Anything called “The Panic Report” sounds inherently terrifying, but never fear! In this case, Panic is the name of a well-regarded OS X/iOS developer (full disclosure: I own and enjoy many Panic products). Their 2014 report is interesting if you’ve been following Apple news particularly the various kerfuffles around the App Store. Except, I’m kind betting most people here… don’t. Um. Do that. So instead, keep scrolling down until you get to the heading that says “Low iOS Revenue”.

Here’s the thing about Panic. They make beautiful apps. I used Coda and Diet Coda for all my webdev work, and if my server shits itself for some reason, it’s highly likely I brought it back online via Prompt. Panic software looks beautiful, runs smoothly, and is generally a joy to use.

It’s also fucking expensive. Coda is $99, or over a hundred in Ausmoney. Diet Coda is $20, which is just about the most expensive iOS app I’ve ever bought, I think. I mean, it’s really good, but that’s pricey for an iOS app, y’know?

Panic knows. This is part of Panic’s problem. Do I think that $20 is “overcharging” for Diet Coda? Not in the least; like I said, it’s an amazing app1 and I use it constantly. But in a world of 99c and FREE!, $20 is… a lot.

And this is Panic’s issue. They have graphs, and they phrase it gently, but the reality is there’s a devaluation problem in the App Store. People don’t want to pay big dollars for apps when they’re used to paying cents. On the desktop, it’s a little different; desktop software at $20 is cheap, and $100 for a “business use” app like Coda isn’t outrageous.2 But there is not, I would hesitate to say, $80 in difference between the “value” of Coda and the value of Diet Coda. They’re essentially the same app, just tailored to different OSes.

And this is where things get tricky for Panic. Because what can they do? Charge $80 more for Diet Coda? Or remove $80 of value out of it? Neither option looks particularly appealing, and both will upset customers.

So… what?

I have no answer, incidentally. Neither does Panic, though they imply they’ll be experimenting with a combination of “price increases” and “halted iOS development” until they can figure something out. I don’t blame them.

Those of you who’ve been reading The Wyrd for a while, and who know some of my bugbears, may have already figured out why I’m devoting so many words to one company’s gripes about the App Store. For those of you coming late: ebooks. It’s about ebooks.

Specifically, what I predicted the other day about Big 5 publishers easing off a little on ebook-only releases. The ebook market and the iOS App Store market have a lot of similarities; both are oversaturated shit volcanoes, in which customers are both burned out from poor quality product and simultaneously hyper price-sensitive. And they’re both markets in which content producers either struggle with poor returns on massive production investments, or in which they joyfully (and profitibly) participate in said volcano, churning out masses of low-quality product in super-niche segments.3

I don’t know what the future for high-end indie software publishers like Panic is, re. the App Store, and nor do I know what the future for e-first publishing imprints is. But the future on both fronts is looking… much more difficult in 2015 than it has been in previous years, shall we say.

  1. Except when it ate all the files I had open the other week. I was trying to write this campaign tracker thing for DnD, which is not a small project, and… auurgh! Why, Diet Coda, why? I trusted you!
  2. In fact, I first bought it as a business app, when I was doing full-time coding and appsdev project management work.
  3. Like all that “billionaire gay jet plane boyfriend” porn that’s suddenly popular. In which, yes, the boyfriend really is a literal gay billionaire jet plane. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve read a lot of crazy porn in my day–almost all of which was fanfic, shout outs to my ladies–but… seriously? Wow.