Pleco Desktop

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
No, ARM doesn't really impact us much - every iOS app is already cross-compiled into X86 for iPhone Simulator (a simulated iPhone you run on your computer to test apps) so we already have X86 and ARM versions of everything. It's a bigger deal for Mac-only app developers, as they have not previously had any particular reason to worry about ARM.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Apple just announced that ARM Macs will be able to run most iPad/iPhone apps without even being recompiled, so it seems like you're going to get a rudimentary desktop version soon without our doing anything.

At the same time, since Apple have now taken it upon themselves to give away a rudimentary desktop version of Pleco for free, it may be somewhat more challenging for us to come up with a way to pay for developing a better one, or for developing a Windows version; will depend on whether we see any significant sales bump from this desktop-version-we-have-no-choice-about, I suppose.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Actually it looks like that's an opt-in thing, we can choose not to release our app automatically as a universal purchase on the Mac App Store if we don't want to. So now we have a few months to keep pondering the best desktop business model.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
At the same time it also looks like macOS 10.16 is so iPad-like anyway that we can probably get away with shipping a fairly lazy Mac port and still leave users satisfied.
 

Shun

状元
Hello Mike,

thanks for the positive report! I noticed from the "About this Mac" dialog of the ARM demo machine that they call it macOS 11.0 (Big Sur), probably because of the major UI refresh. Seems like a very good idea.

I would of course be willing to pay extra if I already have Pleco for iOS/Android and wish to use it on Mac Desktop. A "lazy port" should be fine with me, as well.

Regards, Shun
 

x0vash0x

Member
At the same time it also looks like macOS 10.16 is so iPad-like anyway that we can probably get away with shipping a fairly lazy Mac port and still leave users satisfied.
I'm not sure what more people would want. Put another way, what exactly would be Desktop Only Features that people are really clamoring for? I personally would be happy just being able to use a polished iPad APP on my Desktop. Although, that would leave people on Intel Macs left out, but they'll eventually be going out of style.

What I would really enjoy, is a highly polished iPad APP. Right now, I use Google Translate for general translations, but then us Pleco when there is clearly a word that is not being correctly translated to look it up and figure out the meaning. The ability to just do this all on my desktop and not use my phone would save me trouble. I mean, I would be happy with a lazy Mac port, but I'd be happier just being able to use a polished iPad APP on my Mac itself.

I would think this announcement gives you more focus: you can focus on an iPad APP and ignore a Desktop APP finally. Considering all the effort being spent on 4.0 and people waiting on that for years, I thought you would be happy that this can actually let you ignore a desktop app entirely and focus only on 4.0 The only issue would be Windows users, but eh... Tough luck for them?
 

LeonardoM

秀才
Personally, I’d welcome a desktop version with open arms. A re adaptation of the iPad version is fine, perhaps with some simple tweaks to make the trackpad work with in-app-gestures.
Ultimately, even the actual iPad version would do. I’m just eager to use a big screen to learn characters.
 

Fernando

举人
Ok Mike, love your app, but this is going to be a little rant, so I apologize in advance for the negativity. It's impossible not to be a little negative when you see that this thread dates back to 2005.

I've been using pleco for about seven years and, from about 2016, when I started some casual translation work, I purchased some dictionary add-ons and got interested in the possibility of a desktop version. I tried the chrome-welder solution that was available for a while (and was dissatisfied with it due to stability issues) and more recently received the news about Catalyst with some optimist. I didn't realize this debate goes back one and a half decades. It started in 2005 when Mike said customers would see a desktop version some time "in 2006". Now, I get it, iPhone came around and I grant this to you that focusing on that platform at the time was the absolutely right decision. You made a blockbuster little app and made Pleco economically viable as a company. Then came Android, also a must-have platform, and desktop kept being postponed. In 2010 the iPad came around and you said you hoped that'd reduce demand for desktop pleco (an argument similar to the one you made more recently when mouse+ trackpad support for iPad was announced). Back then you were still saying that a Mac port was relatively easy to make from the iOS version, and even ideas like a Linux version were floated. Then there were licensing issues ($$$). I get that too, those are real. The point is that Pleco desktop might not be viable from a business perspective, just not worth the effort in terms of financial returns. That might be true, and I don't think anyone should ask devs to work for nothing or for peanuts. But Apple will now allow iOS apps to run natively on new ARM macs if only devs give the green light. That gives you some options:

1 - Decide that you can turn a profit on desktop apps, roll up your sleeves and announce that Pleco's now working on desktops versions to be marketed at an extra $. That's fair game.

2 - Concede that there is no viable business model for desktop Pleco and/or that you're not willing to take the time to make it real for the expected financial returns. But in that case throw your user base a bone and just allow iOS pleco to run on those new macs when they're released. I think that if a desktop version were profitable it'd exist by now, but that's just my layman's opinion.

3 - None of the above. It's your app and you decide what you want to do with it and how you want to sell it. But if that's the case, please take a hint from the corps playbook, say that Pleco is a company that produces software for mobile platforms and that you don't discuss planned/unreleased products. Just close this thread and stop talking about it, because after fifteen years it's just a little sad to keep coming back to this.

That's it, rant's over. Other than that, Pleco's awesome. I'll continue to use and recommend it even if it's just mobile. Peace.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
I mean the fact that this thread goes back to 2005 and that in *15 years* nobody else has stepped up to fill that niche (versus the dozens of other companies that took a crack at the mobile Chinese dictionary market in the early days of iOS/Android) does kind of suggest that it's not a very big market :)

I'm not going to get into all of that history in detail, but the reason for my current Hamlet-esque attitude towards Mac basically boils down to whether or not offering a minimum viable Mac app for free would make it impossible in the future to offer a Windows app. (because people will be resistant to buying again / paying an upgrade fee / whatever on Windows when they don't have to do that on Mac)

I do expect that most of the people clamoring for a Mac desktop version would be satisfied with an extremely lazy Mac port - one we could nonetheless gradually build on in the future if the demand / sales were there - but there's no way to do an extremely lazy Windows port, it would necessarily be a large complicated project; we might be able to make that work reusable in other places if we offered it as a WebAssembly browser app (probably not even technically viable for another year or two since that's still a very very new technology) but it would be a lot of work regardless.

But lazy port + no upgrade fees is definitely the easiest / lowest-friction option, and if we do that then basically one of two things will happen:
  • Our overall sales will go up and the Mac version will rack up a ton of sales on its own, demonstrating that a desktop port is good business after all and making it easier to justify investing in a Windows port even though it would probably have to be free for mobile Pleco users;
  • Our overall sales remain flat / Mac contributes very little, in which case we can still try to fund a Windows port through a Kickstarter but if that fails then we simply shrug and say that we were right and there wasn't much of a market for this.
And since (as I've been saying for at least 15 years) I hate porting, I'd be perfectly happy in either of these scenarios - we make more money and I have to do a Windows port or we don't make more money and I don't have to do a Windows port - so it doesn't seem like a bad plan in general, I just didn't want people to read my initial comments on iOS 14 as a firm commitment when I'm not actually sure yet.
 

Fernando

举人
So the Mac version, which may be viable, is being held hostage by the windows version, which most likely isn't? Why commit to both at the same time or commit to neither? Why not release a paid (universal/polished) mac version only? If a paid mac version isn't economically viable I doubt a windows one ever will be, and I say this a windows user.

Or if you want to stick to the free basic app + paid add-on model, it just might be the case that a windows app won't be viable till microsoft make development on their platform a little easier.
 
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Shun

状元
Hi Fernando,

according to yesterday's Apple keynote, all iOS apps can be made to run more or less unchanged on Mac in the future, especially on ARM Macs, so that will definitely happen. So this is no case of Windows holding Mac hostage. Otherwise, I understand your feelings, a lot of which can be explained by Pleco being a very small (but good) company.

Regards,

Shun
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Because most users don't differentiate between platforms; they barely even differentiate between form factors. (you have no idea how many support emails we get on this subject) If customers can use their existing Pleco licenses on Mac for free then they'll expect to also be able to use them on a future Windows version for free, even if that's a wildly unprofitable proposition for us. Free Mac / paid Windows app would also open us up to accusations that we only care about customers wealthy enough to afford Macs and that we're ripping off customers who can only afford PCs.

So if we offer a basic Mac app for free I don't think it's possible for us to charge for a Windows app, which means that going down this free Mac app route severely constrains our future Windows options; it doesn't make it totally impossible, but it means we can pretty much only support Windows if a) the Mac app is a wild success / brings in a ton of sales that wouldn't have happened otherwise or b) people are so enthusiastic about it that they're willing to (basically) buy a second copy of Pleco they don't even need via Kickstarter in order to see Pleco on Windows. (or c) Google/Microsoft come up with a way to put Android apps on Windows that works as well as Catalyst for iOS/Mac, but that seems unlikely)

In reality I don't expect us to see many new sales from a Mac port - my guess is maybe 10% of our iOS customers would very eagerly install the dictionaries they already purchased on Macs and not buy anything else and nobody else would care - and I don't expect a Kickstarter to raise nearly enough money for a Windows port, so if we do this, as far as I'm concerned, absent a miracle we're basically killing any prospect of ever porting Pleco to Windows. Which is why I'm reluctant to commit to it too readily.

On the other hand, charging for a good Mac port would be tricky with so many other iOS apps about to show up on Mac for free, but it's not totally impossible, particularly not if we find some ways to add value to it, and December isn't really the do-or-die point since ARM Macs will take several years to meaningfully penetrate the market (we'd just disable Mac downloads of our iOS app in the meantime). So if we finally manage to get 4.0 out in the not too horribly distant future then I'd like to at least explore whether we could do enough on Mac to make a new product we could charge for before giving up, releasing a quick-and-dirty Mac free app and likely dooming Windows users to further decades of disappointment.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Basically it's not a question of whether or not we do a Mac port - I'm pretty sure we're going to do one - but rather of whether we do a quick Mac port or a slow Mac port. And that decision is closely tied to our future Windows strategy.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
We could also potentially do a paid quick app on the way to a slow app, as another option; sell it exclusively through our website with sideloading. But that would only make sense if we were actively working on a better app we could point people towards.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Or we could do a free quick app and then a paid better app, I suppose, though that would cause a lot of customer confusion.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
But in any case you can see why I’m reluctant to commit to any specific desktop plans literally just 1 day after Apple announced this.
 

Fernando

举人
Yes, this. I get your argument of a free mac app torpedoing the prospect of a windows app. I think the best way is a paid Mac app for starts, either quick (sideloading) or more polished (mac app store). I'd be willing to pay for one because, as you said, I already have all the add-ons I need and a mac version would just be extra functionality. If it doesn't sell well enough, then it's proof that desktop isn't viable, and you can just stop developing it later on and point Mac users to the (free) iOS app instead. Sure some users would complain, but you can't have the benefits without some risk.
 

Fernando

举人
Hi Fernando,

according to yesterday's Apple keynote, all iOS apps can be made to run more or less unchanged on Mac in the future, especially on ARM Macs, so that will definitely happen. So this is no case of Windows holding Mac hostage. Otherwise, I understand your feelings, a lot of which can be explained by Pleco being a very small (but good) company.

Regards,

Shun
Hi Shun,
When I said held hostage, I meant it in the context of Pleco's strategy for desktop. There will be no technical hurdle for iOS apps to run on ARM macs, but for that to happen devs will still need to approve it, that is, they will be able choose not to make it automatically available on mac.
 

Shun

状元
Hi Fernando, hello Mike,

indeed, we are in full agreement. I agree with the proposal of charging for a Mac version no matter what, to preclude the possibility of Windows users seeing themselves at a disadvantage.
 
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