jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Software Subscriptions and Bundled Apps

The Omni Group’s recent announcement that they’d have a subscription option for OmniFocus has me thinking about how I’m going to be handling third-party software in the future. I’m not angry at them, they are still (for now) offering OmniFocus for purchase, but I wonder how much longer they’ll want to keep with the old-style model of licensing when and if subscriptions turn out to be far more lucrative.

On the one hand, software developers need a sustainable business model, and if the market of available Mac users to sell to is not getting any bigger, they need to figure out how to keep getting money out of the people they’ve already sold to. It’s a simple enough equation. On the other hand though, we could wind up with a lot of subscriptions. Off the top of my head I’ve already got:

To be honest, the list is a bit ridiculous, but different people in my household enjoy different things, and so here we are. Hopefully several of these will be cancelled in the next year or two.

I’ve tended to avoid most software subscriptions. When TextExpander switched to a subscription I exported all my snippets and bought Keyboard Maestro. Over the past year I’ve cancelled Bear and Ulysses, opting instead for Apple’s Notes app for the former, and nothing yet for the latter. When I start working on my novel again, it’s likely that I’ll switch to Scrivner, unless they too go to subscriptions, at which point I’ll probably toss a coin between the two.

Bear was already in a bit of a precarious position because the bundled Notes app Apple makes has gotten so good in the past few years. OmniFocus is in a similar position with Reminders. While Reminders and OmniFocus are two very different apps, at the core they both do the same thing, give me lists of tasks to do. OmniFocus is obviously far more powerful, and better at giving me the right thing to work on at the right time, but I could get by with Reminders. Come to think of it, I could get by with pen and paper… I did so for years before I converted to OmniFocus.

Being “Sherlocked” has never been a good thing for developers. They are always in a better position when their application offers something that Apple is unlikely to copy or absorb into their operating system. MindNode for example, Day One and OmniGraffle come to mind as well. If developers are going to be asking consumers for more money, the value of the software they deliver must be significantly higher than what is available for free out of the box with macOS.

I truly want to see the Apple developer community thrive, but I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go with them on this journey to everything being a subscription.

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