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Whither the Sparrow?

February 14, 2011

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

–Matthew 10:29-31, NRSV

And so ends my love affair with the beta version of Sparrow, a new email client for mac and gmail, which synchronized the two with a Twitterific-like interface that just made sense. I choose Valentines Day to spin my dissatisfaction with our relationship. Sparrow was constant and faithful, with a style that made sense to me and with deep attention to my needs. But in the end, I wasn’t able to take our relationship to the next level.

Of course, it isn’t Sparrow. It’s me. Really, the problem is mine. Sparrow never put up a false front or acted like this relationship was anything other than what it was. In the end Sparrow fulfilled its promise. It exited Beta. Now Sparrow is charging for its attentions.

I just received the e-mail notification that my Beta-test version of Sparrow had expired, and that I was now welcome to up the ante and join the army of folks paying for the software at the very reasonable price of $9.99. Yep, ten bucks. That’s it, for an e-mail client that I like the look of, the feel of, and the performance of. I’ve paid more for things I’ve liked less.

But instead, I’m letting go.

Why? As with any ending relationship, it’s complicated. I’ll try to explain the reasons simply.

1. I am cheap. I always was, and then along came the iPhone. Owning an iPhone is NOT cheap, but precisely because of the way its volume economy works. You offer an app for .99, and people click away with joy in getting anything for so little. I too have downloaded a number of very useful .99 apps. I’ve even gotten some for $1.99, a few for $2.99, and even one for $19.99 (curse you, ever-useful Omnifocus). But the reality is, as software for my phone was presented cheaply, I started to cheap out on software for my computer as well. When the Apple Mac App store debuted, I did not buy anything for $9.99. I didn’t buy anything for $2.99. I have only (so far) downloaded free apps. And that’s not likely to change soon.

2. It did what I wanted it to do, but it doesn’t do something I can’t do (less well) just using the gmail online interface. Yes, it looks pretty. Yes, I have access to stored emails offline. Yes, it just feels right on the desktop. But $9.99 great, when every purchase I make is weighed in New Dollars, i.e. those that seem fewer than ever? I’m not that moved. Now, is that fair to the developer and the company, and everyone involved in marketing this great piece of software? Nope. But as I said before, Sparrow, it’s not you. It’s me.

3. When you get the milk for free, why buy the cow? I honestly think that the beta was a little long on this one. This has GOT to be tricky for developers. How long does it take someone to fall in love? How long does it take for someone to feel that can’t live without your app? How long does it take for someone to get enough use out of something that they don’t feel they need it anymore? Hey, maybe I’m just the wrong person for betas. Maybe I should just stay away and get software when it’s done.

4. Give me some time, Sparrow. I just might get sorted out and come running back into your wings. Part of what’s happening is the “shock” that always comes when you open a trial or a beta and find that it has expired. You feel let down. In some cases, the response is easy and immediate. “Time to buy.” But when it isn’t, you need space. So I’ll see other e-mail clients, I’ll spend more time in the browser handling my gmail, and maybe time will prove that you were right all along. All I know is that I can’t do it right now.

After all that, you should check out Sparrow. It’s the best way I know of to integrate gmail into your mac. And maybe you won’t be as cheap as I am. Maybe $9.99 is your .99. Maybe Sparrow will go on sale for $4.99 some day and I won’t even think twice. I wish them well with this great app.

I’ll miss you, Sparrow.

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From → technology

One Comment
  1. Salvador permalink

    Exactly the same here

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