Fearing the iPhone Push

With Apple’s 3.0 version of the iPhone quickly approaching, one of the most widely anticipated features is the “Push” functionality.  This allows developers to send alerts, notifications, and other communications to the phone without the application actively being run. 

While one can see the obvious utility in the feature, the part of me that manages my email inbox is dreading the feature.  I am not as bad (or efficient, you pick the term) as those who manage to a “zero inbox“, but I do try and make an effort to have no unread emails every few days.  With this new Push feature, I’m envisioning throngs of app developers desirous of keeping me engaged with their app sending daily, hourly, and minutely notificifations.  I’m imagining paging across the screens in my iPhone and seeing 40+ apps each claiming I have 30+ new notifications.  And I’m thinking the Email manager in me will start to feel very behind….

So what will happen?  I’d bet the following:

  1. I will find exceptional utility from the few apps that I use regularly that provide me with notifications, and will try to stay as current as possible with them.  The Push feature will enhance my productivity.
  2. I will no longer feel comfortable looking at screen after screen of apps I barely recognize indicating I have a bunch of missed messages.  I will start deleting apps that I currently dont use but keep on my phone in the background. 
  3. I would bet my reaction will not be dissimilar to others, and notification “spam” will eventually hit a tipping point.  Apple will step in to regulate the push feature.  They will ensure all notifications are explicitly opt-in and customizable, not simply by virtue of agreeing to download the app.

All of the above is with the caveat that I dont have the details for how Apple will make the feature available to developers.  But I’m hoping I don’t have a new stack of attention draining activities to manage….

GaaS at Work: Halo3

Though I don’t have time to be a hardcore gamer, I do dabble with a few to keep myself current with the state of the art in games, tools, infrastructure, and services.  My experience last night validated an extensive post I did a few months back on the world of Games as a Service

I decided to fire up Halo3 (yes, I know old, and far behind other new FPS games) to log onto to the “Team Slayer” playlist.  In this mode, you are linked by rank and skill level to other random players on the Xbox Live network to form a team.  Your “red” team attacks another similarly formed “blue” team with the goal to be the first team to get to 50 kills.  You play on maps, which differ in environment, layout, buildings, weapons, etc. 

Curiously, I could not log onto Team Slayer mode because I did not have “the required maps” (Non-Mythic DLC for those that care).  Upon doing some digging, it turns out that Bungie/Microsoft was requiring players to purchase newer map packs that previously had been optional upgrades.  Historically, if you did not buy the new maps, the servers would match you to players that had your same map packs.  This of course would lead many players to play whatever maps were free, and only download newer map packs when they became free.  Hard core players who wanted to learn the best strategies before anyone else would pay for early access to the new packs, but they would have a much smaller universe of players to compete against in those worlds. 

Requiring subscribers to pay for the new maps to access the Team Slayer mode raises some really interesting questions.  The blogosphere and forums were full of strong opinions.  On the one side were the hardcore players who wanted everyone else to pay so their network would have more players.  They also defended the need for Bungie to keep getting paid for an entertainment offering to keep it alive.  On the other side were gamers who believe they had paid for the game, which included the Team Slayer function, and they should be allowed to play with whatever maps they chose to have and not be forced to upgrade.  They would also claim they already pay Microsoft a monthly subscription fee for the Xbox Live network, which is intended to link them to other players. 

I think this approach is a perfect example of a publisher extracting economics in a continuing GaaS driven model.  The new maps cost me about $10, roughly 20% of the original game cost.  As an aside, that seems magically to be about the same as the annual percentage charge for maintenance with licensed software, and the rule of thumb in what annual SaaS prices should be versus comparable license charges.  And one can likely bet there will be new maps in the future for which I will have to pay for.  I also pay $50/year or $5/month for the Xbox Live membership.   If I was not forced to upgrade, then Bungie/Microsoft would have little incentive to keep developing new maps, and eventually a large portion of the audience would move on to a different game.  From their perspective, it makes complete sense to communicate continuously with me through the game, enticing or forcing me to upgrade my game to continue to play the content.  It extends the life of the service to a wider audience and helps them build a strong recurring revenue base.  Both great examples of GaaS offerings and a marked departure from the old CD based model!

Disagree?  Or more importantly have a strong opinion on the debate?