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Ulysses, infected by a trendy virus, changes to all-Subscription model

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Posted by Slartibartfarst
Aug 12, 2017 at 03:44 AM


That’s about 30 posts on this Ulyssees thread so far. Curious.
Yup, it’s apparently rent-seeking by the Ulysses developers, alright - as someone has already pointed out - but then, so what?

I have been involved in software beta-testing and software selection for corporate and personal use for years now.
I generally advocate using a PIM that meets most of the user’s peculiar requirements for a PIM (whatever they may be at the time).
In my case, if my requirements change, or if I subsequently don’t like (say) the general development direction, or if I don’t like the new pricing or a new pricing model applied by the developers, for a piece of software that I use, then I would generally gradually retire it in whatever version I had last retained/purchased, whilst I looked for a better (for my purposes) alternative. I would then progressively migrate to the better alternative - e.g., that’s what I did with EverNote and InfoSelect, settling so far on what I called a “21st-century Zettelkasten PIM” in the shape of Microsoft OneNote (still in a now 9-year long experimental trial, for me).

But I don’t really look back (excepting, perhaps, with a sense of disappointment in the case of InfoSelect) and I probably wouldn’t invest further cognitive surplus in flogging those dead horses, however good they may have been or however bad they may have become, unless I thought it might be useful in (say) encouraging the developers to get back on what I thought was the “right” development track, or get back to a “better” (e.g., less greedy) pricing model.
At the same time, I keep checking those other PIMs out there, in the hope of finding something that overcomes the limitations that I perceive in OneNote. I maintain notes on a list of “also-rans” - PIMs that had potential, but just never seem to make the grade (for my requirements), and a list of “potential candidates” - PIMs that, frustratingly, could probably meet or even exceed my requirements, if only they would get out of their development rut and expand their relatively constrained/narrow or “specialised” development focus (e.g., including, Zoot, ConnectedText, Wezinc, Zotero, WizNote).
Ulyssees isn’t on either list, though it looks like an interesting product.


Posted by Hugh
Aug 12, 2017 at 10:52 AM


Stephen Zeoli wrote:
The author David Hewson, one of Ulysses’s biggest fans, offers a
>perspective opposite of mine:
> >https://davidhewson.com/2017/08/11/the-new-ulysses-subscription-plan-is-a-wonderful-idea/
> >Steve Z.

I think I agree with David Hewson.

I want app developers who show a degree of innovation and professional competence to be able to thrive, and, yes, to be well-rewarded for the skills and the imagination they display. That’s because I want to be able to benefit from their creativity and their professionalism not just now but in the future. I include the Soulmen, the developers of Ulysses, in that category; Ulysses is a relatively innovative and certainly well-designed app, better for certain purposes in my experience than numbers of its rivals.

This is against a background where the software market is maturing. The app stores have no doubt had the effect of driving down prices by making it very easy for customers to compare software value across the board; remember the days when, say, Lotus Agenda cost at least $120, and Wordperfect something similar? And the options for break-out Scrivener-style successes appear to have been mostly filled. I don’t hear of any developers retiring to live in Monte Carlo; I do see once-valued apps becoming abandonware as, presumably, their developers withdraw from the market-place. But squeezed developers won’t be good for the future of software.

Now different routes to possible profitability and future survival have opened up: sticking with one-off fees till upgrade (e.g. Scrivener), pure subscription (e.g. Ulysses) and subscription as an option (e.g. Setapp, and, perhaps, DevonThink in the future). There will be errors of execution (see, perhaps, Day One, and Paul’s comments above about Ulysses pricing). But in general a diversity of pricing models can only be healthy in the long-term, for developers and for customers. And if the Soulmen judge that their survival is best guaranteed by a subscription-pricing model, I’m ready to pay for that, at least for the time being.



Posted by Paul Korm
Aug 12, 2017 at 01:35 PM


@slartibartfest I don’t have an issue with renting software, or SaaS, or whatever one wants to call the model.  I rent lots of software.  Essentially, upgrades are rents—merely paid infrequently.  I have a problem with rent-seeking, which is not “renting” in the colloquial sense.  Ulysses, Smile, DayOne—each of these firms have promised future improvements in return for current rents.  Too early to tell for Ulysses, but the others have not yet made good on that promise.  Time will tell.

The model used by Bear and Outlinely makes more sense than Ulysses’—the fee is for incremental features.

But you’re right—McKinsey and others have repeatedly demonstrated that SaaS suppliers have significant increased revenues.  The genie is out of the bottle—I expect most of the developers operating in the space this forum is concerned with will very likely move to the rental model.

In a few years someone will start a thread here “Ulysses abandons subscriptions—changes to one-time fee” and all the comments will be “whoa, why would anyone want to do that?”


Posted by Hugh
Aug 12, 2017 at 02:19 PM


A couple of arguments in favour of the subscription model, from blogger Dr Drang: http://leancrew.com/all-this/2017/08/subscriptions/ (credit MacSparky: https://www.macsparky.com).


Posted by moritz
Aug 13, 2017 at 10:43 PM


Paul Korm wrote:

>But you’re right—McKinsey and others have repeatedly demonstrated
>that SaaS suppliers have significant increased revenues.  The genie is
>out of the bottle—I expect most of the developers operating in the
>space this forum is concerned with will very likely move to the rental

... Adobe is the poster child for a successful transition from perpetual to subscription. They saw significant push back with enthusiast buyers initially, but were smart enough to price Creative Cloud at a 5-6 year pay back.

Soulmen/Ulysses are too greedy with their 1-year (to 1.5-year, if you had bought cross-platform) pay back period.
For a price like Bear, $15 a year (maybe a high $19.95), their transition could have been much smoother.

I guess they’re going to figure this out after the initial spike of subscribers attracted by the 25% lifetime discount and make and adjustment towards the end of the year/early next year. Or go out of business.


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