Something is going on in Mac Developer Land. Factions position themselves, Flamethrowers at the ready. It’s about the Heist. Things are said and replied to and then the tone gets rougher. Is this becoming one of those religious wars that the Mac community is so famous for? Only this time it is good guys against good guys since Apple has taken away the bad guys to boot camp?
People need to calm down.
Here is how I see it: A couple of people got together to find out how to make money on the Mac software market. For themselves, of course. They are trying out ideas. Some are good, some are bad. Some work, some won’t.
Why do they do it? Nobody is exactly sure how to make money on the Mac market. Certainly, good products, good service, a positive attitude, adherence to the “standards” get you a solid business. But nothing spectacular. I mean nothing like a Google or Flikr or YouTube. When was the last time a Mac developer crossed the 50 employees threshold without being bought by Apple or someone else with already more than 49 employees?
I think this is because the group of customers a small developer can reach across the internet is a small proportion of the total Mac users and with the growing number of Mac users, it is also shrinking. Not many people are like you and me online all day surfing the Mac news sites and blogs on the lookout for cool new stuff to put on their Macs. Many more people occasionally go to a mall and enter one of the Apple Stores to spend a nice afternoon and being wooed into buying an iPod or an iMac with iLife. And that proportion of Mac users is growing. People who can help you to get to these people take a huge margin off of your profits. Reaching out to these unsung masses (Apple claims around 25 Million Mac users) is very tough for a small company.
So, new ideas are needed to draw attention. Many of those are not going to work, but we will only know when someone actually tries them.
Now, there is one point very prominent in this discussion: the money. Who makes what and why. You see, I don’t care how much money the MacHeist guys make, I care about how much my company makes and how the Heist brings us forward towards our goals.
Let’s see, if we sold 2,000 copies of FotoMagico in one day, we would have made $160,000. That would have been really cool. But usually we don’t sell as many. In fact, I think most of the 2,000 people who bought the MacHeist bundle on this first day did not buy it for FotoMagico and would never have bought FotoMagico separately. Many of them probably will never use it. Let’s base our assumptions on experience from direct marketing: According to that my gut feeling is that maybe 2% of the people are “real” customers and would buy FotoMagico from us instead of from MacHeist. So that is 40 today. And maybe up to a 100 until the Heist ends.
If you assume that we got $5k for our participation as was reported elsewhere, that is $50 for each license that we may have been able to sell in the same period on our own to the crowd of people buying MacHeist bundles. Not too bad. In fact it is a pretty good deal if you look at what we usually have to spend on advertising to sell a copy. And it gets better: our usual sales have not dropped off significantly and we got 2,000 additional customers who we can maybe convince later to buy other apps or updates from us.
It would be a different story if 5,000 people would buy the MacHeist bundle because of FotoMagico and become “lost” customers. And it would be quite a different story if we wouldn’t get some cash for the licenses.
And for the MacHeist makers: I don’t think they will get terribly rich. They may make some serious money on the Heist, but certainly not nearly as much as to make us jealous or feel ripped off. And you can’t say that they did not work hard to get their share. I know people who worked much less for a lot more profit.
The MacHeist crew has to be applauded for developing and testing new ways to market Mac applications. If they succeed, it may well be that this becomes a good revenue stream for Mac developers. Because if they succeed, the next time, the amount of money that we will demand will increase dramatically. And if it turns out that it was all not worth our while, we simply will have to mark it down as another way not to get rich.