Selling Out Gracefully
When in the course of human events a large company drives up to your house with a dump truck full of money, nobel ideals such as independence lose out to more visceral notions like greed, entitlement, and living the American dream. As an independent iPhone developer, how could I not accept the cash, build a mansion, and fill a swimming pool with Cristal?
I’ve always been transparent with how the sausage is made here at App Cubby, so I thought I’d take the time to explain an exciting new partnership between App Cubby and Honeywell and preempt some of the obvious speculation about the deal. I’m a bit long winded, so grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable chair.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about value lately. There are some things in life whose value is completely without measure; my wife and 10 month old son have been teaching me new lessons every day about those sorts of things. But what about the less important, but similarly abstract things in life: ideas, art, and other intellectual property? And even the tangible: food, water, shelter, and other physical goods? With so much social and political manipulation, money doesn’t seem to be a particularly good measure of value. I mean, a factory worker in China surely brings more real value into this world than someone manipulating stocks on Wall Street. Does a man who can swing a bat or throw a ball particularly well really create 1000x times the value of the janitor cleaning the toilets in our modern day colosseums? Certainly not, but I suppose this hinges on the value system with which we are measuring.
Selling digital goods in our complex global economy makes it difficult to measure the value of what I create each day when I go to work. The effort that goes into creating a digital asset is the same whether it sells 1 copy or 1 million copies. So, pricing my iPhone apps has been challenging on two unique fronts.
First (and this may be surprising to some), there are marginal costs associated with selling most iPhone apps. Building complex, data-centric apps means I get more tech support requests than most iPhone developers. And, since I host a free online backup/sync service for my apps, I spend money maintaining server infrastructure. The current cost to maintain the infrastructure is minimal, but the cost to scale or re-architect for improved scalability is high.
Second, pricing - even if that price is $0 - is a factor in the complex equation of estimating the value of what I create. As I said above, money isn’t always the best measure of value; however, selling something for money then exchanging that money for other goods and services does approximate some measure of value. Are my iPhone apps worth enough money to enough people to provide a decent life for me and my family?
Now the other side of the equation: the value created for others by using my apps. Price should be the best way to measure the value of my work