SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the iPhone launched in 2007, apps were almost an after-thought.
But with the iPad, apps have taken center screen. Developers are scrambling to have their iPad programs ready in time for Saturday’s launch or shortly thereafter. And on Wednesday, top Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — caught up in the enthusiasm for the forthcoming tablet — announced it was doubling its Apple iFund for app code writers to $200 million.
This is about more than geek bragging rights. It’s smart business.
Many of these programmers learned a lesson from the launch of Apple’s hit iPhone: In a highly competitive market for games, media readers and other applications, it’s critical to be early. And a lucky few — no one will say who — have been given access to the iPad to get their apps ready on time. Such is the attraction of the iPhone — and now iPad — ecosystem that Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers announced Wednesday it was upping its venture bet on promising applications by
Being first to display iPad apps in the App Store gives developers an edge over competitors because being discovered is much easier when the number of iPad apps is small. Many will be lost in the crowd when the number of apps reaches into the thousands and then tens of thousands. There are now some 150,000 iPhone apps in the nearly two-year-old App Store.
It’s uncertain how many apps for the iPad — either made exclusively for the new device or upgraded from the iPhone — will be available this weekend, but most speculate at least 200 will go on sale when Apple stores open their doors Saturday. In addition, most of the 150,000 apps that run on the iPhone will be to operate on the iPad.
“It’s definitely going to be important to be first out there,” said Steve Demeter, a San Francisco developer whose puzzle game Trism was among the first apps in the App Store after it launched in July 2008. He says he made $250,000 in the first two months. The instant success enabled him to quit his job writing software for Wells Fargo and start his own app development company, Demiforce.
“They are scrambling like crazy. It’s another form of land grab,” said Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile analytics company that gives developers a tool that compiles information about the use of their applications. According to its data, 40 percent of the apps being developed for the iPad are games.
It’s the ultimate street cred in the developer’s world — getting hands on an iPad before it hits the market. Those who Apple has given access to the multimedia tablets have a distinct advantage over those stuck using an iPad simulator provided by the Cupertino, Calif., company.
“I would like to say I have one in my hand, but I don’t,” said a dejected Jeff Whatcott, senior vice president of marketing at Brightcove, an online video platform that has created the technology to allow Web sites to run video on the iPad using Apple’s required HTML5 standard.
Developers who have been given iPads have been pledged to secrecy by Apple, but Whatcott says the favored ones are easy to spot.
“They have a swagger,” he said. “But I can’t tell you which ones have (an iPad) because they will be universally hated.”
Apple has much to gain by over-excited developers working around the clock to create compelling apps for its latest creation. While the iPad has eye-candy appeal, the real buzz generator is what consumers can do with the multimedia tablet that is part e-reader, part gaming device and part online video player.
“The more there is innovation in the apps, the greater the consumer interest will be for the iPad,” said Randy Breen, CEO of SGN, a mobile gaming platform and publisher.
The deadline to have iPad apps reviewed by Apple in time for the launch was last Saturday. Nonetheless, observers say developers still have a couple of months to take advantage of being among the first creators of iPad apps.
“First-mover advantage can be an accelerant, but what really wins out are apps that are beautifully designed,” San Francisco tech consultant Raven Zachary said.
When the App Store was launched in 2008, there were already millions of iPhone users ready to gobble up new apps, he said. “What we have here (with the iPad) is a new device with gradual demand (for apps) as it is rolled out,” Zachary added.
Ge Wang, the Stanford University assistant professor and cofounder of Smule, struck pay dirt with “Ocarina.” The virtual flute app for the iPhone was rolled out more than three months after the App Store open. “Ocarina” has since rung up sales of $2 million.
Wang and his 20-member staff company are creating an iPad app that he hopes will launch Saturday.
Ngmoco will release iPad versions of its popular iPhone games, “We Rule,” “GodFinger” and “Charadium,” as well as iPad exclusive offerings “CastleCraft” and “Warp Gate,” said Clive Downie, vice president of marketing for the game developer.
Asked if he expects Ngmoco games to be available Saturday, Downie said, “I hope so.” He would not say if his company had early access to the iPad. “I can’t tell you,” he said. “We gotta respect Apple’s wishes.”
While it’s important to get apps out early, Downie said it’s even more important that the apps be of high quality.
“I think good games sell whenever, but good games that come out first are generally the titles that are the foundation of the (new) platform,” he said. “They define the platform — they are evergreen titles that stick around.”