Some more in-depth info about Ulysses and the Mac App Store

Yesterday, Ulysses was released to the Mac App Store. We’ve set up a quick Q&A over here, which should address the most basic questions and concerns regarding this event.

In *this* post, I’ll go a bit more in-depth on some of our decisions.

1) App Store Exclusive? Really?
Yeah. We thought long and hard about this, and decided to commit ourselves fully to the App Store. There are some rough edges here and there, but we see this move as highly beneficial for both us and our users.

For one, we can close our own shop and cut all connections with third-party payment services. Everything will be handled in one place, so there’s a whole lot less to worry about, a lot less maintenance.

We won’t need to worry about distribution, installing, licensing, copy protection anymore. We can now send users to the App Store, and it’s all handled from there, so there’re less chances of messing things up on our side, and less hassle on the user’s side.

The App Store review process, painful and slow as it may be, actually injects another layer of quality management to our already rather high standard. It’s not that we won’t beta-test anymore, but it’s nice to have an independent entity (*g*) double-check for us.

In the future (long-term, really) we can fully focus on one version — the App Store version. We have not announced nor are we planning to release it anytime soon, but IF Ulysses 3.0 sees the light of day, we won’t keep two seperate builds alive. This mostly concerns update- and licensing-systems, but still.

Also, we can’t shake the feeling that the App Store will be the only way to distribute apps on Mac OS X in the long run. This has been on the horizon for some time, and whether you or we like it or not, it’s going to happen. So we might as well jump on the bandwaggon early, roll with it, and gain experience in the process.

2) Pricing aka IS THIS A PROMO OR WHAT?!?!
You may have noticed that we have opted for a rather moderate price for Ulysses on the Mac App Store. It’s $29.99, in case you did *not* notice, he.

That’s more or less what we charged for updates in the past. And it’s permanent. This is *not* promo-pricing or “first-day app store hurrah” — it’s permanent. It’s Ulysses’ new price point, and we think it’s a steal.

The reasoning for this move is simple: There are no upgrade paths on the App Store or *to* the App Store. Current users of 1.x (or Core/Edu) who would like to upgrade to 2.0 should still be able to do so without paying a “full version” price. More importantly, though: New versions will either have to be free updates or completely new, stand-alone apps. Again, we’re not announcing 3.0 here, but IF and WHEN we’ll release a full version jump in the future, you’re going to just buy that new app. And you’ll pay again.

It’s just like what Apple did all along with iLife/iWork, and just like they’re doing now with Aperture, iPhoto etc. on the App Store. The idea being that every version’s price is an upgrade-price — with 1.0 being an upgrade from nothing at all, so to say. Initial pricing for new apps is a thing of the past now, 20th century, as are upgrade paths and cross-grade promotions.

It’s all good, because it’s clear, simple, and much more consistent than any current system.

On a side-note: The App Store’s tier system makes away with currency exchange rates, which for us is a big plus. Prices in each country/currency will stay persistent now, which is in stark contrast to our ever-changing dollar-prices of the past.

3) For something that hasn’t been announced yet, you’re mentioning Ulysses 3.0 a lot.
He. It will happen one day, we all know that.

4) How will your move to the App Store influence Ulysses’ development? E.g., will you start releasing point updates every two weeks now?
Nah, but the App Store does have an effect, no doubt. We’ve already rerstructured our development process to some degree, in that we’ve begun to work in tighter segments and do more planning ahead, road-mapping. And we’re taking dedicated breaks to work on other projects. And I think we might very well go for a true dev-cycle-system in the near future, releasing full versions every 18 months or so, and focusing solely on bug-fixing in-between. But we’re not there yet. ;)

5) Will your other projects (Daedalus, HouseParty etc.) set back Ulysses’ development?
Depends on one’s point of view. We don’t think our other projects set back Ulysses, because of the aforementioned tighter development segments or phases. We prepared Ulysses for the App Store in four weeks (or so), because we had just begun kicking Daedalus development into high gear. I believe that without Daedalus on our backs, we would’ve taken twice the time — not just due to less pressure, but due to us trying to integrate additional features or such, making the App Store launch “big”, “worthy”, whatever.

So in terms of time spent on Ulysses — yeah, we spend less time on Ulysses. But the time is better spent now, as we’re much more focussed.

6) How will your move to the App Store effect previously purchased versions of Ulysses? Think updates…
The auto-update server will continue to serve updates for as long as 2.x is in development. These updates will coincide with updates served through the App Store, so both versions should always be in sync. Once we are no longer selling 2.x, updates will cease, as did updates for 1.x in the past. There’s nothing to worry about, really, we won’t forget nor abandon our current user-base.

7) How will your move to the App Store effect 1.x versions of Ulysses? Think registration system…
Right now, nothing has changed. We’re still running the registration server, as we are running the auto-update server. At some point in the future, we will offer a free patch to users of Ulysses 1.x to remove the registration check. It’s not high priority, so don’t expect this to happen very soon, but it will happen eventually.

8) Misc.
Stapler is freeware for the time being; partly due to our closure of the shop. We want to extend a very warm “thank you” to everybody who paid the old shareware fee. We’ve not yet decided if we bring Stapler to the Mac App Store.

And that’s it for now.
Any more questions, feel free to ask.

15 Responses to “Some more in-depth info about Ulysses and the Mac App Store”

  1. Bob Blacksburg says:

    For what it’s worth, I now own U2 through the app store. I’ve been “visiting” this app for years, but it always cost too much to use long enough to find out whether my love of diddling with format could yield to the splendor of yellow words on black expanse. I’m liking it. It’s offering a different way of working that is less busy than the world of Storyist (best of the dedicated novel/script writers) and Scrivener (best of the generic bundled files writers). I don’t know yet whether my almighty Attention Deficit will drive me screaming out of the pure writing space of U2 or fall frothing on the floor and die. Will keep you posted on that one.

    But thank you very much for being visionaries tying into the App Store at an “app” kind of price. I’m liking your world, even if you say “he” at odd moments of your posts. We’re all a little weird, really.

  2. Also Bob says:

    Like Bob, I’ve toyed with the Ulysses demo a few times over the years, but always hesitated because of the price and uncertainty about where you were heading with it. Your decision to lower the price and go fully into the App Store makes it a much easier decision for me. Thanks.

  3. Skrylar says:

    Well, I guess that means a few of us (people like me mostly, granted its a majority) will never be your customers. I left the Windows world because of all the frustrations and DRM only to have Apple re-introduce mass-market DRM in applications and have most of the better developers start jumping on it exclusively.

    The sad thing is the app-store-only-future is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Apple wouldn’t ever be able to close off the avenue if it wasn’t for all the kool-aid drinking, yet everyone assuming it will happen because everyone else assumes it will happen and doing appstore-only releases only servers to make that a guaranteed future.

    -sigh-

    • Marcus says:

      You’re right to some extend that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, we’re such a small fish in the Mac OS X dev scene, that we either roll with it or stay behind.

      Our view is on “fulfilling prophecy” — it will happen. The rest is a question of philosophical dimensions: Should we stay independent, or should we try our luck in that new system? or should we try and somehow mix one and the other and risk getting stuck in the middle?

      We believe that going App Store exclusive is the right thing to do. For us, for our customers. The more we sell, the more we can produce. And the less we have to deal with or worry about, the more we can focus on production.

      It’s that simple. We’re on the App Store now.

      • Flex says:

        Right decision.

        Not because Ulysses staying out of the App Store wouldn’t change anything for the better, and not because Apple won’t allow anything else in the future, or whatever reason Apple’s detractors come up with, but because the App Store, as it stands now, is better in several ways than the alternatives.

        Yes, it is closed. Yes, there are exclusions. But for the most part by far they are sensible, logical exclusions. I too did my time on Windows, and I know two people with Android phones (even one with a Linux computer), and when all is said and done, I’ll take the curated approach over that chaos any day.

        Also, the restrictions are the developers’ problem. That a user would not buy a certain piece of software, especially one as great and unique as Ulysses, for the single reason that it is being sold via the App Store (and for a lower price than before), is mindboggling to me.

        The kool-aid-metaphor works both ways, you know.

      • Skrylar says:

        @Flex,

        It doesn’t have to do with it being just on the App Store, it has to do with the over-reaching authority the App Store also imposes on users. Granted most people don’t give two thumps if their computers belong to themselves or work a year from now, so as I said it’s a minority.

        The issue (for me) is not that there’s a single marketplace, reduced price, or even that it’s “screened” but solely that the licensing system relies on the premise of online limited activations and application developers don’t get the choice to “opt out” if they don’t like it (indies DO get the choice whether or not to treat customers like criminals, and invasive solutions like this are traditionally not often used in the mac world).

        At least Steam lets you use unlimited computers (albiet one at a time), the App Store requires you to not only log in but manually maintain a chain of “authorized” computers in Autodesk/Microsoft/SecuROM fashion. This is what I don’t like, and why I will not buy anything from the App Store. :P

      • Marcus says:

        But you do this just once, most likely during the initial system setup, and it’s all ready to go. No need to do it for every single app, no need to be online during app launch, there’s no constant check to see if your ID is allowed to run an application.

        Also, every user on your Mac is allowed to launch the apps, online or not. You can have users set up that can launch the apps, without the users even having an Apple ID assigned. You can also re-download apps to another computer (5), if you just log in to the App Store with your Apple ID and, well, re-download your purchases.

        As it stands, since there’s no check to see if the user really “is” the ID, you can bring your friends over, have them all install their purchases on your Mac and then just run all their apps. It would be illegal, as per the license being broken and all, but it would *work*.

        How can you even compare this to SecuROM et al?

        Not even Steam comes close, since you need to be logged in with the Steam account that did the purchase…

      • Skrylar says:

        @Marcus

        Steam has an “offline mode” which caches the account credentials so you can be.. offline. It suffers the same issue though, in that you still have to activate (hope you didn’t get hacked, banned, app license got revoked due to VALVe/Apple politics, or you went to a region they’ve decided not to authorize because they want to sell products you already own to you again just for being somewhere else. And yes, Valve has locked people out of their games because of the serial’s origin. Retroactively too. Apple has pulled apps that were perfectly fine for inane reasons as well (See: Pulsar.))

        In fact Steam at least remembers your credentials; when I buy from Steam (a rare occurance) or from indie shops:

        1. Click buy.
        2. Enter details (usually log in to PayPal)
        3. Paste serial in to app, enjoy for eternity.

        From iTunes:

        1. Click buy.
        2. Log in to iTunes (it can’t remember who I am to save its life)
        3. Oh no, we’ve tinkered with the EULA to screw you over. Even though you just agreed last week you need to agree to it again.
        4. Log in to iTunes (it forgot who I was apparently.)
        5. Start download, hope it doesn’t stall.

        Steam updates automatically (which I actually *hate*), Indie-ware uses Sparkle (“Update’s here, want it? Yes? Okay, done.”), Apple lets you repeat the login-accept-login-download(maybe) for updates. Yeah, that’s convinience.

        And my problem was never with developers wanting to add the App Store as an outlet (that’s fine), it’s developers saying “Even though all of the problems we think are solved by Apple are really not issues at all, we have to spend money to market our apps anyway (because the App Store is only as good as Google search unless you get featured), we’re going to deprive users their right to privacy and future-proof use of computers.” The DRM for iTunes doesn’t even work, it’s been cracked. You’re *LESS SAFE* using FairPlay’s shrinkwrap than you were with a custom (even poorly built) system.

        I did a check, the only avenues for Ulysses piracy are an outdated 1.x version; at the drop of a hat, Installuous Desktop Version could make 2.x and a host of other software available easier than ever. Yeah, that’s improvement.

      • Marcus says:

        Hate to say it, but my experience with the App Store is vastly different from yours:

        1. Click “buy”
        2. Enter password (essentially agreeing to credit card access)
        3. There is no step three, just launch the app

        You can even skip step two, if you’re already logged in to the store. Most importantly though, I don’t need to activate any “offline”-mode to run my apps whilst offline. The system is smart enough to detect a) me being offline and b) me launching an app while being offline which probably means I want to run it which I am entitled to if it’s on my hard drive. So…

        As for going App Store exclusive: We’re a small team, and we have limited resources. The App Store offers an all-in-one approach, where we don’t have to think about

        - Installers
        - .dmg downloads (and launches from within a .dmg)
        - Localized disk images
        - Compressed downloads
        - Sparkle (with users disabling “check for updates” because of privacy concerns raised by Little Snitch *sigh*)
        - Serial numbers
        - PayPal
        - Share*It
        - Credit Cards
        - Multiple compiles…

        Piracy is an issue, but it has been before, and if you couldn’t find a 2.0 crack, you just didn’t look hard enough. ;)
        Also, as we made clear with 2.0 and its new serial number scheme, we accept piracy as a fact and just deal with it by — not caring anymore.

  4. Flex says:

    You need a chain of authorized computers to download apps from the App Store? What does that mean?

    You can’t claim to never download anything from the App Store on general principle, and then complain about app downloads being too complicated or unstable.
    And not just because those claims would be ridiculous.

    On the other hand, if you only download software from Steam, you would be forgiven to assume all online stores are like that.

  5. Hutch says:

    Just did two searches on the app store and have come up with nothing other than study guides for the actual book and something about U.S.Grant.
    Great job guys!
    Two other things:
    I honestly cant believe you have a non native English speaker narrating the videos. His accent is so distracting and confusing that I had to back up several times until I just gave up. It might FEEL all stylish and international for you to choose that narrator, but you really shouldn’t sacrifice clarity for style and affect.
    The other issue is, I think it was just poor judgment to use Ulysses the book as an example of text while trying to explain Ulysses the application. Sure, you can write me off as an idiot who cant tell which Ulysses the narrator is referring to (and in a heavy accent mind you!), but you shouldn’t. Not a lot of people are going to take the time to tell you these things, they’ll just look for the next creative writing software in the long list.

    • dirk says:

      Which country’s Mac App Store are you searching in? It should currently be the only hit for Ulysses, I cannot find any study guides or the like. I only know those from the iOS App Store.
      We’re currently re-recording some of the screencasts so I hope you’ll like them more in a few weeks time.

    • Max Seelemann says:

      Maybe you searched the wrong app store? There is now the MAC App Store since a few weeks. This is separate from iTunes and only sells apps for the Mac, neither for iPhone nor for iPad. It requires you to have at least Mac OS 10.6.6 on your computer.

      The voice in our screencasts is not native, that’s right. Lots of people have contacted us that they enjoyed the tutorials despite this accent. Nevertheless, you may be joyful to learn that the casts are currently being re-recorded using a native speaker, but with british accent. I hope you don’t mind that.

      Also, Ulysses the book is referenced only once in each video, with explicit notice and with an image. I have to admit that I have a hard time to figure what might be confusing about this. If you have more thoughts or would like to give more details, we would really appreciate more feedback via email to support@the-soulmen.com.

  6. Hutch says:

    NO joke, I just did two more searches in the app store. I searched for “Ulysses 2.0″ this time, again…nothing. wtf?


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