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Saturday 17 January 2009

iPhone App Store Hits 500 million Downloads

Apple are now advertising that the App Store passed the 500million download mark recently which is a pretty impressive number no matter how you look at it.

I’m always suspicious of these sort of claims because (naturally)  any company will try to put as positive a spin on numbers like these as they can so I dug a little bit to see if they give a breakdown of what the number actually means – unfortunately Apple don’t really publish enough data to really figure out what that 500million actually means but there is just about enough other data out there to work it out for ourselves.

There are various estimates in the Blogoshphere of 16-18 million iPhones sold to date. That seems reasonable as there’s solid info from Apple that there were 4 million total to date at the start of 2008 and TMO showed that at least 10 million were sold or in the distribution channel by the end of September 2008 so 17 million seems like a good estimate of the total. There is very little info on the total number of iPod Touch sales but there are some hints – notably that the iPod Touch now outsells the iPod classic and that the average selling price for all iPods is in the $150-$160 range with a total volume of around 40million units for the year. A reasonable total number from that would be 6million or so iPod Touches for the year and something like 8 million in total. So overall we’re looking at about 25million potential iTunes App store users as of the end of December.

That would give us 20 downloads per user which is a remarkable number. Power users on high end Symbian\Windows Mobile phones would have downloaded some apps but on average a typical mobile phone user rarely downloads and installs any applications at all, for Apple to have created an ecosystem where the average user downloads 20 apps over a period of 6 months is incredible.

Looking at my own iPhone I have a total of 53 separate apps downloaded. Digging a bit deeper that breaks down into 18 paid apps and 35 free apps. Looking at the invoices from the iTunes Store it appears that I have a total of 74 downloads recorded which means that in addition the the basic downloads for new apps I’ve had 21 update downloads. That seems a bit low to me but it’s possible that it’s right and it’s definitely not significantly off the mark as most apps never seem to get updated. I’ve spent a total of €65.22 on the 18 paid apps. Now I’d say that I’m probably more likely than most to pay for apps so let’s assume that the average user (with 20 downloads) breaks down to 15 apps in total, 3 of which are paid apps with a total cost of ~€10 at an average cost of around $3-$4 each.

That should then mean that the App Store would have pulled in about €250m in 2008 with 30% ($75m) of that going to Apple. Those numbers are in the middle of the range of the $50-$100m estimate from Silicon Valley Insider at the start of December which was based on total downloads of 300m. I think they overestimated the percentage of paid apps (at 33% versus my guess of about 20%) but the average price is certainly right at $3 per paid app.

It’s useful to compare this reality to Eric Schonfield’s June 11 2008 TechCrunch article on projected iPhone App Sales for 2009 where he was tearing down a prediction of $1.2billion revenue from iTunes Apps in 2009 by Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster. Schonfield correctly predicts that at least 70% of apps will be free and that the average price will trend towards $3 or less per paid app. He then also correctly estimates that the total number of iPhones by the end of the year will be around 16million and estimates the total iPhone sales for 2009 will be 25million at most. In fact the seems to think that the cumulative iPhone numbers by the end of 2009 will be somewhere between 25 million (ie 10 million new sales in 2009) and 50 million (the more optimistic but still realistic upper end estimates from other analysts) and implies that total revenues from the App Store are therefore likely to be between $150m and $300m. What he got dead wrong is that the average user appears to be downloading at a rate of around 30 apps per year and paying for around 6 of those. There’s no shame in that to be fair, I don’t think that any rational commenter at the time thought the App Store would be as popular as it has turned out to be.

I also think that he failed to factor in the iPod Touch which appears to be a very significant factor for the App Store and I personally I think the total number of iPhones\iPod Touches by the end of 2009 will almost certainly be close to 55m (the existing 25 million + about 30 million new sales in 2009). As we now have strong evidence that the average App sales number appears to be about $10 per device over 6 months (and it’s accelerating remember, not slowing down yet) so that total revenue projection of $1.2bn for the App Store for 2009 actually looks like a good bet right now, despite the recession. 

Wednesday 14 January 2009

More On Windows 7

So after three days using Windows 7 in anger in a consumer sense I’ve got to say that it’s a fairly impressive offering for a Beta, it’s certainly going to become my default OS at home and probably at work too now that I have the option to switch to it.

I’ve been using it on my XPS M1330 at home in full Windows 7 mode, Aero interface with all the eye candy turned on and also at work in a VM where Aero doesn’t work. The difference in usability surprised me – I’ve always found Aero on Vista to be pointless overhead but in Windows 7 the eye-candy is actually useful and the UI improvements with Aero-7 make it a must have for me.

Speed wise and memory footprint wise it’s as fast as and maybe quicker than Vista on the same hardware (full boot+login to a usable desktop takes ~43 seconds from cold on my M1330 (2.2GHz Core Duo\4GB RAM), Vista takes ~44). Memory footprint for both Vista and Windows 7 on this hardware is about 1GB RAM with a pair of browsers (IE8 & Chrome) open. On the VM on my work laptop (a Dell Latitude D630 with a 2.2Ghz Core Duo and 2GB RAM) Windows 7 boots in about 60 seconds including logging in but uses only about 500Meg RAM of the 1GB assigned to the VM with the same two browsers running. Interestingly VMware Workstation 6.5’s “New VM” Wizard handles Windows 7 seamlessly giving a completely zero touch installation that took about 35 minutes to install from the DVD.

No crashes so far on either system and the only glitch has been that I can’t find a way to disable “Tap to Click” on the touchpad on the M1330.

There’s quite a nifty blog entry here  from Tim Sneath at Microsoft that lists a bunch of the new features which includes a couple of things I’d missed on Monday – most notably the CTRL+WIN+Left/Right arrow for moving maximized windows between monitors on a multi monitor display, ALT+CTRL+TAB for tabbing between windows within a single app, CTRL+Shift while clicking on an icon to launch with elevated privileges, WIN+Space for peaking at the desktop, Shift+Right click on a folder in Explorer adds Open-in-New-Process and Command-Prompt-Here.

Digging deeper I went scratching around for further changes within apps and came up with the following initial list for those curious about the command line environment that Windows 7 delivers. There are a few but on reflection the number of changes are quite small.

Robocopy:  Additional switch options not present in Windows Vista Version.

  • /EFSRAW :: copy all encrypted files in EFS RAW mode.
  • /DCOPY:T :: COPY Directory Timestamps.
  • /SECFIX :: FIX file Security on all files, even skipped files.
  • /TIMFIX :: FIX file Times on all files, even skipped files.
  • /SL :: copy symbolic links versus the target.
  • /MT[:n] :: Do multi-threaded copies with n threads (default 8).
  •              n must be at least 1 and not greater than 128.
  •              This option is incompatible with the /IPG and /EFSRAW options
  •              Redirect output using /LOG option for better performance.
  • /FFT :: assume FAT File Times (2-second granularity).
  • /DST :: compensate for one-hour DST time differences.
  • /XJD :: eXclude Junction points for Directories.
  • /XJF :: eXclude Junction points for Files.
  • /BYTES :: Print sizes as bytes.
  • /UNICODE :: output status as UNICODE.

Netsh: Additional contexts not present in Vista version

  • branchcache    - Changes to the `netsh branchcache' context.
  • dnsclient      - Changes to the `netsh dnsclient' context.
  • namespace      - Changes to the `netsh namespace' context.
  • trace          - Changes to the `netsh trace' context.
  • wcn            - Changes to the `netsh wcn' context.
  • wfp            - Changes to the `netsh wfp' context.
  • wwan           - Changes to the `netsh wwan' context.

Ipconfig: Additional ipv6 options, drops “compartments” concept

Diskpart: Support commands for Virtual Disks (Attach, Detach, Expand, Merge..)

Sc.exe: Adds support for service triggers \ trigger queries

Setspn.exe:  Register custom Service Principle Names in DNS

Tzutil.exe:  Enables scripted timezone changes


New Apps / Features:

Isoburn.exe: Compact GUI app for burning an iso to a CD\DVD

PSR.exe: Problem Steps Recorder.

Resource Monitor: Significantly enhanced version of the Resource Monitor that was previously available only from within TaskManager->Performance tab but is now also in the Start Menu.

Includes additional summary features for each heading using a tabbed interface in particular providing a very useful Physicial Memory utilization graphic.

Private Character Editor: Roll your own customized characters\fonts.

Admin tools now has a more logical home in the Start Menu -> Maintenance menu in addition to being buried inside the Control Panel.

Aero Shake: Pretty nifty clutter clearing – minimizes all other windows when you grab a window title bar and “shake” it. Additional gestures are supported elsewhere – left click+hold and then an upward “swoosh” gesture on the taskbar opens the right context menu (it’s more intuitive than it sounds and great on a touchscreen)

Smart Maximizing\restore\tiling by dragging a window to the top of the screen it automatically maximizes, by dragging it to the left or right edge it grows to fill a tile that takes up half the screen set flush against which ever side you drag it to. Dragging the title bar away from the edge restores the window to it’s former size.

Fonts Subsystem has been given a whole new look, no more windows 3.1 Add fonts dialog. Yaay.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Windows 7 Public Beta

I’m an unapologetic fan of Vista so I’ve been following the whole Windows 7 thing with interest but without feeling a desperate need to get a copy using any means necessary. The whole [very] public Beta appealed to me though so I duly downloaded it yesterday, hacked out a 30GB partition from the system drive of my M1330 (using a GParted Live CD, Windows Vista still can’t reliably shrink a system volume that has been in use for any reasonable length of time) and installed it.

First impressions were pretty underwhelming. I thought the look and feel was a bit flat and didn’t notice anything significant apart from the tweaked Task Bar.

After some digging I found that the installer had left me with a “customized” theme that basically turned off a lot of the UI enhancements. Once I switched to a full Windows 7 Theme it started to look pretty good and then I got digging in earnest and actually found some stuff that I quite liked. Seems like a very nice set of bumped up features at this stage without too many downsides, although this is after just a couple of hours nosing about so I’ll be revisiting this in a week or two to see what I think of it then.

There are some nifty improvements:

  • The new style Taskbar is actually quite nice and seem like a sensible UI improvement. Items on the takbar have more intelligent context menus and Win 7 aware apps display a lot of extra info in both the taskbar icon itself (e.g download progress in IE, Presence status info in Messenger) and awareness of tabs within the mouseover previews.
  • The “mouse over the end of the taskbar to temporarily display the desktop” trick is simple but useful and effective.
  • “Sidebar” is gone but gadgets now have a proper place to live – on the desktop, shich is conveniently now easy to get a quick look at.
  • There seem to be quite a few extra “Windows Key + X” shortcuts - Win+P brings up a tab ribbon for handling connectivity to a projector, Win+Arrow keys tell the current window to maximise,minimise,dock to the left or dock to the right. Win+G brings all the Gadgets temporarily to the foreground. Win+T cycles through the Taskbar items. Things like Win+E (Explorer), Win+D (Desktop), Win+F (Find), Win+R (Run) remain as useful as ever.
  • Powershell V2 is included by default ( finally )
  • There’s quite a nice quick shortcut in the Start Menu that directly brings you to a new “Devices and Printers” control screen that sort of kind of makes it easier to get to most of the setup screens for your “add-on” hardware.
  • UAC seems to have been given a major dose of common sense – user initiated tasks that require elevation no longer trigger a UAC confirmation but program initiated actions do. Seems like an excellent balance to me.
  • WLAN’s are detected during the OS install and immediately used to download patches and updates. That’s a good idea.
  • The concept of file system “Libraries” is introduced – these are collections of files and folders that are presented and used as a single unit without needing to move the underlying files around. Finally we’re getting towards a sensible way to add proper classification structure to collections of files. I very much like this idea.
  • We still have dear old Edlin.
  • All of the hardware on my laptop was detected and got up to date drivers installed (that includes the Video driver for the Geforce 8400M GS, Intel 3945ABG WLAN, Ricoh SD\XD\CF Card Reader, Creative Labs Webcam, Touchpad..
  • The install was quick (20-25 minutes at most) and required very little interaction.
  • There appears to be a new higher security layer (facilitated by the Homegroup services) added in to the network places structure by default to ensure that some level of protection is applied to all those easily hacked into Home Networks out there.
  • There’s now an option to link your Windows login with an online account. This is a very interesting development and should enable more seamless utilization of online services and sharing\sync across machines. The option doesn’t do anything yet but I’ll be keeping an eye on that feature for certain.
  • Once again we have the ability to create a System Recovery Disc (as we did in Vista SP1 Beta but not in the full release of Vista SP1 for some reason)
  • We finally have the option to create a full system (Image) backup natively with a Windows OS. 
  • All saved credentials seem to be stored in a single location called the Credential Vault that can be selectively backed up and restored. Individual items within it can be selectively removed too. Very, very good ideas.
  • Location Sensors (GPS) and location awareness are now configurable as a standard item via the Control Panel.

Performance wise it seems to match the existing Vista install pretty closely apart from having a noticably slower hard drive – but that is entirely due to the fact that I’m using the last (and thus slowest) 30GB of space on this drive for the Windows 7 boot partition.

Everything I’ve tried to run so far runs without a hitch (My XP\Vista portable apps collection all works fine, Firefox 3, Google Chrome, Dropbox Sync + its Explorer plugin, Shockwave\Flash, GTalk’s video plugin).

On the negative side (comparing to Vista remember):

  • Finding things like the Advanced Display Settings dialogs, or the properties of a NIC or where to change your TCP/IP Settings and so on remain just as obnoxiously awkward as they are in Vista.
  • That default Theme I ended up almost turned me off the thing right at the start – maybe I caused that but it really did give me a very bad first impression.
  • Contrary to rumour it doesn’t have a smaller footprint at least on this system but I would only expect that to be evident on very small\low powered sytems if it is true and this is not one of those systems.
  • IE8 is pants, nuff said.

So overall it seems like far more pluses than minuses and there are some very, very interesting things hinted at in the features that have been exposed at this stage.