Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Sketch Subscriptions


Over the past few years, we’ve evolved Sketch to be more than the Mac app. It’s now a fully integrated platform for design and collaboration, combining the best native Mac editor with tools that work in any web browser. Today we want to share a few highlights, what’s available in Sketch right now, and what you can expect from us in the months ahead.

Sketch (Hacker News):

The complete Sketch experience — including real-time collaboration in the Mac app, feedback and handoff in the web app, and a shared Workspace to bring all your people and documents together — is now a subscription. Learn more about subscriptions.

As a result of the changes, licenses are becoming Mac-only licenses. With a Mac-only license you’ll get access to the Mac app only, so you can work on local documents. Licenses do not include the option to save or open files from the web app, or any collaboration features (including real-time collaboration).

Officially, nothing is changing for those of us just using Sketch as a traditional Mac app. But, as with TextExpander and 1Password, it’s not a good feeling when the developer declares a use case that you’re not interested in to be the future of the app. Note that I’m not saying that these were bad business decisions.


Update (2021-05-24): Vítor Galvão:

I keep a list of “perpetual fallback licensing” software, and Sketch was a big part of why I started.

It saddens me that I’ll have to remove it from that list. It used to be the first example I mentioned.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter

up to now their actual implementation of a subscription model was very good. Way better than most other models.

They're trying to compete in the native Mac vector design app market, and in the enterprise design team collaboration tool market, and to find a pricing model that works for both. I'm not sure that's a good long-term business decision; they'd probably be better off just focusing on the enterprise market, where they are still relevant, but not for much longer, if they don't heavily invest in cross-platform features.

@Plume, you make it sound like Sketch is no longer relevant in the native Mac app market, or am I misreading you?

No, what I meant was that they won't remain relevant in the enterprise market for long, unless they invest heavily. They're obviously still relevant as a standalone native Mac app, but my guess is that that market is shrinking.

Subscriptions are the practical way to go - software is not static, especially in todays highly interconnected and networked world. It requires maintenance and that requires people to do the work. Not surprised more vendors are moving to the subscription model.

Old Unix Geek

@EricE, will you make the same argument when you can only rent cars and computers? The World Economic Forum expects that to be coming soon.

@Old Unix Geek
Not a valid comparison though. The auto market is standardized to an extent where you can pay people to maintain your car. Or you can do it yourself.

You can’t actually maintain your own piece of software though… buying out front is like you bought a Toyota and every time it breaks down (within a limited time) Toyota fixes it for you for free

Your analogy does work in that when you buy a car, you own it, and you don’t get much any features that come in models that follow

Old Unix Geek

@Teng: I wasn't aware that software suffered wear and tear. Cars need maintenance because of wear and tear.

If I have source-code I definitely can maintain software. Even if I don't, I can sometimes make it work by reverse engineering it and patching it, if the OS maker (or CPU maker) breaks something. I did that on a few occasions on DOS/Unix/MacOS. Thanks to App-signing that's probably not possible anymore on MacOS.

However my main point is that people have been pushed into accepting a societal choice with which I disagree. People have accepted poor backwards compatibility, and the need to be on a treadmill in the name of "security" and updating to the latest and "greatest". To me that is a choice that is bad for users.

Security is a euphemism for bugs. Bugs are flaws that should never have been shipped. Software makers should not be rewarded for fixing bugs they caused. Instead the attitude in too many software shops is: "Yeah it's a known bug, we need to ship today, we'll fix it later with a patch". The cost to users is heavily discounted.

Similarly maintaining backwards compatibility costs money, whereas getting people to upgrade makes money. Apple can move between CPUs, and change their OS easily, if developers and customers expect to have to fix their software for it to continue working. That means they can add more and more features to their OS. But those features come at a cost, in that they are less and less bug-free. Working around Apple's bugs is becoming a full time occupation which is another cost.

These economic choices benefit Apple and to some extent the software makers. But it's a burden on everyone. And thanks to the "magic" of competition, software makers all have to cut the same corners to stay in the game... externalizing costs and problems to their users.

However it has consequences: niche software which doesn't make enough money to be self-sustaining dies. Machines like MRI machines sometimes break after the latest update, but might be hacked into without it. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And software developers, busy fixing Apple bugs, don't have time to innovate or be creative.

I prefer the old model: ownership and backwards compatibility. Ownership means control over. If I own a thing, I can rely on it being there. If I rent a thing, I can't: someone else owns it, and controls it. If I'm going to take the time to master a tool, that investment is lost if I no longer can use it.

This is what an efficient market does. It doesn't always result in the best outcome for the customer. The same is happening in hardware. Computer chips used to be rated for 25 years. That changed around 20 years ago. Rating them to last less long increased yields (the number of chips that can be sold per silicon wafer), and thus profit... and it meant customers would have to replace their computers more often, which also increased profit. Win-win! Except for poorer users and the environment.

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