Free updates for life?

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ahankinson
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Free updates for life?

Post by ahankinson » Fri Jan 21, 2011 5:44 pm

While I'm generally a fan of things I don't have to pay for, I have to confess I'm a bit uneasy about the "Free upgrades for life" policy for Mellel.

Why? Well, for something as important to me as the tools I use for writing, I like to know that I can support the folks developing it and that they, in turn, will continue to address and improve the software. Given the recent dry spell in Mellel development and the long list of features folks would like to see implemented to make it a truly amazing word processor, I worry that the Redlers will have to focus their energies on software that allows them to do things like put groceries on the table and live comfortably.

Now, I say this as an outsider. Maybe Mellel has reached a point where the income from new users can completely support the development process, and that the long-time users of the software can expect this income stream to fund development and make Mellel even better. I have to assume that Redlers crunched the numbers and made the best decision they could. But I remain sceptical, and it would be great to hear from Redlers to assure us that Mellel development can continue.

The price and upgrade payment policy was never a serious barrier for me, even as a "poor" student; indeed, Mellel is one of the few pieces of software I don't have to think twice about when it comes to pay for the upgrade. I like paying to support quality software, of which Mellel is a shining example, but if this new policy means that continued support and improvement sets Mellel development in a direction that gradually becomes financially unfeasible, I have to seriously question this decision.

Thanks.

redlers
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by redlers » Fri Jan 21, 2011 6:24 pm

ahankinson wrote:While I'm generally a fan of things I don't have to pay for, I have to confess I'm a bit uneasy about the "Free upgrades for life" policy for Mellel.

Why? Well, for something as important to me as the tools I use for writing, I like to know that I can support the folks developing it and that they, in turn, will continue to address and improve the software. Given the recent dry spell in Mellel development and the long list of features folks would like to see implemented to make it a truly amazing word processor, I worry that the Redlers will have to focus their energies on software that allows them to do things like put groceries on the table and live comfortably.
Thanks.
Rest assured - Mellel is developed and will continue to develop. I will go into the matter of our change of policy in more detail elsewhere. For the time being, I would like to note the following:
  • Mellel was never really "funded" by upgrades: We've joined the "upgrade game" relatively late (in 2006/7) and we never really relied on that. Our main source of income was always people buying Mellel because other people told them it is a good product. We hope this will continue in the future, as we release newer version, which will make people happier to recommend Mellel.
  • The Software market changes: I don't think you'll have the 'traditional' software upgrades in the future. Apple's app store will cause them to vanish. To be sure, there will be software makers who will release MyProduct BS, and MyProduct 2012, and so on. But I doubt if small software companies will be able to pull this one on a regular basis.
  • It's a good thing, really: The price goes down, the terms improve. What's bad about that?
Ori

rpcameron
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by rpcameron » Fri Jan 21, 2011 8:19 pm

redlers wrote:The Software market changes: I don't think you'll have the 'traditional' software upgrades in the future. Apple's app store will cause them to vanish.
However, if Mellel switches its distribution to the App store, users will have to repurchase the software. There is no way for users to "import" their license into software purchased via the App store, since it is technically a different version of the software.

How is RedleX going to be able to deliver on the promise of "free updates for life", when that may not be possible? Will Mellel always be distributed both ways (via the website and through the App store), or will users at some point need to repurchase the software?
— Robert Cameron

Eyal Redler
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Eyal Redler » Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:43 pm

How is RedleX going to be able to deliver on the promise of "free updates for life", when that may not be possible?
There is no reason to believe that it will be impossible. Ori was referring to the fact that we believe that in the (not so) long run most/all of software sales will be done via the app store. That doesn't mean that it will be impossible to sell and update applications by ways other then the App store but only that most people will choose to use the app store.

Supporting both modes of distribution will not impose a significant burden on us and we will continue to support both app store and "redlex store" users.
Eyal Redler
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Co-Founder and Developer at Mellel AAR LTD
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raymond
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by raymond » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:39 am

What about Mellel for iPad?

You are writing Mellel has a new Save format. Will this new format enables users on PC with Word to open Mellel files? If not, what is the point with the new feature. Please, give us few more explanations.

Timotheus
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Timotheus » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:55 am

I fully agree with ahankinson. What I want is frequent updates, excellent service, continuous staff presence on the forum; for this, I would be very glad to pay every now and then an upgrade fee. But unfortunately, in recent years we have seen more or less the opposite. Free updates for life? Wouldn't be my choice, if I were a developer; I would offer the above mentioned frequent updates and an excellent service, and would ask a honest price for it. But I suppose the Redlers will have thought this over well.

Eyal Redler
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Eyal Redler » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:51 am

Regarding the iPad:
We are working on this. The iPad is real challenge, not so much from the technical perspective but rather from the UI design perspective. We are working on making this a companion product to the Mac version and in the process we will make some changes to they way the mac version works so you can expect at least one more mac version before we ship that. Development pace will be much much faster however.

Regarding the new format:
The older Mellel format was a "package", a package is essentially a folder containing the document contents, images etc which is presented, in the finder, as a single file. When Mac OS X came out, Apple encouraged developers to embrace this type of format which we did. Unfortunately, both Apple and many third parties failed to support this type of format correctly and the result was that programs that used this type of format suffered from all sort of trouble when sending the files via email, synching and backup. The new format solves this problem by taking the old package and compressing it into a zip archive (although the extension remains .mellel, of course). This means that Mellel documents are now a single file and not a folder. This is solution Apple and many others are using for their programs.
From the user perspective the only effects of the new format is that the files are (typically) smaller and that many problems that existed with email backup and synchronization are gone.
Eyal Redler
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Eyal Redler
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Eyal Redler » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:33 am

Timotheus wrote:I fully agree with ahankinson. What I want is frequent updates, excellent service, continuous staff presence on the forum; for this, I would be very glad to pay every now and then an upgrade fee. But unfortunately, in recent years we have seen more or less the opposite. Free updates for life? Wouldn't be my choice, if I were a developer; I would offer the above mentioned frequent updates and an excellent service, and would ask a honest price for it. But I suppose the Redlers will have thought this over well.
I must say that during the period we planned and considered the new licensing terms we didn't anticipate this reaction. We thought most people would welcome the improved term and our only worry was that some existing users, who've already payed for upgrades will feel deprived for having paid the upgrade fee - that's why we're charging an upgrade fee for the permeant license from people whose would have needed to upgrade to 2.8 under the older terms.

Regarding your concerns: Our goal is to continue making Mellel, update it frequently and give the best support possible. The new licensing terms are aimed at doing just that. We hope to expand our user base and we believe making Mellel more affordable to buy and upgrade will help us do just that.

Giving upgrades for life may seem like something that will give us an incentive to update less frequently but that is not the case. A new release is the best way to boost sales and the increased sales of new licenses actually generates more revenue then upgrades. Also, we are quite far from market saturation, there is a huge room for expansion and we believe the marked is really going to explode (for everybody) with the Mac App Store.

As i've said, we have a very strong incentive to issue new versions even without upgrade fees because new versions brings us many more new users and this because we receive some media attention but also because it makes existing users like the program more which causes them to recommend it to others (and this is how we really grow). That is to say - keeping our existing users happy is our goal because this is how we can grow. That is what we plan and hope to do in the future.
Eyal Redler
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Co-Founder and Developer at Mellel AAR LTD
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mellelwordprocessor
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kjmatthews
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by kjmatthews » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:57 pm

This might be the strangest thread I've ever seen on a message board. Here's a suggestion for everyone who is worried that no more upgrade fees will result in stalled development:

Every couple of years, when it would normally be time for you to pay an upgrade fee, purchase a Mellel license for a friend. Not only do the Redlers get an influx of cash, but you help Mellel out by expanding its user base!

ahankinson
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by ahankinson » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:11 pm

Thanks for chiming in Eyal & Ori - that answers some of the questions that I had.

When can we expect to see Mellel on the App Store? Have you submitted it for 2.x, or will the first App Store version be 3?

Eyal Redler
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Eyal Redler » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:23 pm

We plan to have Mellel 2.8 available in the Mac App Store soon.
Eyal Redler
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Co-Founder and Developer at Mellel AAR LTD
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mellelwordprocessor
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Timotheus
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Timotheus » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:45 pm

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear; so let me try to explain what I mean.

And let me first say that I fully respect the strategy of lifetime free updates the Redlers have decided to follow, which I don’t intend to criticize in any way, and which I am not even allowed to to criticize in any way. It is their choice, for which very sound reasons may exist.

But having said this, I would like to add that personally, the last thing I expect from developers whose products I am using, is that they give me lifetime free updates. Why not? Well, simply because in my experience that’s not how things work in life. We all have bills to pay, and developers are certainly no exception to that rule. So I find it quite normal to pay them every now and then a (reasonable) upgrade fee for a nice set of new features and other improvements of their product. I find it even a pleasure to do so: because paying a (reasonable) upgrade fee for me is also a way of thanking a developer for his work, and a way of expressing my appreciation of his product. And from a developer's point of view, it might be satisfactory to see that many customers have renewed their confidence in his product by judging it worth the upgrade fee they were asked to pay.

In recent times I have paid upgrade fees for new versions of applications like for instance Bookends and Scrivener. And it was a pleasure to do so, because these are very good products made by very dedicated developers, which I want to help to keep up their good work. A new version of Nisus is around the corner, and I have no doubt that this new version will be a paid upgrade; but in this case too, it will be a pleasure for me to pay. Not because I’m rich (which I’m not), not because I want to be a philantropist, but simply because I think it’s fair and and because it’s a way of thanking people for their committment and their hard work. Nothing (well, let’s say almost nothing) is forever in life; so why should free updates of applications be? No, from a software company I definitely expect other things. To some readers of these lines my point of view may seem weird; well, so be it. And apart from all this, in a rapidly changing and highly unpredictable world like the one we're living in, I would never tie my hands with far reaching promises which are very difficult to revoke. But that's my philosophy.

To conclude, something else: many developers expect a significant boost of their profits from the App Store; but in my opinion, this remains to be seen. I’m ready to believe that there will be a boost of the sales of games and other fun oriented applications; but I’m not so sure this will hold true for (for instance) wordprocessors too. This apart from the fact that Apple is taking 30% (!!) of every licence fee. Too much, much too much. No, the only one who certainly will make huge profits will be mr. Jobs.

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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by ozean » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:55 am

The lifetime free upgrades also made me think of GraphicConverter which had a similar policy, but had to scrap it with version 5 (I think, but it might also have been version 6). Many people then thought that GraphicConverter has supplied them with free upgrades – not only minor updates – for such a long time that they did not have any complaints of paying once more. But there was a substantial group of users – particularly those who started to use GC more recently – that felt a bit cheated, which I can understand.

I guess my conclusions from that prominent case were (a) that I do not believe in “true” free lifetime upgrades and (b) that I think it is fair to charge for an upgrade from time to time. Developers can always decide when a charge for an upgrade will be necessary / make sense. They know best about the effort they invested and the income they can expect from upgrade fees…

jannuss
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by jannuss » Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:06 pm

Isn't the "accepted" solution to this dilemma to introduce a "new" product, say Mellell Pro, maintain both products for an decent length of time and then allow the original product to fade out slowly.

And, anyway Apple takes care of things by periodically making system changes that force developers to rewrite large chunks of their applications . . . so it will be with Mellel 11

Janet

Mart°n
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Re: Free updates for life?

Post by Mart°n » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:27 pm

I was also worried (and I am still) when I’ve read those line about the new free updates of Mellel. While typically one should be happy to get free updates for life, maybe I use computers and software long enough to have seen other companies failing with the same approach. One example was GraphicConverter by Lemke Software. He offered free updates a long time but one time he had to charge for an update and users were upset by this because they’ve expected all updates to be free. Another example are the apps by Stone Design (Stone Create for example). He (Andrew Stone) also (still) offers free updates for life but this has caused him a too low income (my guess). As a result he now develops iOS apps and earns money by creating and selling a new app every now and then. As an effect, the Mac apps receive no more updates (he may not confirm this but most (if not all) apps received their last update in August 2008. I’m not even a customer of Andrew Stone and don’t use his apps, so I’m not affected by this, but as a user of Mellel an effectively halted development hurts much more than (almost) any update fee. There are even more examples of failed »free updates« developers and to be true, I don’t even know a single company that was (and still is) successful offering free updates for life.

I guess that the current limitation of the Mac AppStore (regarding free/paid updates, cross-grades and in-app-purchases) won’t remain a very long time. They will eventually be replaced by new purchasing offers coming in a future version of the AppStore, as some developers simply can’t offer free updates for life. My concern is that you’ve already promised those free updates an it will hurt your credibility by a huge factor if you have to break this promise somewhere in the future. I think it would have been a better option to promise free updates until or including Mellel 3 and decide about free updates to Mellel 4 later. (This is how the guys from Pixelmator have done it).

While it is a very noble approach to offer free updates for life and generate income solely by new users (and maybe the iPad companion app) there may be situations this will work any longer. One situation may be market saturation (which is far away for Mellel but actually true for Microsoft Windows). Another situation may be licensing conditions for new features. This was actually true for Thorsten Lemke and GraphicConverter. He had to pay license fees in order to include support for some new image formats (JPEG 2000 for example) and as he has to pay those fees on a per GraphicConverter-User basis, it was not possible to pay those fees solely from new customers and provide them to all existing users. In case of Mellel one could think of licensed dictionaries, thesauruses or hyphenation dictionaries. Papyrus or SoftMaker Office (only known to German Windows and Linux users) for example bundle some very good German dictionaries with their products which they have licensed themselves from the mayor German provider (Duden) of those references. Such an offer (and a great value to the customers of those products) would only be possible if you charge an update fee to re-pay those license fees to other companies. The same is true for almost any company that offers some kind of video editing or video encoding apps. They have to pay license fees to the MPEG-LA (licensing group) in order to provide new video codecs like .h264. Without update fees those companies could not offer support for new video formats and would be out of business soon.
In case of Mellel it could be the licensing fees you’ll have to pay if you like to support Microsoft’s .docx format sometimes in the future.

Also software-development most times could be speed up by additional developers. So if you generate some income with updates, you may be able to hire another team member which in turn helps to speed up Mellel development which helps your users to get an even better product.

So I’m wishing you all the best and I’m happy if this new approach works well but I’m still concerned it could fail. In the latter case your customers (not me) may be upset by the broken promise and the word of mouth by those unhappy customers may turn against you. So offering free updates until 3.x or 4.x or 3 years may have limited this experiment to a foreseeable time frame and you always would have been able to expand it in the future without making users angry about an (eventually) broken promise of free updates for life.

So I may follow kjmatthews advice and gift some Mellel licenses to support you in future.

Keep up the great work and I’ll keep my fingers crossed :D

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