I’ve used NuevaSync for some long period of time (a year? 18 months?) to sync my contacts and calendar back and forth between Google Apps and my iPhone. Now NuevaSync has announced that they are eliminating their free service and moving to a two-tiered pricing model.
Embedded within the press release is this sentence:
Along with the introduction of the new services, we will no longer be offering our original free service.
Okay, let’s take a step back. Businesses need to get revenue in order to, well, be businesses. Otherwise they are a collection of hobbyists. So I applaud NuevaSync (or any company) for realizing that, and not providing services without revenue.
But is this the best way to do it? Completely eliminating a free service and effectively forcing users to pay or leave? Giving a 5-day window? I would be content with a very small subset of the services they provide, and when I get SuperMegaMonoCorp, Inc. off the ground, I would probably be content to use a small portion of the savings we’d make by not having to pay U.S. income taxes to buy premium licenses for my employees.
But the move just appears so abrupt, so boneheaded that it either smacks of (a) desperation or (b) tone-deafness. Neither is good. So I will no longer be a NuevaSync customer, preferring instead to browse for alternate solutions to solve my problem. If a free solution does not exist, I may explore using a manual workaround.
It’s a knotty issue. How do you move from free to paid? And, when you do move, who pays? I wonder if NuevaSync explored licensing deals with wireless providers or even The Goog to avoid having to shift the payment burden to the end user. Or exploring a corporate model that provided additional features to corporations in exchange for a paid Premium service that left individuals with a free plan. Ultimately I’ll pay (or “we”, as consumers, will pay).
It’s a useful service – it’s been reliable and I haven’t had to think about it much – but it’s just a feature, really, of my overall mobile life, and a small feature.
I know that a lot of buzz has surrounded the idea of “micropayments” – small ad-hoc payments, made effortlessly, for things that we value – but I don’t know that this is the correct future paradigm to bet on, at least in the near term. And certainly not until the free service landscape shakes itself out.
iTunes has shown that we’ll make impulse purchases for entertainment, at small dollar values. Will that translate to business or professional services? I don’t know. Not in the near term.
Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s say LinkedIn wanted to charge you $1.99 for connecting to someone outside of your network who has more than 500 connections. First of all that’s a stupid idea because LinkedIn benefits as more and more people get connected. There’s no incremental operational cost to them, and they get the attendant benefits of page views, interest, engagement, attention, leadership in the corporate-networking space.
But say they did charge. Would you do it? No, I doubt it. You’d find a way around the system to get connected.
I think that there’s some psychic element in play, some aspect of human behavior, that is very important and (at least for me, right now), very hard to pin down about small costs for non-essentials. It could be societal – a conditioned response – which is what I think a lot of people are betting on. But if it’s deeper than that – personal, genetic, human – then the whole micropayments future collapses.
Wondering what you think.