Under The Microscope

How It Is? Or How It Could Be?

This began as a random post in one of our forums, but Quentin felt it was worth a UTM post, and I agree. It’s something of a ramble, but I tried to clean it up here. The basic question being asked here is simply this: Do you purchase independent software (a.k.a. shareware) for what it is, or for what it is and what you expect it will be? Recently, we were asked in the forums if we’d be charging an upgrade fee for AH Pro. While work on AH Pro 2 hasn’t begun yet, we’ve got a pretty decent feature list mapped out internally – it will be a major upgrade to the application, with several key new features. However, we’ve not come to any decisions on an upgrade fee. It may be a free upgrade, but if it’s not, it will probably be <= $10 for registered owners. I think we're probably leaning towards a $7 upgrade or so for registered users, but this is still months off, so who knows. Personally, I'm not big on charging upgrade fees (none of our updates to date have had fees associated with them). Audio Hijack 2, due out in a few weeks (knock wood) is a fairly decent rewrite, but we’re intent on giving it to our users for free. It’s not as if we have to fight with upper management on this or anything. Anyhow, I often see user reviews talking about upgrade fees and how the developer shouldn’t dare charge for an upgrade etc. It’s made me curious, what exactly do people think?

For the sake of argument (and nothing more), what if we halted active development on Audio Hijack? Would we be ripping off customers? What if we continued to support it, updating it to work with new OSes, but not adding any new features? When I buy software, I generally buy it with no expectations – what I see is what I get, and if they add new stuff for free, great.

However, judging by the general reaction I saw to the OS X 10.1 to 10.2 upgrade fee, some, perhaps most people buy software with an expectation of more in the future, for free. Perhaps this was just due to 10.1’s general “Not finished” quality (though it was leaps and bounds above 10.0.x). But what do people think? Do you buy software for what you get, or for what you get and expect to get in the future?

I think that when I buy something, it should keep working through minor OS updates. But the addition of new features, unless promised by the developer, is not something I expect. This is why we try to keep a policy of under-promising and over-delivering. We get a lot of feature requests, and many of them are great – however, they might not ever get added, no matter how much we like the idea. Because of this, I make a point of saying we’ve got it on our list of things to consider, and it may be added in the future. Nothing more, no guarantees. Strict adherence to a policy like this is the only way to at least claim we did all we could to prevent disappointing customers. It’s not always possible, but we do our best to keep the future under wraps, so we can have the flexibility of changing.

The basic question is one of expectations: Are you buying a product as is, or with expectations for the future?

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