I wrote this up to help people understand the logic behind iBird Pro vs iBird Plus. Feel free to leave comments here agreeing or disagreeing, just please keep it civil.
We have received a number of communications about iBird PRO and iBird Plus. If I understand the point is that we should have not released a new version of iBird (Pro) with additional features not found in iBird Plus. Some people feel that we should have either provided an upgrade path for iBird Plus owners or raised the price of iBird Plus and added these new features so previous iBird customers would not have to pay for them. Some are particularly upset because Mitch Waite Group made a commitment to continually update their products and that by creating a new version with new features not found in Plus we are breaking that commitment.
I'd like to try and explain our business strategy and the thinking behind our release. You may not agree with it, but at least you have the opportunity to understand our reasoning and the limits of what we can and cannot do as an Apple developer.
First however I would like to explain the confusion some people have with the definition on our App store product page were we say we will update iBird for the life of the program. There is a difference between an upgrade and an update. An update means changes to the content, such as illustrations, photos, sounds, writing, etc. An update may or may not contain changes to the functionality of the program. We will continue to update all our apps with new content and that is specifically what we mean on our product page. Updates in Apple's business model are free by definition, there is no other way to do them. Upgrades on the other hand are changes to the feature set of the program itself. It may be improvements, additional features, etc.
People are correct that the best solution would be to provide an upgrade path for previous owners of iBird Plus so that they could upgrade Plus to Pro for the difference in price. If that was possible we would have gladly taken that approach but unfortunately Apple did not provide such a feature to their developers. We understand that capability is in the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0 and when it’s available and widely distributed to our customers we will definitely implement it.
Regarding our commitment to offer updates to all customers I would like to point out that we have been updating all our iBird apps (Backyard and Regional versions) since they were launched and we have no plans to stop. There have in fact been 3 updates to all the products, each offering more features, more content and improvements in stability. We have added hundreds of new photos, speeded up the application searching, added new search attributes (secondary color), improved search attributes (ANY or All logic switch for color). We listened to customers who wanted a Favorite feature and introduced it in the latest version 1.5. We also added a Flickr button to the species page which allows accessing hundreds of additional photos from inside the app. Clearly we are keeping our commitment to continue to upgrade all our applications.
Let me try to explain our reasoning for releasing a Pro version of iBird. We have
received a considerable number of requests for features from customers we
characterize as advanced birders. These people asked us to add features which
require adding a good deal of complexity to the iBird Plus product and
considerable programming efforts on our part. We felt these features changed
the target audience for iBird Plus which we see as serious birders. We felt
that there was a bifurcation of the audience for our product and that the
family tree needed to be changed to accommodate them. As I mentioned there was
no mechanism for an upgrade from iBird Plus so we decided to create a new
product called iBird Pro for Professionals. Please note that because this is software the difference in file size between Plus and Pro is not dramatic, but the work involved was.
We understood this might create some consternation from people who had just purchased iBird Plus and would have purchased iBird Pro had they known about it. Unfortunately we felt there was nothing we could do about that other than explain our reasoning. We added a note to the beginning of the iBird Plus product page explaining there was a Pro version birders might want to examine in the app store that fully explains its features. We added a product comparison table to our web site that compares Plus and Pro (http://www.ibirdexplorer.com/PRO.html) and we added a product finder to help people understand all versions of iBird (http://www.ibirdexpl...uct_finder.html) so they could pick a version that best suited their needs.
There are a group of people who have suggested that we should have raised the price of iBird Plus, added these new features, and then created a mid level app without these features. Here is an example of this thinking:
"I feel you would have been far more fair to your loyal early adopters if you had added the new features to iBird Plus instead. If you needed to raise the price, so be it, raise the price for new users. If that left a price gap, so be it, create a new mid-tier product that was equivalent to the old version, but in making iBird Pro, since there is no upgrade path, I have to buy iBird Pro and basically trash my iBird Plus. BUT, I am afraid to buy iBird Pro for fear that in a few months I will learn of some new iBird Super-Pro."
We thought of this approach and discussed it at length but we felt that this was not a good business decision. First we don’t feel that our commitment to add new features to iBird Plus should dictate that forever we can't create a higher end version. Furthermore we have 5 regional versions and a backyard version of iBird that would require this same "upgrade and release a new middle road iBird" process, which would mean there would have to be mid-range versions of every one of those versions created. This would mean we would need to create 14 new products just to accommodate the logic of this approach.
I would also like to point out that all industries create new products and don’t offer customers that purchased their previous products free upgrades. When you buy a new car you don't expect lifetime updates and when Apple releases a new laptop which is faster than the one you just purchased has more memory and cost less do you blame Apple for innovating? I understand that there are people for who this argument falls flat but most people understand it and accept it. I believe we are upgrading the features and content of all our products and therefore keeping our commitments. It may not be the same commitment everyone envisions. Perhaps that is the flaw in trying to be upfront about future products. Most companies are silent on their plans.
Our plans at this time, providing Apple meets the schedules on the release of OS3, is to update all iBird apps to OS3. When that is done a new app store will appear on a page in the app itself. From this page you will be able to upgrade from any level version to a higher, e.g. Plus users will be able to upgrade to Pro, Backyard to Regional, Plus or Pro, etc for an incremental cost.
As far as being worried that if you buy Pro you may discover a super-pro version was released, all I can say is that is just not going to happen. We have and we will continue to update all versions of iBird including Plus, Pro, Backyard, and the regional versions. We will add features to each that we feel are appropriate for their audiences.
I understand that this communication may not satisfy everyone and for that reason we have created this forum for iBird so you can express your thoughts to a wider audience and get feedback. We are doing this because we want to keep our customers happy and we want to be honest with them and understand their needs. Here is the URL for the Talk about iBird forum: