Good Reads for March, 2015

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of curated reads about the wonderful world of Apple. They might be a little longer than the pieces we share in the daily morning news, but they’ll always be worth your time. Bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • The Apple Watch goes up for pre-order next week, and with many of the questions surrounding the Apple Watch having already been answered, Benedict Evans kicks off Good Reads this month by asking perhaps the only question that remains: why is Apple making a gold watch? The answer also relates to why people buy $10,000 watches in the first place.

One could argue that it’s a vanity project, or that Apple’s doing this just because it can, or that a few hundred million dollars still matters at Apple (as indeed it does). But I think it’s more interesting to compare it with Apple retail. Despite its prominence, this is only about 10% of Apple’s revenue. It’s much more important as marketing. And it’s great marketing.

  • Crossy Road made waves a month or so back, thanks to simple, Frogger-like gameplay and the easy-to-play, hard-to-master mechanic so few games achieve. Unlike other App Store titles that have gone on to earn infamy, Crossy Road doesn’t try to nickel-and-dime you with in-app purchases — but it still earned Australian developer Matt Hall $10 million dollars from 50 million downloads.

Crossy Road is the rare story of success at the intersection of art, commerce, design and marketing. It’s about lessons learned in hard times and a games maker who thought he might never go back to GDC after one terrible year. It’s about a pair of developers who, in fact, did set out to create a video gaming phenomenon — and succeeded.

  • For every App Store success story, there’s yet another developer who is struggling to make a living, further hampered by an App Store that leans towards unsustainable software. Indie developers often have no choice but to abandon their previous apps in order to work on the next big thing, but that creates a kind of App Store dumping ground.

At the end of the day, it’s in the best interest of both consumers and developers to price software sustainably. Consumers get an app that provides them value while developers get to make a living, it’s a win-win. Pricing software cheaply means that your software is doomed and has no future, guaranteed.

  • I’m not even sure how to begin describing this piece by Eli Schiff, at least not in any succinct way. It talks about the recent topic of criticising Apple, and how that affects the developers that rely Apple for their living. On the one hand there’s the argument that says not to bite the hand that feeds you, but on the other, critically asking questions is the only way things improve. It’s a fine line to tread.

Worse than the fact that this criticism is relegated to verbal discussions is that it is later renounced by the very same designers and developers when they are interviewed in the more permanent-seeming medium of the written word. In written interviews, these fair-weather critics go on to reverse their opinions and praise the products of modern minimalist UI design because it is more convenient not to risk questioning powerful industry leaders.

  • A new Steve Jobs biography was released this week, which sparked off a reaction from the press. The battle for who Steve Jobs was, as Steven Levy puts it, is between Walter Isaacson’s official biography and Brett Schlender’s Becoming Steve Jobs. Schlender’s title has now been called the one that presents the most complete view of Apple’s co-founder.

But privately, those closest to Jobs complained that Isaacson’s portrait focused too heavily on the Apple CEO’s worst behavior, and failed to present a 360-degree view of the person they knew. Though the book Steve Jobs gave copious evidence of its subject’s talent and achievements, millions of readers finished the book believing that he could be described with a word that rhymes with “gas hole.”

  • Bonus read: if you haven’t read Fortune’s profile of Tim Cook, you should. Cook has not only been an exemplary leader for one of the world’s biggest companies, he’s also changed the culture within and started his own voice as a public figure.

What can be said is that each in its own way constitutes proof that Apple is moving forward under its first nonfounder CEO since Gil Amelio got the ax in 1997. What’s more, those moves and others speak volumes about Cook’s leadership, at least measured against the widespread assumption that he would simply mind the company Jobs left in his custody.

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