Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Providing Service

One way companies are responding to the down turn if to offer better service to retain and attract customers. E-Trade has responded that way with a letter from the CEO, that contains service improvements like the following:
Substantial product and service improvements were made this past quarter, and the brokerage introduced new initiatives focused on making the online investing experience easier and more effective. For example:
  • Customer service phone support was increased to 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
  • We tested an online chat service, to provide prospective customers with the opportunity to receive live online help to open a new account.
  • New tools were introduced, designed to simplify the bond and fixed income mutual fund selection and investment process, thereby helping customers make more informed fixed income investment decisions.
There are more solutions to come this quarter — all intended to help customers become smarter, more engaged investors — including the MobilePro application for iPhoneTM introduced last week, and the upcoming Investor Resource Center and Online Advisor.
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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Apple vs. Nintendo

Apple recently announced that they have sold 30 million iPhones and iPod Touch's. This has prompted some to compare the iPhone to the video console market. I want to make a slightly different comparison.

Nintendo is estimated to have sold over 50 million Wii consoles at this time. Let us compare not the market size, but cost to compete in the market on the two platforms. To become an Apple developer you need an Intel based mac ($599) and to be a member of the iPhone Developer Program ($99). For Nintendo you need a company, a "secure office" (home office not allowed), and a development kit that costs between $2,500 and $10,000!

This means that to be a Nintendo developer you need to have what amounts to a small mortgage. From various forum and comments posts there appears to be no way around the "no home office" requirement. So if you don't have an existing office you can use, as a independent developer you have to go get a commercial lease on office space. And that is just to you can "apply" to be a Wii software developer. This seems designed to weed out the "riff-raff" from "experienced" developers. However in this economy there probably are a significant number of experienced game developers looking to produce something on a shoe-string budget.

If you have a Mac, you can try out iPhone development and prototype your game/application for free, before you ever buy an iPhone or pay the $99 iPhone Developer Program standard fee.

Given the similarity between the App Store and WiiWare, I don't understand Nintendo's stance. I personally have an idea for an application for the Wii I would like to develop. It's one I would love to offer for less than $5 on WiiWare. I expect that it would take an experienced Wii developer a few weeks to complete the app and the potential market has to be around 2 to 5 million of the Wii owners. Were it a mater of spending a few hundred dollars to become a developer, I would learn the Wii platform myself. As it is, I need to partner with an existing Wii game developer. (Interested? Send me an e-mail.)

All of this reminds me of The Cathedral & the Bazaar discussions from the 1990s. Apple's App Store is a corporate Bazaar, a flea market where you have to be approved by Apple and share the proceeds. For all of the claims that Apple is too greedy, secretive, restrictive; the App Store is much more open than WiiWare. Nintendo is using the Cathedral model, but isn't throwing the doors open to the masses as Apple did with the App Store.

Updated with new numbers of Wii sales on 4-4-09.
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