Weekend news round-up: Not such an appy economy, the death of the password

19 Nov 2012

In our gathering of some of the top tech stories from the weekend, the quick buck that app developers thought they’d make from the apps economy is proving elusive; Twitter’s growing pains are taking their toll on app developers; the scary truth about passwords in 2012; and against the odds the Microsoft’s big bet on the Xbox pays off.

Maybe not such an appy economy

If you read some of the research from Facebook and Apple it’s very easy to believe that the apps economy is generating thousands of new jobs and billions in revenues. Maybe it is – for Apple and Facebook – but for the developers who engage in this new economy as entrepreneurs, it’s not really as easy as it is made to sound.

The New York Times had an interesting report on a young couple who entered the apps economy and the various travails they’ve had to keep head above water. While they are as enthusiastic and passionate about the technologies, it’s hard work and requires a lot of motivation.

“Despite the rumours of hordes of hip programmers starting million-dollar businesses from their kitchen tables, only a small minority of developers actually make a living by creating their own apps, according to surveys and experts. The Grimeses began their venture with high hopes, but their apps, most of them for toddlers, did not come quickly enough or sell fast enough,” the paper reported.

Then again there’s the flipside – the lucky few who have a quick success.

“One success story is Ethan Nicholas, who earned more than $1m in 2009 after writing a game for the iPhone. But he says the app writing world has experienced tectonic shifts since then.”

Twitter’s difficult metamorphosis even harder for developers

Speaking of apps and hard times, Twitter’s growing pains as it makes the transition from a free-for-all information firehose into a grown-up business that has to make money, pay employees and deliver a return on investment for investors has been interesting and at times puzzling to watch.

If it has been difficult for Twitter it has been harder on app developers, some of whom have found changes in Twitter’s policies detrimental to their own business.

The Next Web had a very interesting story on many of the recent changes, including restrictions that require 100,000 tokens, and other moves that sum up Twitter’s stance on developers as “hard line.”

The article pointed out: “The sad thing about this whole progression is that developers loved Twitter. I mean, really loved Twitter. They liked making things for it, they helped pioneer everything from the bird icon to the use of the word ‘tweet’. They were its first users and its constant advocates when everyone still thought it was about tweeting your lunch or your poop. Now, it’s gotten much harder to love.”

The death of the password is imminent (or should be)

Wired had a very intriguing, disturbing and moving story at the weekend by a chap called Mat Honan on whether the password-centric world of IT is good enough anymore. Is it possible that passwords offer any vestige of protection anymore?

Honan should know. In just one hour during the summer, hackers succeeded in hacking into his various email and social networking accounts and effectively destroyed his digital life.

“My Apple, Twitter and Gmail passwords were all robust—seven, 10, and 19 characters, respectively, all alphanumeric, some with symbols thrown in, as well – but the three accounts were linked, so once the hackers had conned their way into one, they had them all. They really just wanted my Twitter handle: @mat. As a three-letter username, it’s considered prestigious. And to delay me from getting it back, they used my Apple account to wipe every one of my devices, my iPhone and iPad and MacBook, deleting all my messages and documents and every picture I’d ever taken of my 18-month-old daughter.”

Scary stuff.

Xbox turns 10 – how big bets pay off

It’s been 10 years since Microsoft launched the Xbox platform and at the beginning everybody thought Microsoft was mad. Well, 70m console sales later and billions of hours of game time and software sales, I think it’s fair to say they’ve got this one covered.

Gamesindustry.biz had a nice article looking back on the history of the Xbox and spoke to some of the earliest proponents of the Xbox, including one chap, Seamus Blackley, one of the four Microsoft employees who proposed the idea.

“The bet paid off for Microsoft. Console gamers proved willing to pay for online play, and Xbox Live became a hit, surviving the death of the original Xbox and forming the cornerstone of the Xbox 360. Today, Xbox Live boasts more than 40m users and has become much more than just a way to play against other people online. The service now bears little resemblance to its original iteration, having added in a free membership tier, Avatars, achievements, video chat, web browsing, and a robust library of live and on-demand entertainment options spanning TV, sports, music, movies, and more.”

Security image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years