I thought it might be helpful to both Adobe and other publishers to post some real-world feedback from one of our clients.
But first, some background:
We are a book publisher moving into the realm of book apps. Our book apps or not at all like their printed counterparts and mix in a bunch of new content and interactive features. Our apps are also not like magazines, which is what DPS feels like it was designed for.
We've been doing some testing with DPS, especially as it relates to a business model for us and our clients. We've also been testing resolutions, and figuring out the differences between single-issue and multi-issue apps.
I posted an overview of where our tests led us in terms of single vs. multi, here:
and I posted some resolutions tests to see if an iPad 1/2 resolution app would look "good enough" on an iPad 3 (or the new iPad), here:
and finally an overview of what we hope Adobe will do with single-issue apps and renditions, here:
With all of that said as a backdrop, we presented an interested client with the option of publishing two single-issue apps (iPad 1/2 and iPad 3) or publishing one multi-issue app.
Pricing wise, we kept our design fees the same with either option. The only pricing difference was $395x2 for the single-issue app route vs. a monthly charge to help us offset Adobe's monthly charge for the multi-issue app.
The questions from the client and answers from us went like this, in roughly this order:
Q: With the single-issue app, we don't pay an ongoing monthly fee?
A: Correct. It's just the up-front per-app fee.
Q: And in the multi-issue app arrangement, it doesn't matter how little our sales trickle in 6-9 months down the line, we're still paying the monthly fee if we want to have the app for sale at all?
Q: Does either option limit us in terms of how long the app will be available for download?
A: No. Both options allow for ongoing sales of the app. The primary difference being you pay monthly to keep the app "alive" for multi-issue apps whereas single-issue apps live indefinitely with no monthly cost.
Q: So it seems like single-issue apps are the way for us.
A: From a pricing standpoint alone, yes, because most of your app sales will occur in the first month or two and single-issue apps do not carry any monthly costs down the line. That said, single-issue apps have some serious limitations.
A: For starters, we would have to develop two apps to target iPad 1/2 and iPad 3.
Q: So the customer would have to make the choice? We are expecting the customer to get technical and figure out which app is for their device?
A: Yes. Renditions only exist in multi-issue apps, currently.
Q: Let's suppose we can get over that because eventually we will want to develop an Android version and a Kindle Fire version and in that case we are expecting customers to know which app works on their device...
A: Let me stop you there. Single-issue apps only work for iPad.
Q: So if we go the single-issue route, we simply can't ever develop an Android or Kindle Fire app?
A: Not as a single-issue app for any other platform than iPad. If it was essential you release on other platforms, we could look into converting the single-issue app into a multi-issue app later on, although we'd be looking at that monthly charge again.
Q: Right, which simply doesn't make sense for our app because of its timely nature.
A: We agree. Let's give up developing for other platforms for now and even indefinitely and focus in on just the iPad single-issue app development.
Q: Okay. So we release two apps, one for iPad 1/2 and one for iPad 3 using single-issue apps. What if we want to update the app down the road? Do we update both apps at once?
A: Actually, with single-issue apps, you can't update the app. Once it's submitted to Apple, it's locked in once and for all. Only multi-issue apps can be updated.
Q: That's another serious issue for us. Are there any other limitations we haven't discussed?
A: There are two more limitations: 1) Single-issue apps rely on the latest version of Adobe Content Viewer approved by Apple. Currently, version 19 of Adobe's DPS tools work with the Adobe Content Viewer that's approved and live in the App Store. That means we can develop your app using v19 of Adobe's tools but will have to hold off on updating to v20. This isn't so much a real issue as a potential issue. If, for example, v20 has some killer feature you really want to have, we simply couldn't use it. 2) Single-issue apps have no analytics.
Q: With all of these limitations, we're going to have to discuss internally which way to go. What's your recommendation?
A: All things considered, we think single-issue apps is the best solution now for your app. We have no exact target sales numbers in mind, but it's almost a certainty you will sell 80% of all app sales in the first 1-2 months. Knowing you want to keep the app available indefinitely means a single-issue app is the only way to go.
After two days and a few conference calls, the client decided to move forward with two single-issue apps, although a bit begrudgingly. We didn't pull any punches and let them know we expect Adobe to spend some time refining their pricing strategy and unifying the feature set as the technology starts to grow up. At this point, the seemingly wonky pricing structure and feature parity is the cost of being on the bleeding edge.
And we are now jumping into developing the app with DPS for our client. I should say, however, we are also working quickly to come up with a viable HTML5 route for publishing to avoid Adobe's system altogether. At this point I anticipate we will move to HTML in the next 2-5 months if Adobe's pricing/features don't start to move toward what we need. If we do jump to HTML, the answer to most clients' questions will be, "we can do that; for cheap; on all devices" and so on, which is a pretty attractive thing.
This ended up being considerably longer than I had originally envisioned, but my hope is it is useful for Adobe in refining the product and helpful for other publishers just starting down the DPS path.