You may have seen, last week, that Smile Software, the maker of the utility TextExpander, is moving to a subscription model. Instead of a one-time fee for their app, there will be a monthly fee.
Riccardo Ettore, who develops TypeIt4Me, which was the first snippet expansion tool for Mac, has written a blog post explaining his point of view on this issue. He says:
… our view is that Smile’s new plan constitutes a bold move, albeit not one we would consider making ourselves.
The one-time $19.99 purchase with optional upgrades model suits us just fine and people seem happy enough with it. So if you’re a TypeIt4Me user alarmed by Smile’s new direction and worried we might follow in their footsteps, you can relax: that’s not going to happen.
Riccardo also points out that:
… we’re mainly a bit spooked by some of the unbridled scorn being poured on a previously well-regarded team that’s successfully marketed a solid, dependable utility for years. Watching a decade’s worth of goodwill unravel in the wake of a surprise decision that alienated a lot of customers has been a sobering lesson that we need to tread carefully ourselves.
While I disagree with Smile Software’s choice, I have been very respectful of the company, which is made up of great people. Others have been much less respectful, and that’s a shame. The company made a business decision, and they are paying a price, because – in my opinion – they didn’t understand their user base. But this is no reason for hostility.
The whole thing might end up like New Coke, and Smile may go back to the way things were before, or at least offer two options: one outright purchase, and one monthly fee for advanced features. We’ll know soon. I know that the people at Smile have been reevaluating their decision.
It does highlight the fragility of any product, and how changing the way a product works, or how it is priced, can cause users to vote with their credit cards. All developers should keep this in mind when they plan to make important changes to their software.
Update: Smile Software has published an article explaining changes they’ve now made to their pricing.