Shion: The Path Ahead

Short version:

It’s been a hectic couple of months and a variety of uncertainties delayed public progress on Shion. Things have changed for me professionally in such a manner that brings Shion back to the forefront and development will resume shortly. ¬†Part of my new professional life has significant benefits for new & current Shion users.

Long version:

I want to apologize for the lack of communication and updates over the past few months. Between buying and getting situated in a new house, spending most of the month of May on the train traveling around the United States (I saw both Portlands within a week without leaving the ground), and dealing with some massive career changes, Shion had been pushed to the far back burner. I want to describe some of things that brought about this outcome and describe where things are headed from here.

The delay to Shion development this spring was the outcome of several factors. My wife and I purchased our first home back in Feburary, and I underestimated the disruption this would have in general. In short, what I expected would be a week of chaos, ended up being the better part of a month (March) and this didn’t help Shion development. I also had a number of projects in my main consulting pipeline vanish; so I spent time drumming up business that I originally intended to use for developing Shion. In order to drum up more business, as well as fulfill some family obligations, I spent the month of May on the train across America. I saw both Portlands within a week without leaving the ground and can now speak at length about the best way to sleep in an Amtrak coach seat. Finally, I began a new mobile project earlier this year (Fresh Comics) that presented a more effective mechanism for marketing my mobile development skills to potential clients, as well as a clear and straightforward monetization path. While I worked on Shion in bits and pieces during the past six month, it was low on my priority list.

In addition to an eventful spring in my personal life, Apple didn’t help things when they announced their intent to force developers to use their iOS in-app purchasing ecosystem on terms that were very hostile to developers. I spent the better part of the fall creating a purchasing system of my own, and when Apple announced how they were going to monetize those of us for whom the in-app purchasing model was a bad fit, I spent the spring debating my path forward.

My Plan B became to launch a Shion port to Windows with an Android app as the flagship mobile implementation in order to set the terms by which I would build my business. Apple’s claim that their 30% cut is somehow a fair fee was not supported by the data. I’ve been using Fresh Comics as a window into the various app stores, and the Android Market has consistently outperformed the iTunes App Store by a multiple of 2 or more since the launch of that product. What sense did it make economically for me to build a business paying an absurd Apple tax when I could get better terms elsewhere and build my product as it should be?

Between the events in my personal & professional life and Apple’s shenanigans, I simply lost the drive to launch Shion as an actual product & service, and it became relegated back into the “research” bin of projects that I have underway. I continued developing it for myself (there’s some cool stuff in my current build) but I didn’t see a clear path forward.

Fortunately, in the last several weeks, things have changed for me in a way that is good news for Shion and its users. The major change is that I’ve put my consulting business on pause for the indefinite future to join a local startup as their CTO. The new business (Power2Switch) is an aspiring player in the energy industry and its founders won me over by convincing me that their long-term goals are the same as my long-term goals for Shion: to help users become smarter and more effective energy consumers. The financial uncertainty that plagued me during the early part of this year has been replaced with a predictable monthly paycheck. While I am committed to working on Power2Switch projects fulltime, I have the blessing of my new business partners to continue developing Shion (evenings & weekends) and getting it out onto the market this summer.

Furthermore, Apple relented on their in-app purchasing demands last week, removing a key barrier keeping me from properly launching the online service. By removing the requirement that subscription apps must use their payment backend, I no longer have an issue launching Shion Touch on the iTunes app store. Over the next couple of weeks, my goal is to wrap up any loose ends and submit Shion Touch for approval by the end of the month, making it available to a wider base of customers and eliminating the certificate headaches that are part of the current beta testing process. In addition to getting Shion Touch to a releasable state, I’ll also be bringing Shion proper out of beta as well.

If I can make these things happen on time, we should finally see the proper launch of Shion during the month of July. The apps will remain free, but the service that connects them will incur a $9 per month fee with a generous free introductory period so anyone interested can give the platform a try to see if how it fits their needs.

In conclusion, that’s the latest plan and the one that I’m working on this month. Keep an eye open for updated builds of the mobile & desktop apps, and please send me any feedback that you may have. Nothing makes me more motivated to continue developing software than knowing that I have users who care for my work and have useful suggestions about how it can be better. Once more, I apologize for the uncertainty & delay and look forward to getting the Shion train back on track and running with a full head of steam.

(Can you tell that I spent too much time on the train last month?)