I don’t know the app, haven’t used it, and I’m not a lawyer, but I hate it when people complain about some big company stealing their ideas. Ideas get copied all the time. Have you seen the web? Have you seen books, movies, or TV?
Good ideas get copied. I don’t mean software piracy or plagiarism, which I hate, isn’t legal, but is also inevitable. I do mean reverse engineering and just plain copying good idea. Like movie and fiction formulas that work. Selling points, tag lines, icons, apps, functionality, features, packaging, design … copycats get around them easily without strictly violating the law. It’s a fact of life.
Think of the history of high tech in the last generation or so. DOS copied and improved CP/M which copied something else. The original Mac copied and improved Xerox and Windows copied Mac. Lotus 1-2-3 copied and improved Visicalc and Microsoft Excel copied and improved Lotus 1-2-3.
As a writer, I hate it when people just copy my work and pretend they wrote it. But it does happen constantly.
As a software developer and publisher, I hate it when people copy my product’s tag lines and positioning but it happens all the time.
Ethical? You be the judge. Legal? I’m not an attorney, I can’t say. But I will say this: It happens all the time.
Pricing is magic. There are no good algorithms. No best practices. Grab a theory — competitive pricing, value-based pricing, scientific wild-assed guess pricing, you name it — and stick with it. If it works, stick longer. If it doesn’t change it.
Some reflections on pricing:
Yesterday I bought a short story, off of Amazon.com for $0.99. I bought it and read it while waiting for lunch at a sandwich shop. We used to have to buy an album for $10-$15. Now I buy tunes on a whim all the time.
I regularly buy tunes off of amazon.com for $0.99. Choose, click, and done. I just bought Bonnie Raitt’s new album for $5.99 because the album was cheaper than buying half of its songs. Nowadays I get sample chapters free, read them, and half the time buy the book. I’m not reading more now, but I’m sure buying more.
I paid $695 for Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983. Wordstar was $295, and dBaseII $495. They were all mainstays of early PC software (and those last two started on CP/M, before the IBM PC and DOS.
How much did the DrawSomething people make with a simple app? Zynga bought the company for $250 million (or so). The app had a free version, and cost $0.99. I saw somewhere that they’d had 350 million downloads. But that was a couple of months ago.
Back in the 1990s we almost acquired full rights to a software product (name omitted on purpose) from a company that had been selling a few hundred copies a year at $1,000 per copy. We didn’t because that software did less for its users than our own Business Plan Pro, which we were selling to tens of thousands of people at $100 a copy.
Is it not strange? Everybody thinks $2.99 is really expensive for an app now. Reviews often dock the good apps because they expect much more as such a high ($2.99) price. Wait, what?
Whatever else is going on with pricing, it’s microeconomics turned on its head: low price doesn’t cause high volume. High volume causes low price.
Corollary: the optimal price is inversely proportional to the size of the market.
Second corollary: whoops! There I go trying to make order out of chaos. Pricing is magic. If it works, hooray, and if not, experiment.
Geology is fascinating. If only we could speed up time, we could see mountains rising and being eroded into peaks and valleys, oceans ebbing and flowing, continents breaking up and moving around. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Glaciers. Landscape in action. Great spectacle. Or it would be, if we could speed up time.
And technology is just like continental drift, but roughly 25, 50, 100, maybe a million times faster. And accelerating.
For example, mobile technologies. And what if the big blob there on the right were labeled “iPhone,” and other blobs labeled “Android,” “Windows Mobile,” and so on? That’s a changing technology landscape. And in that case, the splitting of the continents represents maybe a year or two. Right? Call it two years, and that would make it 325 million times faster than continental drift.
The pace of technology’s changing landscapes is speeding up. The technological continental drift in personal computer operating systems common for business use took maybe 10 or 12 years to go through the cycle from CP/M in 1980-1982 or so, followed by the MS-DOS world (we called it PC Compatible), with Mac and then Windows, lately Linux and friends. Or maybe that was 25 years?
We all have to choose platforms. I’ve seen it from a software developer standpoint since 1984, so 26 years now. Then there’s hardware manufacturing, consulting and expertise, and also just plain using the technology. Do you use Windows or Mac or Linus? iPhone or Android or Treo or Blackberry? You’re making choices.
Make the wrong choice and you end up like my polar bear friend here to the left (with apologies for changing the simile abruptly from continental drift to ice sheets breaking up, but it does sort of show it, doesn’t it?) You’re on a shrinking platform. Of course the polar bear can swim long distances. Users can jump platforms, but it costs time and money. Developers and manufacturers can jump platforms too, but it costs more time, and more money.
I’ve seen a lot of businesses rise and fall to the ebb and flow of these technology platforms.
This is tough, but important, strategy management. Businesses get stranded on shrinking platforms all the time. Businesses went down with the ship of CP/M, Apple II, MS-DOS, SONY Betamax, HD vs Blue-Ray… it’s happening all the time. Yahoo Instant Messenger vs. Microsoft Messenger vs. whatever-they-called-it-on-AOL and so on.
Where are you in social media? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Buzz, somewhere else?
Ideally you want to jump to the next continent in time to ride with it as it grows. But damn, it’s hard to guess right all the time. You’ve seen what happens. You’ve seen some businesses try to mitigate the risk by developing into multiple platforms, then lose focus and fall apart. You’ve seen businesses stick to dwindling platforms and eventually fade away.