Aeon Timeline's Eventual Pricetag

Ke
Kendric
Posts: 114
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Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:24 am Post

Reading the homepage I see that Aeon Timeline is to remain free until it hits v1.0, at which point old versions will stop working. I haven't been able to find what the envisioned price range is likely to be.

Any hints to where it will eventually fall?

ma
matt
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Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:00 am Post

I haven't given a whole lot of thought to that yet, to be perfectly honest. It won't be unreasonably high though.

Matt

Ru
Rudy Guillan
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Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:10 am Post

Have you thought on that yet?

I'm starting to use Aeon, but I've already purchased Scrivener, I need to know if I'll can afford it. I see AEON as a complement of Scrivener, so I hope the price will be less.

Thanks.

De
Declan
Posts: 78
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Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:59 pm Post

Yes, it would be nice to have an idea (although it probably cheeky to ask) of the eventual price. The situation is that I have finally figured out that I might be able to use Aeon as a "frontend" to a Devonthink database, with DTP links within the notes (although they are not currently clickable links, they do work if you select the text). This might be a good way for me to organize some of my material. But I would not like to go very far with this idea if the application turns out to be too expensive. I understand that you mightn't know one way or another, but I'm just supporting the original poster's query. Having an idea of the eventual price would help me decide whether or not to dedicate time to this usage. Not having an idea will mean that I will hold off, not wanting to spend time uselessly.

Incidentally, if DTP links could become clickable, that'd be excellent. I suppose that is roughly the same as making ordinary URL's clickable, but I wouldn't really know.

In any case, congratulations: the application is coming along nicely.

ma
matt
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:03 am Post

Hi,
I have given the price tag some thought, but haven't reached any definite conclusions.

It will be $50 or less, I am sure of that much.

I understand pricing can be fairly sensitive for some people, and there are lots of examples where a lower price leads to more sales and therefore a higher return. But given Aeon is a fairly specialised application, I don't think it fits into that category... there aren't likely to be that many more purchases because the app is priced at $15 in the AppStore, for example. It is no Angry Birds.

Obviously, I need to be able to get enough of a return on the very long time investment I have made so far, so that I can continue to improve and support the application.

What price is best suited to allow me to do that, while not pricing myself out of too many sales, well that's a bit of a guessing game!

Matt

Ru
Rudy Guillan
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:51 am Post

That is what I was afraid about... So, you have in mind the same price range that Scrivener. I understand that it's your software, and you choose the price based on your own criteria. As a software developer, I understand you. But as a user, I still see Aeon as a complement of Scrivener, a tool to outline the novel before writing it in Scrivener, a way to workaround a missing feature (in otherwise a great software). So, I think targeting the same price range as Scrivener would be a little overprice (I was hoping $20-$30 range).

But again, it's YOUR software. I'll use the BETA versions, and once the final version comes out, I'll decide if it is worth the purchase. Since this software will be mainly used at the first step of novel creation, at least I'll be able to outline my first NaNo before the BETA version becomes useless.

It looks as a great software. Keep going!

Regards.

PS: English isn't my mother language. Sorry about the quality of my writing ^^

ma
matt
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:48 am Post

Hi Rudy,
Thank you for your feedback. I am interested in hearing thoughts on the matter, whichever way they go. So don't take my rebuttal below personally, I am just explaining the other side of the equation. As I said, it is all up in the air, and the $30 price mark hasn't been ruled out.

That said, I don't think your reasoning is particular valid.

Although Keith has been kind enough to let me camp out on his forum all this time, I certainly don't see the application as a work around to a missing feature of Scrivener. I think you are selling both the application and the effort taken to produce it short by suggesting it is akin to a plugin for an existing application.

It is an independent application in its own right, and has taken considerable development effort.

As a writer, of course you will spend more time using Scrivener, or any other word processing tool that you choose to use. But I don't think that the time spent using an application is a fair criteria for judging something's value (and I am in no way knocking Scrivener's value here - I think Scrivener is very good value for money).

Scrivener will appeal to a much, much larger customer base than Aeon will - Scrivener is used by novelists and creative writers, but it can also be used in academia, by professionals, etc.

Aeon has a much smaller pool of potential customers to draw on - it is mostly just the creative writers and perhaps a few historical writers, and only a percentage of those would feel the need for timeline software.

Smaller potential customer base means smaller volume of sales, which means that I would need to charge comparatively more for the sales I can get in order to recoup some of the development costs.

Dropping the price from say $40 to $20 would need to generate more than double the sales to justify the change (double the sales gives the same returns, but with much more support work). And I don't think with the small potential market, that it likely to occur.

I stopped counting a long time ago, but the actual development effort I have put into Aeon over the last 3 years would easily account to more than a thousand hours of development time.

I did it because I wanted to, and because it was a tool I wanted to be able to use. I have a full-time job elsewhere, so I am not looking to fully support myself.

But in all likelihood, whatever the pricing, if I were to look at it based on the hours spent (and I am paid by the hour at my work, so I am acutely aware of the amount of money that time represents), I doubt income generated by Aeon will cover the initial development cost.


If I were to drop the price to around $20 for only a moderate increase in sales, then the return I get would be next to nothing, and I would be unable to provide adequate support for people who bought the application.

My view is that I have a moral responsibility to support customers who buy the application, and that means I have to charge an amount that will give sufficient return to allow me to do that.


I could look at doing a "Standard" and a "Pro" version that sells at different costs, allowing me to potentially tap into the impulse-buy AppStore market, but there are two problems with this:
1) I am not sure the impulse-buy market exists for Aeon regardless of price; and
2) As a consumer I have always been pissed off at that pricing style, where features that have been developed are deliberately hobbled if you don't pay more money, so I would be very hesitant to do that.

I will give it some more thought and settle on a price prior to release. If anyone else has feedback in the mean time, I would be interested in more data points.

Regards,
Matt

Ru
Rudy Guillan
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:25 am Post

Well, when you said "don't take this personally" I was expecting a much ruder response haha.

I totally see your point. I know that Aeon isn't just a plugin of Scrivener. But you have to admit that what Aeon does is integrated into Storymill ($50), for example, and it also provides similar functionality as Scrivener (I haven´t tried it, so don't take it as a real comparison). Aeon is aim at writers that need to outline their novel, before doing everything else with another software (as Scrivener or Word or whatever). So, it's not about how many hours you spend using each software, I think the point is how much functionality each one offers, and Aeon only focuses in one phase of creative writing.

I'm not critiquing your software for lack of functionality. It's a timeline software, it does what it's supposed to do (I guess, I'm not tried it so much yet), and I think focusing in one task is key to a good application. And I know how much it takes to develop software. I'm not selling the effort you put into Aeon short, I'm sorry if it looked like I meant it.

That said, I don't think the size of the potential user base should be key to pricing an application. Of course, if you are thinking about the profit, this is important, but as a user, how do you expect me to react if I go to a restaurant and they say me "Your favorite meal costs double, because almost nobody else orders it"? But of course you have to eat, I don't wanna sound selfish ^^

A thousand hours?!?! Wow, now I definitely want to try it haha

I'll be in this forum, I think I can give better feedback than "Oh man, it's too expensive" ;)

Regards.

Es
Esmeralda
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:32 pm Post

Thank you, Matt, for the hours and creativity in designing and making Aeon functional. I've been using it from its first iteration and have found it invaluable in my work as a novelist. It is not an outliner, or a program only useful before starting writing in my beloved Scrivener. It is a parallel program, where I can keep track of where my characters are at any point, how old they are relative to historical events and other characters' life spans, their own life birth to death, major moments in their lives and what's happening in their universe, whether they're aware of such events or not. Aeon is part of my workflow, a necessary tool that adds functionality and allows me to look at my novels from a different perspective. You have been responsive to users with issues, questions and problems and will surely need to spend more time in support once the program opens to everyone who might need it. You determine your price point, but for this individual user, up to $50 is not too much for the years you have already spent developing and the years ahead as you continue to improve and support your creation.

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shorn
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:06 pm Post

Hi. I have never been an independent software developer, but I have been using Macs for 25 years and I have have watched many independents with good programs disappear because they could not make enough money from their efforts to keep a program going.

I don't know what your situation is, Matt, but I agree 100% that Aeon has to bring in enough to at least begin to cover the great effort it has taken. You have to decide what the appropriate price is, and that is a difficult balancing act. I agree that Aeon is not likely to be an impulse buy (i.e., below $20). I would find $50 a bit high, but I would pay it. $40 seems a bit more reasonable, perhaps.

At the moment, the way I use Aeon is as an adjunct to Scrivener, but it does something Scriv can't do. I am working on a history, and Aeon lets me understand the concrete way that various related historical events were interwoven. Without that, the historical narrative I am trying to construct won't work.

So Aeon is a more specialized tool (i.e., a smaller market), which would imply the need for a higher price. On the other hand, I have never bought Beedocs Timeline in part because I find $65 too high, and in part because it doesn't do what Aeon can.

In any case, 0.8.4 is a great step forward, and I still can't wait to see v1 arrive.

Cheers,
Simon
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Spitfire31
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Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:23 pm Post

Rudy Guillan wrote:…Aeon only focuses in one phase of creative writing.

But, it's the only game in town doing that, on the Mac at least, focused on and designed with the writer in mind. There's nothing out there with a similar capacity!

Aeon is unique, in a way that WP software isn't. I think that this uniqueness should justify a certain premium.

Not long ago, I bought (had to buy) a subtitling program for Mac. We're talking, not about 50 dollars but of five times that. However – it's the only game in town. If you need it, you need it.

I would certainly buy Aeon at 49.99 (that's a firm commitment, btw) but I also think that perhaps positioning it 10 bucks below Scrivener, at 39.99, might somehow make a favourable impression. After all, to a user, Scrivener has a width and breadth that isn't comparable to Aeon.

Also, there are hours and there are hours. A thousand work hours by a seasoned code jockey is a different proposition compared to a thousand hours by someone in a learning process. I'm not guessing if Matt is one or the other or in between, just making a point. Further, since Matt is also building this app for his own perceived need, there's another quandary how to apply those hours toward a price point.

I think it may be more realistic to calculate the selling price against the time that Matt will have to devote to support and 1.x updates. A clever program without good support isn't a good program…

Summing up, I'd buy Aeon at 50 bucks, because of its perceived value for me. I think there are also some good arguments to sell it at 40 bucks.

Best of luck!

/Joachim

EDIT: Simon posted while I was writing and it seems we arrived at similar conclusions.

ma
matt
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Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:15 am Post

Rudy Guillan wrote:Well, when you said "don't take this personally" I was expecting a much ruder response haha.


I'm always extremely cautious with electronic communication, it is so easy for tone to be misunderstood.

Rudy Guillan wrote:That said, I don't think the size of the potential user base should be key to pricing an application. Of course, if you are thinking about the profit, this is important, but as a user, how do you expect me to react if I go to a restaurant and they say me "Your favorite meal costs double, because almost nobody else orders it"? But of course you have to eat, I don't wanna sound selfish ^^


The potential user base always affects product pricing. Niche products always cost more specifically because they are niche products, and need to cost more to recoup the expense. Otherwise, people would only make and sell products with mass appeal.

On the most extreme scale, if you wanted custom software that is written specifically for you, it would typically cost you many tens of thousands of dollars, or higher.

Obviously, it is all about finding that balance.

Spitfire31 wrote:I would certainly buy Aeon at 49.99 (that's a firm commitment, btw) but I also think that perhaps positioning it 10 bucks below Scrivener, at 39.99, might somehow make a favourable impression. After all, to a user, Scrivener has a width and breadth that isn't comparable to Aeon.


shorn wrote:I don't know what your situation is, Matt, but I agree 100% that Aeon has to bring in enough to at least begin to cover the great effort it has taken. You have to decide what the appropriate price is, and that is a difficult balancing act. I agree that Aeon is not likely to be an impulse buy (i.e., below $20). I would find $50 a bit high, but I would pay it. $40 seems a bit more reasonable, perhaps.


You will notice I said "$50 or less", and used $40 in my second explanation about halving the price... I too was anticipating somewhere around the $40 mark as being most likely.

It will definitely be between $25 and $50, and probably hit around that $40 mark in the middle.

Spitfire31 wrote:Also, there are hours and there are hours. A thousand work hours by a seasoned code jockey is a different proposition compared to a thousand hours by someone in a learning process. I'm not guessing if Matt is one or the other or in between, just making a point. Further, since Matt is also building this app for his own perceived need, there's another quandary how to apply those hours toward a price point.


In my case, a bit of both. I work professionally as a software developer specialising in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence software, and am probably towards the leading edge of that field.

BUT, I had never written a Cocoa application, haven't written a GUI program where User Interface is so important, and an entirely new to designing, developing, and marketing an application on my own.

So certainly, a lot of the time was learning, and a lot of time was spent on development paths that were scrapped entirely and replaced by better designs.

Do I expect to recover costs for all of that time? It would be nice, but of course not, that is well beyond my expectations. I had fun, and will get use out of it myself, but certainly, I need to gain sufficient money for the ongoing support etc.

And if I do get enough return to cover support and then some, that will make it easier to continue to a 2.0 with improved features, or a Windows version (familiar territory for me), or an iPad version (another brand new learning curve), or to follow an idea I had of forking it to have a separate application to help with Project Planning when the big tools like Microsoft Project are overpriced and overkill.

Matt

jr
jravan
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Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:51 pm Post

I am a professional Software Engineer.

I work professionally as a software developer...

Then I think you should charge a respectable rate for your development time. I'd estimate at least $50/hour. At 1000 hours, that's $50,000 USD development cost. And I think you should expect to make that money back and earn a profit in order to justify continuing further development and support.

BUT, I had never written a Cocoa application, haven't written a GUI program where User Interface is so important, and an entirely new to designing, developing, and marketing an application on my own.
So certainly, a lot of the time was learning, and a lot of time was spent on development paths that were scrapped entirely and replaced by better designs...


I don't think this matters. All software projects go through this cycle. If there is nothing unknown in the application, then the program is most likely already available somewhere else, for purchase or perhaps free. I wouldn't sell myself short if I were you. (But I'm not, of course.)

So let's talk a little about ROI. One thing to remember is that customer support is expected at no cost for the life of the user. (Help!) That's a big deal. That cost should be factored into the purchase price. And Scrivener users, your first (but hopefully, not only) market, are used to exceptional support. That's a hard act to keep up with. So the additional cost of exceptional support should also be factored in.

What about market size? I'll make a WAG at 10,000 existing Scrivener Mac users. I have no idea how far off that is, but ya gotta start somewhere. Penetration for AT? I'll assume a 50/50 split of writers and academics. Then I'll assume about 10% of the writers want AT. That's 500 copies total. If you charge $50/hour for your development time (and that's low), break even is 1,000 copies assuming your top price (which I think is a value). So let's hope I'm off on market size by a factor of 10 because I think support costs at the expectation level of Scrivener users should at least double the price.

Bottom line? Three things. (a) KB has said that Scrivener will not have a timeline. He just about explicitly said "never." So I think your Scrivener market is pretty secure. And that would include the Windows market, if you decide to do that. (b) If I were you (and I'm not), I'd look at selling the product to folks who use Pages, etc., standalone. Then I'd look at the Windows market. Obviously much bigger. And I'd look at interfacing AT with other writing programs, like Final Draft and other professional writing software, and word processors, like Word. The point? Expand your market. (c) $50 is too low to recoup your development costs unless my market estimates are way off. But thankfully, that's entirely likely.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting on the sidelines hoping for a Windows port as soon as possible. And I would gladly pay $50 to interface a good timeline to Windows Scrivener.

ks
kseniya
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Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:18 am Post

A humble cheer from the sidelines for a windows version. After researching every available windows timeline software that is under a thousand bucks, I nonetheless went ahead and spent $100 on a package that turned out to be incapable of multiple concurrent story lines, rendering it useless to me. So, I'd say I'd be willing to pay good money for a product that handles a writer's plotting needs adequately. On windows.
- Kseniya

ed
edglazer
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Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:18 am Post

Hey Matt,

I've been lurking and checking out your development a bit and I'm super impressed. I'd like to disagree with one of your points, if I may. I believe you intended Aeon for storyline visualization, and therefore expect it to be a niche product. While I agree that Aeon is optimized for creating storylines , I believe your selling your product a bit short. In my opinion, Aeon fills a much larger gap in Mac (and windows) software. At least 3 possibilities stand out to me.

First, for project planning. I've been working on my PhD, and I do a bit of project managing in the sense that I have to schedule my time and others' as well. I looked and looked for functional pm tool to create Gantt charts, but couldn't find much with decent UI/UX for under $100+ (take Omniplan, for example).

Second, visualizing academic literature and the birth and change of research topics. I've rifled through hundreds of published papers and books, and wanted to get a bird's eye view of how these ideas and research approaches evolved over time. I've even goofed around trying to create a network visualization of published papers that cite each other (a citation network). Of course, no pre-existing software product handles any of this. It could also be valuable for journalists or academic who track the evolution of ideas or coverage of a topic over time.

Third, and more recently, I've been working on my CV and resume, putting together the last 15-20 years or so of my working "adult" life. There have been times in graduate school where I had 2 or 3 part-time jobs at the same time. Also some jobs that I had for a semester or two, then came back to later. Some projects last years and years, from inception to publication. (Heck even just tracking publication submissions). It's definitely not information I can keep in my head, so I started entering my job history into Aeon. I think it's been valuable for me to see the patterns of relationships, jobs, co-workers, co-authors, etc. It even helps jog memories that I otherwise would've missed.

These are just the 3 applications that were most obvious to me. I suspect as the tool develops, Aeon will become well known as the only software available with a good UI/UX that allows one to (1) input, categorize, and tag bunch of related type of 'data' objects, (2) then visualize how they relate to one another (3) over time! Good luck finding any competition in that space.

Alright, I feel like I'm being dramatic, but I just want to encourage you by suggesting that you've created something really unique and awesome here. Cheers, and keep up the awesome work!
-ed