Take a number

To say that pundits weren’t happy with Orchestra’s decision to implement a reservation system with the release of Mailbox, the much-talked-about emailing app for the iPhone, would be an understatement. Now Tempo, a smart calendaring app that my colleague Richard Nieva described as “a more focused Google Now,” has announced its plan to instate a similar reservation system.

Tempo announced its intent via a blog post titled “Due to the continued demand, we are instituting a reservation system,” writing:

Friends,

Making your calendar smart takes time – we are continuing to be overwhelmed with the response.

Here is the plan:

We will submit a new version of Tempo Smart Calendar with a reservation system to the App Store tomorrow (Feb 15th) for express approval
Once approved (usually within 24 hours), you can install the new Tempo and secure your position and we will then email you when Tempo is available
In the meanwhile, we will continue to gate-keep ~1-3K users / hour (we have a backlog well over 100K users)

And if you are in, you are in!

Thanks again for all your support and we (Tempo Team) appreciate your patience.

Raj & Tempo Team

That almost sounds like a retroactive version of what Orchestra said during Mailbox’s introduction. I’ve included their official word on why Mailbox used a take-a-number approach to its launch and my own translation below:

Orchestra implemented a “take a number” approach to the release of its email app, Mailbox, “in order to provide a robust, world-class email service,” according to the app’s website. Translated from startup-speak to English, that same sentence would read: “We made you wait in line so Mailbox wouldn’t crash on launch for the hundreds of thousands of people who have expressed interest in its debut.” The company had to choose between making all of its customers angry and face the wrath of a consumer scorned or make a few of its customers kinda inconvenienced for a little while and prove that it was worth the wait later, and it chose the latter.

Unfortunately, I was wrong on that last point — despite the take-a-number system, Mailbox has come under fire for a string of outages occurring Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The company, which has handled the response to the outages fairly well, essentially failed to account for the strain its user base would put on the Mailbox servers even with their staggered rollout.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn of other companies enacting similar, and perhaps even more strict, admissions policies in the future. Because the App Store simply isn’t built in a way that allows companies to release their app to a small number of interested users, companies will have to instate their own policies and, unfortunately, face the backlash for doing so.

Welcome to the future of high-profile app launches. Please take a number.