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Omnifocus 2.0 for Mac or bust! Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
The iPad launch really seems to have shaken up the marketplace. Good software developers are hard to come by and hiring more manpower is expensive. Resource allocation is key. Tradeoffs have to be made, but the right ones!

If you dissect the competitive environment and analyse the situation, you can see where Omnigroup should place its focus. The main key is: listen to your customers. After all, retaining existing customers is, in Marketing circles, the highest priority to be sustainable in the future. And acquiring new ones is costly.

Omni's flagship product seems to be Omnifocus (correct me if I'm wrong, but it is positioned so on the beautifully newly designed website). With the launch of the iPhone App many people (including myself) bought the Mac and iPhone app for efficient organisation and mobility. The amount of apps sold because of mass iPhone AND iPod touch sales were presumably an amazing cash cow for Omnigroup.

Along comes Things... The German based company recognized the high demand and saw room for improvement and went out there to compete. The greatest shortcoming of Omnifocus they saw was the steep learning curve and the fairly unspectacular design, as well as a slowly evolved infrastructure based on Outliners and Kinked (?!) – a bit like Microsoft’s OS evolution - if you ask me – still being backward compatible to DOS. Most Mac users are design conscious and appreciate simplicity, so making an optically appealing, simple to-do-list software with tagging would be enough for Things to get an initial foothold in the market. Underlined by an Apple design award their strategic entry into the marketplace was a full success. The two products now go head to head for dominance in the marketplace.

These two value propositions opposing each other gave consumers a choice, however a poor one. Things looks good, is easy to learn and has great flexibility with tagging. However, for anyone with more than a handful of tasks, you would soon reach your limits. Omnifocus would be the only real alternative, due to simple limitations in the Things for Mac software such as the inability to make ‘child & parent’ tasks. Also the lack of wireless sync on iPhone Things and no multiple tag selection as well as Omnifocus for iPhone’s innovative location aware services and of course the brilliant Perspectives. Last but not least, OF managed to acquire a more sophisticated image by partnering with the David Allen Company and getting Merlin Mann on board, which I fully endorse.

Nevertheless, the Omni forums started to get filled with endless discussions about frustrating shortcomings including priorities, putting items on hold, multiple contexts – mainly features that were given with Things’ new tagging infrastructure. And the management of these forum complaints required time. Time that could have been spent elsewhere actually getting useful things done.

Omni’s light on the horizon were the subtle hints by both Omni employees as well as loyal forum visitors like whpalmer and the likes (you ought to pay them for their loyal duties by the way if you don’t already) that Omnifocus 2.0 would cover all these missing and desired features. 'Early 2010' were the vague promises – and I understand that the future is uncertain, but still no sign of it…

Then came the iPad… Yes, I am a believer in tablet devices changing the face of mobile computing. And yes, Omni needs to be a part of it. But the question is, when and how?

Things, in many ways has it easy. They are focused. They only have one family of products to take care of. And with the iPad they are starting to up their game. Their app and ad is amazing and beyond that they are continuously upgrading their Mac and iPhone app. Mobile synchronization is on the horizon! In the meantime Omnigroup had to rally their efforts to keep all their customers of all their product groups satisfied. You have the professional graphers whose ‘livelihoods’ depend on your software… Yes. But the all-encompassing GTD system dictates many lives too. And what does Omnigroup’s livelihood depend on?

To the average user Omnifocus on the iPad does not add that much value. It is mobile just like an iPhone/iTouch and the critical masses will not need another mobile device. Most people will enter this new computing environment when Apple adds the features that still deter the critical masses (i.e. camera, multitasking, maybe flash). Omni doesn’t need the first mover advantage in this field with their GTD app. So in the short term, a doubled pixel Omnifocus iPhone app is more than enough for the iPad.

To fend off Things’ threat, Omni has to fight back – soon. I believe that if the Omnifocus 2.0 for Mac with a rewritten underlying infrastructure (like Apple always does it with their OSes) and the accompanying features aren’t made highest priority soon, Things will be able to catch up with their missing feature sets and there will be little place for Omnifocus out there at 40,000ft. Yes, you’ll still have your ‘loyals’, but your cashcow will have turned into a dog. And beware, Things just hired Bartek, the Polish software developer, who ran iGTD2 in his own SPARE time!

Pricing seems to be a great issue for customers in the forums now. On both Things' and Omnigroups forums people are calling for group product discounts for all 3 Apps. But until Apple extends its payment infrastructure (and this can take a while), this will be difficult to implement for both. This is not going to sway a consumer in either direction, and once Apple updates its payment policies there is no competitive edge to be gained here. Don't worry about it!

Let me be clear: In this battle I’m with Omni. I am a loyal follower. But my first place is as a consumer. If Things continue with their aggressive advancement strategy and Omnifocus for Mac lets me hanging for too long, they may convince me to switch down the line, unless Omni can up their game sufficiently. After all, as a consumer it costs me to switch – not only in monetary terms, but also a lot of time will be needed to import all the tasks and understand the subtle workings of Things. Like me and presumably many opportunistic customers out there, you still have my attention. Turn us into loyal customers by adding these features. We are after all the largest part of your customer base. Please just don’t make the same mistake as Microsoft did and exceed the number of markets you can feasibly compete in.

This is the tipping point…

(P.S.: Michael Evans liked the original article and posted it on his new blog at http://www.macfilos.com/2010/04/omni...er-space-.html)

Last edited by Robbie1702; 2010-04-08 at 07:59 AM..
 
Execellent post, but I've already switched to Things, why? Two reasons for me. First, a much simpler and eye appealing interface. Second, iPad.
 
Good post, Robbie. Very insightful and a nice summary of the situation. However, there are a few aspects I don't completely agree with:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
If you dissect the competitive environment and analyse the situation, you can see where Omnigroup should place its focus. The main key is: listen to your customers.
Are they not doing that? Just because their decisions don't align with your expectations or assumptions doesn't necessarily mean Omni is failing to respond to customer demand. Don't you think it's more likely Omni has a better handle on their customer demand than we do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
Omni's flagship product seems to be Omnifocus (correct me if I'm wrong, but it is positioned so on the beautifully newly designed website).
It certainly appears that OmniFocus has done very well, and it looks like a major player in Omni's stable of apps. But what gives you the impression it's positioned as the "flagship product" on their site? Is it the banner? But the banner seems to rotate randomly between all their paid apps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
Along comes Things... The greatest shortcoming of Omnifocus they saw was the steep learning curve and the fairly unspectacular design, as well as a slowly evolved infrastructure based on Outliners and Kinked...
OmniFocus' outlining heritage is one of its greatest strengths! Its outlining engine allows OmniFocus to do stuff that Things doesn't even attempt: nested actions, collapsable groupings, folders, focusing (hoisting), sequential vs. parallel processing, etc.

Yes, there's always room for improvement, but just because something is old doesn't mean it's out of date. After all, the Unix core of Mac OS X is a lot older than any Microsoft OS. :-)

As for design, I consider it to be a lot more than just aesthetics; it's also how the app *works*. With that in mind, I think OmniFocus actually comes out ahead, especially for "pro" users.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
Most Mac users are design conscious and appreciate simplicity, so making an optically appealing, simple to-do-list software with tagging would be enough for Things to get an initial foothold in the market. Underlined by an Apple design award their strategic entry into the marketplace was a full success. The two products now go head to head for dominance in the marketplace.
OmniFocus won an Apple Design Award too.

As for going "head to head for dominance in the marketplace", I'm not sure Things and OmniFocus are really direct competitors. They target slightly different types of users.

Things, with it's simpler architecture, more limited feature set, and UI glitz, is aimed at casual users who want to get running quickly with minimal effort. In a word, it's "easy" (just like the song says in their video).

OmniFocus, on the other hand, is billed as "professional-grade task management". It's aimed at a more demanding class of user, people who deal with a very large number of projects and actions and want a lot of control over how their information can be manipulated. In a word, it's "powerful".

I think a good analogy is iMovie vs. Final Cut Pro. One is a simple, pretty, feature-lite app built with a primary focus on making it easy to get started and do basic video editing.

The other is far more powerful and feature-rich, and can handle just about any video production task you throw at it, including feature-length films. Of course, with that power comes greater complexity, more so than most casual users would want to deal with. But no video professional would choose iMovie over Final Cut when editing their next film.

The pro app also focuses less on aesthetics. Does that mean it's poorly designed? No, quite the contrary. It needs to be exceptionally well-designed to allow professional editiors to do their work efficiently.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
I believe that if the Omnifocus 2.0 for Mac with a rewritten underlying infrastructure (like Apple always does it with their OSes) and the accompanying features aren’t made highest priority soon, Things will be able to catch up with their missing feature sets and there will be little place for Omnifocus out there at 40,000ft.
It's always good to be wary of other apps in the marketplace, and believe me, I'm all for getting Omnifocus 2.0 for Mac done by tomorrow morning. But judging from history, Things is not about to overtake OmniFocus' position as the premier, pro-level task manager. I don't get the impression that Things is moving forward significantly faster than OmniFocus. In fact, having followed both apps closely since 2007, my impression has been that Omni's development is generally moving forward at a slightly faster rate. So I'm not really on board with the doom and gloom.

But seriously, do you Omni guys think you could get OmniFocus 2.0 for Mac to us by next week at the latest? That'd be really great. :-)

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
Are they not doing that? Just because their decisions don't align with your expectations or assumptions doesn't necessarily mean Omni is failing to respond to customer demand. Don't you think it's more likely Omni has a better handle on their customer demand than we do?
As a consumer I can say my demand isn't being fully met. And judging by the amount of people wishing to switch to either Things or The Hit List, I believe I'm not the only one thinking this way. Omnifocus is good, but by no means is it perfect. It's the lesser evil of them all, but that was exactly my point. The competition is catching up. It's nice that Omni cares about receiving feedback, but for the features that are clearly in high demand, they still take a long time to implement them and leave customers dissatisfied. If you want to keep your customers, you have to keep them happy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
It certainly appears that OmniFocus has done very well, and it looks like a major player in Omni's stable of apps. But what gives you the impression it's positioned as the "flagship product" on their site? Is it the banner? But the banner seems to rotate randomly between all their paid apps.
Below the banner you have the ribbon where Omnifocus is always positioned first. I'm not criticising anyone here, I'm just making a point about how important Omnifocus is to Omnigroup. Also, if you go to 'The Omni Group Forums' you'll mostly see the largest amount of people viewing the OmniFocus forums... This just indicates that there are either 1) lots of people who have this software or 2) about the same amount as all the others, but there are so many GTD implementation questions (or software shortcomings?) that people are highly involved in understanding the product. Either way, it underlines the need for OmniGroup to focus on 2.0 for Mac. Juergen of Things was talking about a development shift away from their Mac app in the long run, referencing to a Wikipedia article on cannibalization. This might happen, but in my view the Mac software is still the highest ranking of the three. Until the respective GTD softwares for the iPad can offer a par feature set with the Mac it’s not going to take a prime position.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
OmniFocus' outlining heritage is one of its greatest strengths! Its outlining engine allows OmniFocus to do stuff that Things doesn't even attempt: nested actions, collapsable groupings, folders, focusing (hoisting), sequential vs. parallel processing, etc.
You might be right there. I received an email from Things and they told me "That's a function that would have many implications how Things work, but we always discussion customer features and feedback." So maybe adding tagging would be easier for OF that for Things to introduce a nested structure. To truly proliferate itself as the 'Final Cut Pro' of GTD apps, OF ought to add the basic features mentioned before. If you think about it, there aren't really things you can do in Final Cut Pro that you cannot do in iMovie. The more powerful software ought to include all the basic functions and excel when it comes to 'heavy' usage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
As for design, I consider it to be a lot more than just aesthetics; it's also how the app *works*. With that in mind, I think OmniFocus actually comes out ahead, especially for "pro" users.
When I talk about design by definition I don’t purely mean aesthetics. Although the eye candy was a selling point for Things, their UI design is just neat and leaving out any unnecessary elements. Think of it as design in the Apple-esque, John Ive fashion =)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
OmniFocus, on the other hand, is billed as "professional-grade task management". It's aimed at a more demanding class of user, people who deal with a very large number of projects and actions and want a lot of control over how their information can be manipulated. In a word, it's "powerful".

I think a good analogy is iMovie vs. Final Cut Pro. One is a simple, pretty, feature-lite app built with a primary focus on making it easy to get started and do basic video editing.

The other is far more powerful and feature-rich, and can handle just about any video production task you throw at it…
I really like this analogy! Most GTDers (who you might like to call ‘Pros’ as opposed to light users) will have many tasks, due to the nature of GTD, that prescribes you to get every single action out of your head into writing. This is why I chose Omifocus, as the Things trial just couldn’t handle my volumes. It is “far more powerful and feature-rich” (as FCP), but where I’m baffled is: it CAN’t handle just about any task you throw at it, because it doesn’t include some BASIC features.

Maybe I’m no GTD purist, because I see the benefits of multiple contexts, putting single actions on hold, having broad-brushstroke prioritization. Maybe OF doesn’t want to deviate from GTD too much. But users do. And Things recognized that pure GTD isn’t necessarily the holy grail to offering a good product. For OF to incorporate tagging for more complete flexibility for the user would be just a mere bow to solving most their customers’ problems, without having to compromise their GTD authenticity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
But judging from history, Things is not about to overtake OmniFocus' position as the premier, pro-level task manager. I don't get the impression that Things is moving forward significantly faster than OmniFocus. In fact, having followed both apps closely since 2007, my impression has been that Omni's development is generally moving forward at a slightly faster rate. So I'm not really on board with the doom and gloom.
I would agree that this has been so historically, but just like with share price developments of companies you can’t purely base your future predictions on chart analysis (i.e. the past). They have upped their game and hired some very talented staff. I would not take my eye off the largest egg in the nest.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
But seriously, do you Omni guys think you could get OmniFocus 2.0 for Mac to us by next week at the latest? That'd be really great. :-)
=) +1!

Robbie

(P.S.: Michael Evans liked the original article and posted it on his new blog at http://www.macfilos.com/2010/04/omni...er-space-.html)

Last edited by Robbie1702; 2010-04-08 at 07:32 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
Omni's flagship product seems to be Omnifocus (correct me if I'm wrong, but it is positioned so on the beautifully newly designed website).
Perhaps you were inferring this based on the alphabetical ordering of apps on our new site?

OmniFocus is certainly very popular and profitable, and has many very passionate customers—including ourselves! We've invested a lot in its development throughout its 1.x lifecycle, with free updates adding features like best-of-class cloud syncing, custom perspectives, locations, and due date alarms; as well as making many workflow improvements. And we're not standing still: we've already invested quite a lot in its upcoming roadmap, and will continue to do so. We think OmniFocus is already a great app in its 1.x incarnation, and has a lot of potential to be even more amazing in future versions.

But, that said, the reason OmniFocus is listed first in our new website's product line-up is simply because it comes first alphabetically. OmniFocus is neither our most popular nor our most profitable app, and it wouldn't make good business sense to focus our attention on it to the exclusion of our other apps.
 
Ok, good, I understand now. Omnifocus is important but not No.1.

I love many new features in OmniFocus, both on the iPhone and the Mac, and I appreciate all the work that has gone into it. Then again I would be very willing to pay for 2.0 if it includes various features including tagging, single actions on hold and possibly a priority (1-9) column - although this could be done with tags too...

With a software product that has such a high impact on your daily life, it is of course desirable to see where the company that produces it is going. Culturedcode have in a very smart way published their roadmap - outlining a clear strategy, but still incorporating some 'secret' projects.

Have a look at an excellent example on CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for Things:

http://culturedcode.com/forums/read.php?9,34457

http://culturedcode.com/status/

If Omnigroup did this, it would cut down the forums in half and give your customers a real clue of what to expect from you. Then you won't have those 'vapoware' accusations anymore either.

But then again, please don't get distracted from making OmniFocus 2.0 =)

All we want to know is: more like 2 months or more like 2 years until it's there?! And what will be in it? There must be some core feature sets that can be revealed to entice your existing customers to stay interested...

Robbie
 
I can appreciate that OmniGroup has several software offerings and that they can't only focus on OmniFocus. And I have witnessed that they are improving OmniFocus with each update. (I've used both OF for the Mac and iPhone since they were released).

However, I do agree that at times it seems as if the development process is very slow. For example I'd like to reference a problem with auto-completing projects duplicating themselves that has been discussed on the Forums since May of 2009: http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=12093

Before you ask, yes I have submitted this to Omni and not just discussed this on the Forum. I first sent this problem to Omni on May 4, 2009.

As you can see, it was determined that this in fact is a bug and is slated to be fixed in version 1.8. On January 12, 2010, Brian officially stated that it was going to be fixed. Well, here we are on April 8, 2010 and version 1.8 still isn't out (as a stable release) and the bug still has not been fixed. I understand that they temporarily shifted programming resources to the iPad release. However, it has left many of us with a feeling that OF has been abandoned (at least temporarily).

(Some of you might suggest that I download and use the 1.8 Sneaky Peek. However, as the data in my OF file is crucial to my working life, I am unwilling to risk damaging or corrupting it. I have learned the hard way in the past to wait for a stable release of updates of all software).

I think communication helps. But ultimately, timely delivery of software that is trustworthy is what is needed.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
Have a look at an excellent example on CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for Things:

http://culturedcode.com/forums/read.php?9,34457

http://culturedcode.com/status/

If Omnigroup did this, it would cut down the forums in half and give your customers a real clue of what to expect from you. Then you won't have those 'vapoware' accusations anymore either.
Cultured Code certainly has a knack for attractive visuals, and their Arrivals page is no exception -- looks really nice.

But, as several customers in the thread have pointed out, the density of meaningful information is rather low. In fact, I'm not sure it tells us any more than we know about OmniFocus: a general idea of upcoming features and approximately which release they're targeting.

So while CC's Arrivals page looks sharp and maybe gives some casual observers a sense of being "in the know", I'm not convinced it's worth the effort. Ultimately, everything is subject to change anyway and none of it can be trusted. Such is the nature of software development; it's full of second order ignorance and it's all "vaporware" until it ships. ;-)

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robbie1702 View Post
Have a look at an excellent example on CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for Things:
My experience of the forums and users of Things is that their relationship management is anything but excellent. They actually hid their forums for a while because they couldn't communicate any more, and the users were getting belligerent. Omni is nothing like this: their customer service and products are excellent, and their forum users are helpful, grateful, and mostly gracious. Please don't turn this forum into the Cultured Code forums.
 
I bought Things just a week ago, because I wanted to see what all the hubbub was. (I've been an OF user since the first betas). Yes, Things has a nice interface and Omni could do some work on OF, but OF beats its competitor hands down in its feature set and--IMO--in its usability. I just find Things unnecessarily cumbersome when entering information--too many keystrokes, not enough shortcuts, etc.

I would like to see OF integrate with OmniPlan, but that's for another thread!

Thanks for your post. Very interesting.

BTW- I quit using Things after a couple of days. Eye candy is not enough if it doesn't do what I need it to...

Last edited by prider; 2010-04-10 at 03:38 PM..
 
 


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