MacSpeech fails the version number test

MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 has just been released. In the process, they made a major product management blunder: they chose the wrong version number. How can you mess up with a version number? Simple: you misalign your own expectations with those of your customers.

MacSpeech Dictate is really the only viable speech recognition software for the Mac today. Their original iListen project wasn’t so hot. So, they licensed the Dragon NaturallySpeaking engine and put a Mac UI on top to produce Dictate. The first version that came out was somewhat incomplete, in that there was no way to train the program and improve its accuracy. In October 2008, they released Dictate 1.2 as a free upgrade, adding the training features. In February 2009, Dictate 1.3 added features to make dictation work better with other apps and add some other features. Dictate 1.3 was also a free upgrade.

Now, three months later, they have released Dictate 1.5 as a $55 upgrade. Two of the major features listed are “better accuracy” and “faster performance”, which I think to many people come across as fixes more than features. Just take a look at the comments on the forum thread. The Vocabulary Editor is a true new feature, and the “New Commands” bit sounds like a minor thing they tossed in.

Based on the feature list they presented, “1.5” sounds like the right version number. It doesn’t seem any greater in scope than 1.2 or 1.3. And yet, for the MacSpeech folks themselves, it probably seems like a long time since 1.0 came out and perhaps they’re feeling the pinch of the current economy. Certainly, the amount of work they’ve done on the product between 1.0 and 1.5 is significant. I’m sure they feel entitled to an additional $55.

Release early, release often is a phrase used a lot in the open source world. For commercial software, however, if you want to offer a paid upgrade, you can’t follow that rule. By doing relatively quick releases of similar scope, MacSpeech inadvertently set the expectation that 1.5 should be a free upgrade. Had they spent 3-6 more months adding new features and then released it as “2.0”, I’m certain they would have had fewer complaints about the upgrade being a paid upgrade.

As far as I know, MacSpeech Dictate doesn’t have any strong competition. From that perspective, they could have waited a few months more. It is possible that they’ve been hit by the economy, though, and couldn’t wait several more months for the additional revenue. If so, that’s a tough spot, and I wish them luck. Regardless, I doubt they were expecting this kind of reaction to a new release, and they may not get the kind of revenue they’re hoping for. HarvidMD in the forum thread:

With upgrade policies like this, I think that I’ll save my pennies and wait for MacSpeech Dictate 3.0 in about five years so that I’ll be able to get a voice recognition package that actually performs as advertised.

4 thoughts on “MacSpeech fails the version number test”

  1. I fully agree. I have purchased MacSpeech about a year ago. The software never achieved more that 70% accuracy. In most cases 62-57% was the best it could do. These results were obtained after about 4 hours of “training” and submitting over 100 pages of text to improve it’s vocabulary. The editing & correcting features are still awkward (in v 1.3) and hard to use. (I never tried to “control” my mac using MacSpeech, so I cannot comment on this aspect).
    I used (tried to) this software because I am a slow typist, however even seventy percent accuracy is less than what I need to realize a net time gain, that is by the time one finished editing the 30% “missed” words in the document the whole process takes longer than if I typed the text in “by hand” in the first place. They now announced a “major upgrade” improving accuracy (obviously someone noticed that the program was not working well). But they want $55.00 to make the program perform the way it was claimed to work in the first place. Bad deal.

  2. And I was seen by some as the official MacSpeech curmudgeon as they were segueing from iListen to Dictate. My rants were relatively tame in comparison to what I see on the MacSpeech forum site. I wasn’t even aware of the release of 1.5 until I did a search for reviews just to see what the status was.

    A day before I had retested version 1.3 and had it sscanned for updates but returned with no new updates available. When I tried to purchase the update, I was informed I would need to offer up the e-mail address I had used when making the original purchase of iListen. I had dropped that account many moons ago and wonder how many others found themselves in the same boat.

    It seems they shot themselves in the foot by not streaming the availability of the new upgrade to the application autoupdat update link and then turning the pistol to their head by trying the upgrade option to e-mail which can easily come and go.

    Eventually MacSpeech switched my e-mail address to the current one and I was almost ready to pump more money into a product that has never performed well for me but just as my finger hovered over the enter key memories of past frustrations associated with MacSpeech made me close the order form.

    Sam
    inetsynch.com

  3. Corrections:

    It seems they shot themselves in the foot by not streaming the availability of the new upgrade to the application autoupdate option and then turning the pistol to their head by tying the upgrade option to e-mail which can easily come and go.

    Eventually MacSpeech switched my e-mail address to the current one and I was almost ready to pump more money into a product that has never performed well for me but just as my finger hovered over the enter key memories of past frustrations associated with MacSpeech made me close the order form.

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