Now we’re joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision — one that we think we can better achieve with Google.
We will continue to make available our existing products, and we will provide support and critical updates to our users. However, as we’ll be busy with new projects at Google, we do not plan to release new features for the Sparrow apps.
This is the core of the disappointment that many of us feel with the Sparrow acquisition. It’s not about the $15 or less we spent on the apps. It’s not about the team’s well-deserved payout. It’s about the loss of faith in a philosophy that we thought was a sustainable way to ensure a healthy future for independent software development, where most innovation happens.
I’m not sure how much we should generalize about this, though, since e-mail clients are a weird market. It’s difficult being boxed in between both the platform vendor and the Web.
Go to top of program. Repeat loop.
What Rian’s post says to me is that we’re coming close to the point where everyone gets pessimistic and thinks it’s going to suck forever.
So keep your eye open for something cool and fun that doesn’t really work but has shitloads of potential.
“Apps” is fun. It’s fun to say, it sounds unthreatening, it’s a word sufficiently abbreviated that it takes on a life of its own without dragging to the forefront of peoples minds the more sterile and technical sounding “application”. Apps are not Applications – they are their own things. They are smaller. They are more fun. Apps are treats atop your technological sundae. They are not potential time sinks. They are neither burden nor investment. They each represent a nugget of fun, of fleeting amusement. Apps are gobbled up in the millions by people who would never rush so willy nilly to buy desktop software. Apps are Pop Software writ large in blinking neon lights.
Are Apps good business? No, they’re not. From a small developer’s perspective the App Store is a total disaster.
There’s something important to learn here: since the App Store’s primary customers are mass-market, they don’t yet value apps very much, and are therefore only willing to pay a pittance for apps. For them, apps are simply entertainment, sometimes a bit more, but not much more. Perhaps that will change as these mobile devices increasingly replace the PC, perhaps not. But what’s also clear is that trying to sell a focused, obsessed-with-the-details app for mass-market prices probably isn’t going to work.
But taking that money was a blessing and a curse. It enabled the company to accelerate the pace of development, but completely changed the yardstick by which financial success would be measured. Sustainability was no longer the ability to provide a decent living for 5 talented people, they also had to provide a return to their investors. And by that new measure Sparrow was still a flop, even after the much anticipated release of their iPhone app.
The thing is, the entire software industry is changing. Computer users used to spend hundreds of dollars for great software and pay again every couple years for upgrades. But over the past couple decades people have grown accustomed to getting more and more value from software while paying less and less for it. The web has played a huge part in that, but the trend was accelerated by the App Store and Apple’s management of it.