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The Artificial Life of the App Store 106

mikejuk writes "How does the Apple App Store actually work? What is the best strategy to employ if you want to get some users and make some money? There are some pointers on how it all works from an unusual source — artificial life. A pair of researchers Soo Ling Lim and Peter Bentley from University College London, set up an artificial life simulation of the app store's ecosystem. They created app developers with strategies such as — innovate, copy other apps, create useless variations on a basic app or try and optimize the app you have. What they found, among other things, was that the CopyCat strategy was on average the best. When they allow the strategies to compete and developer agents to swap then the use of the CopyCat fell to only 10%. The reason — more than 10% CopyCats resulted in nothing new to copy!"
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The Artificial Life of the App Store

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  • by allo ( 1728082 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @04:51PM (#39765407)

    Of course a copycat can be minimum efford maximum profit in a simplified model, but this strongly depends on the calculation of the fitness-function. I think it can be hard to match the real world fitness-function, because some of the factors that are relevant to an actual user are hard to calculate.

  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @04:53PM (#39765423)

    There's more than one utility function. For example, if wrote an app I would not expect to profit, it would be for fun. Thus I'd give it away for free or a dollar. Someone else might be hoping to make a living at it. too bad.

  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:04PM (#39765513)

    I wonder if they included the idea that frequently it is the copycat that takes off, while the originator languishes in obscurity.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:07PM (#39765541)

    Your study is flawed. For many App Store developers, Apple gets much more than a mere 30% of the developer's revenue.

    To develop and market a $0.99 or $1.99 app, the developer needs to drop many thousands of dollars on various pieces of Apple hardware, and then there's the annual fee that needs to be paid, too. And that's all in addition to the 30% you mention.

    For every developer who does turn an actual profit, there are likely many thousands who suffer very significant losses, even if they try to deny it. Yes, it is considered a net loss when you have to spend $3000 or more for an Apple computer, an iPhone, an iPad, and the annual fee, in addition to many hours of work, just to bring in $50 to $100 in revenue.

  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:18PM (#39765617) Journal
    It died out because not even hippies like to camp out in the winter. The current reboot of it is calling itself "The American Spring" or "the 99% spring" and they're back to protesting now that the weather is warm again.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:26PM (#39765675)

    That's no different than any other development model, or most other businesses. Starting a business is a risk, welcome to reality.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:38PM (#39765749) Homepage Journal

    There's more than one utility function. For example, if wrote an app I would not expect to profit, it would be for fun. Thus I'd give it away for free or a dollar. Someone else might be hoping to make a living at it. too bad.

    This simulation was built to identify profit models, not to maximize developer happiness. But the two are related, and profit will be an element everyone can measure.

    Consider if the app you created turned out to be really fun and truly innovative, and it went viral and sold five hundred thousand copies at $0.99.

    If nothing else, you'd learn that half a million users can be awfully demanding. You might find yourself mired in support requests, and have to decide whether or not you can support it yourself or if you want to sell it to a game company so they can manage it. If nothing else, you might be surprised when you discover you have to pay taxes on a whole lot more income than you thought. The point is that at some financial threshold, you will probably have to take it seriously. My threshold might be higher or lower than yours, but in this simulation, it doesn't really matter. It would change your personal view of profiting from your work.

  • by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @06:34PM (#39766107)

    Are you just trolling or do you not know about Zynga's practices []? Google them, they copy most of their game ideas, while filing suit [] against anyone who copies one of their game ideas. They're completely amoral, or worse.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @07:24PM (#39766357) Journal
    There is no major performance difference between a Sandy Bridge macbook pro and a mac mini esp. at 13". The 15" can get a quad core, but so can mac mini server. For a 'high end' non-mac pro desktop you are looking at $1000 for mac mini server with a i7 in it. Add in another $400 for a decent SSD (DIY, apple reacts too slow to market prices) and you are good to go. So $1000(Comp) + $120 (RAM) + SSD ($400) = $1520 one time fee for a screaming fast dev environment. What is the problem here?

    By the way the refurb prices i quoted are direct from Apple, sold by Apple, on the Apple website with full warranty and confidence, not some 3rd party bullshit. The rest of your argument runs off into ROI fantasy land.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobbieThe1st ( 1977364 ) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @07:46PM (#39766509)

    I must point out that you are missing one crucial factor - Just because your app doesn't sell(or does, for that matter), the hardware is still usable. You can always install Windows on your Mac and have a fully functional PC and develop for Windows(same with Linux, for that matter). You can also use that same machine as a gaming/internet box. So the real "apple tax" is more like $99/year + (cost of Mac - cost of equavlent Dell system) + cost of iDevice(and possibly +$100 for a copy of windows). Not quite as high as it might seem.

    Disclaimer: I do not own any Apple products, and consider iDevices useless junk. But that doesn't mean I can't give credit where it is due.

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