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Extreme Transparency: Panic’s 2017 Report

Panic recently published its 2017 post-mortem, looking back on a roller-coaster year. The company saw its share of successes, including the release of Transmit 5—the file transfer app’s first major update in 7 years—along with better quality assurance, improved documentation, and major infrastructure upgrades. But Panic faced challenges in 2017 as well, such as a massive source code theft (see “HandBrake Exploit Leads to Stolen Panic Source Code,” 19 May 2017), poor sales forcing the cancellation of Transmit for iOS, and concerns over the future of paid software. As such, Panic is pondering a switch to subscription pricing:

We continue to debate about how much longer people will be accepting of full price macOS software. Is it time for us to consider subscription pricing, which could lead to frequent and constant Panic software releases, instead of saving up for big “major updates”, which sounds really appealing? On the other hand,  we know a lot of people don’t like subscriptions, for many valid reasons. We’ll have to do more research on this throughout 2018.

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Comments About Extreme Transparency: Panic’s 2017 Report

Notable Replies

  1. Re: Subscription Pricing:
    I always try to avoid subscription pricing when data storage is involved for the following reasons:

    • You have to keep paying for the product, even when you are no longer actively using it in order to access historical data.
    • If the company abandons the App or ceases business, you may be faced with the prospect fo loosing all your data unless the data is stored in some kind of a universal format.
    • You often cannot abandon the App if a competitor comes out with a better product without loosing all your data.

    The bottom line is that if you use a subscription App for data you are locked into that product on a fee paying basis for as long as you want to access your data or the company supports the product.

    For those thinking ‘Export’, exporting data into a different format is not required or guaranteed to work.

    As a side issue, subscriptions hinder development as once the developer has enough subscribers to insure an effective profit, their is little financial incentive to improve the product as customers can abandon the product without losing access to their data.

  2. I don’t see how any of your arguments apply to Transmit. Transmit moves data around. It doesn’t store it in any proprietary format of its own. As for development, subscription pricing has not slowed, let alone halted, development of Adobe’s products, for instance, or Microsoft’s either. But it has reduced development costs, which was the main point of the exercise. No product can survive with a static customer base; new development is necessary to even retain their existing users. At the same time companies are always seeking to expand their user base—there is no such thing as enough profit. There is an old saying in business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. In software, or course, this has led to feature bloat in many cases, which has certainly affected Transmit. I think they are attempting to retain relevance by adapting to every new technology under the sun. Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not, which may explain why their sales are lagging. Another example of this is Toast, which is struggling to hold onto a dying medium with expensive and trivial upgrades.

    Speaking for myself, while Transmit 5 has a plethora of improvements which obviously impacted development costs (no upgrade discount), none of them affect me, so I have not upgraded from Transmit 4. So while the new version may help some, it is irrelevant to others. Which is to say, Panic’s strategy has backfired on them. A lower upgrade price would do more for sales, in my opinion, than a change in licensing strategy.

    Now it’s true that some products fall by the wayside; it’s not wise to store the only copy of your data with some fly-by-night cloud service, for example, or even a reputable one. Also some data formats are abandoned, as happened to Word Perfect, Microsoft Works and Claris/AppleWorks. On the other hand, Microsoft Word has been around almost as long as desktop computers. As have PDFs. Essentially, you pays your money and you takes your chances, to quote another truism.

    While subscription services have worked for some products, Adobe’s being the most notorious, I’m not sure it would help Panic. I think it would be more likely to hasten their demise as people move to more accessible programs that function without strings. Like Fetch, for instance, which has been around even longer than Transmit and costs 40% less. The last upgrade was just $10! It can’t match Transmit’s feature set, but apparently it doesn’t have to. Not to mention that Fetch is still compatible with Mac OS X 10.5, of all things, while Transmit requires 10.10 or later.

    There are other competitors, Like Yummy FTP Pro (Mac OS X 10.8) and Forklift (macOS 10.11.6) which are matching Fetch’s price point, at around $30. That may be the real problem with Transmit. While it will do everything but hunt gophers, it costs too much for all but the most demanding users. And, of course, that places Panic between a rock and a hard place. They cannot lower the price without offending everyone who paid the higher price for Transmit 5. In the meantime the expanded feature set does not seem to be impressing enough customers to keep them in business.

    So…I suggest Transmit Lite, with features more or less comparable to Fetch, and a price to match. Better yet, beat the price. Come in under Fetch, Yummy FTP and Forklift: $25, or better yet $24.95. Forget the subscription nonsense. For those who need the power, Transmit will remain and, hopefully, Panic won’t have to charge $50 for an upgrade to Transmit 6 from Transmit 5—if they’ve got the sense God gave a chicken. For those who don’t need all that power, Transmit Lite will do the job. Simple and easy to understand, and largely inoffensive. Not only that, it will rely on existing intellectual property; they won’t have to reinvent the wheel. A bit of retooling perhaps, but nothing that new customers and the new price won’t cover.

    Sometimes products come to a fork in the road. Adobe long ago developed Photoshop Elements, and eventually Premiere Elements. It happened more recently to Adobe Lightroom. They needed a lighter version that works with mobile, now that smart phones and tablets have become larger and more powerful and quality smartphone cameras have become ubiquitous. Though they stumbled badly in naming the new products, nevertheless we now have Lightroom Classic CC for the hard core desktop user (like me) and Lightroom CC, which works the same on the desktop, mobile platforms and in the cloud. Better yet, you get both versions when you subscribe to the Photographers package at $10 a month—plus you get Photoshop CC as well. While I lament the demise of the standalone version of Lightroom, the Photographer’s package was all but irresistible.

    Don’t get me wrong: There’s no way Panic is going to match that magic with a subscription version of Transmit. If Transmit and Transmit Lite don’t stand on their own like their competitors, Panic will die.

  3. Thank you for your reply. My comments were directed towards the steady migration of developers to the subscription paradigm in general and to provide readers the considerations they should be thinking about, so that they can make an informed decision. Given that subscription software is one of my ‘hot buttons’ I reacted to it as an opportunity to provide those considerations without knowing what your products actual do.

    After examining your website it seems perfectly obvious that most of the concerns I mentioned do not apply to Transit as should it become sunsetted, users would still have full access to their data. However my comments still serve the intended purpose to other Tidbit readers who may seeing those comments.

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