Tuesday, June 26, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Git Tower 3 Switches to Subscription

Tobias Günther:

Today, after years of work, we are finally launching a brand new version of Tower! It’s packed with awesome new features like Pull Requests, Interactive Rebase, and our unique “Quick Actions”. It reinvents many existing features like Search, File History, or Blame.

Here’s some more information about the new design and features. I like the new back/forward buttons and the quick actions. Hopefully, I won’t need to use the Reflog, but it’s good that it’s now available. Search is improved, but GitUp is still better as searching content. The file history view is better in some ways, but it no longer lets you see the full commit messages, and there’s still no way to invoke it without first navigating to the file within the app. The new commit details view is much better in that you can more easily see the changed files. I prefer the old icon.

In this context, we can also announce that we’re finally moving Tower’s license model to an annual fee. This is probably neither surprising nor unusual news: many other companies have made similar changes already years ago.

For brevity’s sake, let me just state the most important reason why we decided to make this change: Although we had shipped countless small and medium-sized features for free since we launched version 2 in 2014, we had to save up the big features for a new major release. Now, we will finally be able to ship big features more quickly to our customers.

Previously, the app was $79; now it’s $69/year. Including discounts, I paid $53.10 for Tower 1 in 2011, $26.55 for the Tower 2 upgrade in 2014, and $34.50 for a 1-year subscription for Tower 3 today. Presumably that will go up to $69 next year. So this is a huge price increase. But it’s also a really good app, and I use it every day.

Tower is an interesting case study for subscriptions because:

As a customer, I still dislike subscriptions. However, I expect this change will be a success for Tower because it’s a solid professional tool, and if you’re the type of person who likes and uses it there’s no obvious alternative.

Previously: Productivity Apps and Subscription Pricing.

Update (2018-06-26): Ian Beck mentions Fork, which seems like a promising newcomer that’s similar to Tower but less mature. It supports syntax highlighting and has a command-line tool for quickly opening a file’s history.

Update (2018-06-27): Tyler Fox:

Regarding @gittower’s switch to subscriptions: I think a subscription model is completely fine, but the annual subscription cost should generally be much less (1/2 or 1/3) than what the normal purchase price was. Regular users don’t re-purchase their software every year.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2018-06-29): Morgan Sammons:

Dear software companies who want academics to buy their software, Please let me buy a perpetual license. I have money now that I need to spend. That money won’t exist next year…so I can’t “subscribe” to your software…

Update (2018-07-24): Tobias Günther:

Tower for Mac now supports Image Diffing for a variety of formats (including PNG, JPG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, JPEG2000, and HEIC). In both the Working Copy and various History / Changeset views, you can now see the actual images - and how they were changed!

12 Comments

I think this is a good move for Tower—subscription pricing is a sustainable business model.

As a user I’m bummed. I’m sure my company won’t pay for this as long as SourceTree is free. I paid for the license myself. Now I’ll have to spend $70/year out of my own pocket (or more if I want the cool new Pull Request support). So I‘ll be looking at other options.

Long Time Customer Leaving

As a carpenter, I subscribe to hammers, saws, screw drivers, and many other tools. I quite enjoy paying month by month to use my table saw and once a year I get to pay for my router. I never know what they'll cost, and the manufacturers are very incentivized to do nothing to improve my subscription based hammer. However, they've convinced me that this is the only sustainable business model for them, and I just keep on paying more and more each year with absolutely no control over the costs, what I have to spend in order to build the things I build with my tools.

Certain things lend themselves to subscriptions. Such as continuously new, updated content like you find streaming from Netflix. Tools do not. Raise the price, incentivize customers to upgrade with new features, but allow them to make that decision themselves. Fortunately, we can, and are. Our company has dropped every product that attempted to force a subscription plan, and our development costs have gone down, and productivity up. Quality tools sell themselves and don't need lock-ins and manipulation.

I have yet to hear of an app switching to a subscription model that wasn't making a pretty egregious cash grab with its subscription pricing. This is not earning the developers of those apps many friends.

Olivier Simard-Casanova

Once again, a switch to subscriptions is used as an excuse to significantly increase the price. The total cost of ownership just doubled, or tripled.

Software isn't a consumable and I have a really hard time paying for it as if it was. When I want or need a new version based on new features or updates, I like to make the decision about whether or not to buy it. I only recently purchased (non-subscription) Tower, so I'll use it as long as I find it useful, but you won't see me picking up a subscription.

@Glaurung: I have an example for you: We at ProjectWizards have just recently switched our main project management app "Merlin Project" to a subscription model without steeply raising its price. Before the switch it was $299 flat, now it is $149 a year for new customers and perpetually $99 for existing customers. So we have a value equivalent of two or three years of subscription to the flat purchase which is comparable to the upgrade pricing we had before.

@Glaurung: Another example... Adobe! (ironically enough)

Seriously, Photoshop + Lightroom for $10/month is a fair price. I never had the money to buy either of these when they were up-front purchases, but now for $10/month I get all the photo editing/management software I need, and a photo library that has built-in image data verification.

@remmah Yeah, I just wish I could pay a little less to only get Lightroom.

The move to subscription is fine but as already mentioned in a previous comment the price is so expensive. For this very specific reason - the price - I'm sticking with my Tower 2.

@Michael Same, same... don't have much use for Photoshop proper nowadays but I guess it's nice to have for the few times a year it comes in handy.

I don't know how the maintainer calculated the "subscription" price, but I too find it outrageous, and won't be updating - ever.

Apps have historically had a "initial price" and "upgrade price". Upgrades were often "annual-ish", or maybe every couple of years.. but even annual is cool.

charging an 'upgraded fee' every year-ish seems reasonable.

Charging a "full price" on an annual subscription is bulls**t.

I'm fine paying for tools.. I even prefer "non-free" tools to free ones, as I find value in them, but geeze -- I have limits, and this one blows past those limits in a major way..
@Frank -- the model you describe is very reasonable. I'd be down with an equivalent model like that.

Switching from a one-time purchase to a yearly fee at the same price is a bit bold. Typically a yearly fee is a 3rd or less than the previous one-off price. If I use Tower for the next 20 years I'll be paying 20x more. I'm happy to keep using Tower 2.

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