In this morning's post, I described OakTree Software as a "Mom and Pop" company that develops exclusively for the Mac and said that I sometimes feel we're a "David" trying to compete with "Goliath Windows developers which are many times our size." Those statements prompted the following anonymous comment:
I'm curious... given this clearly evident popularity, why is Accordance a David in the marketplace? I mean I understand that the PC market is substantially larger than the Mac market but it seems to me there are niche Mac companies like yours that are able to grow into significant companies. Is there actually a desire not to grow much beyond the "Mom and Pop" operation?
Also, why does Oak Tree so fervently resist going into the PC market with such a powerful product? Wouldn't this allow you to grow your company and start on a road to compete more favorably with the libraries offered by certain other companies? Isn't that in your interests, your customer's interests, and in the general interests of biblical scholarship and learning?
Those are certainly good questions, so in this post, I'll clarify what I mean by "Mom and Pop" company, and talk a little about the issue of porting Accordance to Windows.
First, when I describe OakTree as a "Mom and Pop" company, I don't mean it in any pejorative or negative sense. We're "Mom and Pop" in the sense that OakTree is very much a family business and we're still small enough to deal with our customers in a very personal way. That doesn't mean we haven't grown into a "significant company." We actually have employees scattered across the United States and in Canada, we sponsor a professorship, and we have many thousands of users.
As for the blank stares I get when I mention Accordance Bible software, I'm referring to the average person I talk to in my own non-academic and non-Mac-using circles. The average person at my church doesn't bother to keep up with the latest developments in Bible software, and I might get the same blank stares if I mentioned many popular Windows products. These people have usually heard of one or two programs, and those are not necessarily even the most widely used or most widely known, so it comes as little surprise that they've never heard of the leading Bible program for the Mac.
In the world of Biblical scholarship, however, the Accordance name is well known and highly respected. That's precisely why we're such a formidable presence at ETS and SBL. And among Mac users in general, the Accordance name is fairly well known and becoming familiar to more and more people.
Now, let's turn to the question of why we "so fervently resist going into the PC market"? First of all, I'm not sure this is something we're "fervently resisting," it's simply something we have little desire to do. We've asked ourselves repeatedly over the years whether we should port to Windows, and we always come up with plenty of reasons not to.
The biggest reason we're not porting to Windows is that we're smart enough to know what our strengths are and to focus on leveraging those. We know the Mac. We know how to develop for the Mac. We know how to support the Mac. We know how to relate to Mac users. Few of us actually use Windows and I'm not sure any of us really wants to. Life is simply too short. So why would we waste our limited resources trying to enter a market we have no real experience with? For the promise of more money and greater name-recognition? Those are not the reasons we got into developing Bible software in the first place, so they're hardly enough incentive to tempt us to divert our focus from doing the things we're best at.
Besides, the Mac market is growing, and growing in precisely those demographics which we have always tried to reach: education and consumers. The iPod generation is now entering theological seminaries and religious studies programs. Any guesses where those MacBook-toting students are turning for Bible study software? :-)
Additionally, consumers who have long felt chained to Windows PCs are now switching to Intel Macs and escaping the viruses and .dll headaches they always thought were just a necessary evil of using a computer. Many of those who use Bible study software are switching because they can run their Windows programs under Parallels or BootCamp. But there's a funny thing about people who switch to Mac from Windows. Once they realize how much better-designed and easy-to-use Mac software is, they become the most rabid Mac advocates, and soon they begin looking for Mac-native programs to replace the few remaining Windows programs they still use. Why else would Bible software developers which only know Windows be tempted to forget their strengths and attempt to port to Mac? It's likely not philanthropy, but a fear of losing customers.
As for needing to "grow [our] company and start on a road to compete more favorably with the libraries offered by certain other companies," I think we're doing that quite nicely already. OakTree Software is growing, and Accordance is competing favorably with the libraries offered by other companies. At this point, the breadth of material we offer is (unless I'm missing something) second only to that of one other company which has made quantity of books its primary focus. Number of books has never been our primary focus, yet we offer the second largest Bible study library in the world, and that library is going to be growing significantly in the coming years. All of that is happening in spite of, and even because of, the fact that we only develop for the Mac. If our business strategy is working, why fix something that is clearly not broken?
So far, I've talked about our philosophical and business reasons for developing exclusively for the Mac, but I haven't mentioned perhaps our most important reason for developing for the Mac. The Mac lets us do things we either could not do, or could not do as well, on the PC. Mac interface standards still set the bar in consistency and ease of use. The Mac platform is more stable and easier to support: developers can concentrate on making great software rather than dealing with the inconsistencies and complexities steadily flowing out of Redmond. As much as we sometimes have a love-hate relationship with Apple, they mostly make it possible for us to develop Bible study software which is "insanely great." And it's that which gets us up in the morning and keeps us working hard; not the promise of more money or better name-recognition in a larger market.