Under The Microscope

…You Never Get A Day Off

It’s a bittersweet day for us at Rogue Amoeba. We’re releasing an update to Detour, version 1.5.5, but with this comes the retirement of Detour from our product lineup. Beginning now, Detour will no longer be sold in our store, nor actively developed. You can now download Detour and enjoy, with no hassles, no noise overlay, and no need to get out your wallet. However, Detour is also now provided with no warranty, and no support from Rogue Amoeba.

Users who’ve already purchased Detour will receive support through April 15th, 2006, as well as an exclusive “Thank You” gift. Detour will continue to be available for download, and support OS X 10.2 through 10.4, and possibly beyond (that depends on Apple).

So why are we doing this? The reasons for Detour’s retirement are four-fold, and they’re a bit complex. I’ll lay them out below.

1) Apple is changing the way audio works
With the OS X 10.3 version of Mail and the OS X 10.4 version of Mail and iChat, Apple has adjusted the way these applications output audio. Mail and iChat now both use the System Alerts device and volume for their audio output, and this overrides anything Detour sets. Detour allows you to adjust your System Alerts device, but this is simply a duplication of a control found in the Sound Effects tab of the standard OS X Sound System Preference. Further, in Sound, you can adjust the Alert volume as well.

What this means is that two of the main applications for which Detour was designed no longer work with Detour, and there’s no good way around it. Detour was originally conceived to lower the volume of things like, you guessed it, email alerts and IM noises. Without the ability to do that, it becomes both less useful and a harder sell.

2) Applications are taking over
Whether Detour had something to do with it or not, developers of many applications are beginning to realize that this volume control idea is a good one. From third-party AIM client Adium to movie player VLC to most new games, dozens of applications now have their own audio controls. This is great, insomuch as it provides the control users are looking for without needing a third party tool. The problem is these settings override anything set in Detour. Not only is Detour not needed here, but users are often confused as to why it’s not working.

3) Support Issues
Which brings us to the third problem, that of support. Detour has always required more support than our other applications, due largely to the complexity of its interaction with various audio devices, as well as the poor quality of many audio drivers out there.

4) Cost vs. Reward
Support issues alone would not be enough to prevent us from continuing development. However, there is a definite cost vs. reward problem here. Detour has always been popular with a dedicated group of users who swear by it. However, Detour accounts for a very small percentage of our overall sales, something around 2-3%. Meanwhile, it takes a much larger percentage of our support time, upwards of 15% based on a pseudo-scientific study of our email. Put simply, Detour has always been something of a non-starter, as far as sales go. We want to improve the world for our users, but we also need to stay in business.

So there you have it. Detour is being slowly made obsolete by Apple and others, and it’s also costing us a lot of time and money to develop, resulting in a large net loss for us. Because of this, we’ve decided to put it out to pasture. You’ll still be able to use it as long as it works with OS X, and by the time it doesn’t anymore, perhaps Apple will have an integrated solution.

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