Introducing Optional OmniFocus Subscriptions

by Ken Case on December 3, 2018

As long-time readers know, we’ve worked very hard over the last ten years to implement our flexible, customer-friendly licensing model in the App Store. When we started, the App Store only supported a pay up front model, which was far more limited than what we’d been used to with our own direct sales. But over the years, with the introduction of new technologies like in-app purchases and updated policies, we’ve gained the flexibility we now enjoy which lets us offer trials, upgrade discounts—and even price protection (so recent purchasers get a free upgrade to a new major version of the app when it ships).

In my last blog post, I also described how we’re working on making it easier for businesses, schools, and other organizations to license and deploy our iOS apps.

We think our current licensing model meets a lot of needs, and we will continue to offer this model for licensing our apps: we prefer for customers to view our apps as an investment, not an expense.

But our current model doesn’t cover every situation. It’s designed for software that you run on your own devices, where you can buy something from us and run it for as long as you wish (so long as you keep a compatible system around to run it). With this model, we still have customers running software they purchased from us 20+ years ago. (That’s a good investment!)

But as I mentioned in January’s roadmap, OmniFocus for the Web is a different sort of product. It’s a version of OmniFocus that runs on our computers, not yours. Running it on our computers means we have to maintain those computers, their network connections, power, and so on, as a constantly available online service, for as long as customers use the product. Running that service costs us money every month, so if we want the service to be sustainable we need an income stream which brings in money every month to cover those costs. In other words, this service model requires subscriptions—an arrangement where customers pay us money each month to keep the service going.

Beyond supporting this new service model, there are some other benefits to offering subscription pricing as an option. Some of you have told us that you’re frustrated by our current “a la carte” pricing model, where each edition of the app is purchased separately. That you would prefer the option to pay a subscription each year which covers the price of future upgrades and unlocks the app everywhere. That you’d rather not have to worry about when the next major upgrade is coming, budgeting for how much that will cost. That you don’t want to have to think about whether you’ve bought the app for Mac or for iOS; that instead, you just want to use it on whichever device you happen to be using. Offering a subscription option for our desktop and mobile apps would help with all of these requests.

To that end, when OmniFocus for the Web ships we’ll be rolling it out as part of a new OmniFocus subscription offering. This subscription will grant you access to OmniFocus for the Web, and will also unlock the Pro edition of OmniFocus on all of your other devices. Your subscription will cover the cost of all upgrades, so you’ll get the new OmniFocus 3 release today—and, when OmniFocus 4 ships some years down the road, you’ll get an automatic upgrade to it as well.

Now, some of you have already paid to upgrade to OmniFocus 3. If you have what you need, you don’t need to change anything: you can keep using OmniFocus 3 as you have been doing. New customers will also continue to be able to make a simple one-time investment to unlock OmniFocus 3 on their devices. We’re offering subscriptions as an additional purchasing option, not as a replacement for the existing options.

The OmniFocus subscription will cost $9.99/month, giving you access to the web service as well as OmniFocus Pro on all your Mac and iOS devices. If you’ve already invested in OmniFocus 3 and just want to add the web service, the cost for that will be $4.99/month.

These subscription options will be available when OmniFocus for the Web ships next month.

I should note that subscriptions do have significant downsides. The initial cost to start using the product is lower, but over time subscriptions will end up costing more—and unlike our one-time purchases, it’s not an investment: when you stop subscribing to OmniFocus you’ll lose access to the things that were being provided by that subscription. When a subscription ends you won’t be able to use OmniFocus for the Web any more—and any OmniFocus apps running on your own devices will go back to whatever state they were in before you subscribed. (If you never unlocked those apps, that means they’ll go into a free viewer mode where you can access your data and export it, but can no longer edit it.)

Whether subscriptions make sense for you is something only you can decide. But we’re pleased that we will soon be able to offer you that choice!


(Feedback? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me on twitter at @kcase, or send me email at kc@omnigroup.com.)