31: TextExpander backtracks

Well, what a difference a week makes. Seven days ago I was lambasting Smile for their announcement of TextExpander 6 and its new business model. I'll admit, I was uncertain about publishing my same-day reaction; part of me wanted to wait and see if things cooled off. And I suspected that given the size of the tempest stirred up, things might change.

Indeed, yesterday some "adjustments" were made. The statement from Smile's founder is more than contrite, saying "we didn’t get some things right at the start" and "there were a number of things we could have done better". I speak for myself, but I think that level of sincerity really counts with long-time Smile fans.

The biggest change Smile has made is establishing a larger, permanent discount for current TextExpander users, lowering the price from $50 to $20 per year, which is on par with what those customers paid as ordinary upgrade fees in the past. This should halt the mass exodus, but I still question the long-term business strategy. Some loyal users will sign up right away, but others, like myself, will wait to begin their subscriptions until a new release offers substantially improved features or compatibility. I just don't see much in 6.0, which feels like it got its version number artificially inflated. Perhaps 6.1, 6.2, or the next OS X release will be what gets me on board.

I still dislike the sense of expiration that comes with subscription software. I hate setting up recurring credit card payments (on an annual basis, by the time the next charge comes around, frequently the card details have changed and the payment fails anyway). I may dislike knowing that unless I constantly feed the meter my software could vanish forever, but on the other hand that's the truth of the market. And at the new price point, that feels more like a gentle reminder than an extortionate "Hey, nice software ya got there. Shame if anything happened to it."

As for new consumer customers, I don't think they'll buy in at the $50 price point, but TextExpander's new business tier may well compensate for that, and I wish them the best. It's become clear that while text expansion software may seem nerdy and niche, there is plenty of room for competition within the small space. I'm glad that Smile realized they were pricing themselves out of a vibrant market. I still plan on trying Typinator again, but now out of curiosity, not necessity. That bodes well for a healthier indie app economy.