Category: Business

Another Step for Go Books

You can now buy Go books and read them on your Mac; another step towards making Go Books available on multiple platforms (an Android version is in development). However, the corresponding iOS app has not been released yet, so books you’ve bought on your iPad won’t show up on your Mac yet. Click here for more details.

I’m still working to get all the publishers onboard with selling books outside of the iOS app; I’m still waiting for final approval from Kiseido, Yutopian, and Good Move Press. Until then, those books will only be available on iOS.

As always, please let me know if you run into any questions or issues.

Update 2014-11-19: Kiseido has agreed to extend digital books beyond iOS.

Update 2014-12-21: Good Move Press is in, so you can now buy the five books in the Learn to Play Go series for the Mac.

Update 2014-12-30: Add Yutopian, which means all books are now available on the Mac.

SmartGo Pro: End of the Line

In the continuing saga of SmartGo Kifu (universal) and SmartGo Pro (iPhone only), it’s time to terminate SmartGo Pro — again. The timeline so far:

Experience with upgrade bundle

In a sense, the upgrade bundle is working. Over the last two months, upgrades have increased slowly, with income from the upgrade bundle now averaging 40% of Kifu income. It gives users a fair price to upgrade from the iPhone-only to the universal version. Upgrades so far are less than 1% of the installed base of SmartGo Pro, so there are still many users who could benefit from this upgrade, and I’d love to keep this going.

However, the number of returns has increased dramatically, indicating that people are confused and buy the wrong version by mistake. With only Kifu in the store, the return rate was 0.5%. After adding back Pro earlier this year, the return rate was 1% for Kifu and 5% for Pro, already an indication that separate iPhone and universal versions are not ideal. After adding the upgrade bundle, the return rate for Kifu shot up to 8%, and for Pro it’s at 66%! That’s terrible. I created the bundle to give existing users a fair way to upgrade, but it’s adding too much confusion for everybody.

With the iPhone 6 Plus blurring the line between phone and tablet, and Apple giving a solid clue with the introduction of size classes in iOS 8, it’s time to focus on universal apps going forward.

If Apple at some point allows upgrade bundles without having to keep the original app in the App Store, I’d be happy to bring back the upgrade. But at this point, I can’t recommend bundles as a workable solution for upgrades.

Last chance to upgrade

Before I take SmartGo Pro and the upgrade bundle off the store, I want to give you a last chance to upgrade. For the next week, the upgrade bundle will be $16 — if you bought Pro at $13, you can upgrade for just $3. And SmartGo Kifu will be on sale for $15 (25% off). Grab this chance before it’s gone.

Upgrade from Pro to Kifu

Apple has approved a bundle that contains SmartGo Kifu, a universal app, and SmartGo Pro, the iPhone-only version of SmartGo Kifu. This is great news, as it finally gives users an upgrade path from iPhone-only to universal. (See my reasons for reviving SmartGo Pro earlier this year.)

Users can start with the cheaper iPhone-only version, and if they later decide to get an iPad, they can upgrade for $10 instead of paying full price:

  • SmartGo Pro: $12 (iPhone-only)
  • SmartGo Kifu: $20 (iPhone & iPad)
  • Bundle Pro & Kifu: $22 ($10 to upgrade)

I’m very encouraged that Apple allowed this bundling of an iPhone-only and a universal version of essentially the same app. The bundle is clearly marked as an upgrade from Pro to Kifu, so I hope it’s an indication that this is an officially approved way of doing things. In particular, it gives developers who currently have separate iPhone and iPad versions a way forward: make the iPad version universal, and give users a bundle to upgrade from iPhone-only to universal.

On the other hand, if this bundle had been rejected, it would have been hard to not see it as an indication that iPhone-only apps were strongly discouraged, and that there was not going to be support from Apple to help users transition to a universal app. I would likely have killed SmartGo Pro rather than have more users stuck in a dead end.

Thanks to Apple for approving this kind of bundle: a win for customers, and more options for developers.

SmartGo Pro for iPhone

SmartGo Pro is back as the iPhone-only version of SmartGo Kifu. I took it off the App Store 18 months ago, trimming down to three easily distinguished universal apps. So why bring it back now?

  • It gives new iPhone users a chance to get the capabilities of SmartGo Kifu at a lower price. $12 for SmartGo Pro is still a premium price point, but it’s not quite the $20 sticker shock of SmartGo Kifu.
  • It gives current SmartGo Pro users a huge free upgrade, tripling the game collection to 78,000 pro games, and adding amazing features like joseki matching and tree view as well as 18 months worth of incremental improvements.

Both of these should lead to additional satisfied users. My business model is simple: You buy the app, you use it, you love it, then you tell your Go-playing friends about it. Real value for the price of a Go book; no in-app gimmicks.

Current trends in the App Store favor in-app purchases. But trends are fickle, and Go is a niche market. My bet is that people continue to recognize and appreciate quality apps, and are willing to pay a fair price for them.

Smartgo pro icon jensen

SmartGo Pro gets its own updated icon to match the new SmartGo Kifu icon.

SmartGo in 2013

“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” – Douglas Hofstadter

Another year without a Mac version of SmartGo. Progress, but not there yet. While that’s disappointing, both to you and to me, looking back at 2013 makes me feel much more confident about 2014.

SmartGo Kifu: Step by step, this app is approaching what I envision it to be. It got a fresh look with new icons, more logical layout, and less clutter. Then it went through another big change for iOS 7.

New features this year included Airdrop and Bluetooth keyboard support, and some large additions:

  • Tree view: The tree view reveals the structure of annotated games and makes navigation easy.
  • Matching games: When I introduced joseki matching last year I had to punt two features: dynamically switching to the corner with the most recent move, and showing the list of games that match a given position. Those are now done. Still many ways to make joseki matching even more useful; stay tuned.
  • GoGoD game collection: Switching to the GoGoD game collection took it from 40,000 games at the start of the year to over 76,000. The onomasticon (names dictionary) by John Fairbairn is also included, with a mini-biography of many professional players.

SmartGo Books: The 35 books added this year (for a total of 86) include out-of-print books as well as SmartGo Books exclusives, and several series are now complete: Elementary Go Series, Workshop Lectures, So You Want to Play Go, and Graded Go Problems. SmartGo Books now includes four books in German, one Japanese, one Spanish – more translations coming in 2014. See gobooks.com/books.html for a complete list.

SmartGo Player: It got an updated design, the tree view, and the ability to email the game record. More radical changes planned for next year.

Mac and Windows: The Mac version made progress, but is not ready for a beta yet. The Windows version was suspended for a while until I could upgrade the game collection; a beta version is now available.

Website: This year brought a completely new design for gobooks.com and smartgo.com, created by Scott Jensen, as well as more and better translations of the website. (Who else maintains their website in nine languages?)

Code: The health of the code determines how fast I can implement new features, how stable I can make the app, and how swiftly I can react to a curveball like iOS 7. This year included a complete rewrite of the gobook file format code, converting the whole code base to 64-bit and ARC (Automatic Reference Counting), integrating Crashlytics into SmartGo Kifu and Books, and significant performance improvements.

While I don’t know exactly what 2014 will bring, I’m confident that looking back there will be similarly good things to write about. Thanks for being a SmartGo user and recommending the apps to your friends. I wish you all the best for 2014!

SmartGo Kifu Going iOS 7 Only

When I recently asked SmartGo Kifu users on Twitter whether they were still on iOS 6, I found that most had happily switched to iOS 7. However, I also learned that many iPad 1 users had not realized that they were already missing the latest updates. The current version requires at least iOS 6, and the last iOS version for the iPad 1 is 5.1.1.

So if you’re on the iPad 1, your version of SmartGo Kifu will continue to work, you just won’t get any new updates. Sorry about that. Ideally, I would make the newest version of SmartGo Kifu run on all devices, old and new. However, there are a number of reasons why I recently required iOS 6, and will require iOS 7 in the next version:

  • Reduce development time: With iOS 7 looking very different from previous versions, any new code will have to be checked on all iOS versions. Sometimes no extra work is needed, and what looks good on iOS 7 looks at least acceptable on iOS 6, but often it requires extra code to make it look and work right.
  • Reduce testing time: Supporting iOS 6 means testing it on both iPhone and iPad. With an app of the complexity of SmartGo Kifu, that takes time, time that could be better spent (a) making sure it’s rock solid on the platform most people use, (b) working on other features, and (c) making progress on the Mac version.
  • Resource-constrained devices: All the devices running iOS 7 have at least 512 MB of RAM. Loading a library of 76,000 pro games already pushes the limits of the device; listing all the positions matching a specific joseki (a feature that will be in the next version) would move even closer to the edge. It can be done, but again, that takes time.
  • New iOS capabilities: Taking advantage of the newest capabilities of iOS is much harder when supporting older versions.

As a one-person company, time is my most critical resource, and restricting SmartGo Kifu to iOS 7 will help.

SmartGo Books has much less UI, and is not as resource-intensive as SmartGo Kifu, so I will try to keep it running on iOS 5 and the iPad 1 as long as possible.

Go Book Library with iPad Air

When the iPad mini was released last year, I calculated that you could save money by buying an iPad mini and building a library of Go books using SmartGo Books instead of buying the same books on paper. Since then, SmartGo Books has added more than 30 books – will the same calculation now hold up for an iPad Air?

Start with introductory books. SmartGo Books provides several choices, including Jonathan Hop’s So You Want to Play Go? and Kiseido’s Go: A Complete Introduction to the Game, but let’s assume you go with Janice Kim’s acclaimed Learn to Play Go series:
Learn to Play Go vol. 1-5: $35 / $75 (first price is SmartGo Books, second price is the cheapest source for the paperback, in this case Amazon or the Go Game Guru value bundle)

Some books to guide you on your way as a double-digit kyu player:
Graded Go Problems for Beginners vol. 1-4: $24 / $84 (Kiseido)
How Not to Play Go: $4 / $10 (Slate & Shell)
Single Digit Kyu Commentaries vol. 1&2: $11 / $26 (Slate & Shell)
Fundamental Principles of Go: $10 / $24 (Slate & Shell)
Cho Hun-hyeon’s Lectures on Go Techniques vol. 1&2: $20 / $40 (Yutopian)
Basic Techniques of Go: $9 / $18 (Amazon)

The whole Elementary Go Series is a must-read:
In the Beginning: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)
38 Basic Joseki: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)
Tesuji: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)
Life and Death: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)
Attack and Defense: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)
The Endgame: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)
Handicap Go: $10 / $18 (Kiseido)

You’ll want to challenge yourself with problem collections:
Rescue and Capture: $3 / $11 (Yutopian)
Tricks in Joseki: $3 / $11 (Yutopian)
Get Strong at Life and Death: $10 / $21 (Kiseido)
Get Strong at the Endgame: $10 / $21 (Kiseido)
Life and Death: Intermediate Level Problems: $5 / $7.50 (Slate & Shell)
Making Good Shape: $10 / $25 (Kiseido)
Five Hundred and One Opening Problems: $10 / $25 (Kiseido)
Five Hundred and One Tesuji Problems: $10 / $25 (Kiseido)

More to study as you reach single-digit kyu:
Patterns of the Sanrensei: $13 / $26 (Slate & Shell)
More Go by example: $7 / $9 (Amazon)
The Workshop Lectures vol. 1-6: $36 / $75 (Slate & Shell combo)
The Go Consultants: $8 / $18 (Slate & Shell)
Magic on the First Line: $7 / $12 (Slate & Shell)
Key Concepts in Life and Death: $7 / $16.50 (Slate & Shell)
Master Play series (5 books): $29 / $81.50 (Slate & Shell)
All About Ko: $10 / $25 (Kiseido)
Modern Master Games: The Dawn of Tournament Go: $12 / $35 (Kiseido)
This is Go the Natural Way! $8 / $20 (Yellow Mountain Imports)
Correct Joseki: $8 / $15 (Slate & Shell, published as All About Joseki)
Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki: $8 / $20 (Go Game Guru)
The Way of Creating a Thick and Strong Game: $9 / $22 (Go Game Guru)

No self-respecting Go player would be missing Invincible:
Invincible: The Games of Shusaku: $20 / $50

Valuable books as you approach dan level:
Catching Scent of Victory: $10 / $22 (Go Game Guru)
Breakthrough Attacking Power Yamashita-Style: $9 / $22 (Go Game Guru)
Shuko: The Only Move vol. 1&2: $20 / $46 (Go Game Guru)

Our total so far: $462 for SmartGo Books. $1064.50 for printed books.

Those savings are enough to pay for an iPad Air that’s perfect for reading: $499. And that still leaves room to buy six out-of-print books that we’ve brought back to life:
Tesuji and Anti-Suji of Go: $10
Killer of Go: $10
Punishing and Correcting Joseki Mistakes: $9
How to Destroy and Preserve: $4
Sabaki – How to Manage Weak Stones: $4
Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races: $10

And SmartGo Books includes several books that are not available in print, with more on the way. Let’s throw in two excellent books by John Fairbairn:
The Life, Games and Commentaries of Honinbo Shuei: $20
Gateway to All Marvels – The Xuanxuan Qijing of 1347: $15

Of course, you’ll also want SmartGo Kifu, with the full GoGoD collection of 76,000 pro games, 2,000 problems, and joseki matching: $20.

Final tally: $1064.50 for 58 printed books. $1063 for an iPad Air with all the books and software you need to become a strong player, plus a bonus of six out-of-print books that are hard to find at any price, and two books not available in print. You’ll learn more thanks to the interactive diagrams and problems, and you can carry your whole Go library with you.

Of course, few people will actually buy enough books to amortize their iPad. But the savings are substantial, and if you’re on the fence, these savings plus the availability of SmartGo Kifu may tilt the scales.