Appocalypse Now: If app developers can sell direct why can't everybody else?

My talk at the Arctic 15 conference October 18th in which I review the data on App Store performance and question the viability of intermediaries in content distribution.

Reflects and complements my recent Omnivorous App post.

Appocalypse Now.

Requires the (free) Perpective™ app and an iPad.


  • Jago

    As an illustrator of children’s books, I was hoping that the iBooks Author software would allow me to publish directly to the iBook Store, but it seems that a publisher is still required… would love Apple to open this up in the same way the App Store is. Would be happy to pay a similar fee…

    • @disqus_8vRoY3L0Va:disqus may I suggest an experiment: how about using Perspective to publish one of your stories? Now let me put some context to that. The current iBooks publishing is really an extension of standard publishing methods, just doing via Apple platform. In Perspective, in contrast, you can publish your content in a matter of minutes, and still be able to monetize it. Let us know if you are interested. (Everyone, sorry for the shameless plug but it seems directly relevant to this conversation to the Appocolypse disruption.)

  • Enrique

    “Requires the (free) Perpective™ app and an iPad.” Gone are the days where Internet meant equal access to the information. Thank you Steve.

    • Rubbish. The alternative is no talk at all. Unless you want to come to Helsinki to watch this live this is your only option because this is captured as it’s presented and it cannot be captured and published otherwise at zero cost. Typically 10x more people hear this presentation on an app than do so live.

      • Enrique

        If using an iPad is the only alternative, then my point is still valid.

      • It is not. The Internet did not give you access to a live presentation in another city without recording facilities and streaming servers costing thousands. There are millions of presentations given every year and there is no access to any of them because they are not captured at marginally zero cost. A device that can help the presenter prepare, deliver, capture and publish a talk in near-real-time has never existed. The iPad makes it possible.

      • Agree. That’s what innovation is about, making new things possible, equal access with other means is not possible by definition.

      • JohnD

        Binary content has always been problematic on the Internet, so the notion that somehow this is Apple’s fault is misguided.

      • JohnD

        Binary content has always been problematic on the Internet, so the notion that somehow this is Apple’s fault is misguided.

      • Enrique

        There are. But if you want to limit your audience, then it is your problem. Not mine. Thank you for the feedback.

      • Leon

        @Enrique: The exact same thing can be said about you choosing to limit the way you access the information.

      • I’m not limiting my audience. I’m expanding it by a factor of 10. At least. I’ve given dozens of talks and those where I did not use this app were seen by a live audience. Those that I use this app are seen by many more and will be preserved for many more to see in the future. And I know the ratio because I know how many downloads take place vs. how many people were in the live audience.

      • Horace is correct. Many more people will be able to choose and consume information of their choice, eliminating the need for expensive packaging. If you don’t have an iPad yet I imagine your grandchildren will soon talk you into one. When you get it I highly recommend you download Perspective and listen to Apocalypse Now.

      • Appocalypse Now.

      • Simon

        I don’t think you’ll be happy until Horace releases an ascii text version of the talk so that every computing device can read it.

      • aaarrrgggh

        You have done an effective job of advertising and promoting Perspective as a good solution for this application. The concern is that it does close the door to what was otherwise free content. Of course you are monetizing the content, which is a reasonable expectation on your part– but it does limit distribution.

      • How was my talk otherwise free content? Everyone who saw it live paid to see it.

      • @asymco:disqus will allow you to capture and present at zero-cost.

        FWIW, my wife has our iPad and thus I am precluded from watching this now. I will likely forget later thus will miss out. So, at the end of the day, I get the “alternative” which is “no talk at all”.

      • Benjamin Alexander

        Gone are the days when air travel meant equal access to international conferences. Thank you Howard.

    • Jago

      Given that this includes the full content from a conference, that doesn’t seem too bad to me…?

      • MarkS2002

        Me, either. The Napster culture has been found to be theft and expecting someone like Horace to pick up the bill for this is just silly. If you think his continuing remarks and charts are worth a few hundred dollars, I am sure you could purchase a used iPad. If not, the podcasts and the blog are still free. Try and be happy with what you have. I can’t afford a Ferrari so I have to make due with a Subaru. I don’t blame Ferrari for that.

    • Are you joking? What days are you talking about? Internet has never meant equal access to the information. Grow up. Hi, I am sorry, looking at your picture, it is way too late.

    • Bruce_Mc

      iPad: 3 years old, funded by Apple
      Perspective: a few months old, funded by one developer

      Internet: initially funded by the US government. Extremely elitist for two decades or so before it became anything vaguely resembling a means for equal access to information.

      Note also that the iPad and it’s imitators are easier to use and less expensive than the computers they are displacing. This allows more people to have their own personal access to the Internet, making it more democratic. Thank you Steve, indeed.

    • Quit Whining

      @ Enrique: I suspect you are using a computing device which required purchase (if not by you, then by whoever is letting you use it) as well as a paid subscription to an internet service provider. There’s a “cost” to all of this. In this case, it happens to be an iPad (in addition to the ISP/data plan). There is no free lunch. So this is open to anyone who wants…it enough to pay. Just like everything in life.

    • Thanks Horace!

      @Enrique: Instead of complaining, you should be thanking Horace for giving us one more way to access his brilliant analysis…for free to any iPad owner. (And I suspect a large majority of his audience has an iPad. )

      We are blessed to have this website, and Perspectives just adds to that.

      Thanks Horace. I can’t wait to watch my first Perspectives show.

  • Very good points in the presentation, Horace. Thank you for publishing the talk, especially with Q&A included.

    I personally am finding Apps over data networks competing with traditional content distribution methods. Specifically, I am finding little need for cable television as streaming services like Amazon Instant Video, AppleTV, and Hulu Plus are doing the jobs that cable television used to. Interestingly, the invention of the TiVo and the DVR sent signals that predicted this, where DVR users record shows so they can fast forward past advertisements.

    I think the “apportunity” for content creators like independent musicians is tremendous.

  • Not unless video capture is a zero cost option and the sync process is a zero time process. The process I’m using allows publishing the presentation while people are still applauding (and setting a price for the result if you so wish.)

    • Tatil_S

      I understand the time savings and the hassles associated with juggling multiple equipment for the recording and publishing stages and I am thankful that your talk is at least available with some limitations, as opposed to not at all. However, this app is the ultimate proof that content is king, as the consumption of that content through that app is fairly poor. I doubt anybody would prefer watching your “Story of Amsterdam” presentation through this app if they had the choice, as opposed to even a simple streaming video. Aside from the aforementioned limited reach to iPad owners, lack of a simple search box for new “stories” is one glaring problem that comes up every time you post a new story. I also could not find a way to scrub content within a slide. My choices seemed to be limited to skipping a slide or going back to the beginning.

      • The fact that you downloaded the Perspective App and then watched it despite its current idiosyncrasies is the ultimate proof that Content is King.

        What you note are current technical limitations and we shall address them as we go along. First will be adding support for other iOS devices. This should expand the reach by an order of magnitude.
        There is no doubt that we could virtually mirror the “video playback” experience. And given the ratio of viewers to creators this is a high priority. Perhaps we should have waited until the product was “perfect” in this “play back” dimension before we put it out. If we did then you wouldn’t have had access to most of this content right now.

      • Tatil_S

        Thanks. You’ve expressed what I meant to say about “content is king” much better than I did.

        Perhaps a YouTube sharing option for the content creators until the viewer portion of the app was more fully baked could be helpful. Good luck, it clearly has the makings of a very useful app and platform, I just hope you’ll be able to “put the finishing touches” quickly before copycats start moving in. Now that I mentioned a lot of negatives, I’d like to say the “slider” along the plots with the “live” numbers used in the story “Manufacturing Miracles” is an awesome way to interact with figures. This is the first time I’ve seen such an interface. It utilizes touchscreen interface very effectively to improve upon otherwise static plots commonly used in printed materials.

  • Bruce_Mc

    I’m glad I have a chance to experience these presentations at no extra financial cost to me. Thank you for making them available.

    With that in mind, the background noise in this presentation and in the Developer as Artist presentation is distracting to me. Perhaps it is because I wear headphones when I listen. Some sort of clip on microphone might improve the sound, although obviously it would cost you money and time.

    • @Bruce_Mc, I agree. It is important to note that Horace is recording this on the iPad while giving the talk. There are ways to get a higher quality recording, and we are experimenting with them as we go along.

    • The problem is that the iPad can only take external microphone input through its dock port and that port is being used during the live presentation to drive the venue projector. I have to use the integrated microphone if I want synchronized recording within the same device.

      • Bruce_Mc

        I see. I thought that sounded like the internal mic. I didn’t think far enough to realize that you were using the dock port. I was imagining the possibility of connecting a wireless mic to the headphone jack, but from what you are saying that would not work.

      • I also like to walk around on stage so being tethered to the device is not a good solution. We thought of Bluetooth but the API is not available to record from it. Not to mention that the sound quality is poor. One other option is to use AirPlay to Apple TV for video and port for audio. Trouble is ensuring the venue can accept an Apple TV. We tried but the friction is too high. It turns out using and iPad scares organizers enough already. Most ask for the presentation ahead of time and want to run it from their hardware.

      • We have now done a dozen or so shows in different settings. There are hard trade-offs…as the field conditions are typically poor and/or unknown and not easy to test ahead of time. We started with the naive assumption that we could use airplay for example, Which is awesome because Horace could untether nplugging, but most conference sites use antiquated VGA for input and there isn’t a good solution for mapping Airplay to VGA. I mean hardware. Too many moving parts with software Airplay simulators. External mic means more pieces and more moving parts. There are some solutions we are exploring but part of Horace’s goal is not to have to worry about those things so he can focus on what he is saying. If he could, I bet may even prefer even not having the iPad and just use his iPhone. Remember he is going solo to these talks, no sound engineer, no video guy, etc.

        This whole thing is an experiment just like asymco itself. I can’t say I am a huge fan of’s layout, or the mobile experience when I read comments on it. (*) Yet we all keep coming back to it and it keeps evolving and getting better. Perspective is definitely not good enough, but we made a conscious decision to put it out so that we can learn from your feedback and evolve. This is unlike most App experiences and expectations of extereme attention to “syntactic slickness” (which results in less detail to other areas.) We have picked an expansive problem which requires “semantic slickness” so these sort of bumps are par for the course.

        We are quite aware of the usability issues and we are working hard to address them. I have no doubt we can improve, the real question is should we put up content in the meanwhile? We’ve decided yes. The second question is how much time should we spend in post editing/QA (this will of course take our attention away for other things like the wonderful features everyone is asking.) We spent a lot of time on the first one (Amsterdam) and progressively less on each talk. If I had my way we’d spend more time, but Horace’s point is well made that this may end up indefinitely postpone the publication. In the meanwhile thousands of people are exposed to content previously unavailable. So this is How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Appocalypse.

        (*) Speaking of usability, am I the only one who dreads this Disqus UI? The concept is superb but the web experience is horrid on a mobile device. We were thinking of using Disqus for story discussions in the App but I doubt we will be able to use the web experience very effectively. Of course we could do it natively but then…

      • Bruce_Mc

        “External mic means more pieces and more moving parts. … Remember he is going solo to these talks, no sound engineer, no video guy, etc.”

        Well said. Every box with blinking lights, every battery that needs to be charged is just that much more trouble, and means the system is less likely to be used.

        “Perspective is definitely not good enough, but we made a conscious decision to put it out so that we can learn from your feedback and evolve.”

        I appreciate that you are pioneers, and I think you are taking the right course.

        From Horace: “I also like to walk around on stage so being tethered to the device is not a good solution. We thought of Bluetooth but the API is not available to record from it. Not to mention that the sound quality is poor.”

        I agree about Bluetooth. I was thinking of something like this Sony WCS-999 wireless mic setup, which could in theory be plugged directly into the iPad at the headphone/microphone jack.

        I have no idea if or whether your recording app would pick up the input. On my iPad 2, when I plug my generic headphones that have an included mic into the headphone jack, the native Camera app does pick up the mic audio when I record video.

        Even if this worked, I understand that the comments I made about more boxes with blinking lights and more batteries to charge apply.

      • I don’t like Disqus on mobile either.

      • It might be possible to drive the projectors with an Apple TV if they have a HDMI input. You could add an AirPort Express to your kit to create your own local network.

      • That’s what we tried at first. It doesn’t work very well for this “extreme storytelling” that Horace is attempting, because it requires: a) extra piece of hardware b) AppleTV finicky when there is no uplink c) most venues use VGA (because they are multiplexing the signal to recorders, multiple screens, legacy.)

        A mifi or Personal hotspot can be used for AirportExpress but doesn’t alleviate the VGA requirement which is the most damning one.

        Kickstarter idea: create a hardware box that has: 1) a self-routing wifi network 2) Airplay protocol 3) VGA output.

      • Would an Apple TY with VGA output work in conjunction with the AirPort Express? Have you tried a HDMI to VGA cable adapter?

      • You still need a network. HDMI to VGA is not a cable but a box (D/A converter.) AppleTV sends some weird signal that causes those boxes to left align the image. Things will get quite interesting if today Apple announces replacement models with the “all digital” 9-pin connector.

  • @ckindel:disqus don’t worry, we will send you a reminder when the iPhone/iPod version is out. We will be on Windows Phone some day when Microsoft pays us to do it. 🙂 Re: 9slides. just last night I watched your entire talk and I didn’t find the video added too much (it does help humanize.) Interesting idea (not unlike brainshark). The question comes to “cost of authorship” is quite high as compared to Perspective. For Horace the cost of record & publish is zero. Instead of “Run” he hits “Record” and before quitting hits Publish. That’s it. There are opportunities to export these to various formats–but we got to focus on getting the core platform out first. The goal of Perspective is to turn consumers to participants and into producers (lean back to lean forward to create) and this is hard to pull off unless you fix the environment. (I will say Appocalypse is not the most compelling Perspective story, since Horace uses zero motion charts or diagrams!)

    • Benjamin Alexander

      Love this: “lean back to lean forward to create”

      Something very true about that way of thinking abut creativity.

  • ozechad

    Thanks Horace – as an Aussie I follow you wherever you are and on whatever platforms and tools you make available – my reason – because I value the positive contribution and mentorship you selflessly provide to help inform (me) and others. Keep up the great work.

  • Jeff g

    When I try to open in Perspective App on iPad I get error message stating invalid URL