing on my blog

00:01:59   is something that I feel like I should do more. It's something that I like looking back

00:02:05   on once I've done, but often struggle to get over the sort of the activation energy of

00:02:12   of actually doing it. Like, it's a kind of a tricky place for me to for me to do. I'm

00:02:17   not a great writer. I don't feel like that's one of my strong suits. That's in many ways

00:02:21   why, you know, I have to this is 200 and the 205th episode of developing perspective, but

00:02:26   I've nowhere near that many blog posts. You know, I'm much more comfortable speaking typically

00:02:30   than I am writing. But you know, writing is an important part I think of my business and

00:02:35   the way that I run it. And you know, it's a very, it's a much it's a more fundamental

00:02:39   way to give back to the community than what I do now, you know, just just in developing

00:02:45   perspective or, you know, here and there on Twitter or in person, like, there's something

00:02:49   that's much more shareable and spreadable about text. And so I wanted to write more.

00:02:56   And the thing that I was kind of going back and forth about with WatchKit was how I do

00:03:00   that. And I came up with this idea of tricking myself into writing more, which is funny to

00:03:07   say, but let me explain. So that's why I can be a concept of like, let me do this thing

00:03:12   called as I learn watch kit, which is more like trying to open up my journal, like if

00:03:19   I kept a diary of like, what am I doing? Each day, it's showing that diary to the world,

00:03:26   rather than kind of making it feel like it's something more polished, more finished, you

00:03:31   know, like, trying to lower the bar for myself, it maybe is one way to say it like, I want

00:03:36   to lower the bar so low for myself that any idea that I have that I think could be helpful

00:03:41   or relevant or interesting to someone else, I just put out into the world. And so far,

00:03:47   it's been going pretty well. Like, it's a funny thing to say, but I needed to give myself

00:03:51   permission to put less than 100% polished, amazing things out into the world. And in

00:03:58   many ways, that's part of what makes podcasting so compelling in the first place for me is

00:04:02   is that podcasting is sort of necessarily, at least in the format that I do it, is less

00:04:06   polished. It's not, you know, I'm not going in and doing tiny micro edits, and I'm trying

00:04:10   to build something that's like NPR quality audio. It's me sitting at my desk with a microphone

00:04:16   talking. And I'll mumble every now and then I'll follow, you know, my words will, you

00:04:21   know, fall over themselves. And that's fine. That's natural. And I wanted to kind of give

00:04:27   myself permission to do that same kind of thing in writing, where I don't have to this

00:04:32   In my head, I always have this thing with writing that like it needs to be so super

00:04:35   polished and so super like comp, fully thought out and rich and detailed.

00:04:41   And I'm trying to give myself permission to not do that.

00:04:43   And it's a lesson that I think I'm trying to share more generally here because I think

00:04:48   it's something that you can try and you can often in building things, whether it's building

00:04:52   an app, whether it's writing on a blog post, doing a YouTube video, doing a podcast, whatever

00:04:57   it is. I think we often think of our think of these things as more, more fancy than they

00:05:04   really need to be more fancy than is actually helpful. Like, if you think of something as

00:05:09   this amazing thing that you're aspiring towards, and you're not going to build it until you

00:05:14   can build the thing that you are aspiring at, you'll never actually do anything because

00:05:19   the process of getting there is one of is messy and is going to involve putting out

00:05:24   lots of less than great things in, you know, between here and there. And missing or some

00:05:29   people would say, Oh, well, you should do all that privately and then you know, show

00:05:32   the world your successes. And maybe that's works for some people. But for me, it's true.

00:05:37   It's very reinforcing when you put something out there. And you initially have this kind

00:05:41   of timid, like this timidity about it of like, Oh, this is actually very good. And you started

00:05:46   here from back from people and said, that was great. I mean, it's always weird when

00:05:49   I put out an episode of developing perspective. And I think it was kind of, you know, one

00:05:53   one of my not so great episodes. And the feedback I get back is like, oh, man, that was great.

00:05:58   That really resonated with me, you know, awesome. And you start to realize that you're in some

00:06:02   ways your worst critic because you have a different expectation in your mind of what

00:06:07   you were trying to accomplish when you did it. Whereas people who are coming to your

00:06:11   work just have no expectation in some ways. And you're just your job is to set that expectation

00:06:16   and you're setting it with whatever the level of work you produce. And so if it's any good,

00:06:21   going to resonate with people.

00:06:22   So that's what I'm trying.

00:06:24   And it's just I wanted to encourage other people.

00:06:26   Like, if you think of things that you're good at, that you'd like to share with the world

00:06:28   about, just go for it and try.

00:06:30   I mean, I even took this to the kind of crazy extreme that I'm not sure if I'm going to

00:06:35   regret this afternoon or this morning when I recorded my first YouTube video.

00:06:39   I was like, "You know what?

00:06:40   I'm going to do a YouTube video of me playing with WatchKit, and I'll be linking the show

00:06:44   notes to this episode about that or to it."

00:06:47   But like, I put it together.

00:06:49   It took maybe, you know, it took like an hour or so to put together this 20 minute video.

00:06:52   Like it's kind of rough, but maybe it's useful.

00:06:54   Maybe it's not.

00:06:55   I don't know.

00:06:56   But I'm giving myself permission to just try and see what happens.

00:07:00   And I think you can really end up with some really cool things as a result from that if

00:07:03   you don't get stuck into your own head about having to have only be able to do things once

00:07:10   you're like competent and mastered them.

00:07:13   So you know, just give yourself permission to put whatever you want out into the world.

00:07:18   you know, you'll get better. So anyway, that's kind of what I'm doing about that series.

00:07:22   I'll have links in the show notes, too. I highly recommend that if you're all interested

00:07:26   in WatchKit that you read them. And today, and this is actually part of that, you know,

00:07:30   this will be part of the As I Learn WatchKit series. I'll be kind of interweaving the two

00:07:34   on the podcast as well as on my blog, and apparently now YouTube channel. What am I

00:07:38   thinking? Anyway, so but what I want to talk about today on the WatchKit side is about

00:07:42   the economics of building a WatchKit app. And there's a lot of discussion that always

00:07:46   comes up with anything like this.

00:07:47   You know, like when Apple announced that they're going to allow us to build WatchKit apps,

00:07:50   some people were like, oh, is there going to be like a store on the phone or on the

00:07:55   watch specifically for this?

00:07:57   As best we can tell, there isn't.

00:07:59   You know, WatchKit apps, at least as they are now, are simply extensions of iOS apps.

00:08:04   So if you build something, you put it out in the store, all of the same economics and

00:08:09   processes and things you can and can't do that you would apply to an iOS app with an

00:08:13   extension, I seem to apply to watch kit apps. And so there's no specific store for it. I

00:08:18   imagine there'll be like a featured section on day one where people can go and find things

00:08:22   or like those kinds of things. But it's not a specifically like totally separate place.

00:08:27   It's just they'll go to the app store and search for, you know, watch app and see what

00:08:30   comes up. And that's that's good and bad. I've heard a lot of people be like, Oh, how

00:08:35   is this actually going to make me any money, I'm going to spend the time building all this

00:08:37   stuff out. And it's just going to be like a free add on essentially to my app. And if

00:08:41   that's a bad thing or a good thing. And so what I'm going to kind of do today is I'm

00:08:46   going to unpack that in two directions. One is whether it makes sense to build a watch

00:08:50   kit extension to an existing app, and the other thing is sort of the different dynamics

00:08:54   on a new app. So if you have an existing app, whatever that may be, you know, say in my

00:08:58   case I have things like feed wrangler, pod wrangler, but on our plus plus, like the,

00:09:02   you know, apps that already exist as iOS apps, does it make sense to build something? And

00:09:08   All of the business arguments that I've heard about this, they kind of fall short in my

00:09:12   mind because the fundamentals are basically the same.

00:09:15   It's like if you had a viable product from a business perspective before Apple announced

00:09:22   Watch Kid, it would only be made more viable by adding an extension to it, by making that

00:09:28   app better.

00:09:29   Like, sure, it's sort of you have the paid upgrade problem in that people who've already

00:09:34   paid for your app aren't going to be necessarily paying for the extension, but I don't think

00:09:41   that's any different than like, is it worth updating your app for iOS 8? Is it worth updating

00:09:45   your app in general? Like, why do you do bug fix updates? People didn't really pay for

00:09:50   those. Like it's, there's always that kind of a feeling of part of making software and

00:09:56   making it but you continue to make it better in the hopes that it continues to grow and

00:10:00   develop your market and your brand and what people expect of your application. And if

00:10:04   was viable before, I think adding a WatchKit extension would doubly do that. It gets you

00:10:09   exposure of both from Apple and the press, people looking for like, oh, what are the

00:10:12   cool WatchKit apps? And, you know, as far as I can tell, you know, until we have iTunes

00:10:18   Connect Analytics and they can prove me otherwise, I think most of the advertising and the people,

00:10:23   the downloads of my apps are coming from word of mouth. And anything I can do to enhance

00:10:28   word of mouth is like a delightfully multiplicative effect on my sales. And so if it was viable,

00:10:34   before, it should be doubly so with the WatchKit app.

00:10:36   Whether or not you can specifically charge for it, like nickel and diming customers for

00:10:40   technical features like that doesn't seem to resonate with me.

00:10:43   And if your app wasn't viable before, adding a WatchKit extension is just magnifying that,

00:10:47   I suppose.

00:10:48   Like you're putting more good money after bad.

00:10:51   But fundamentally, if your app is a successful thing that's making money and is worth investing

00:10:57   in generally, WatchKit's a great opportunity to push that boundary in a more interesting

00:11:02   way in a very personal, intimate kind of interaction model with your customer that's so far, even

00:11:07   from my experience, and playing with this and learning it is really cool.

00:11:11   Like why wouldn't you want to just be excited about making that?

00:11:14   And you know, whether or not you'll necessarily come out specifically ahead, I think overall

00:11:20   you will, because it shows that you're to your customers, that you're committed to the

00:11:24   platform and you're committed to making awesome things.

00:11:26   And you know, that's what I want to be known for.

00:11:29   I want to be known as a guy who makes awesome things on a platform that he cares about.

00:11:33   It's on the flip side about new apps.

00:11:37   New apps are funny because obviously your initial thought is always something about

00:11:39   like the gold rush, right?

00:11:41   I mean, I have in my head like burned into the deep recesses of my psyche.

00:11:46   I think it was a video for when the iPad first launched, and there's a thing with Scott

00:11:50   Forstall saying, "We're expecting there to be a whole new gold rush."

00:11:56   And that always bothered me in some ways, that Apple would present it as a gold rush.

00:12:02   But there is sort of that mentality, right?

00:12:06   Whenever there isn't anything, like there is no supply now, and then there is going

00:12:09   to be some supply, there is necessarily kind of this big rush in of trying to—no one

00:12:17   has any claims staked out necessarily.

00:12:19   Apple has obviously their native stuff, but otherwise it's kind of like a free for all.

00:12:23   And so there's opportunity there.

00:12:25   And so certainly there is some very interesting economics around building a new app, putting

00:12:31   it out there, and not necessarily feeling like you're competing in this massively overcrowded

00:12:35   market that the regular iOS app store is.

00:12:38   And so, you know, I'm doing that a lot for some of my apps.

00:12:41   I have things that, you know, I'm working on that are completely new, are completely

00:12:45   fresh, or I've been, some of them are outside of what I normally work on for that reason,

00:12:49   that I think there's always opportunity in that newness.

00:12:54   You don't want to go crazy about that because obviously it's a very short-lived window.

00:12:58   You know, it's like you, if you're ready on day one, great.

00:13:02   If you're not, you probably in some ways are better off just waiting back a little bit

00:13:06   and seeing what, seeing how it all plays out.

00:13:08   Because it's a much riskier kind of, you know, it's very, it's like I talked about with,

00:13:11   a few episodes ago called speculative development.

00:13:15   If you look in the archives, it's like, it's a very speculative activity.

00:13:19   You're just creating something in the hopes of it potentially doing something.

00:13:22   And you just need to be thoughtful about that.

00:13:24   You don't want to necessarily put all your eggs in one basket, spend way too much time

00:13:28   that you couldn't necessarily justify.

00:13:30   But the economics of that are pretty straightforward.

00:13:32   Like, build an app that you can try and keep it streamlined and focused and put it out

00:13:37   there and see.

00:13:39   And if it works, I think your upside potential is much bigger than putting that same amount

00:13:44   of energy and effort into a regular iOS app, because that market is so incredibly crowded

00:13:49   and almost like chokingly so.

00:13:51   with WatchKit, even if, you know, whatever, 10,000 people launch apps on day one, that's

00:13:59   still going to be a minuscule fraction compared to the millions of, you know, of apps on iOS.

00:14:06   And I only see that as a good thing.

00:14:08   So economically, I'm excited about WatchKit.

00:14:10   I think if you have a good app already, adding WatchKit to it makes that app better.

00:14:14   If you have a new idea for a watch and you can think of any way to, you know, make money

00:14:19   out of that, great.

00:14:20   I think it will be successful.

00:14:21   I think there's a lot of promise and potential there.

00:14:24   I mean, I don't think it's necessarily going to make anybody millionaires.

00:14:26   Like in that sense, like, though I always hate that phrase, like, oh, it's going to

00:14:29   make someone a millionaire, but like, I think there's going to be businesses built on the

00:14:33   back of Watch Kid.

00:14:34   And that's probably a better way to think about it.

00:14:36   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:14:38   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, I'm @_DavidSmith

00:14:42   on Twitter, David@DevelopingPerspective.com, and otherwise, you'll be have a great week.

00:14:46   Happy coding, and I will talk to you again soon.

00:14:48   Bye.

00:14:49   Bye.