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Comment on "Do Consumers Want Indie iPhone Apps?"
by Ben — Jan 16
OK, I'll leave the neutral linguist persona behind and speak personally on the subject (I stand by previous comments in the abstract, but you've made me want to engage more directly). I actually don't agree that most consumers understand "shareware" to mean anything in particular. If anything, I believe that the nomenclature implies a lower quality bar than traditional commercial software. Consumers who are developers like us understand it, because we have the context and history and the word feels appropriate somehow.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's not always appropriate. It's wrong because if you're a software developer actually trying to sell software and maximize profit in so doing, then you're a software company just like Adobe is, but smaller. (Smaller in marketing, perhaps smaller in market size.) Think of yourself as an ISV (a dry term, but it carries some respect), think of yourself an independent developer, whatever you want. But if you really think of yourself as a shareware developer, then you ain't aiming high enough, and you'll never generate seriously scalable rewards or a self-sustaining company out of it, unless it's completely by accident.

Names are powerful, and not just in press releases. I don't know what you create/produce/sell, David, or what your motivations are in so doing (profit, hobby, etc). If one does stuff on the side as a hobby, then maybe "shareware" is a reasonable way to think of what one produces. I'm not trying to claim that there isn't a complex taxonomy of small development outfits around.

But if the day comes when I see fit to sell my application, then you can be damn sure that not only will it not be officially called "shareware," but the word will never appear in my own lingo to describe my work. Why? Because if I'm even thinking of myself as only a shareware developer, then I have already lost the competitive war, and I might be able to eke out a living, but I won't be building a real company, which it would be my goal to do.

This is just how I feel about it-- maybe the connotations you get out of it are totally different, which is completely OK. But even while we're here having a personal chat between developers, I can tell you that I don't think of myself as a shareware author. Conceding that, for me, would be to choose to limit myself to business mediocrity. I'm a professional, and so are most of the people who are writing and releasing small Macintosh applications. I think that's one of the reasons the word indie has gained currency over shareware in this market.
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