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Take Money Or Accept Money?

September 20th, 2007

Wil Shipley types extensively about Apple’s attitude trending towards greed. A great article without a great hook. Just force yourself to start reading, you’ll be glad you did.

Most of us independent developers spend a lot of time trying to be more Apple-like. The idea is pretty simple. There’s this company, and they produce almost all of the products that we love in this world. And if we want to produce products that people love even half as much, we should emulate them.

It’s a really good idea, because there is a lot of great stuff in Apple to emulate. But reading through Wil’s article reminds me to take a defensive stance while evaluating Apple’s strategies. It’s not a lock-in that every step they make should be followed by faith. Apple is an amazingly successful, customer-pleasing company because of its successes, but also in spite of its screw-ups.

Recently on a developer mailing list, the perennial question of software pricing came up. I wrote about this a relatively long time ago. At that point I was most interested in the sheer economic mechanics of picking a price that would sit well with customers and still bring in as much money as possible. Since then, I’ve become a little more tuned in to the organic relationship between customers and businesses, and have also grown to appreciate the value of “doing what you love” even more than I previously did.

I wrote on the list that although maximizing profit might be a good idea, it shouldn’t be the primary idea. There are other emotional considerations such as whether you’re having a great time, and whether your customers are having a great time. In many cases, these situations should probably be considered higher priorities than maximizing profit.

Wil excoriates Apple, raising good points about whether Apple’s policies are more and more of the maximizing profit variety than of the maximizing fun and innovation kind. I particularly love the last paragraph of his entry, which sums things up quite nicely:

But Apple has to always remember that simply making money CANNOT be its point of existence. The point of any company should be to make customers want to give it money, NOT to get money from customers. It’s a subtle distinction that is the difference between good and evil.

Filed under one-liner personal mental mantras: “accept the customer’s money, but don’t take it.”

5 Responses to “Take Money Or Accept Money?”

  1. Lee Says:

    I’m a partner in a ‘coffee-shop startup’ and we’ve been working on a major revamp for over a year now and are about to release – but this same pricing question has been plaguing us for months also – thanks so much for outlining your thoughts! The comments to your previous article about this topic were also very useful – at least I don’t feel alone in this question and have some things to ponder.

    It also seems to be a great forum to put a ‘HOORAH’ forward to all the independent developers out there. If the number of donations on previous efforts were even directly related to the number of times our wives are going to ask us when one of our ventures is going to simply pay for the coffee we drink each week – well the circular problem would be…circular? Just like Daniel, we identify that this isn’t the point but that is a hard ‘sell’ in itself. Best of luck to all.

  2. jcburns Says:

    Well, also , accept money versus extort the money from us.

    The iPhone is my first cell phone—of any kind, ever—and I didn’t buy it because I had any enthusiasm about AT&T’s policies, openness, or tech savvy.

    Indeed, I’m not at all happy with AT&T’s entire approach to the market. I bought an iPhone on the faith that that Apple’s (relative) openness and user-centric approach would win out in the battle of boardroom hearts and minds, but recent developments in the iTunes arena are making me less sanguine about that being a safe bet.

  3. pauldwaite Says:

    I know what y’all mean, but I can’t get too excited about the ringtone debacle. If you don’t like the ringtone deal (and I sure don’t), then don’t buy any. I can’t believe that the ringtone market isn’t mostly made up of kids who just haven’t grown out of ringtone inanity yet. And hopefully most of those kids can’t afford iPhones yet.

    So let iTunes ringtones go the way of the iPod Hifi.

  4. Justin Miller Says:

    I think Wil’s hook is:

    The point of any company should be to make customers want to give it money, NOT to get money from customers.

  5. Chad Says:

    If what I’ve read before is correct, Wil helped write up The Omni Group’s Philosophy (http://www.omnigroup.com/company/whatisomni/), which is pretty up front about things. Unless your business is a financial institution, your company’s primary goal should never be “To Make Money”. Otherwise, if there is no proper passion for the product or service you are promoting, why even bother?

    Case in point:
    Perhaps it is just my perception, but it seems that in the years since Bruce Chizen has taken over, Adobe has become more like Microsoft — a monolithic company trying to expand in every which way in the neverending quest for more money. (And perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising considering that Bruce Chizen worked for Microsoft as a sales director at one time).

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