Epic vs Apple

So I’ve been reading a lot on the opinions of what Epic has done to challenge the monopoly of Apple on the AppStore. And there are a lot of differing opinions, a lot from very narrow ways of looking at things.

For some context, Epic added a way to buy InApp Purchases at a discount using their own payment services in their hugely successful Fortnite game, circumventing the rule that Apple has in place that you have to use Apple’s purchase system, so they get their 30% cut on everything. Epic did this to blatantly break Apple’s rules so that they would get banned, which they did, and have ammunition to file an already prepared lawsuit, which they did.

I have been frustrated and critical of Apple since the beginning of the AppStore for its “Closed” system. I made as much or more money in the days before the magical iPhone in a much smaller market when I had the freedom to use any and all curated stores and channels and purchasing options as I could engineer(mainly free trials and paid updates) in the Windows Mobile and Palm worlds. I could choose if someones 30% “tax” was worth it to my business.

But now over the years it has been ingrained that this “closed system” is great for your peace of mind, and that Apple does all these extra things of value that they deserve it all. Opinions may vary, but there should be a choice.

The way I see all the mistakes they’ve made in the store, all the rejection hassles for no reason, the encouraging a race to the bottom and wanting “millions of apps” available which drove the quality of the average app down considerably. The horrible search results, the unfair curating practices to play favors, the not allowing trials…. The list goes on and on. Most of us knew that the big problem with the AppStore is they just threw apps into the iTunes media model, and acted like they had done tons and tons of work to create this great experience. They hadn’t. And not starting on a real foundation, we still see the effects of that.

But my biggest gripe right now, is everyone is saying the AppStore is making a safe environment. They aren’t. The review process allows garbage and bad actors that are gaming the system and ripping people off in all the time. And they use that system and their rules to stifle creativity and reject apps that would compete too closely with something they want to do themselves.

Everything that actually makes the system safe can be done without the AppStore. They do it on Mac. Those things are built into the Operating System, not the AppStore. We have to be checked and sign apps. And apps still have to ask whether you can have access to sensitive APIs and data whether it is from the AppStore or not. So regardless of where you get the app, those will be in place.

If you think that that safety is needed, guess what, it will still be there for you to use. There will be nobody there forcing you to get any app not on the AppStore. And obviously it would be in everybody’s best interest if when this happens some parental type controls are put in place to not always allow this in iOS. But now it’s up to you if you trust the company, not Apple.

So just give us a choice.

How is the world going to be that much different if we can get apps another way. The developer can pursue different channels and different marketing and sales models, and if Apple’s store is worth it, we’ll use it too. But then real developers can have options like more direct contact with users, issue refunds ourselves, price freedom, new marketing channels… This list goes on and on too, it lets a business be a business and not depend on following ever changing and restrictive rules that come at a large cost.

So thank you to Epic for finally getting to the point where you can fight this, it had to be somebody with the resources. And yes, they obviously have some ulterior motives in play, but who cares, they are doing what someone has needed to do for a long time. And to get what they ultimately want, they have to bring all of us little guys with them…

2020 and beyond

Another year is underway. And with that a new enthusiasm for what Birdsoft can become.

In 2019 we did some app updates that we hope you appreciated, but we were more busy laying a foundation for the reimagining of some of what we hope to make the centerpiece of Birdsoft going forward.

A new set of products that will capitalize on our years of development experience to bring you something that we are truly proud of, and with a sustainable revenue model that can keep us iterating and improving on our products at a much greater level. A new modern codebase with new innovations baked in will just be the start. And we can’t wait to show it to you soon…

At this point we are approaching 20 years of mobile development… What a fun ride!

Here comes 2019!

For being dialed back on Birdsoft in 2018, we have still managed to sneak in several enhancements to our product line and keep the ball rolling.

We released our first Mac OS app into the App Store!! PokerTimer for Mac has been very well received. We had so much fun creating it based on our iOS PokerTimer, that itself is quickly approaching 250,000 users, we definitely want to do more for Mac OS.

UtiliForms has been upgraded substantially and now contains a very cool Web/Server component that can help track data via the web and an integrated map. We’d love to show you how flexible it is for data collection and what all it can do…

Extreme Agenda got a pretty nice update this year. More importantly, that codebase has gotten some much needed love in a bunch of other directions to use well in to the future. Watch for improvements in 2019 to make this powerhouse of an app even more versatile.

And finally, a ton of work has been done on a new project(s) that we hope to show you in 2019. This will play a key part in the future of Birdsoft. In fact, with all the work that has went into this, ‘dialed back’ isn’t really correct for us in 2018. We are very excited to take the cover off of everything soon and show you that we still are passionate about making great apps.

Thank you all!   Happy 2019!

 

 

P.S. There’s now an Apple Watch or two in the house, not sure what that means yet for our software, but it can’t be bad.

Using Extreme Agenda 5.0 features to create EA 5.0

So I’m in the rather cool position of working on Extreme Agenda 5.0 and also using the evolving product to plan the work to be done.

So let this be a little preview of what is coming in Extreme Agenda 5.0 as well as the power it will provide. We have decided to double down on power features, and have some that only a handful of other apps may have, but you won’t find them all in one place like this. Our direction is now defining EA to be the premium app for organization with power and flexibility. It always has, but we want to make that a more solid position in the premium space.

So a lot of this feature planning falls into our already powerful Reminder List, using a Getting Things Done(GTD) like system on the iPhone. Check out our older blog post on GTD in Extreme Agenda for more help.

 

The first big thing is that we have made this list have 3 levels of sorting(effectively 4 as name is used as the last one if not used before). So our setup is to sort by Status( Actions like “Next Action“, “Planning”, and “Active“), then Completed, and then Priority. So as we move features we are adding in to groups like the Next Action group, we can have a few in the group and then use the tap-n-hold popup toolbar to change the priority to move them up and down the list. And with this setup the completed reminders drop down to the bottom of the current group.

The second, and arguably one of the biggest new game changing features of EA 5.0, is that you can add lists to reminders and events. So now each feature reminder can have a sub-list built right in that I can access and check off as I complete the smaller pieces that make up the feature. We can’t begin to explain how handy this feature is. Wait until you see it’s implementation and uses. And best of all they are embedded into your notes, so they appear anywhere you look at the event or reminder.

We also have added color to the flat icon set, and are using that to our advantage. Another way of grouping our new features is that we added several categories to the system based on size of the feature(approximately how many hours or how much effort). We set all of these categories to the same flat ruler icon(denotes size) but gave them all different colors. Now at a glance when looking at the reminder list I can tell by color whether this feature is Large, Medium, or Small. I can also re-sort based on category, status, completed, and see what is left for big chunks of time.

And finally we are taking advantage of updates to the template system, so we can tap n hold the + button, select the template choice and then select a template from the list for say a “Small, Next Action, High Priority” reminder and fill in the name only, and we have a filled in reminder.

So with Extreme Agenda 5.0, get ready to be even more organized. This is just the start of what new features are going in to version 5.0 to make it the best planner on iOS.

 

 

Where we are at 2016…

Just a little update on where Birdsoft is….

We are very proud of our two brand new products launched in 2015.

The Dog Ate It is a great full featured student planner that is built to feel simple and easy to use, but has as many if not more features than the current student planners that are established in the App Store. Unfortunately with the current problems in today’s Apple’s App Store, we can’t quickly bubble to the top and really prove that is true. So we could use your help to get people trying it, for FREE, and realize what a great tool it is for students in the classroom.

Swim Track is an app that I just had to write personally, so I could use it for my own swimmer. I knew I wanted to see a graph of her progress in events in both her club and summer swim teams, and be able to handle all the conversions from yards to meters seamlessly. I started out writing it for myself, but then put enough polish on it, that it is pretty much the top solution on the App Store for doing just that.

We hope to expand on our great UtiliForms offering in 2016 as well. We have some great ideas to really make it what every utility or service that serves utilities needs to quickly handle reporting in the field with super simple customizable forms that any of the crew can handle.

Now Im had at work adding some great new features that will refine the Extreme Agenda experience. I have it updated for iPad Pro, have a couple bug fixes in there, and am now starting on 4-6 new features that at least in my main work flows, will make it infinitely more useable. A few of which are multiple sort levels in Reminders, adjustments to make templates even easier, and additions to the filtering to make that way more powerful. And a really cool feature that can make any reminder or event into a list…. We are bouncing around a couple other features like printing and notes on the calendar, to make it the most powerful Extreme Agenda yet….

So watch for Extreme Agenda to get even better soon, we think with the changes we will have by far the most flexible Reminder List for Getting Things Done on iOS, and yeah, the top calendar too!

Extreme Agenda on the App Store

And as mentioned earlier, today’s App Store is kind of a mess. And with the problems and all the competition out there, it has become very important that if you want to see continued advancements on a product you love, you need to help out us developers by spreading the word and adding positive reviews in the AppStore. It all helps so much and we really appreciate it. Birdsoft is  happy to have some of the most loyal and outstanding customers and we thank you, and want to continue to find more great people to enjoy the time and quality we put into each App.

Thanks!

The Dog Ate It – The iPhone Student Planner

Just in time for back to school….

We are pleased to announce the release of our new Student Planner for iPhone, The Dog Ate It. Having had a version of this app dating back to 2002 on Windows Mobile and later on Windows desktop, we always had it in our mind that we would bring a really cool new version of this to iOS at some point.

We have watched this market since the start of the AppStore and while we liked what the one leader in this field was doing, we just felt it was always an app that was not quite organized correctly and had pieces ‘strapped’ to it in confusing ways in order to say they were there. There aren’t any other really good alternatives that do about everything you want(grading is essential for students, otherwise why not just use a good organizer), or aren’t dependent on online accounts.

So this app has been in development for a long time. It was actually mostly done before last school year, but with our situation, we ended up taking a full extra year to polish it. We went in thinking we needed to strip the idea of the planner down and build it back up. We know students are going to be using it, for the most part, in the few minutes at the end of class or in between classes, so we wanted things to be right there, really clear, and really really easy to add and update quickly.

We think students will love the design. Colors and icons play a prominent part in allowing you to quickly identify classes and see what you have going. Shortcuts are built in to allow you to quickly add, reschedule, or finish assignments. There are only a few main screens involved so you don’t sit and wonder which way the app was meant to be used. Jump to the schedule tab to see your week or month, or just look at your classes individually.

And with our design we do have it ready to expand in several ways. Under the hood it uses Core Data, and actually has all the code in there to sync to iCloud. We just ran into some problems in testing and wanted to put out the most solid app possible at launch so pulled that temporarily, but allow you to email a backup of all your data. And we have plans that if enough students love it, we can quickly move to the iPad as well… And then sync will be more important…. And what about a notification widget and the watch and….

We do believe in features. Lots of them. And flexibility. So we think we have ways to accommodate some of the more advanced things that you might need for your school. Flexible class time scheduling(Lecture/Labs, period naming, etc…) and custom grading scales including weighted grading. And we put in features that are the only basis for other apps. Want to know what you need on a test to keep a certain class grade? We have a screen for that….

And we love the idea of free trials. We want you to see what the app can do to know if you like it. Unfortunately we are not yet allowed to do that the traditional way of having a time trial on the AppStore. So we had to set some limits. Please take a FREE look at the app and remember what we intended, that if you like it, you buy the full product at a more than fair price. Sorry, we were forced to do this in a less than stellar way…

Thanks and as always if you have ways to improve the app in any way, drop us an email…

Download from the AppStore

Birdsoft

 

The hours thing.

So we have always thought our ‘Billing Hours’ has been a better product than the popular ‘Hours’ app. We realize that they have built out a great network to get it up and selling, have some friends at Apple, and do self promotion amazingly. But the fact is, their app is lacking in many areas. It has some neat effects and some novelty interactions, but it just doesn’t do everything that you might want it to do, and actually can be a little confusing for how ‘easy’ it is supposed to be. It seems to be missing several very basic features.

Granted they did jump right on the Apple Watch thing, and seemed to have done a nice job with doing what they already do on there, if you have an Apple watch…

So we noticed that they are giving it away free and made a blog post about their future plans to enter the Enterprise world with their basic timer app. And always being the salesman they blow over the fact that some companies will require more. They will require features they don’t have. Features that may be a long time coming. And the features they plan to add, they seem to hint they will be monetizing in new ways…

So we thought, what a great time for us to do another of our FREE giveaways of our App, so you can see jut how much more usable an app can be when it has more of the features you need. Like sending an invoice!

So give BOTH apps a try.. Give them a fair shake, and consider… Does their UI with some interesting shortcuts and interactions really make anything easier in the long run? Is having it a good tradeoff for not having the features that people that actually do track time might use the most? Or does the simpler app do what you need?

I think you’ll agree that Billing Hours has more potential. And we have a new version coming that we won’t be adding monetization and steering towards Enterprise.. It will just have some neat UI tricks of our own, and requested features. So drop us an email on what you think, and what we can add….

Billing Hours on the AppStore.

Thanks

 

Update: Edited as this post was initially written pretty hastily and so came off a tad harsh. Obviously Hours has some benefits and is enough for many people’s needs.  And other may not know about the several other more full featured Time Trackers that exist as this one was one of the most visible. Check out ‘Hours Tracker’ for another great and more full featured option…

 

Let’s not call it a Post-Mortem… We just need a little life support.

So Birdsoft is going part time as of October 13th, 2014.

What does this mean? 

Well, Ive taken an iOS development(and possibly other flavors) job with a company that I’ve done quite a bit of consulting work for in the past. It will be a new adventure getting to create and work on some great mobile products.

Birdsoft will still live on. This new company is really cool and very open to you doing whatever you want on the side. So some nights and weekends I will be doing updates, adding features and trying to fit in as much of what I used to do in doing this full time, and still keep my sanity. I have Extreme Agenda 5 well under way, I have my new product pretty much done, and I just got all of my major apps updated to be working with iOS8.. So Birdsoft is in a pretty good place that way…

And my apps are mostly solid and mature at this point, so don’t think that part time means I wont be offering email support or squashing the bugs that do come up or adding anything. That will still hold a high priority….

I’m not throwing away 11+ years of full time work. I’d like to think I did some pretty cool things in there…

Why?

This is a hard one. I don’t want to pass all the blame off on Apple, though they deserve a large portion of it. I simply didn’t maintain making enough money to support myself with just Birdsoft, even though I feel like I have better products now than I did when I was able to do it…

I did make a few mistakes and focused on the wrong things a few times. I didn’t quite play the ever changing game right, it was like hitting a moving target(notice I didn’t use the word ‘evolving’). I did play it fairly right in 2012, but Apple already has changed the rules a couple times since then.

And I could have done a much better job of finding and embracing the network of developers out there(and Press and Apple itself). But basically Ive determined that one of the only real ways of doing that would have meant spending thousands of dollars to get to THE developer conference(WWDC), solely to mingle and network. It was hard to justify…. but it turned out to be a mistake that I didn’t. Who charges that much, when the mobile stores used to throw the same types of things free, Oh yeah that’s Apple….

But really it is that Apple made the AppStore a mess. They seem to be cleaning it up a bit, but then I’ve thought that before. They simply made decisions that did not help the good middle of the road developers. They didn’t see us as that important. So now they have a trash heap of half-done apps that you have to dig through in order to find the gems.

My biggest example. Apple actually championing the ‘race to the bottom’ price wise is the biggest mess. You don’t think they support that? I have an app that has made six figures, and I have a somewhat similar app that hasn’t even made 5 figures. The first is a paid app and the second is freemium. Guess which app they rush through reviews and show higher in searches? Yeah, the one that has more downloads, not the one that keeps me in business….

Good for you Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. I love that the vast majority of the billions that the AppStore makes goes to only a couple companies that make good but not great games, but have learned to manipulate people in the same ways as casinos do.  I’m glad that’s who Apple has decided to shape their rules around, to reward them instead of trying to make a nice big playing field that thousands of developers could live and thrive off of…

They have so many things structured like search, discovery, reviews, top charts  that are all just skewed and broken.  And the biggest mistake was promoting how many apps they had. 1,000,000 apps didn’t mean anything, when like 5% were any good. We’ve pointed most of these issues out since the beginning of the store, and yet some have gotten worse… It’s just a mess that I hope they are trying to fix and change their direction on….

Its a vicious cycle, reward the apps that are cheap or free with more downloads, but cycle them out as new ones come in, and hope enough people keep playing the game. Developers then don’t make enough money on apps(or make it all up front only), so those app don’t keep developer’s attention. So the developer then don’t improve them to what they should be. Now we have a lot of non-updated apps along with all the poor ones all sitting around clogging the system.

And add to that you have ‘developer experts’ actually telling new developer to make simple apps that are over designed but with very few features in order to turn out product and play this game… And Apple promoting and even giving design awards and Editor’s choice to apps that don’t even do what they’re supposed to do very well, with very few features, but they look pretty…

So at least we have over 1,000,000 apps.

Side Note: You know what I still to this day find: My apps with the most features still sell the best!

Add to that the press being a ‘good ol’ boys’ club at this point that will push for and ‘love’ some pretty average apps because they met the developer once and that developer kisses up to them on Twitter or has been around doing Mac stuff, and some really good apps are getting passed over….

It all makes it hard…

So who would have thought that the mobile app market was more stable and dare I say better before the iPhone. From my 11+ years experience, unfortunately that’s the case…

I’m around. Birdsoft is still going. But Im seeing some pretty big names dropping out of the fight, even today… and I feel like by doing this I just couldn’t quite pull it off fully either.. stinks!

 

 

 

We’re here…

So what an interesting summer….

Well, we keep on churning out iOS development. We are currently doing a bunch of fixes and changes for Apple’s iOS8 and new iPhone sizes. We probably could have been a little quicker with our updates. But then again, Apple did hold out any information on those screens, because, well you know… secrecy… No, not a great reason, but it’s Apple. They don’t make mistakes… Well, except the mess that is iOS8 so far, and….

We did just come off of doing a huge project for a very high profile client, which we can’t mention because of Lawyer stuff… But it is an AWESOME app that we had a part in getting ready to ship for a top news agency….

So that got in the way of us shipping our latest big new product which is now about 95% complete, and work done on the new EXTREME AGENDA 5.0! So along with consulting, once we get these ‘fix’ updates out those 2 things are our main priorities. We have some great ideas and the good stuff that is in iOS8 made that list grow even longer, so… We hope to show you some neat new things very soon….

 

 

 

 

iPhone Billable Hours Tracking

As a contractor doing iOS consulting I was looking for an app that could track my billable hours on projects and easily invoice the customer. And while there are some out there, a lot of them have long since been abandoned and have poor interfaces dating them back to early iOS, are too complicated, or require you to sign up for a service and pay a subscription. No thanks.

So I set out to write a simple iPhone app that strips away some of the unneeded extra bloat, flowed perfectly with iOS7 and was built to expand if customers interact with us and want it to be more. And what I came up with is ‘Billing Hours’.

 

Create a client, create a project, and then start creating time or billable item entries. View those entries by week, month, or custom pay period. Send filtered professional reports in both csv and pdf formats. Create and email or print an invoice that can use both items and timed entries and even combine your time. Password lock the app to keep out prying eyes. It is all streamlined and easy to follow…

And some of the expandability has already quickly happened as we’ve iterated. People asked to be able to import contact information as a client, and that is done. One reviewer, instead of emailing us, complained about not having next actions when filling out clients. Done.

The app has room to grow and can be even more, as it is built  to go to iPad and to quickly switch to using iCloud if we get enough support. So give it a try and let us know what you think with an email or help us out with a good review.

We want to help your track your billing hours quickly and easily on the go.

Billing Hours on the AppStore

 

Thanks