The Tao of Cupcake – Part 1

Some may have taken from my post last month about returning my iPad that I’m something of an Apple hater – the company, not the fruit. Not so.

Yes, I’m a fan of the Wintel platform and have spent the better part of my professional career building enterprise systems that relied on x86 and MS-Windows/DOS architecture.

But, I’m also a big fan of Apple. I can still vividly remember walking into a ComputerLand store in downtown Houston, Texas the first week in 1984 they had the brand new Macintosh 1.0 machines in stock and coveting one. Too expensive for my second-year Arthur Andersen (aka Accenture) salary.

Fast forward to present day and in the last 10 years, I have personally bought – for my immediate family members or myself – 1 iMac, 1 Macbook Pro, at least 6 iPods, 3 iPhones, lots & lots! of iTunes store content (software, games, apps, and a couple hundred songs and counting). Oh yeah, and 1 iPad.

Speaking of which, I wanted to spend a moment on a small, personal experiment this past week in iPad/iPhone app development. I’ve been wanting to design an app, just to see what the process is like and to force my hand in tracking down some of the alternatives.

For my application, I decided to keep it simple and light-hearted, so I chose a variation of the magic eight ball. Rather than use the eight ball, though, I chose a bobblehead dog that everyone in our family got this past Christmas. (You can get your own; they’re cheap and really fun party gifts for kids.)

For some reason, my teenagers decided to christen my particular dog “Cupcake.” And, for a very pragmatic reason, Cupcake ended up planted in the rear window area of my Toyota Corolla – pragmatic, because with the make, mode, and exterior finish of my car being very popular, the addition of Cupcake makes it much easier to pick out in a crowded parking lot.

When my kids noticed the up-down, side-to-side, and round-about movement of Cupcake’s head, it quickly became the unofficial family magic eight ball proxy. So, much like the coin toss and other single function “toy” apps that are available in droves on the iPhone, I decided to pursue my experiment using Cupcake.

It was pretty easy to track down a few resources and articles that provided some of the app-building options, including an anchor piece from late 2009 posted on ReadWriteWeb by Sarah Perez. The options range from programming in Objective C and going “by the book” using Apple-supported / endorsed tools, to using one or more third parties to handle some (or all) of it for you.

With the third party path, what you will find, not surprisingly, is that the market for mobile app development is a white-hot competitive space. The good side of that is that there are a variety of alternatives and competitive pricing to purchase design, development, and/or hosting of your app. Some require modest programming skill (e.g., basic HTML), while others require not much more than drag-and-drop, point-and-click skill, while still others are turnkey shops that take your idea and for a fee do all of the work.

The downside of the variety of alternatives is the risk of making a bad choice, winding up with a platform and/or provider that doesn’t/don’t meet your expectations in the cost, functionality, troubleshooting support, or some other aspect that is important to you. So, obviously, doing some due diligence and homework in advance of selecting an option is important.

A critical part of this homework is investing a bit of time in designing what exactly it is that you want your app to do. We’ll pick up with the subject of design next, in Part 2 of the Tao of Cupcake.

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