in commentary, Mac apps

Rethinking Mailplane

mailplane

Following yesterday’s Mailplane post, I received the following comment from Mark Munz, the developer of TextSoap (an app I purchased at full price in 2008 and greatly value):

Mailplane’s price for a year’s usage = $0.07/day. I bought it 2+ years ago, so the cost for me has been less than $0.03/day. We’re all on tighter budgets today. That’s fine. You can wait for another promo opportunity to come around. You can list out missing features that would add more value to the package. Both are reasonable responses. But to just publicly devalue a developers efforts like you did is completely unfair. You apparently want an app that cannot be sustained by the developer long term. Honestly, there is nothing worse than public price whining, except maybe price whining about a relatively low price point.

This really gave me pause to think about what I wrote and how I wrote it. After mulling it over, I’ve concluded that he’s right about the price. If you consider the price of an app based upon daily use, the cost equation looks quite different. And a mail client isn’t an occasional-use application. It’s something that is used all the time. So is $25 too much? What I realize now is that this is the wrong question to ask. What I should have asked is if it’s worth it to me to pay the $25 registration fee. This is an entirely different question, and it leads to the next point.

This should be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision. Not a ‘maybe not now, but I’ll keep using it past the expiration’ decision. I regret that I advocated using the app beyond the trial date. I’m going to make a rule for myself to either delete an app or buy it after the trial period. While it’s true that one can keep using the scaled-back version of Mailplane past the 30-day trial (which, as I said yesterday, is a classy thing to allow and is not at all common), is it the right thing to do? No, it’s really not. The right thing to do is to make a choice at some point within the trial period. If you like it, buy it. If you don’t, delete it.

One can argue that Mailplane is just a Google front-end, or one can argue that it’s a tightly-integrated, feature-full mail app. I think it’s somewhere in between right now. The important point is that I had a lengthy trial to check it out, and now I should choose. For me, I think my last post makes it clear that I really like Mailplane. While I may have come across as whiny about the price, I hope my comments didn’t come across as a devaluation of the developer’s efforts. That was not my intent. I consider myself an ardent supporter of indie Mac developers.

As Mark said, budgets are tight all around. I’ve been thinking a lot today about the effect of low prices in the iPhone/Touch App store (not to mention the glut of bundle deals over the past few years) on evolving perceptions about what Mac desktop apps should cost. Are we starting to expect to pay only a couple of bucks? Did that play into my thinking about the cost of Mailplane? Perhaps so.

What I’ve realized is this: if we all start to expect to pay less and less for Mac desktop apps, we may end up in a place where we have very few indie developers left. That would be terrible. As I’ve noted before on this blog, indie third-party apps are the best part of using a Mac. And that’s another important point about cost that I’m going to keep in mind going forward: paying the registration fee is as much about supporting a particular developer as it is about supporting the community.

So I went back and looked at the features I like about Mailplane: access to all of my accounts in one place, tight OS integration, easy photo resizing, drag-and-drop support, Address Book integration, signature and snippet storage, and UI tweaks that let me make my Gmail accounts look great. Is this worth $0.07 a day to me? You know, I think it is.

So I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided to buy Mailplane. I was wrong. Thanks for the comment, Mark.