Saturday, March 13, 2010

What happened to Simplify Media for iPhone?

One of my customers pointed out to me today that Simplify Media pulled their apps from the iTunes app store AND may be shutting their doors in the next few months, or at least taking it "in a new direction". Anyway, I find it a bit sad that such a promising product would disappear overnight, but I can't really say that I'm surprised at all by this. I've never understood the "give things away" model. While Google can seemingly give and give and give for free, they a) have a HUGE source of revenue (namely advertising) and b) have ways to make money already in place for many of these freebies (ie, ads in gmail, youtube, etc.).

I suppose that the part that surprises me most is that it took them so long to realize that they didn't have a sustainable business model... I watched (at first with joy) as they dropped in ranking as the raised the price of the app, and charged again for a very minor update, but as they kept dropping with what was (in my opinion) a great product and with enormous amounts of press, something more seemed to be wrong. The server part of ooTunes is really not a blockbuster and I attribute that primarily to 2 things: 1) it's really a niche market... there simply aren't that many people who have huge music libraries who aren't okay just syncing songs selectively with their devices and 2) the setup for remote serving is a tricky proposition. Simplify made it "just work" but they did so at the cost of centralizing it, meaning they were footing the bandwidth bill for all that streaming... doesn't take a genius to know that when you give something away that encourages using lots of bandwidth, and you're paying for that bandwidth, you're going to run out of money! The ooTunes server can (and will) keep working for years to come, because the cost to me to keep it up and running (other than development time, etc.) is miniscule compared to the bandwidth bills of Simplify (who, if you don't know, gave away their product to probably 10s if not 100s of thousands of users before ever charging a dime!)

Simplify probably could have started selling ads to cover some of those costs, except that they'd then started selling the app, and that kinda doesn't make for happy customers either!

So, I guess we'll know what they come up with in the next 3 months to overcome their current problems, and I do hope they don't just drop all those of us who've paid for their app (or paid twice or even thrice).

So if you're reading this and you're wondering what life would be like without Simplify Media, I invite you to give ooTunes a try. I can't promise the same setup simplicity or sharing your friends music, but I've been using ooTunes every day for over 2 years now, and it's very solid and powerful for those who want all their music on their 16 gig phone.

If you're at all unsatisfied with the ooTunes Server, I have a 30 day refund policy, and I'm not afraid to use it! I'll be the first to admit that it's not for everyone...