Meet the Makers: Q&A with Chris Van Buskirk of Calliope Digital

Jul 16, 2010
Tech

Location: New Orleans!  With plans for a sales office in New York. Notable apps: Mardi Gras Guide (99 cents), French and Garden District Historic Tours ($4.99 each), iVacuate (coming soon), and the famous local WhoDatApp ($1.99). Platforms: iPhone and iPad coming soon, and some very occasional work on the web. Specialty genres: Sports, Travel, Education […]

Location: New Orleans!  With plans for a sales office in New York.

Notable apps: Mardi Gras Guide (99 cents), French and Garden District Historic Tours ($4.99 each), iVacuate (coming soon), and the famous local WhoDatApp ($1.99).

Platforms: iPhone and iPad coming soon, and some very occasional work on the web.

Specialty genres: Sports, Travel, Education and Entertainment.Company size:4 souls on board…

Short description of company: We develop for the iPhone and iPad platforms, with an occasion step into the internet world.  Creativity and design is a must for our products.  We also have client based services.

How did you and your firm get into the iPhone/mobile app development business?

I worked in New York for many years as a Technical Director in various agencies.  My projects were mostly internet/web based.  I grew somewhat weary of that and wanted to reinvent my career.  The iPhone presented a perfect opportunity to reinvigorate my software development.  With no real knowledge of the API’s, I attended the WWDC in 2009 and learned quite a bit.  In July 2009, I packed my bags, jumped in my car and moved back to New Orleans.  I was determined to open my own shop, which we named Calliope Digital.  I’ve been blessed to find creative and production talent locally, and we have designed/developed some very good applications that Apple has featured. Our office is in the IP building in New Orleans.  There are some 80 startups working in this building, so we often trade services (and beers), which presents many opportunities.

In your opinion, how has the iPhone and Apple’s iTunes App Store changed the media industry?

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Hmmm…this is a tough one.  To me it truly offers to deliver compelling content to mobile devices.  You can’t venture anywhere without seeing someone tinkering with their devices.  The ability to offer content to these devices is a huge opportunity for those channels.  We are already seeing some content outlets offering subscription based magazines via the iPad/iPhone.  Will the iPad save the magazine industry?  I think so.  Obviously, game developers and other makers can publish without the hassles of distribution.  That’s very powerful for the makers.

Describe the differences between developing apps for the iPhone, iPad, and other platforms.

The screen!  We have several applications planned for the iPad.  Most will involve video and working with Deltree Studios in New Orleans.  I think the iPad offers a more cinematic experience for the user.  It also offers ability to create quality productivity software, that some other makers are taking advantage of.  We mostly work in content, but I really feel the iPad will eventually offer much more than the iPhone.  I guess I could go into a bunch of technical details, but that may be a bit boring.  We are avoiding other mobile platforms for now.

What factors go into how you ultimately price your apps?

Since many of our applications are regionally based, we have to account for that in pricing.  Like most makers, we start with the bar high, and work our way down until we find a comfortable price for the buyer.  Production quality is a must for higher prices.  Marketing is also essential to raise awareness.  These essential cost quite a bit of money.

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In my opinion, high volume 99 cent apps hurt the market place.  Potential buyers will sometimes tell me the price is to high. I disagree, and will often argue that point.  I did several walking tour apps for the New Orleans region, and we priced them 1/3 less than a traditional guided tour. Our applications offer GPS location functionality, fact checked content, audio and photographs of each location. In other words, you take something with you, and can revisit as often as you like. We plan to take our tour apps to other cities as we move forward.

Describe what your dream app for the iPhone/iPad would look like.

I have been fortunate that every app we have developed are ones that I would use myself.  We eat our own dog food here.  New Orleans has a special relationship with our NFL franchise: The Saints!  So of course, I developed an unofficial app for the team.  How lucky we were that they won the superbowl.  Sales were through the roof!  We are planning a new version for the 2010 season, with a new design and some more features.

I’m taking a real hard look at the education markets, and have been in discussion with some potential partners bringing their content to the iPad.  My vision of the future is a student in every classroom with an iPad.  Think of the possibilities.

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