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

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Posted by Hugh
Aug 14, 2017 at 10:25 AM


I’m guessing - I do not know - that the McKinsey studies that have produced these results are based largely, if not entirely, on the business software market, especially SaaS (Software as a Service), where the revenues are potentially far greater, paying by subscription is more familiar for users, users’ data may customarily reside on the developer’s hardware, and any decision that the user or the developer takes can be informed and massaged by numbers of consultants and advisers. In the last few days, a somewhat similar statistic has become current: that a switch to subscription can lose the developer up to 80 per cent of his or her users, but he or she can stilll remain profitable. I suspect that is similarly based.

It seems to me that for most developers (except for the obvious “1,000-lb gorillas”) in the markets that serve users like us, switching to subscription is going to be something of a shot in the dark, with few certainties.


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Aug 14, 2017 at 11:24 AM


This Ulysses deal is still bothering me. It feels like a huge obfuscation on the part of the “Soulmen.” First, of course, is the misleading pricing issue—clearly intentional. In his Medium article Max makes a big case for how this price change is for the benefit of their current users, that they don’t want to rely on new users or “expanding market share” as he puts it. But when you read the list of the benefits of the subscription model, it is all about how it is useful for new users. To quote:

- We can finally offer a free, cross-platform trial. Ulysses can now be downloaded and fully tested for 14 days, on all devices, including sync, no price or strings attached. After 14 days, the app will switch into read-only mode, with export still enabled.
- A single purchase will now unlock Ulysses for the use on all devices. Ulysses has always been a single product, with the availability of all texts on all devices being one of its major features. Still, we had to sell Ulysses separately for Mac and for iOS, and we’re really happy that this barrier could be lifted.
- Ulysses is a premium app, and its price tag will always reflect that. The new model now offers a low entry threshold combined with high flexibility and the option of minimal commitment. The monthly subscription comes at only $4.99 – that’s pretty much a coffee to go. You can subscribe for as long as you need, and you will always have the latest version, with the newest features and bugfixes.
- Plus, we are now much more flexible when it comes to pricing. As an example, we now grant a dedicated discount for students: If this applies to you, you can get Ulysses for only $11.99 per six months.

I bought Ulysses II before I bought Ulysses III (which morphed into just Ulysses). I bought the iOS version. So I’ve already paid over $100 to the Soulmen for their products. That’s not insubstantial. And I now feel like my reward for this is being lied to about how much it will cost to keep on using Ulysses.

I can no longer support a company that would treat its loyal customers this way.

I’m sorry for continuing to beat this dead horse, but I had to get this off my chest.

Steve Z.


Posted by moritz
Aug 14, 2017 at 06:45 PM


good analysis.
they are miscalculating on several aspects, even if subscription is fundamentally the way to go:
- not enough give for installed base
- price miscalculated - for enthusiast market, has to be at a minimum 4-5 yrs. payback vs. perpetual (e.g. set at 1.5x single platform purchase - can’t assume everybody uses everything)
- upcoming major competitive distraction with Scrivener 3, which could hit them hard right as they’re struggling with the licensing transition
- not tied to major innovative release to stimulate a switch
- no concurrent alternative licensing (customer choice seems to never have entered the equation)

Stephen Zeoli wrote:

>But when you read the list of
>the benefits of the subscription model, it is all about how it is useful
>for new users.
>I can no longer support a company that would treat its loyal customers
>this way.


Posted by yosemite
Aug 25, 2017 at 11:30 PM


I’ve always despised subscriptions, in just about everything.  Well, I used to subscibe to (print) newspapers and magazines… gee, I wonder why I don’t anymore… and I used to subscribe to a few apps and web services (e.g. workflowy) but I’ve long since cancelled all of them.

This is just me. I do sympathize with developers, and I kinda believe that they are moving to subscriptions because they “have no choice”.. but… tough.  I don’t like subscriptions and I don’t want to support something I hate.

I have nothing against folks trying to make money, quite the contrary.  And certainly nothing against folks who do like subscriptions. 

I’ll gladly pay, quite a bit if I like it, for a “permanent” license for software.

I think it’d be great if platforms allowed, and developers offered, lots of options. Meaning: 

1. free, brief, trials.
2. cheap, extended trials. 
3. discounts for upgrades.
4. lots of different rates.
5. example: $1 a day, $2/week, $5/month, $30/year,
6. always have a “permanent” tier.  Maybe it’s expensive, fine. 

I put the “blame” for the terrible situation where good developers can’t get justly rewarded, such as it is, firstly, on Apple.  Secondly, maybe there are just too many developers.  Probably because of the whole app store model.  Again, Apple’s fault.  :-)


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