Mac OS X Con: Run Your Own Software Business

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

[Here are the details for this panel. I came in about fifteen minutes late to this, the first panel I attended at the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference. So we’ll start in the middle of an answer…]

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: A couple big software distributors control most of the software distribution market. Big chains will only distribute from them, making life difficult for small software publishers. So. We have to use aggregators — companies that will scoop up a bunch of software packages and sell them to the distributors. They take a hefty slice off the top (sometimes 20%). And the software company still has to cover all of the costs.

[Everyone here has their Powerbook flipped open. And most of the people that I can see from the back of the room where I sit have a web browser or Word document or something open. Are they all listening, or just fooling around?]

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: So now I’m no longer at Omni. Through several rounds of sales, OmniWeb has probably never received a check for their store sales. Overseas distributors are better. I recommend Act Two software. They take care of some of the manufacturing and they pay you every month. I trust the Act Two guys. Note: If they do a localization, make sure you own it!

[Ex-OmniWeb Guy is in the mood to complain.]

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: You can also go with the independent Apple dealers, though they’re fading away.

Steve Dekorte the Shareware Guy: I started doing donationware, but that didn’t work at all. Then I gave away useful amounts of the software away and required registration to unlock the rest. That worked well. Then I tied the serial numbers to the machines to prevent users from spreading the software around. I got some flack for this, but I made a lot of money that way and have basically no piracy at all. I’d also recommend selling online and using PayPal — they make things easy.

Moderator Dan Wood: How do you price your software and how many pieces do you expect to reasonably sell?

Brent Simmons [NetNewsWire Guy]: We figured our market was anyone who checks the news on their Mac. So we priced it at less than $50.

Steve Dekorte: I take my new software to a bunch of friends and ask, “What’s the highest price where you wouldn’t think about buying it?”

Oliver Breidenbach [Red Shirt Guy with German Accent]: The price will always be wrong if you listen to the feedback.

[My Rendevous is picking up, like, twenty other computers…]

Skinny Guy Panelist: I see a lot of software that’s priced too cheap.

Striped Shirt Guy Panelist: $19.95 should be a minimum or else it won’t be perceived as serious.

Steve Dekorte the Shareware Guy: It’s sometimes better to write your own piracy protection code. Third party tools are more likely to be cracked since they have a much larger user base.

Moderator Dan Wood: Make finding the hooks into the copy protection difficult.

Nerd in Audience: Make your prices an even number — not $19.95. And don’t price yourself out of the market.

Oliver Breidenbach: I’ve got a degree in psychology and you may not think that $19.95 trick works on you — but it does. I would like to price my software at just $40, too.

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: OmniGraffle was very successful and that was the first time we split a software product into pro and not-pro versions. And the pro features weren’t even that well used, though the software was priced three times as high. But the pro version sold five times as much as the not-pro version. And it still does.

[Sorry I couldn’t figure out everyone’s names. But now I leave for another talk about Ableton Live…]


Posted Tue, December 7, 2004, 10:31pm EST by Steve Dekorte

"What's the highest price where you wouldn't think about buying it?"

above, should be:

"What's the highest price where you wouldn't think twice about buying it?"


Posted Wed, December 8, 2004, 1:12am EST by Josh

Kind of embarrassing when one of the presenters actually finds the page. I was a bit, um, rude in places there. Apologies. I'm not a dick -- really!

I'll make the fix when I get a chance.