Forced Subscription Model Coming?

As discussed everywhere, not subscription is the solution, but payed upgrades for major new versions.

This allows the customer to choose wether to upgrade not and offers the developer a way to sell new ideas, options and features.

Best of both worlds for both sides!


Agreed, especially if it is deployed everywhere (macOS, iOS and iPad OS). Devon has a tracked record of support and adding features over time. I have always been amazed to pay so little (once considering the number of years - yes plural - between having to pay again) for such benefits.


As discussed everywhere, not subscription is the solution, but payed upgrades for major new versions.

Many small utilities will never have major new features. SpamSieve is a perfect example; I’ve been using it for 13 years, and the only new “features” have been updates to support new versions of macOS. SpamSieve already does everything it needs to do.

Actually, Devonthink 2 did everything I needed it to do, except run on my new Mac that came with Catalina. (Even then it mostly worked, though OCR was broken.)

New features can be nice, but are they as important as:

  • The continued existence of the app?
  • Bug fixes?
  • Updates to support new versions of macOS?
  • Good technical support?

All of those services come with ongoing costs to Devon, and to expect them to offer them for free is just silly.


Devonthink seem to have a small team which is very attentive to its users. I feel sorry for small developers who have to constantly update their software as Apple updates the OS. I don’t much like to pay a subscription, so I prefer to pay for an upgrade, but I depend on Devonthink so I’m happy to pay to see it thrive.


That comes as a relief after upgrade to DT3 just a couple of months after I bought DT2 and my recent update to DT3 Pro thanks for awesome black friday Promo. With the total price tag of 150+ eur, I would be happy to be able to enjoy this fantastic software for a couple of years until the major DT4 (or however it will be called) arrives without paying any subscriptions. I will be happy to pay for upgrade to DT4 once it comes with yet another additional awesome features/redesign/etc. I personally would not be paying subscription for DT3 which already costed my 150+ eur. It is probably the most expensive piece of software I own today.

On the IOS, I find Things3 has found a great approach. Cheap entrance price for iPhone and more expensive price for iPad. So you can try the iPhone version and if you like it buy the iPad one.

Using DTP since v1 then DTTG as my paperless office with the help of a ScanSnap, I feel the upgrades have been fair, although the latest v3 desktop upgrade was more costly. I’m using it on a daily basis although not using lots of pro functionalities (scripts, wiki, etc.).
Reality is that many developers switch to subscription model because it is the only way they can ensure financial stability. Many application which don’t have (yet) subscription release major upgrades almost every year which, in a way, is similar to subscription. It’s true that we can stick to the previous version… until supported by new OS. Very few still updates previous version just for system compatibility.
Anyway, there are different subscription models and different cost. If the subscription is let’s say, more or less equal in time as the major upgrade, then it is perfectly OK. It even helps spreading the costs for those who have low income as Independants.
Personally, I like the subscription model of Agenda. It gives for free basic functionalities and more for the paying Pro. When you decide not to renew the pro features, you keep all those you already have and are ensured to still have updates. Just that you don’t get new Pro features.

What major features will the new version include? Will there be support for annotation documents, for instance?

Sorry but we are not discussing new features of the next major release at this time.

I have said this elsewhere, but I think it bears repeating. Speaking as one who ran a software company, albeit writing technical and not consumer software, developers should revisit the pricing model of the mid to late 1980s. In those days we sold perpetual licences for software ‘as is’, with a short ‘warranty’ during which bug fix upgrades (point releases) were free, as was support. After that, if users wanted either or both of continuing support and/ or upgrades (major, minor, point) they paid an annual maintenance and support fee. The fee was c. 10% pa of the then current initial licence fee. Users who did not want to pay that fee could buy upgrade licences for new major releases. These were priced at roughly the same level as if they had taken a maintenance and support contract.

The key point is that the initial license was perpetual and the software would carry on working until an external change - typically an operating system upgrade - broke it. Subscription pricing where EITHER the annual price is over 10 - 25% of the purchase price OR the software only works for so long as you hold a licence looks, smells and tastes like rent seeking. It is bad for bad for users and it is bad for developers; developers need copies of their software on users computers even, especially, if they’re not regularly used. I, myself, use DT for two things only, but it’s a tool in my box that I know is there if I ever need it, at which point its value proposition changes. If the only way I could have got it in the first place was by subscription, I doubt I would have used it in the first place.

As an aside, the Setapp model, whilst a subscription is different. One is placing a value on the totality of what’s available under it. I don’t know how they split revenue between developers, but it encourages me at least to experiment with apps that otherwise I wouldn’t have thought to try.


I’ve been purchasing software since the late 1970 (yes, before a lot of you were even a glimmer in your Dad’ eye…). I go back to the copied floppy disk in with a few paper sheets stapled together in a zip-lock baggie. Believe me a lot of software that was fantastic over the past 50 years has come and gone with very few staying around long enough to become a important part of my workflow. The business model for being able to put roof over your head, pay your employees for development, testing and support has gotten a lot more expensive.

For me, DEVONThink Pro has been one of my constants on my Mac. It’s the first application I open each day and it’s the place I put ‘my world’. In previous releases (ie. 1 & 2) the user interface was a little ‘clunky’ but in v3 it’s finally matured to the point where access to the underlying power is accessible to mere mortals.

DTTG is a similar story, good first idea but not so great then upgrades to something I also use daily on my IOS devices.

When the first subscription plan came out (if you remember, it was Adobe) I rebelled against buying in to it. I did then and still do think Adobe is incredibly greedy when there were other choices out there. They inadvertently forced me to consider their competitors. I’ve been happy to use Capture One every since and (surprisingly enough) are willing to pay them an annual fee as the product is so superior to what Adobe offers and the improvements they make all the time are incredible.

Fast forward to DEVONThink v2.0 and the very long update cycle time until v3 came out. Out of frustration I tried all the other competitors out there looking for something that worked as well. During my search, DEVONThink v3.0 came out and I have been immensely happy with the UI changes and feature improvements. There’s nothing else out there in the same league. The additions and improvements in the incremental updates since first resale have been great.

There are other applications I have agreed to support with a subscription (Ulysses, Drafts, OverCast, etc) all because (1) they are essential to my digital life, (2) they are ‘best in class’, (3) the subscription fee is not ‘in your face’ but reasonable and (4) the people behind the products are nice guys build applications that improve my day.

I can tell you with certainty and I support these applications because they are essential to me and I’ve seen lots of good applications go unsupported and finally dropped over the years. I don’t want to see that happen to DEVONThink products.

Let me ask how many of you subscribe to Netflicks? Disney+, Apple Music (for Apple One theses days), Spotify, etc.

What’s the issue with supporting a product you use all the time with a similar business model???

@BLUEFROG make the subscription reasonable, give people time to adapt, give them an incentive to subscribe, dedicate you and your team to building great new features or improvements to old features and don’t worry about the people who complain about it. They’re less likely to understand why you are taking this route.


they paid an annual maintenance and support fee. The fee was c. 10% pa of the then current initial licence fee… [upgrade licences] were priced at roughly the same level as if they had taken a maintenance and support contract.

This seems like a great revenue model.

How would it have worked?
In real life, I paid $150 for DT2 in 2012, then a $100 upgrade to get DT3 in 2020. So total = $250.

In @GaiusScotius Support-contract world:
$150 for 2012 purchase DEVONthink Pro Office 2
$105 for 7 years of support (at $15/year)
$40 for 2 years of support (at $20/year) after DEVONthink Pro 3 came out in 2019
Total: $295

I would have spent a little more money, but not much. And I’d have had DEVONthink Pro 3 a year earlier.

Some might see the total outlay as trivial, but an extra $15 or $20 per customer per year would not be trivial for Devon. They’d have had a continuous stream of income, instead of having to wait 8 years!

Maybe version 3 wouldn’t have taken 10 years if they had a continuous stream of revenue coming in?

I would be thrilled if they adopted this model!

Want technical support? Want that minor feature update to 2.1? Just get current on your support contract!

I still think they should offer, alongside that model, a monthly subscription that’s much cheaper, but which stops working (or becomes read-only) if the subscriber lets the subscription lapse. They could charge $9.99/month. At the very least, it lets people try it out for a few months before committing the big bucks.

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Welcome @SwissSailor
Thanks for your history and comments. :slight_smile:

Those are good observations

However software prices were much higher in that era than now

Just to throw my two cents in, I would be happy to pay a subscription for this software. There’s nothing else like it. I’m not sure why people are so against it. It’s not like we’d be paying $300 a month or something. It’d all work out and be relatively similar in cost in the end. Plus, it’s a highly more sustainable business model, and that means our favorite apps get to hang around longer – I’m all for that.


@rkaplan. Yes, prices were higher in the 1980’s, but so were development and sales and distribution cost; also volumes were much lower. By way of 'thowt were lucky, in my day … the first two Apollo workstation my company purchased cost as much as the flat I was living in at the time and every sale we made involved several, in person, visits. We didn’t sell to consumers, but the reason Apple’s app store 30% cut looked good at the time it started is that is was way less than the cost of distribution through a publisher and retailers.

I think that the widespread switch to rental software – for that is what subscription models are – is largely down to the restrictions that Apple place on the sales models available to app developers. When the only pricing options are straight sales or subscriptions, you can’t sell upgrades or maintenance and support contracts unless you go it alone. The available models become the norm, even if they are not the best.

DT isn’t in the app store and so Devon Technologies LLC doesn’t need to be one of the herd. I would encourage them to consider the old, proven ways before jumping into a subscription only model.

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Welcome @GaiusScotius

Thanks for your comments.

That’s exactly how it works with business software companies like Oracle, IBM etc. They need a continuous revenue stream to keep working (and their share holders happy, of course).

Depends on the software. I think business software has become rather more expensive than it was 20 years ago. But you’re right about end-user software. Although in the twilight zone between these two … Adobe, QuarkExpress? Not exactly cheapo

They do charge for the (perpetual model) software releases, right? That’s how it’s always worked. I don’t think anyone expects DTPO to be “free”. That’s just plain silly. :slight_smile:

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I’m fine paying for upgrades that don’t get major new features but rather significant maintenance updates. Updating an app from 32 to 64 bit is not an insignificant effort. But the way most companies implement subscriptions it is a treadmill where all or nearly all is lost if you stop paying.

If I know that DT is going to stop working if I upgrade I get to make a choice when I upgrade or if I want to but I don’t lose what I am already using.

I understand subscription pricing and support it because I work for a software company that sells subscription pricing but I just don’t see the justification for that in this case.