Apple’s Responsibility in Driving Software Prices Down

In my last post, I mentioned how independent software companies are fighting a battle with continuously dropping prices. They also have the users expecting software to be perfect and at a crazy low price. There have been lots of articles out there (many very good) discussing how the App Store for both Mac and iOS has contributed to this problem. I don’t want to rehash any of that and you can read one of those articles to gain some insight into the failures of the App Store.

There is one company and their pricing practices that seems to get away without any blame for the constant downward spiral of pricing. That company is Apple. Look at what Apple is charging for Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and even new versions of their Operating System. The grand total they are charging for those four products is $0.00. If Apple is not going to charge for software where a at least a year of work is involved (Mac and iOS), how can other developers charge for their software? In a lot of ways Apple is setting the example for all of the other software developers.

I have briefly mentioned my theory to one or two people and they have made some good points counter to my suggestion. The first point is that Apple is in the business of selling the hardware, not the software. Therefore it is OK for them to give their software away for nothing.

The argument does make sense, to a point. I think that if Apple were only giving away the new operating systems for free then I would agree. However it is not only the OS they are giving away. They are also giving away productivity applications. How are other software companies that make similar applications to competed with free?

Another possible argument is that Apple does charge for some of their software (Logic and FinalCut come to mind) so they don’t have to charge for their other software. While it is true Apple does charge from some of its professional creative software, the fact they don’t charge for used to be called the iWork suite indicates the lack of value they see for the product. Additionally they feel they can do whatever they want with the software because it is free (think how they gutted Pages and numbers for the Mac so it could be on par with the iOS versions).

There are multiple factors that have contributed to the price of software dropping. However Apple’s own pricing models should be added to the equation.

The subscription model economy bust

Independent software companies are rapidly getting into a financial bind. The prices for software they work on are continuously being pressed down because many people believe software shouldn’t cost above a certain amount. Because of this they are lowering their prices but are not seeing the profits after they drop the price. These developers then have to try to find a way to even the cash flow so they can keep the lights on and pay the few employees they have.

The latest example of this is Smile Software and their decision to switch TextExpander to a subscription model. They are beginning to charge $5 per month. As with all software subscription models they are adding some value to the software and as long as you are subscribed you won’t have to pay for an upgrade when the next big version rolls around.

There are a lot of people who are enraged by the idea they will now need to pay monthly for a product they used to have to buy once every few years. Speaking as a happy user of TextExpander I respect their decision but I don’t know if I will be joining them on this new endeavor. However just because I don’t know if I am joining them, I wish them success. In fact this tweet really summarizes how I feel:

The Subscription Economy

Not to go too Andy Rooney on you but did you ever notice how many things we rely on are becoming subscriptions? No, I haven’t  gathered them on my desk for this blog post. Amazon Prime, iCloud Drive, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud are all examples of some services that are subscription. We are even seeing networks have separate subscriptions for their content. You may even use a subscription for your IT services at work in the form of a Managed Service Provider.

It seems to me that we are in the middle of a bubble for the subscription economy.  Is this a good thing and is the model sustainable for people or companies? I don’t think that it is sustainable. Here is an example on the IT consulting side Tom Bridge (once a client of mine and now someone I consider a friend) wrote about in his weekly newsletter:

Lately, in the rush toward managed services in the consulting industry, I’ve felt a bit hesitant to adopt the practice. I looked at our stable of clients, many of whom we have worked with for almost a decade, and I did some math to figure out what they were paying now versus what they might pay if we went all-in on the MSP model.

I didn’t like what I found.

These are people that I consider friends now, that I work with through hard times and good, and in some cases it might’ve been a tripling or quadrupling of their annual bill. How is that fair to them? I may be good, but I don’t see that I’m worth four times what I’ve been charging just to match the new fancy model.

(Tom also has a new podcast focused on Mac IT Administration. If that is your thing or have an interest in it I suggest checking it out.)

I think the point Tom is making can be expanded to a point about subscription services in general. When you begin to add them up, they become quite costly. Think about people who are “cord cutters” and how much they will pay monthly to get Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBOGo and other services I can’t remember. They are still paying the same amount and in some cases even more than they were before!

Sooner than later this bubble is going to burst. I don’t think it is a bad thing because I hope this will allow independent software development companies to charge what the software is really worth and not to use other models.

You’re Protesting Wrong

Yesterday I received my first ever anti-semitic tweet sent to me accusing me and someone else of being Zionists strictly because we’re Jewish. It’s quite a milestone for me. Here is something I wrote on the old blog (circa 2014) about this conflation that happens vis a via Jews and Zionism:

Since the start of the Gaza offensive (or war) by Israel, there seems to have been a growing number of anti-semitic incidents. From synagogues being attacked in France to the most recent attack on a student at Temple university (thinking about it I find a degree of irony that this happened at Temple). The majority if not all of these attacks have been in response to Israel entering Gaza. I am not going to discuss if what Israel is doing is justified or not. What I want to talk about is how misguided these protests are.

What do I mean when I say these protests are misguided? Simply put, if you are if you are “protesting” by attacking a synagogue or beating down a local Jew or Israeli, you’re protesting wrong. The proper place to protest is at your local Israeli consulate. Do you know why? That is where the Israeli government is located. An Israeli playing soccer is not a representative of the Israeli government. Additionally it’s OK to block the Brooklyn Bridge and chant “Free Palestine” although I don’t know if you will be convincing anyone who is stuck on the bridge. Oh yeah, getting a permit is highly recommended. Any “protests” that are not at an Israeli government location is nothing more than an assault which should be prosecuted.

Speaking of offences to be prosecuted, I’d like to bring up the thugs who murdered the Arab boy in retaliation for the kidnappings. It is my fervent hope they prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It seems Israeli law does have the death penalty is specific cases and I an in agreement with Rabbi Levanon that it should be used in this situation.

How to change the primaries for the better

With the primary season about half way through (thankfully) there have been two issues which have bothered me. I believe these three changes would make the primaries more meaningful for those who are running and more importantly for those who are voting.

  1. Closed Primaries – I was amazed to discover how many states didn’t have a true closed primary. Meaning only if you were a registered Democrat or Republican would you be able to vote in the primary. For some reason the state parties (or state governments) believe their primary should be open in some way. This doesn’t work because only the people who have decided to sell identify with a political party should be the ones who decide the fate of the party. There is nothing wrong with considering one’s self independent and not in a party; however if you do then you need to understand you can’t vote in the primaries. I do practice what I’m preaching here. In NYC there is no way to really effect change unless you are a registered Democrat and therefore in spite of my not really having any ideological agreement with the party I am a registered democrat. This also will take care of anyone who just wants to create chaos and vote for the weaker general election candidate.
  2. Early Voting – I am not talking about absentee voting (if you will be away or are in the military). I’m talking about people who are too lazy to go to the polls on Election Day and are able to vote about a month in advance of the state’s primary. This is a silly thing to be because (a) the candidate you voted for might not be in the election any longer (E.G. Marco Rubio) and (b) late breaking news can change the way people think about the existing candidates. If you are voting early you don’t have the benefit of the later information. If we are going to have early voting, maybe the first past the post style needs to be changed to an alternative style

    https://youtu.be/3Y3jE3B8HsE

  3. Super or Undeclared Deligates – These deligates are designed to not allow the registered party members their full say in he election. They are allow to vote for who ever they want (usually the front runner) even though the rank and file of the party had other ideas. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is undemocratic and shouldn’t be allowed.
  4. Winner Take All – This is a bonus one because even though I would prefer this style of primary, I see the point a candidate shouldn’t be punished for winning a district but not the entire state. I don’t see a big need to change the way a large number of states award deligate. It’s just a personal preference.

These three changes would make big differences in the how effective primaries are in selecting the candidates for each party. Additionally it would restore fairness to the way primaries are set up.

Welcome to the All New, All Different Blog

Well folks, due to a massive mess up on my part the old blog got wiped out. I’ll save you the gory details but let’s just say you shouldn’t be working on the security of your blog while you have a migraine. However this is a teachable moment to once again stress how having backups of anything is good. If I had practiced what I preached in regard to my blog, I would still have my old content.

Regardless starting from square one again gives you some opportunities to try different things. One of the things I am trying here is a new name of the blog. After months of focus groups I have finally decided on “Benedict Blog”. My marketing people worked overtime coming up with the name and I think it’s very creative.

I hope you enjoy the ride.