Monthly Archives: December 2010

Holiday bundles and no-brainer promotions

Two new bundles were announced this week: “The Indie Mac Gift Pack”: (6 great Mac apps for $60) and the “Fusion Ads Holiday Bundle”: (an assortment of web design-related apps, icons, and more for $79). I love apps in both of these bundles and recommend you check them out, buy what you need, or gift them to a friend. There’s a fear among many developers that a bundle can cheapen the healthy Mac software market, but both these bundles avoid that with a higher price and the feel of being put together carefully.

As a comparison, here’s a “Macworld article on holiday bundles from 2009”: That collection seems kind of random despite several good apps in the list.

And sales for the Indie Mac Gift Pack are split evenly to the developers, so we know it’ll be a nice revenue boost for them during the holidays. From the FAQ:

“Hey… you’re ripping these developers off, aren’t you?” … “No… we ARE these developers. Our six small companies decided to band together and do a promotion, to see if it works for us. We’re splitting all the proceeds evenly. There’s no middleman here.”

I’ve never participated in a bundle, but after some of the “MacHeist controversy”: I developed a set of rules that I run Riverfold promotions on. These are the easy things that I can always say “yes” to without much thought:

Coupons are great. My coupons rarely expire and I don’t care if sites like “”: keep a list of them. Saving a few bucks might be the difference between someone buying my software and not.

Giving out software to bloggers is great. Inspired by “Wil Shipley’s C4 talk”:, I’ve “blogged about this”: Apple employees get free licenses too.

Small promotions are great. I freely give out copies to small sites that want to give away licenses of my software to encourage people to post comments. I think readers interpret these (correctly) as software developers doing something generous for a small site, instead of the gut reaction when you see software listed on MacZot or MacUpdate Promo (“are sales so bad they had to sell their software for half price?”).

Charity is great. I loved being a part of “Indie+Relief”:, the Pan-Mass Challenge auctions, and other bundles that go directly to a cause. Just like smaller promotions, these are good for users (deals on software), good for developers (helps with marketing), good for charity (donated money), and good for the software market (these aren’t developers who are making a sacrifice because their sales aren’t doing well — it’s charity).

Now that I’ve seen a bundle like the “Indie Mac Gift Pack”:, I think I can more clearly judge a unique bundle opportunity when it comes along. Does it minimize the middleman? Does it respect the individual apps as peers? Does it use the total bundle price to underscore the value of software rather than cheapen it? Then it’s probably a good deal for everyone.

360iDev Austin (in tweets)

On “episode 35 of Core Intuition”: I mentioned attending the 360iDev conference, and we brought it up again on the next show while plugging 360MacDev. I had a great time at the conference and hope to attend another one in the future.

The best part was meeting all the iPhone developers who I’ve never crossed paths with, and catching up with others I’d only met briefly before. iPhone developers come from a mix of places, from old Mac developers to web developers to traditional mobile or game developers. While there’s a risk that having so many small regional conferences will fragment the community, this concentrated group of mostly iPhone-only developers made for a great few days of sessions and discussion.

And my main concern leading into the conference — that the hotel location would make it difficult for people to head downtown or see other parts of Austin — turned out to be mostly a non-issue. I had a great time hanging out with everyone in the evening, and hope some of you will be back for SXSW.

I used Tweet Library to “collect about 120 tweets from attendees”: at the conference: reaction to sessions, quotes, speaker slide URLs, dinner out, and more. Capturing an event like this is why I built the app. What you had for dinner isn’t interesting by itself, but in context it is powerful because it tells a story.

Faster support response times

In an “interview with Kevin Hoctor on episode 5 of the iDeveloper Live podcast”:, Scotty referenced my comment from Core Intuition that customers are so used to terrible support that they don’t mind a few days or even a week delay. I thought this was maybe taken out of context a little since we were talking about vacations, so I went back to listen to what I said:

“Most people are thrilled to get a response in a few days, maybe a week they’re still cool with it. They are used to sending support email to companies and not getting a response any time soon or maybe not at all in some cases.”

Of course I didn’t mean I strive for week delays before a customer gets a response, but looking back I think Scotty’s interpretation was right: in a way this was a confession that I’ve fallen down when it comes to support. My response times for Tweet Library questions are still very good (usually same day), but it’s dragging for my other products. Even when I’m quick to respond to an initial email, difficult follow-up questions often won’t see an answer for some time. I’m just not as responsive as I was when I wrote “this blog post about good support in 2007”:

The worst part are the emails that fall through the cracks. They are on their 2nd or 3rd response to a problem that I don’t understand, or they’re waiting on a solution that isn’t ready, and months go by before I can pick up the thread again. I hate this.

I’m going to use this opportunity to get back to where I should be: less than 24-hour response in all cases, for all products. I’m adding a “stats section to my support page”: to keep me in check, and I’ve seeded it with response times for the most recent support questions via email and forums. This will also give customers an idea of what to expect without an explicit promise from me.

$1 apps won’t dominate the Mac App Store

“Marco Arment wrote an interesting piece”: on the Mac App Store shortly after it was announced. I was nodding my head in agreement for much of it, until I got to this part:

“And if the Mac App Store is only populated by a subset of today’s Mac software, a few key points (such as ‘Inexpensive’) still won’t be true. This is why I believe that the Mac App Store will be dominated by (and become known for) apps that don’t exist on the Mac today.”

He makes great points, and I think his assumptions about Apple’s rules are correct. But newcomers dominating the store? And $1 apps as the second most popular price point on the Mac? I’m not convinced.

Many iPhone app hits lend themselves to a mobile environment, but the Mac is different because people usually buy computers to get work done. You don’t have your MacBook Pro with you while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. You don’t have it at a party when your friend tells you about the latest game. You don’t hand your computer to your kids when they’re bored in the car and want to play Angry Birds.

If $1 apps will be so common on the Mac App Store, why aren’t they common on the iPad? In the iPad top 10 right now there are only two 99-cent apps. Prices around $2.99 or $4.99 are much more common, and there are plenty of $10 apps as well in the top paid and especially top grossing lists. The iPad app making the most money right now is a $20 music app called “djay”.

I think $10-$20 will be pretty common on the Mac App Store, but not $1, and not even $2 or $3. Something that’s priced so cheap sends a clear message on the Mac: this app is useless and should have been free.

As I said recently on “Core Intuition”:, I absolutely wish all the best of luck to iOS developers and designers moving to the Mac. I had a great time hanging out with a mostly iOS group at 360iDev last month; these guys are ambitious and smart and bring innovation to the platform because they don’t have the baggage that the rest of us have. 2011 will be a fantastic year for new Mac software and for indie developers!

But take a good look at some of your favorite apps for iPhone and iPad and you’ll see that for the most part they lack the depth to compete with established Mac software. The workhorses on your Mac — text editors, image editors, file transfer apps, version control clients, web site tools — won’t be knocked off by new competition easily.

Maybe 10.7 Lion will be a revolution, but when the Mac App Store first launches on 10.6 it’s going to contain familiar software at familiar prices.