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Laridian and Native iPhone Apps Redux

Posted on: January 18th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 29 Comments

Please note the date on this post. Read our more recent posts on the iPhone for more up-to-date information.

I want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the discussion we’ve been having about the upcoming iPhone SDK (due out next month) and Laridian’s plans with respect to a native iPhone app. I want to clarify a few points and let you know what the future holds with respect to the iPhone and iPocketBible.

Our position from the beginning has been that we’re neither going to commit to a native iPhone app nor refuse to do one until we see the SDK. Some of you interpreted my comments about not doing a native app in the present (that is, before the SDK is released) to imply that we’re not going to do one in the future (that is, after the SDK is released). This is not a valid assumption.

I admit I’ve probably been egging you on a little bit. I love a good discussion but I want people to make sound arguments. I’ve been defending the “no native apps” position more strongly here on the blog than I actually hold to in person in order to see if I can get you to give me some better arguments in favor of native apps. While playing devil’s advocate, I’ve always been careful to clarify that I’m not saying we’d never do a native app, but for those who don’t always read to the end of my comments before firing off a response, you got the impression that we’re pretty entrenched.

So here’s where we really stand: We’re not going to make a decision about a native iPhone app until we see the SDK and have time to study it. If you got the impression our minds were already made up, you got the wrong impression. To the extent that I gave you that impression, it’s either the case that you misread what I wrote or that I didn’t write as clearly as I thought. I would apologize for the latter if I didn’t strongly suspect the former was the real problem. :-)

Furthermore, we won’t announce our decision about a native iPhone app one way or the other until well after the SDK is released. Don’t expect a comment the next day saying that we’re definitely working on a native app. Don’t assume that we’re not working on a native app if you don’t hear anything from us. Don’t assume that we are working on a native app if we refuse to say one way or the other. Don’t expect us to announce the fact that we’ve decided not to do a native iPhone app, even if we have.

If we decide to develop a native iPhone app, the chances are good that we won’t say anything about it until it’s ready for beta testing. If we decide not to develop a native iPhone app, we won’t say so because there’s always a chance we’ll change our mind. We don’t want to chase people away who might otherwise wait for an app to come from us instead of going to a competitor.

Don’t expect a native app (if we decide to do such a thing) to appear a week or a month or maybe even six months after the SDK is released. All good things take time. During that time we will be neither confirming nor denying that the work is underway. Yeah, it’s frustrating, but that’s how it goes.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do to encourage us to develop a native iPhone app is to purchase the iPocketBible subscription service. This might seem counterproductive if you’re really dead-set on getting a native app, but the only gauge we have of your interest in an iPhone app is sales of iPocketBible subscriptions. If interest drops off, then why would we want to invest $100K or more in developing an app for a non-existent audience?

I’ve deleted the most active blog post on this topic in an effort to bring the discussion to an end. We’ve heard all the arguments. Some of them were good. We’ll weigh them all as we consider what we do next. We just won’t necessarily be sharing that decision with the world until it’s in our interest to do so.

29 Responses

  1. Chad says:

    As a faithful subscriber and customer, I hope (vote for) a native app. Furthermore, if you decide to create a native app, I would love to be a beta tester.

    a native app would have to be faster than the Edge service. And many times my Edge service is not available to include in my Church’s worship service location. I think i would use more of the dictionary/commentary/notes features if there was a native app. you have a great product and no other company (IMO) is on the cutting edge of synchronization and portability like you are.

    thanks for what you have done thus far. Please consider this one user’s opinion. Perhaps it would represent many other users.

  2. Martin says:

    I echo brother Chad’s hopes. I too am a subscriber and customer, and long for the days of using MyBible 4 on my Palm TX. It’s sad to think that I have to look back on old and broken devices for something that should work much better on my iPhone. If you do release a native app, count on me for an immediate sale! And I would love to beta test as well.

  3. Dave says:

    I’ve got two iPocketBible subscriptions, and I’d buy more but I’ve run out of devices. :)

    I’d buy a native app almost without thinking about it.

  4. Josh says:

    I too have been a user of MyBible for over 6 years on my Palm, but when I switched to the iPhone, I just couldn’t get used to the web version. I would buy a native app on the day it came out (if you’re looking for reasons)

  5. justin says:

    I started with myBible years ago on my palm. I miss it and would love to see something very similar to it as a native app for the iPhone. I’m using ipocketbible but the edge netwok is to slow for my likings. I would purchase a native app ASAP.

  6. Ryan says:

    MyBible is the biggest reason I am sticking with a Palm Treo 650. If a native app came out, I would switch to an iPhone. I really miss reading the Bible on my Clie with the 480×320 screen, especially with 3 translations open. An iPhone would be a good solution to that.

    If I draw a cross on the iPhone screen with my finger, will MyBible play a mp3 of “Jesus loves me” or put up a picture of Jesus on the cross? That would be a really cool easter egg.

  7. Don Wood says:

    I really like the idea of you guys maintaining the product instead of me trying to keep it up to date on a PDA. I think the slowness is an EDGE problem, not an iBible problem. Do you have better results running on a 3G network?? Like others, I really do miss the speed of the product when I used it on a Palm PDA. Nothing else comes close to the iBible though, so I’m with you whatever!! If I could get my church to have WiFi available . . . . . . !

  8. Brett Bullock says:

    I’ve been a PocketBible owner and fan for several years. I now have an iPod Touch and I’d love to migrate my PocketBible to that from my Treo but WiFi coverage isn’t available everywhere I need it. I need a native app before I can make the switch.

  9. OK no subscription so I’ll take that as a “no native app” vote. Thanks! :-)

  10. Alan Smith says:

    It’s rediculose to say that if we purchase your web app you will be more likely to build a native app.. You by no means should expect us to buy something that does not meet our requirments in the hopes that you will take that as a sign to fill those requirements.

    I am the CEO of a internet based software SaaS firm and know that you have to build what the market needs and to the technology that is currently available. I think you missed the mark in your market research which you should do ahead of launching a product. All you have to do is search the internet to see the VAST outcry for a native bible with multiple translations available. This outcry has been going on since the iPhone and iTouch were launched.

    I also think that it is completely unrealistic to think that people will only read and study the scripture where there is an internet connection. It is probably, in reality, the complete opposite. Don’t most people retreat to study and spend time in the scriptures.

    Please don’t ask people to buy your product if it does not meet their needs, that is insulting. Instead listed to your consumers and create the products that then need.

  11. Alan,

    Perhaps you should read the article to which you’re replying. That explains the context of my comment about signing up for the iPocketBible.com site.

    While you seem to be complaining about the lack of a native iPhone app, I’m glad to at least see you agree with our logic. As president of some big technology company, you “know that you have to build what the market needs and to the technology that is currently available”. Right on. So we built sophisticated Bible app that the iPhone user community needs using the AJAX technology that is currently available. Of course we had no other choice, since the SDK doesn’t exist yet.

    While I agree that people “retreat to study and spend time in the scriptures” it’s not a requirement that they be out of cellular and WiFi range in order to spend time in the Bible. In fact, for most people, cellular and WiFi signals are ubiquitous. And the evidence that we have from our existing, rapidly growing customer base suggests that thousands of people are having no trouble finding the connectivity they need to use iPocketBible.com on their iPhone.

    I disagree that asking people to buy a product is insulting, whether it meets their needs or not. To suggest so is to suggest that people don’t have the brains to think for themselves. In fact, THAT is insulting. You’re saying that the people who subscribe to iPocketBible.com are just too stupid to realize that their needs aren’t being met.

    And let’s see, that’s one more non-subscriber for a total of two “no native app” votes. :-)

  12. Scott Blanford says:

    I have been using the iPockekBible.com since its launch. I would however prefer to have a native app. There are two many times that I need to look up multiple verses in a short time and I can not get to them quickly enough. With or without wifi.

    Thank you for the great products that you have, and I look forward to the native app that you will be launching soon.

  13. The fastest way to get to a new verse is to use the Find button instead of Go To. Type the full reference into the search box. When the program sees a Bible reference it treats it like a go-to operation instead of a search. Just be careful of the spell-checker. It doesn’t like most book abbreviations.

  14. Alan says:

    Ok a couple qustions than:

    Are you saying it is not possible to build a native app for the iphone at this point?

    Are you saying that your rapidly growing ipocketbilbe user base is an indication that a native app is not necessary? It may be that it is just all they have at this point.

    My point was not that it was wrong of you to ask people to buy your app but that it was wrong to say “In the meantime, the best thing you can do to encourage us to develop a native iPhone app is to purchase the iPocketBible subscription service. ” The insulting part is that when we say we are not buying your hosted version because it does not meet our needs you take that as “And let’s see, that’s one more non-subscriber for a total of two “no native app” votes. :-)” when we are voting YES YES YES YES to a native app that meets our needs and you are manipulating our votes.

    If you can’t make a native app for the iphone at this point just say that and that you will do one when you can. As for deciding if you should or not just search the internet an you will see a large outcry for it.

  15. Yes, I’m saying it’s not possible to build a native app for the iPhone without asking people to hack their devices and potentially void their warranties. Sorry; I thought that was a well-known fact.

    No, I’m not saying that our rapidly growing iPocketBible user base is an indication that no native app is necessary. I pointed that out in response to your point about connectivity — obviously somebody has WiFi/EDGE network access, because they’re making use of our app.

    To carry it further, I’m actually saying that the more people we see on our hosted app the more likely we are to develop a native app. Just the opposite of what you suggest.

    As far as who’s insulting who, and when they’re doing it, let me point to the happy smiley face :-) in the middle of the text you quoted from my post. Here on the interweb that means “I’m telling a joke”. So when I tell you that when you don’t subscribe we count it as a vote against a native app, I’m being funny. Here’s another one, in case you don’t believe me: :-)

    … that is, unless you, too, were being funny when you accused me of “manipulating” the vote. In that case, you got me. :-)

    As far as your closing comment (“If you can’t make a native app for the iPhone at this point just say that and that you will do one when you can.”) I would invite you to re-read the article to which you’re replying. It gives a complete statement of what we’re saying, what we’re not saying, what we will say in the future, and what we won’t say in the future. The one thing we’re definitely NOT going to do is say that we will do one when we can. This is NOT the same as saying that we’ll never do one or that we’re waiting for more user feedback before deciding whether or not to do one. The complete explanation is in the original article, above.

  16. Timothy Satryan says:

    I am a current subscriber to iPocketBible. In fact, I have been from the beginning, and a longggg time PocketBible user on the WM platform before that.

    I like and I do use the current iPocketBible. It’s only drawback, as others have noted, is when you rely upon Edge and no wifi is available. Fortunately, that is not the norm for me. But, it would indeed be nice to be able to instantly utilize my iPocketBible anytime and anywhere, so I would love to have a native app. But, the big question will be how much storage space will it need? That will be a big deciding factor for many people – although with the new 16gig iPhone available, that becomes far less of an issue. But, for us 8 gig-ers…

  17. You can get everything we currently offer in less than half a gigabyte. The USB drives we sell are 256 MB and work for almost every customer we have (very few people own everything we offer. So even an 8GB iPhone should work fine if we do a native app.

  18. Josh says:

    Hi Craig,
    Is there some method to transfer bibles that I’ve purchased for Palm over to iPocketBible?
    I have 10 different bibles, and 2 reference books that I’ve purchased over the years, and would hate to lose that investment (OK, some of them were free).
    In addition to my own palm, I’ve purchase another 5 copies of MyBible for family and friends along with several bibles for those copies as well (some of which are no longer used).
    So if I’ve already paid for the NIV many times, am I going to have to pay for it again on iPocketBible, and then again when there’s a native app (and I sure hope there’s going to be a native app soon)?
    I already purchased my iPhone, but can’t activate it until Monday or Tuesday. Once I do, I will almost certainly sign up for iPocketBible, but I’m hoping that I can use the books that I’ve already bought.
    Thanks and keep up the good work,
    Josh

  19. Josh says:

    Oops, I just found my answer in the knowlegebase.
    Sorry, I should have looked a little harder the first time. I am certainly relieved that the bibles that I’ve purchased will be available in iPocketBible.

    Thanks again for your great products, and put me down for two votes for the native version. :-)

    – Josh

  20. Brett bullock says:

    Craig,
    It looks like I may not have been clear. I think you counted my post as a “no native app” vote but I meant just the opposite. I meant I can’t use Pocket Bible on my iPod Touch without a native app. The subscription is not an option for me due to limited WiFi.

    I’ve used your software on Windows CE and now PPC for years and I plan to keep using it but I would love to move it to my new favorite gadget.

    Thanks a lot

  21. Brett,

    Perhaps I should’ve used a winking smiley ;-) instead of a smiling smiley :-)

    I understand what you meant and was making a joke.

    Not sure why you bought an iPod Touch if you don’t have WiFi, but that’s a different blog. ;-)

  22. Brett says:

    Doh! I should have gotten that…
    I do have WiFi most everywhere but not in some of the quiet places that I like to read and study or on the road (not when driving). Plus the iPod isn’t compatible with the wireless at work where I like to read on lunch break. It’s great at home and lots of other spots just not enough for me to be interested in a subscription web app of any sort.

  23. Brent Lawrence says:

    As a subscriber to iPocketBible, I would add my vote for a native app. The main reason is when I’m out and about, using AT&T’s Edge Network is slow, and a native app should considerably increase the speed at which I access my resources.

    Having said that, I’ve got to hand it to you, Craig and crew, when I abandoned my PocketPC and the whole Windows platform for that matter, I thought my Laridian resources were gone, but you made a way for me to get them back. Thank you.

  24. Brian Adkins says:

    So, you want a good argument for developing the iPhone? Well, I’m a customer, and I will be purchasing the first native Bible app that exists for the iPhone. That’s the only argument that should really mean anything – customer demand.

    I use the Laridian MyBible product on my Treo 650 all the time – often in buildings that have poor reception. The native app is the only thing I’m interested in.

    As far as your statement about purchasing the subscription to let you know I’m interested in a native iPhone app – I find that basically ridiculous for two reasons:

    1) I’m waiting for a native Bible app for the iPhone before I purchase an iPhone!

    2) I don’t want to pay a subscription for something that should be a one time purchase, so I will not be purchasing a subscription, yet I definitely would purchase a reasonably priced native app – go figure.

    Personally, I think whoever creates a decent native app for the iPhone will have a big first mover’s advantage.

    P.S. Please move the “anti-spam word” above the submit button. The submit button was the lowest thing I saw and I clicked it and got an unhelpful error. I had to hit the back button, and then scroll down to see the anti-spam word.

  25. If you read the article you know we’re not looking for good arguments for developing for the iPhone. We’ve heard them all. And we’ve heard the bad arguments, too. But thanks just the same. :-)

    Obviously if you don’t have an iPhone or another Web-enabled phone for which our Bible software isn’t available it would be foolish to buy the iPocketBible.com subscription.

    Being first in a market is important, but it doesn’t guarantee success. You’ve probably never heard of the product that was the first Bible software for Windows CE (aka Windows Mobile or Pocket PC), for example.

  26. Brian Adkins says:

    Obviously I wouldn’t by software for a device I don’t own yet, but thanks for pointing that out. ;)

    You may have missed my point that your method of measuring demand for the native iPhone app via increased subscriptions is quite flawed, and since you’re probably a smart person and realize that, it comes off as pitch to increase sales.

    There’s nothing wrong with that – a CEO should be a good sales person, but that doesn’t mean it’s not insulting.

    Anyway, it doesn’t really matter; either you’ll develop a native Bible app for the iphone or you won’t. I’m just hoping someone does because I’d like to get an iPhone, but I won’t until something like MyBible exists for it.

  27. I didn’t miss your point, I just chose not to enter into an argument about whether or not it’s a flawed method of measuring demand. :-) But since you brought it up, the logic is this:

    We have to pay for the cost of development of the iPhone app somehow. The most logical way to pay is by selling copies of the finished product to people who own iPhones and are interested in using them to study the Bible. There are two problems with that. First, we don’t know how many of those people there are, so we can’t determine if there’s enough sales revenue potential to cover our cost of development. Second, we don’t know who those people are, so we can’t communicate with them to tell them we have a native app.

    One good way to find the answers to both of these questions is to turn to our list of iPocketBible.com subscribers. If we figure that some fairly high percentage of those people would pay some reasonable price for a native iPhone app, it gives us the beginning of a development budget.

    Of course we know there will be people like you who haven’t subscribed but who are our customers already, so we can add to that budget some percentage of our existing non-iPocketBible.com customer base. We also know there are people who are not currently our customers, but who own iPhones and will somehow find out about our product. So we can add some fraction of the total number of iPhone owners to our budget.

    Those three groups constitute our potential customer list for a native iPhone app, and they are listed in order of most responsive to least responsive. That is, we can be sure that the current iPocketBible subscribers will be the most likely to purchase a native app. They have an iPhone. They already understand how their existing Laridian books and Bibles are transferable to a new platform. They’ve been using the iPhone for Bible study and have some idea of how valuable that is. Our existing Laridian customer base is our second most likely group of purchasers. They’re familiar with us and trust us, but the vast majority of them do not own iPhones. So their response rate will be markedly less than the iPocketBible subscribers. Finally, the general population will make up the third group. There are a lot of iPhone owners among them but they are very difficult for us to find without spending lots and lots of money on advertising. They will ultimately probably constitute the majority of our native-app customers, but they will be the most expensive to obtain.

    With all of that in mind we can establish a budget. If we had 10,000 subscribers and figured 90% of them would spend, say, $10 for a native app, that’s $90,000. If we have 100,000 other customers and figure 1% of those own iPhones (remember they are our customers because they own some other PDA/smartphone other than iPhone, otherwise they’d be iPocketBible subscribers and be counted above) that’s another $10,000. We can’t be sure how many of those there are because unless they already own a subscription to iPocketBible.com there’s no way to know they have an iPhone or that they would buy one if Bible software were available for it.

    Of course I’m making up numbers and I’m making them intentionally different from reality (higher, lower, both, or neither) so as to not reveal any proprietary information.

    In addition to sales to existing customers there’d also be a contribution from those who are new customers as a result of us releasing a native app. The problem there is that we often have to spend more money acquiring a customer than we receive from them in the initial sale. But we can probably add something for those who just wander into the site or who hear about us from other users. It’s just hard to say how much to add for those.

    As you can see from this analysis, you are “invisible” to us. You say you’ll buy an iPhone if Bible software were available for it. As we look at our customer list, there’s no way for us to know you’re there. On the other hand, when we look at the iPocketBible.com subscriber list, it’s abundantly evident that those people are using iPhones (or other Web-enabled devices — but for now the service works best on iPhone and is being advertised only to iPhone users).

    While my original comments didn’t go into this much detail, that’s what I was getting at. That is, current subscribers are the most likely bunch to buy a native app so the more of them there are, the more likely we’ll see we have the budget to do the work. Not only is it not “quite flawed”, it’s impeccably logical. :-)

  28. Steven Norsworthy says:

    My answer to this is simple. Since I already own MyBible for Palm, and already paid for it with lots of extra modules, and I enjoy the speed and convenience of the native app, I will stick with it until the native version for iPhone comes out, even though it is inconvenient to use two devices in the interim.

    I think many people will be in a similar mindset.

  29. Assuming you’re carrying a Palm and a phone, you can migrate to one device right now. Just get a smartphone that runs the Palm OS and you can use MyBible on your phone.

    I agree that there are certainly more people than just you who think like you do and are waiting for more applications for the iPhone before moving. There are, however, several other important considerations that could limit the migration. These include:

    1. Remaining time on your contract. You might have to pay a substantial penalty if you switch phones.
    2. Whether or not buying an iPhone means switching carriers. Here in fly-over country where I live, AT&T’s network has a few holes in it. If my iPhone was my only mobile phone, there’d be places where it wouldn’t work. (Fortunately those places have WiFi so iPocketBible works great there.)
    3. Availability of all your mobile apps for iPhone. Most people running third-party software like ours are running more than one app. Just because they can get Bible software doesn’t mean they can get everything they might want or need.

    Etc.

    So I don’t know how big a group that is. In any case as I said in my previous comment, we understand that if a native version of PocketBible were available for iPhone, there are people who would choose that time to make the switch to the iPhone, or to choose to buy it for the iPhone they already own.

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