How to Respect Users

This morning, Pixelmator announced that they’re moving to a subscription model with Pixelmator Photo (currently an iOS and iPadOS app, but soon to be a macOS version, too). I told you we’re going to hear about more disruptions in the photography software developer world, and this is just the first of several I know are coming.

However, note how Pixelmator did this. In an email to all Pixelmator owners, they told us: if you have the current program you continue to have unlimited access even if you don’t subscribe. If you want to convert to a subscription to keep up with changes and additions, they’ll give you a discount on a subscription when the macOS version appears (and the current subscription is an entry price if you don’t want to wait). 

Better still, they took the time to clearly explain what it was they’re doing and why on the Pixelmator Blog. They outline the reasons why a subscription works better for a small company trying to continually develop new features and functions in a product, and they don’t back away from noting the downsides, either. 

Their post was what I’d view to be a honest, respectful description of why they’re doing what they’re doing. 

The one thing that I would have liked them to talk about in that article is the future of their other products, such as Pixelmator Pro and Pixelmator for iOS, both of which are not subscription based. My suspicion is that Pro will eventually go subscription and the standard iOS version will simply stop developing given its low cost to users. It would have been nice to get some heads up of Pixelmator’s thinking there, though it’s clear that Pixelmator Photo is going to be the go-to product for them, as it runs the same on three levels of devices and integrates fully into Apple’s ecosystem. 

It also helps that the new pricing isn’t “we demand top dollar.” The subscription pricing will be US$24/year initially, and rise some when the macOS version appears. One other thing they didn’t fully clarify in the blog post is that a US$60 lifetime purchase option will remain (though that’s far higher than the current one-time price of US$8). 

So you’re probably asking yourself “what is Pixelmator Photo?” It currently is an iOS (iPhone) and iPadOS (iPad) application that works with images both JPEG and raw in non-destructive ways, complete with full integration to Apple Photos for library management. It takes full advantage of the Apple Silicon and Apple’s very snappy imaging foundations, such as Metal and Core ML, both of which are optimized to all those Apple GPUs that are getting stuffed into the A and M series chips. A Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos combo is essentially equivalent to what you can do with Lightroom, only 100% integrated into Apple’s architectures. It would probably take a book to do that combo justice in describing what it does and how to maximize that. There’s a lot of there there (yes, I’m channeling Gertrude Stein today).

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