We've been busy the last few months readying up the new things that are now in Wotja 4.9. This blog post is for those who want to know a bit more of the thinking behind the many changes. We start with a little background...
Wotja: Overview (30s)
Wotja: Quick Start (4m)
Wotja: Playlists (8m)
Staying the Course
We try not to talk too much (we are not big talkers) but we have a long term vision and a long, continuous, history. To those customers who have only just joined us we say "welcome!" and to those are still with us after 25 years we say "Yo!" (see SSEYO :)).
We work hard, without compromising on innovation, to provide an easy path for the forward migration of content created in our generative system(s). We try only to implement things that we genuinely believe over the long term to be to our customer's benefit; as you might expect, there are always a lot factors to consider! We are no flash in a pan developer and it has been, and continues to be, a fascinating journey to be on with you.
Our overall approach is to regularly stand back, "kick the tyres" and then see what happens (and others often help us with this!). We then agonise over any changes / improvements we feel we need to make, implement them the best we can and see now they work out. We have found this approach is the best and fastest way to figure out how we can do things better for our customers, whether that be in terms of features, capabilities, business models, usability, content or whatever. We try not to shirk from taking brave decisions, but we listen to and respond to feedback.
A case in point relates to In-App Subscriptions. For a host of reasons we knew we had to do it for Wotja 4; one of those being about finding - for both our customer base and us - a route forward in an increasingly complex environment. We knew this was going to be one of those tough decisions, so for several years we thought long and hard about it before finally figuring out the best approach to it. Once we had implemented it and released the new Wotja app we had a number of customers tell us that they would instead like a "paid for" option. We had not considered it at the time as it was outside the scope of our revised model, but we went back to the drawing board, scratched our heads, found a solution and then did it.
Wotja XT "Music Play Time" Extensions & Pricing
Over the years we have been asked a number of times if our apps/engines can be used (and licenced) to generate long play background music for installations, personal radio, interactive music for hotels etc. Last year we worked on some changes to both the NME the Noatikl Plug-in that facilitated this, but it required special licence keys to be generated and you had to contact us for them.
We never stopped thinking about this and how to do it, but especially about how to make it easy and quick for a user to enable. Some times the solution is staring one in the face and a few months ago we finally cracked it. We realised that most users simply do not need a very long period of live continuous music play ("Music Play Time") for "authoring" or "continuous music generation". Provided the Music Play Time is long enough, all that is required is a simple restart of a mix...
When it comes to the Music Play Time, the 2 big questions for us were A) for most people "what is long enough to allow authoring and generation of melodies, background music etc. for personal use / recording etc. ?" and B) for specialist use cases "how can the Music Play Time be easily extended?".
Another issue we had swirling around was that we wanted to find a way to provide the lowest possible price for full authoring - not the semi-restricted "half way house" we had trialled with an "Essentials" In-App Subcription.
Yet another was that we wanted to find a route to allow some kind of Free Trial period for Wotja (more below).
And another was that we wanted to have a Music Play Time option of 8 hours, instead of 8 hours 53 minutes (a bit unwieldy, frankly :)).
Finally, we wanted to simplify our naming and lose the confusing "Essentials" and "Pro" monikers. We wanted just "Wotja" (subscription version) with a "Free Use" mode of operation when there was no active In-App Subscription, and "Wotja 2017" (i.e. this year's "unlocked" version of Wotja with no In-App Store or In-App Subscriptions).
All in all, plenty to think about.
In deliberating all of the above we saw a common thread. We realised that if we gave Wotja a 1 hour Music Play Time (we decided this was "long enough") and allowed that to be easily extended for those who really needed more, then we had a solution to all of the above.
As it turns out, had we not enabled In-App Subcriptions then a solution to the above issues would not have been possible - so it was fortuitous after all! See our Subscriptions FAQ.
Without further ado, we are pleased to say this is what we have now implemented in Wotja 4.9.0:
For only $5 the "Wotja Unlocked" In-App Subscription (iOS) provides 6 months access to all Wotja features and capabilities.
Extension of the Music Play Time above 1 hour is enabled via purchase of one of the new "Wotja XT" In-App Extensions.
The Music Play Time for "Wotja 2018" will mirror that in Wotja but for "Wotja 2017" it remains as before.
Subscribers to existing In-App Subscriptions are not disadvantaged in any major way
There is now an option for 3 Day Free Trial (more below).
There are some brand new templates (more below).
3 Day Free Trial
We believe in free trial and because of that we gave Wotja a "Free Use" mode of operation. It lets you use Wotja for free, albeit with just a few restrictions. This mode of operation is always available to you, so if you have an In-App Subscription and it expires then you STILL have access to the mixes/playlists you made before and can also play and hear them (albeit for just a minute). You can even still edit them, but don't then save them or you would lose information! We felt that was pretty good going all things being considered...
For some, however, this was still not enough. As this was the "market talking" we listened hard, respected the views stated and then set about thinking hard about what we could do to help such potential customers, whilst not actually giving away everything for free...
Although we knew that Apple allow a Free Trial period for In-App Subscriptions the time was not right before, for a number of reasons, for us to take advantage of them. However, with the new "Wotja XT" In-App Subscription extensions we realised that we were now finally set up and able to allow a 3 Day Free Trial - so we have now enabled that for the base level "Wotja Unlocked" In-App Subscription! (NB: It was originally in the "Wotja XT1" tier but that proved too confusing). We hope you are happy that we listened, and the solution we have provided. See: How do I get the Free Trial?.
New "BP2" Backings Template Pak and revised TTM Players
Last, and by no means least, are changes to our templates. In fact, for existing customers, these are probably the most important changes of all!
First of all we worked very hard on some new templates for you. 10 such templates are in a new "WJ4 BP2 Backings" template Pak that you will see in the Pak list. These are really, really nice and we hope you like them. To make some of them we also had to add a few new samples to our IM Synths SF2 Wavetable. The old Backings Pak is still there, but it now displays as "WJ4 BP1 Backings".
Next, we spent a long time reviewing the default Text to Music (TTM) templates that we include in Wotja. We felt we could improve them, and improve them we have (many of them, anyhow). The "refreshed" templates, as a Pak, now sound smoother, softer and are better suited to ambient melodies - they are simply better. Newly created automatic mixes featuring TTM will use and reference these new templates by default unless you specifically toggle off this Pak and toggle on the old one.
NB: The old TTM Pak is not gone, so mixes you have already made using those templates will still sound the same: this Pak is now called "WJ4 TTM Players 4.0-8" and is only visible in the Pak list if you have the "Show Older?" toggle set to on. If you wanted, you could turn this pak on and turn revised Pak off.
We have now finally started work on Wotja for macOS! Yes, we know there is already Wotja for macOS :), but by and large that is right now a cut-up editor. What we mean is we have now started work on the authoring tool that will eventually replace Noatikl for macOS. Yay!
We do have plans for Wotja for Windows, and we hope one day to get to Wotja Android, but for now we appreciate your patience as those we come later...
What this all means is that for the rest of the year the fast pace of change for Wotja V4 will now slow. To counterbalance that, every now and then we will be issuing updates that will include some more new templates for you to enjoy.
Those who have known us for many years will understand that we are restless: we are "intermorphic", meaning we are never done. From the founding of SSEYO in 1990 to the founding of Intermorphic in 2007 to now, 2017, we have continued to have a deep seated need to create, to innovate and to push the envelope of what our tools can do - either by utilising our own technologies or in supporting the use of others (e.g. iCloud, AudioBus, CoreMIDI etc.).
The last 9 months for us has been a very, very busy time - but it has also been a hugely productive one, too. We hope this blog post gives an insight as to some of why that has been the case.
By way of overview, the first 6 months of those last 9 months was largely taken up with readying what was to become Wotja 4.
The last 3 months of it were about polishing Wotja 4 to be ready for release on 14th Feb followed by a number of major improvements (Playlist, Cut-Up Editor), minor bug fixes and sorting out some "bumps"; more on that below.
Time for change > Wotja
When we first started developing Wotja back in 2013 (Wotja 1 released April 2014) we had an idea where we were going to take it, and we knew it was going to be important for us. It was not really until the last year or so, 8-9 years on from founding Intermorphic, that we really started to feel we were quickly getting to the position of having too many apps to both evolve and maintain. We realised we had become stretched too thin and were beginning to get stuck in the treacle of never ending "maintenance".
We needed to rethink, to figure it out; we needed a plan. Yes, we could have decided to "moved on" altogether and abandon some apps and important features, in effect orphaning some user created content. It would certainly have been the easiest route forward and some developers might have taken that path, but we had never done that (see SSEYO Koan) and did not want to start now.
The four principles
We realised that to survive we needed to do 4 things. We needed to:
Find a way to focus all our love on just one branded app that we could continue to innovate and extend;
Find a forward migration path for user created content;
Find a way to fund continued maintenance (the elephant in the room);
Find a business model that could support the foregoing.
Whatever else was the case, we knew it was NOT going to be easy.
The "easy" bit
It turned out the only road ahead for the first 2 things was to consolidate all of our apps (Liptikl, Noatikl, Mixtikl, Tiklbox and Wotja) into just one. This app is branded Wotja. It was not in any way "easy" to do but we are now there on iOS and part way there on macOS (the macOS version presently has no editors for music or sound).
Come what may, we know that the Wotja app is our future and we are going to continue improving and extending it.
A head the Intermorphic,
Want it cut-up innovate,
1000x chance to thank,
SSEYO future clearly after.
The hardest thing of all, really, has been in finding the solution for issues 3 and 4 - finding the right business model. At the core of this is that continued software development really is a service: software does not yet create itself, maintain itself, test itself, evolve itself (thank goodness!) meaning human effort (work) is involved - and, in the case of our deep apps, a great deal of it, too.
We live in an age where much of the software we use is either free or is so cheap it is "as good as free" (e.g. a once off payment of $5). Operating systems, browsers etc. etc, you name it, and you can do most things for free if you really want to. However that software is made available to you it costs real money to build and maintain, and a lot of it, too.
The real questions
The big questions are, "who pays for all that free or as good as free software to be built and maintained, and how?". It is good to consider because, as we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch - you always pay, somehow. If something cannot be sustained (costs covered) then it will eventually die and turn to dust.
Software that is free is free for a reason: it might be free because you pay for it by paying for the hardware on which it runs (e.g. iPhone) or it might be treating you as the product (e.g. advertising supported) - for example your data has a value because with it you can be profiled for advertisers who want to sell you other things.
The problem with Software that is "as good as free" (e.g. a once off payment of $5) is that it sets the expectation that "as good as free" also comes to mean "maintained for ever".
Going with either model above can work for apps with very large or fast growing user bases. However, for very niche apps like ours with a slow growing user base neither generates enough to cover costs, let alone provide an income.
How we approached it
Like many niche app developers who do not want to make you the product, we have been caught on the horns of this dilemma. We want to continue to create and maintain things for you to use and love but it costs us a lot of time and effort to do it and to continue to do it.
We knew a few key things:
For the last year most of our iOS App Store revenues were coming from iOS App Bundles that cost around $15 - $20;
We had no means to allow free trial but we wanted to find a way to do that;
If at all possible we did not want to have to resort to an ad supported model;
We already pay for some apps via subscription and had become comfortable with it and its advantages;
To be able to continue to fund both development and ongoing maintenance for those customers that do wish to see us survive and develop new things we had no option but to take some really, really tough decisions that we understood were likely to upset some existing customers who were used to the "as good as free" model, a model we simply cannot now afford to continue with (like any business we hate upsetting customers, but we simply had no choice).
What we decided to do
Taking all the above into account (and asking a few people) we decided to take the plunge and move to a subscription model where the annual pricing was either less than or about the same as a full bundle of apps would have been (Wotja is Noatkl, Mixtkl, Liptikl, Wotja and Tiklbox all in one). We genuinely thought it was the best solution all round, for many reasons.
A few initial bumps
However, we had not fully appreciated that at this point in time many people simply do not like subscriptions at all (despite their advantages and Apple making it easier). Because of that we did not have a non-subscription alternative available at launch and so had not got a transition bundle in place, either (these require paid apps). We also realised we needed to adjust the subscription pricing so immediately brought that down to the level it is now at. To top it off, we have had a couple of reports that the now available Transition Bundle is not working as it should in allowing purchase of apps in past bundles to count towards it (we have a support ticket raised with Apple who are investigating and we will address this as soon as we know the issue).
Ironing out the bumps
Have we have made some missteps along the way? Yes we have, as above, and we are truly sorry about those and any upset they might have caused. We are only human, there are 2 of us and we do sometimes get things wrong - especially in this trickiest of tricky areas. Once we knew about these issues, however, we moved very quickly to address them: i.e. a non-subscription version was released 2 weeks after launch and the app bundle about a week or so after that.
Aside from the above, are we happy about how things have gone since launch? Not yet, as it is clearly early days for Wotja. Although Wotja is working great and is powerful and stable, we are still in the consolidation cycle and there are improvements we still want to make to the UI.
That said, as we now have just the one app to work on we are looking forward to delivering a regular flow of improvements and feature extensions (that said, we are presently working on adding syllable support to the cut-up editor - something we have been asked for many times).
Wotja is a powerful, deep and integrated creativity tool unlike any other - it is unique. The market for such an app is presently very small which is why it is priced as it is. If we could 1000x increase the market size then no doubt there would be some room to maneouvre!
We hope you give Wotja a chance and enjoy it as it develops and grows.
As a small, niche, artisan organic micro-business we can safely say the last 10 years of our 26 year journey have not exactly been easy, but they have been interesting ☺.
It is entirely down to our paying customers and fans that we are still here and innovating and we dearly thank all of you who are such. There is still so much we want to build for you and that we hope you will wish to explore, enjoy and create with.
As we are hard at work on Wotja 4 we don't have time to write much about reaching our 10 year anniversary... Besides, we prefer to let our apps do the talking for us! Once Wotja 4 is out then we will look forward to seeing what you can do with it and rest assured we will be working to extend it in the coming months and years ❤.
Update: As of 7th October the Forum is now back up and running.
Update: As of 3rd October our website and email is now back up and running.
On the 29th and 30th Sept we will be changing ISP (for webhosting and email) so please bear with us if service (and forum) goes down for a few hours or days. We are still here and will be endeavouring to make the transition as swift as possible!
It's good news: iCloud support is coming for all our iOS apps!
If you like to create things on multiple iOS devices, e.g. iPhone and iPad, and you are familiar with Apple's iCloud and iCloud Drive and associated iCloud Drive app for iOS, you should be pleased to hear that across our apps we are gradually rolling out support for iCloud. See our FAQ on using iCloud which we will keep updated.
The first of our apps to get iCloud support was Liptikl 2 for iOS, released a couple of weeks ago. As of today we have now followed up on that with iCloud support in Wotja 3.2 for iOS. We expect to release the iCloud-supporting Noatikl 3.1 and Mixtikl 7.1 iOS updates soon [Edit: released April 5th].
What about iCloud support in macOS apps?
It turns out that the key thing actually needed is iCloud support in the iOS apps! Once you have installed the relevant iOS app then icloud.com will show the relevant folder and an iCloud-supporting macOS desktop app update can open files from and save to the iCloud Drive folder in macOS.
Liptikl 2 for macOS is already iCloud-supporting.
Noatikl 3.1 for macOS is iCloud-supporting.
Mixtikl 7.1 for macOS is not iCloud-supporting because of the way its UI works but there is a work around:
Once a mix file is saved to the ~/Music/Intermorphic folder you can drag it to your Mac's iCloud Drive folder and then (once the file is synched to iCloud) use Mixtikl 7.1 for iOS to edit it. Note: In the iCloud Drive folder on Mac you can double click on a mixtikl file to opent it, but it will not save there.
Reworking the Mixtikl for macOS UI to save files instead to an iCloud Drive folder would be a big reworking for us so, if we do add it to that, it may only come in a new major version.
iCloud support is great as it means you can start working on a file in the macOS version and then (for files in the relevant iCloud Drive folder) carry on in the iOS version, and vice versa.
What about recordings, zip and sf2 files?
These still need to be copied to/from your iOS app via iTunes App File Sharing. For further details on how to do that, see here.
What prompted us to do it...
For us it was really all about improving ease of use, productivity and ease of backing up files. Some of the benefits as we see them are:
A new Files screen makes it easier to open, rename duplicate files within the iOS app itself.
The iCloud Drive iOS app lets you copy or move files to other folders, and do it all on device, meaning you can organise your files better.
Having an iCloud Drive folder on your Mac means you can, on your Mac, do file housekeeping operations such as moving, renaming, duplicating etc, even if the macOS version of that app is not yet supporting iCloud Drive.
For iCloud Drive supporting apps you can use iCloud as your backup mechanism, meaning you can remove/deinstall an app and not lose its data - you no longer need to resort to iTunes File Transfer, or data synching over a cable (yay!).
Use cases for working in both macOS and iOS?
Where an app's iOS and macOS versions both support iCloud
With iCloud being supported in both Liptikl 2 for iOS and Liptikl 2 for macOS, you can start creating a Liptikl file in one version and carry on editing it in another, and vice versa. This freedom to create as, when or where you want results in greater creative productivity!
Where only the iOS version of an app supports iCloud
When Noatikl 3.1 for iOS is released with iCloud support you will be able to take advantage of iCloud Drive file synching with Noatikl for macOS. Here's an example of how: Say you want to create a Noatikl file for import into Wotja and you find it easier to use Noatikl for macOS to create that file. Using Noatikl for macOS you create the file and then save or copy that file to your Mac's iCloud Drive/Noatikl folder. In Noatikl for iOS you will be able to open that file and then export it to clipboard for importing into Wotja. Easy!
Prior to that you would have had to first create your file in Noatikl for macOS then either manually transfer your Noatikl file to Noatikl for iOS via iTunes File Transfer then open in Noatikl for iOS and export to clipboard; or, from Noatikl for macOS export it to clipboard, then paste it into Notepad for macOS and then in Notepad for iOS copy that URL to clipboard and then import into Wotja - a little bit more complex shall we say!
We hope you enjoy using our new Files screens, iCloud and iCloud Drive!
How can it be, we're 9 years already? Where does the time go?
Intermorphic was founded 9th January 2007 by Tim Cole and Pete Cole. We have beavered away at our range of tools ever since. We can't exactly say the journey of survival has always been an easy one, but parenthood was never meant to be thus! All the same, it has certainly been an interesting and rewarding path to be treading, and we have met a lot of amazing, interesting and kind people along the way.
Our tenth year
We love creating things for people to play with and we certainly have some more fun stuff lined up to work on this coming year; it is just a matter of finding the time to cram it in as we can never go as fast as we want with the Intermorphic apps!
Suffice to say, we hope to move Wotja on quite a bit this year, too.
Anyhow, toodle pip! We have a metaphorical party to head off to...
P.S. Thank you in advance for all your birthday greetings and wishes!