MacHeist and the ecosystem

This post by Lukas Mathis from late last month has been getting some blogospheric attention in the past couple of days--links on Twitter, a Daring Fireball mention, that sort of thing. The post is a discussion of the latest MacHeist and whether it’s good or bad for independent Mac developers. This is hardly an original topic; I believe Mathis is getting links because he emphasizes that the effect of MacHeist’s pricing is not limited to the customers and the developers who participate. Developers who don’t participate have their pricing environment changed as well.

True enough, but the examples he gives struck me as poorly chosen. Here are the nut paragraphs:

What influence does Espresso being in the bundle have on Coda? Does the fact that a hundred thousand people will effectively get a free copy of Espresso hurt Coda? Does it negatively impact the amount of money people are willing to pay for an app like Coda or Espresso or BBEdit or TextMate? Does MacHeist hurt Panic’s business, or Bare Bones’ business, or MacroMates’ business?

How does the fact that a hundred thousand people will have The Hit List impact the Mac market for task management software? How does WireTap Studio being in the bundle affect Rogue Amoeba’s business? How does Acorn’s sudden wide distribution affect Pixelmator and Iris and GraphicConverter?

It’s entirely possible that an effectively free copy of Espresso will affect the price people are willing to pay for TextMate. Just as, two years ago, an effectively free copy of TextMate may have had an effect on the pricing of other text editors. Yes, TextMate was part of the original MacHeist (that’s an Internet Archive link) in December of 2006. So was RapidWeaver, so if an effectively free Espresso puts downward pressure on Realmac Software’s pricing structure, that may just be a little karmic backlash1.

Moving over to graphics, we find the same thing. If a super-low price for Acorn hurts Pixelmator, that’s just tit for tat: Pixelmator was part of last year’s MacHeist (another Internet Archive link) while Acorn wasn’t.

As a service to bloggers who want to write about how next year’s MacHeist is a good/bad thing, here are the offerings for each of the three MacHeists:

With sales more than doubling each year, I doubt the MacHeist team is especially concerned with the health of the indie Mac developer ecosystem.

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  1. A double backlash, as Realmac’s LittleSnapper is part of this year’s MacHeist. 

  2. MacHeist has not yet posted precise sales figures for MacHeist 3.