A piece of Apple’s pie

When California-based Apple Inc. debuted its iPhone App Store this summer, Randy Croucher’s Golf-Ace was one of about 1,000 applications chosen from about 25,000 software developers worldwide.

Croucher works from Washougal independently and, along with his recent work for Apple, has developed software for animation companies such as Disney Interactive Studios.

He began developing software at age 10, when he made simple games for his home computer. His career in software development and animation began at Vancouver-based Hash Inc., where he became lead software developer in 1986.

That work led him to 3-D animation projects and eventually to building animation software tools for Salt Lake City-based Avalanche Software and for Disney, which bought Avalanche in 2005.

He created animation tools for the makers of video games based on Disney movies such as “Hannah Montana,” “Chicken Little” and the upcoming “Bolt.”

This year, he created Golf-Ace, a golf scoring application, specifically for Apple’s iPhone. With the program, a golfer can keep a running log of scores, tracking multiple players and locations if needed.

The idea came while using a golf scoring application on a Microsoft phone.

“I decided I could write a better version,” he said. “And if I was going to make it better for myself, I might as well market it.”

In its first six weeks, Golf-Ace gained about 1,000 users, who all can contact Croucher for tech support via email. It sells for $19.99, in the mid-price range for programs of its kind. Developers can charge any price per download up to $1,000. Croucher earns 70 percent of the price and Apple gets 30 percent.

Lower-priced applications, such as 99-cent screensavers, sell most quickly, but tend to have simple functions. Some free applications had as many as 62,000 downloads in their first day, Croucher said.

He is considering developing a lower-cost, “lite” version of Golf-Ace while beefing up the pricier version with features such as Global Positioning System tracking. He wants to make similar applications for BlackBerry and Google, which launched its Android Market Aug. 28 to compete with Apple’s App Store.

The App Store debuted July 11 and can be accessed through an iPhone or on a computer with Apple’s iTunes program. Its programs were largely created by independent software developers such as Croucher, after Apple made a worldwide call for submissions.

This summer, The Wall Street Journal called the App Store an “online bazaar” and one of the tech industry’s greatest efforts in making mobile phones more like personal computers.

But working remotely for Apple hasn’t been without hiccups. Croucher was stuck with a “rough draft” of Golf-Ace in the App Store for a few weeks before Apple corrected the error and released the finished version. That drew negative customer reviews, but Croucher said users of the finished version are balancing out the feedback. Its strengths, they write, include an interface similar to in-house Apple products.  

“It’s interesting that it’s selling all over the world,” Croucher said. “There’s no way I could market it nearly as well on my own. There’s no way I could touch that many people.”

 

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com.

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