Hit the Limit

Note: The current storyline will continue – I’m just on a slight detour today.

The comic above was inspired by the recent hub bub surrounding TapBots’ Tweetbot app ($20 for a full-featured, third-party Twitter client).

$20 for a Twitter app? Really?

I admit that I, too, was somewhat shocked at the price.

But after some careful deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real problem isn’t with Tweetbot’s pricing — it’s the App Store and the overarching mentality governing how much software should cost.

The App Store pricing has spoiled us rotten with many of its apps available for free or for under $5. And customers are now conditioned to this price point. But is the App Store pricing structure really fair for top-shelf software that took upwards of a few months to a year to develop?

When we pay for software, we are casting a vote of support to the developer. Developers can charge whatever they feel their software is worth – it’s up to the customer to determine if the value is worth the developer’s asking price. In my opinion, Tweetbot is.

Now, Tweetbot is not for everyone. Casual Twitter users can use the web interface, TweetDeck, or even the official Twitter app. All are free. But Tweetbot offers much, much more (in terms of both design and implementation) that no other Twitter app has – and I think their asking price of $20 is a fair one.

I use Twitter every single day. I get a lot of value with the exchanges and interactions I make on that service. For me, an app like Tweetbot is easily justifiable, because I’m getting the value I want out of the program.

But going back to my thesis: $5 and free apps are really hurting software more than helping it. My concern is that developers will altogether abandon more loftier development projects because of the low return on their investment.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on this subject. Do you think App Store pricing is hurting the overall software development market? Share your reaction in the comments below.


These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • LtSiverReply
    October 19, 2012 at 1:52 am

    I disagree with your statement on how cheap apps hurt the software market. If that were true, there would be no market. (after all, if they didn’t make enough money at that price, they would be out of business.) The point of the app store though is if you can get enough volume, you can make out like a bandit. The problem is in a sea of apps, how do you find that good one for you?

  • Jake EskelReply
    October 19, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Cheap apps only destroy the market… for MOBILE Applications. I once heard a recording of a Steve Jobs interview in which he explained his reasoning behind the iPad (Not everybody needs, or can properly find use for, a full computer).
    Mobile devices will probably end up a huge market for people who don’t need the same amount of power that the true geeks will need. Why should developers waste their time developing applications that really have no use to the general mobile device community?

    I recently deleted my facebook account because I realized that there are two kinds of people in the social world: Leaders, and followers. There are very few leaders, but most people are followers. I don’t want to be a follower, so I deleted the account. Followers outnumber Leaders by a significant factor of 2 to 1, I’m not quite sure exactly how much by. Same with people who need computing power (Leaders) vs. those who just use computers to watch movies, take notes, order food, and play minesweeper (Followers).

    Why should developers spend years developing a powerful application for followers who don’t even use that program to its limit? That is the power of the $5->$0 program: Cheap apps for people who only would use the simplest of features anyway.

  • JohnOReply
    October 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

    If you read TapBots reasoning behind why the app costs $20, you’ll realize its they can only sell a limited number of apps until their tokens from Twitter run out. All twitter apps are going to run into this issue of limited tokens due to Twitters updated API rules. https://dev.twitter.com/blog/changes-coming-to-twitter-api

    There are plenty of other apps that charge more than your standard $1-$5 for an app and most of them seem to do okay. I think people recognize the difference between a freemium game, a cheap utility app and a well designed and supported app.

  • JayReply
    October 20, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Personally, I use freeware for most everything. Ubuntu, OpenOffice, Firefox, the whole nine yards. There are enough hobbyists willing to develop the stuff, and the marginal costs are so low, that I can get all the software I could ever use (and more) for free.

    I’ll pay for a good game (hardly ever the full $60, but $20-30 a year later when the price has come down), but other than entertainment I find that software which completely meets my needs is available for free.

    If I were a professional software developer, that would scare me, but there you have it.

  • JasonReply
    October 22, 2012 at 2:31 am

    Ars Technica has an interesting article on this. Tweetbot is saying the reasoning for this pricing is because of Twitter’s API restrictions for third-party applications. Worth the read actually. The title is “$19.99 for Tweetbot on OS X? Blame Twitter”, I won’t post the link so I don’t get marked as SPAM.

Tell me what you think!