Thursday, May 4, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Software Pricing Damage

Matt Gemmell:

Has Apple created a huge market, in terms of potential customers? Absolutely. It’s just done so at the expense of its platform-invested developer community. Judging by the company’s value and income, it was a very wise move, and you can justify it on that basis if you choose. But don’t ignore the reality of the situation. Apple is not a benevolent entity; your human-centric partner in aesthetics and ethos. If that was ever true at all.

[…]

For developers who target the Mac, the last segment of the glass-and-aluminium Cupertino hardware line-up to still have plausibly sustainable economics, there’s only one course of action: pray that Apple remains disinterested.

See also: Paul Haddad.

Update (2017-05-05): Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

I also tend to feel that developers themselves are partly to blame. For example, many years ago App A launched at $9.99. A few months or years later, competing App B comes along, but it starts out at $4.99. After a while, App A starts a 50% sale (and often doesn’t raise the price again). App C comes along at $0.99, followed by App D, which is free with in-app purchases. That’s the trend that I have seen for many of my favourite apps.

For sure, but I think a lot of this is because the App Store is designed to encourage it.

Update (2017-05-06): See also: Rene Ritchie, Colin Cornaby, Ben Oberkfell , McCloud (2).

Update (2017-05-10): Riccardo Mori:

The brief pre-App Store period when Apple promoted the creation of Web apps for the iPhone, and later the early offering of so many low-cost and free apps from third parties, strongly reinforced this idea in the eyes of most consumers; that these apps were simply low-value additions designed to extend their iPhone’s functionality. ‘Mobile apps’ were not viewed as regular software packages, but something smaller, lighter, etc. This, in turn, didn’t justify having to pay for these little apps more than one or two dollars.

9 Comments

Mac software prices before 2011 have been ridiculous and they deserved to get hit by the crushing hammer of reality.

I remember getting Leopard and realizing that, if I would like to have the ability to click and drag background windows by holding Alt, I'm going to have to buy Zooom/2 for the price of 19.99$. For a trivial feature that I've grown used to, expecting it to be sold as freeware. Where did I ever get these expectations? Because after 2 decades of using Windows and about 6 years of using GNU/Linux, I had a firm idea of what was "a simple feature some developer decided to add and release for free" and what actually deserved big bucks. No App Store had steered me in that direction, just market forces and common sense. But not in Apple-land, where simple things cost absurd prices.

Actually, they still do, to a point - a well-marketed markdown editor with syncing costs 45$. Is it worth over half the price of Sublime Text? Not remotely. A "Pro" todo/GTD software suite costs 80$, much more if you would like it to be usable on your phone as well, which you would (this kind of forced added price would never have been possible before the App Stores, mind you). But developers can no longer get away with charging double digits for what amounts to slight software tweaks or fairly trivial programs. Frankly, they shouldn't.

@Watcher I hadn’t heard of Zooom/2, but looking at the reviews it seems that this “trivial” feature was difficult to get working properly and didn’t bring in enough revenue, so now it’s discontinued. I have been using Moom, which works well. It looks like I paid $10 for it in 2012, so that “double-digit” price works out to about half a cent per day. And I use it every day. Seems like a bargain to me, and would have been at $20, too.

Regarding Pro GTD software, as far as I am aware there is no amount of money that you can pay to get something with the quality of OmniFocus on other platforms. The availability of quality software is the best feature of the Mac platform.

>I also tend to feel that developers themselves are partly to blame

I think that's a pointless way of looking at the situation. No individual developer has the power to make any kind of meaningful change. Even if hundreds of developers got together and decided on common action, their impact would be meaningless. It's like blaming somebody with the flu for the cost of healthcare. Sure, that individual person could have made some lifestyle changes, and maybe would have slightly decreased the chance of getting the flu, but that individual person's action has literally zero impact on the overall cost of healthcare.

This is a systemic problem. It's not a problem of individual developers; they're all just doing the best they can to survive in the shitty ecosystem that's been forced on them. And in the end, the real victims aren't developers at all. They're highly qualified individuals who can find occupation elsewhere. The real victims of this are Apple's customers, who are finding themselves with a platform whose average software quality is starting to look worse today than it ever has before, and where there is very little incentive for anyone to create truly great, innovative new products.

>I'm going to have to buy Zooom/2 for the price of 19.99$

So paying 20 bucks for something that you use hundreds of times every single day is not acceptable? If sustainable software prices aren't acceptable to you, then the alternative is not cheap software, it's no software at all.

@Lukas Yes, the bottom line is that good products take work, and most developers can’t work for free, so if people don’t want to pay then the software simply won’t exist. Mac/iOS developers can try to play the hand they’re dealt or find other employment, which is OK for them but bad for Apple’s customers. Apple is in the unique position of being able to design the structure of their platform’s software market and thereby determine what software exists.

When it comes to software on macOS, I say shut up and take my money. I get that people have limited funds and software can be expensive, but the Mac is unique in that artisan developers, very often small companies, can spend years making a polished application and sell it for a price that is a sustainable business. If you look at Windows or open sourced systems like FreeBSD and Linux, there's no library of beautiful and functional software like there is on the Mac. This is one of my frustrations on iOS - so many applications are polished just enough to make it to market, then they become abandonware.

The best news for software on the Mac is that the Mac App Store has largely been a dud.

What a horrible way to learn that Zooom/2 has been discontinued! I use it all the time, and much prefer it to the other window managers I've tried. (And I was happy to pay for a license, and would have been happy to pay for an update license as well...) Requiescat in pace.

Watcher wrote "Because after 2 decades of using Windows and about 6 years of using GNU/Linux, I had a firm idea of what was "a simple feature some developer decided to add and release for free" and what actually deserved big bucks"

You don't write software, do you. I'm guessing you don't actually have any idea what is a simple feature, and what is not.

> but looking at the reviews it seems that this “trivial” feature was difficult to get working properly and didn’t bring in enough revenue, so now it’s discontinued.

It's discontinued because much better, much more sensibly-priced software like BetterTouchTool and Karabiner made it obsolete.

> You don't write software, do you. I'm guessing you don't actually have any idea what is a simple feature, and what is not.

I'm a professional software developer, so I do have at least some idea.

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