Everyone has one of those folders full of junk on their computer – you know the one – you don’t know what to do with a file so you chuck it in there. For creative types sorting these files has always been an issue, a web-clipping here, a cute logo here, a nice colour palette somewhere else.
Then in 2008 Realmac Software released Mac app Littlesnapper and it changed the game forever. Combined with an website called Ember, you could collect, store, organise and share all those little creative snippets and easily access them for future reference.
Sadly Littlesnapper became fairly neglected over the years, including the Ember site being shut down, and desperately lacked the iCloud syncing, full screen mode or sharing services that we’d come to expect in the era of Mountain Lion.
So it was with great relief last month that Realmac announced a successor to Littlesnapper. Called Ember – confusingly taking the name of the defunct old upload sharing site – it has been released only on the Mac App Store at the eye-opening price of £35 ($50).
To put this cost into perspective, Littlesnapper cost £28 itself (albeit with several bundle deals / reductions at various times), but with no upgrade path current users have been left scratching their heads. Indeed with Ember offering little in the way of extra features – still no iCloud sync support being the most vital – you can see why some people feel may relatively hard done by.
But if you look at the situation closely its easier to see why Realmac have made that decision. In part they’ve been forced into it by Apple. Mac App Store rules mean offering discount codes is virtually impossible, which forces a developer into releasing a separate independent version of the software to allow an upgrade offer for current customers. Naturally this is a costly and time-consuming process.
The Mac App Store (indeed app stores in general) has also made people’s expectations of software costs unrealistic. With thousands of free or cheap apps replicating functions of more expensive paid apps – however poorly – people have become far more reluctant to dip into their pocket. Paying £500 for Adobe’s Photoshop, for example, is unimaginable for the majority of people when software such as Acorn or Sketch is available for £35.
It’s easy as a consumer to get set in your ways. Once you are used to a cheaper alternative it’s very hard to change your viewpoint to a more expensive option. Take the current influx of Google Reader replacements. One of the best, Feedly, costs a mere £3/month (that’s one less coffee/beer per month) but compared to years of Google’s free service it can still grate somewhat.
Of course it depends on your financial outlook to how you value software. Paying even 99p for an App will always be too much for some people. But it’s not those people Realmac are aiming at.
So is Ember’s pricing of £35 a touch too high? It certainly provokes a surprised initial reaction which can’t be good. And without a chance to try before you buy or even a first day sale it certainly feels a hard sell to current Littlesnapper customers.
However it’s worth remembering that Realmac makes great software. Littlesnapper itself was superb in it’s day and Clear, the iPhone/Mac To Do list app, is beautiful in its simplicity and wonderfully intuitive UX. As any designer would tell, you are not just paying for a person’s time when buying a product, but the skills used to make it.