Tweetbot for Mac was just released and the Internet, at least the geeky parts thereof, was on fire as a result of this, but not for the reasons you would expect. Indeed, networks like Twitter and App.Net were overflowing with mentions of Tapbots’ first Mac app. In most cases, thought, the discussion was focused on the pricing of the app, not so much on its features and merits.
As of the time of writing, Tweetbot will set you back $20, an admittedly premium price for a Twitter client. But isn’t a quality app worth something, at least?
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Although Tweetbot’s price is premium, I’ve been stunned by the reactions of some people. The exclamation of many give the impression that they feel entitled to cheap software. Here, I mean “cheap” in the sense that something is worth more than its cost, not the negative connotation. A phenomenon I found quite revealing is that the vast majority of developers fully supported the price, attempting to explain the energy and time required to create such an app. Many don’t fully realize that Tweetbot for Mac isn’t a mere copy-paste of its iOS counterparts. In fact, Tapbots had to bring on a third employee, Todd Thomas, to help out with the development of the Mac app, which is decidedly different from iOS development
One common protest is that Tweetbot costs as much as some Apple apps, like GarageBand, Pages and even Mountain Lion. This comparison has no grounds. Do you honestly think that Apple would price their apps in such a way if they were just a software developer? First of all, their iLife and iWork suites as well as their OS upgrades enhance the Mac ecosystem. It only benefits them to price their apps attractively. Not to mention, Apple makes a ton of money in other departments which allows this approach to be sustainable.
In the case of Tapbots, they don’t have an iPhone which brings them millions of dollars in profit every year. Apps like Tweetbot are their only bread and butter. It might be wise to think of Sparrow, recently acquired by Google. As Andrew Webster elaborated on The Verge back in July, it is very difficult to maintain a sustainable business in software development. This is especially the case nowadays, with the ever-decreasing price of software. As John Gruber put it, “screw the race to the bottom.”
High Demand & Scarce Supply
Something else that people often seem to forget is that Twitter has essentially limited the amount of copies Tapbots can sell. They’ve spent months working on this app, so we can only imagine the opportunity costs incurred there. Having that limit forces them to price the app in consequence of the finite supply. Basic economics here. Hence, if you don’t want to buy it because it is cost prohibitive, then don’t. This will allow other users who are willing and able to pay to enjoy Tweetbot’s experience. If you see this as being elitist, you’re missing the point. Tapbots don’t have a choice if they want their business to remain viable, and I believe it is in our best interest as Mac and iOS users to see them remain as such.
I’m not saying that $20 for a Twitter client is inexpensive. Nevertheless, I see the value in Tweetbot for Mac and am fortunate enough to afford to buy the app. I also understand the reasons behind its price. If they were to sell the app at $20 without Twitter’s API restrictions, that would be another story and I would then hesitate to make the purchase. However, this is not the case, and supporting indie developers and designers is my pleasure.