Modern Software Experience

2010-11-04

pricy product

New New Family Tree Maker for MacFamily Tree Maker for Mac

Ancestry.com just released New Family Tree Maker for Mac. We knew it was coming. Ancestry.com pre-announced the product on their blog back in April.

A funny thing about both that pre-announcement and today's press release is that Ancestry.com acts as if they are introducing a new product. The first sentence of the press release is Ancestry.com today announced the launch of Family Tree Maker® for Mac, the new Mac version of the world’s No.-1 selling family history software.

By the way, it is a little known fact that Ancestry.com intellectual property lawyers actually speak that way, they don't say Family Tree Maker for Mac, they really say Family Tree Maker® for Mac, pronouncing the Registered Sign as registered trademark. It is a really annoying habit.

The second paragraph of the press release attributes the following quote to Eric Shoup, Senior Vice President of Product for Ancestry.com: Family Tree Maker for Mac has been a long-requested feature from our customers. We are committed to delivering the same powerful experience on the Mac that millions of Family Tree Maker customers have been enjoying for the past 20 years. We couldn’t be happier to provide yet another way for our members to interact with Ancestry.com and discover, preserve and share their family history.. The phrases long-requested feature and yet another way both suggest that Ancestry.com is introducing a brand new product today.

Ancestry.com knows very well know that they are not introducing a new product at all.
Today does not mark the introduction of Family Tree Maker for Mac, it marks the long-awaited return of Family Tree Maker for Mac. There is no need to feel bad if you don't remember, don't recall and don't hold memories of this product at all, as it has been more than decade.

history

Broderbund Family Tree Maker Deluxe II for Mac

Nostalgic screen shot, thanks to the Internet Archive.

Family Tree Maker for Mac was announced more than a dozen years ago, on 1997 Feb 4. Here's an excerpt from Broderbund's press release:

A Macintosh version has been one of the most frequently requested new features for Family Tree Maker. The Macintosh community has been craving a family tree program that will preserve their family information and help them find new details about their ancestors. Many families are looking for a program that will allow them to share files easily, even if some members are working on the Macintosh and some on the Windows platform. The new Macintosh version of Family Tree Maker accomplishes all of this, said Alma Rodoni, President of the Banner Blue Division of Broderbund Software.

Family Tree Maker for Mac never ran on the original Mac. Family Tree Maker Deluxe Edition II for Power Macintosh only requires a PowerPC Mac running System 7.1.2 or later. It sold for US$ 99,99.

The availability of Family Tree Maker for Macintosh did not last long. The history of Family Tree Maker is one of many owners. A few mergers and acquisitions later, Family Tree Maker for Macintosh was unceremoniously discontinued.  Family Tree Maker for Macintosh was discontinued on the last day of the 20th century, 2000 Dec 31.

Family Tree Maker knowledge base: Family Tree Maker for Macintosh is discontinued

The Family Tree Maker knowledge database already contains a dozen questions and answer for New Family Tree Maker for Mac, yet still provides the following answer to the question Is Family Tree Maker available for any non-Windows platforms (like Linux or Macintosh)? is:

Several years ago, Family Tree Maker was produced for Macintosh. After long and careful deliberation, we came to the conclusion that it was no longer feasible for us to continue development of the Macintosh version of Family Tree Maker. Along these same lines, it is not feasible to offer Family Tree Maker for other platforms, such as for Linux systems.

Family Tree Maker for Macintosh is a discontinued product. Assisted technical support (phone and e-mail) ended December 31, 2000. A list of available support options can be found by choosing Family Tree Maker Macintosh Edition from our Online Help Center at http://www.genealogy.com/help/, under the section labeled Customer Support.

There are currently no plans to develop a new version of Family Tree Maker for the Macintosh, Linux, or any other platform outside of Windows.

Today's press release makes it clear that this particular Family Tree Maker knowledge base topic needs an update. There is a 21st-century Family Tree Maker for Mac now. Family Tree Maker for Mac is back.

There is a 21st-century Family Tree Maker for Mac now. Family Tree Maker for Mac is back.

editions

New Family Tree Maker for Mac requires an Intel-based running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later.

The Windows variant of New Family Tree Maker is sold in several different packages, marketed as the Essentials, Deluxe and Platinum edition. Those names are misleading, those packages do not contain different editions of New Family Tree Maker at all. There is just one edition of Family Tree Maker, the so-called Deluxe and Platinum editions aren't editions, but bundles that include additional products.

There is just one edition of Family Tree Maker for Mac, but there are two packages; one package is just Family Tree Maker, the other is a bundle. Family Tree Maker for Mac as sold in the Ancestry.com store is just Family Tree Maker for Mac, the Essentials edition in confused Ancestry.com marketing-speak.
The Family Tree Maker for Mac as found in online stores such as Amazon.com is really the Family Tree Maker for Mac Platinum bundle, as it includes a free 6-month subscription to Ancestry.com. That is why the Amazon.com edition is more expensive.

Ancestry.com should show a little faith in the quality its own software products by offering free trial editions.

trial

Ancestry.com's Family Tree Maker for Windows is fairly unique among genealogy application for Windows in that there is no trial or demo edition.
There is no trial or demo edition for Family Tree Maker for Mac either. The lack of a trial edition, the high price of the Windows product, and the even higher price of the Mac product, is likely to make many interested consumers think twice.

The high price and limited feature set aren't the only reason users will hesitate to buy Family Tree Maker for Mac. Ancestry.com marketing seems to live in a make-believe world where the adulating masses have nothing but praise for Family Tree Maker. Reality is that after the disaster known as Family Tree Maker 2008, and the slow improvement through subsequent versions, users have a darned good reason to want to try before they buy.

Ancestry.com marketing is demanding that users show faith in this product by plunking down a huge wad of hard-earned cash for another new product of unknown quality. Yet at the same time, Ancestry.com does not demonstrate any faith its own product.
There is no trial edition, there is no reduced pricing for owners of the Windows variant, and there are no competitive upgrade offers for users of competing genealogy applications for Macintosh. Ancestry.com should show a little faith in the quality of its own software products by offering free trial editions.

Family Tree Maker for Windows is expensive, Family Tree Maker for Mac is more expensive.

price

Amazon.com charges US$ 99 for Family Tree Maker for Mac. The retail price for Family Tree Maker for Mac in the Ancestry.com store is US$ 69,95 - and that is without the shipping & handling charges or the sales tax. For postal code 123456 within the USA, the shipping & handling is US$ 10,00. That makes a subtotal of US$ 79,95. Sales tax on top of that US$ 6,40, so the total comes to US$ 86,35.

Family Tree Maker for Mac: Expensive

Family Tree Maker for Windows is expensive, Family Tree Maker for Mac is more expensive. It is not hard to come up with a few reasons why that is so. The Mac market is smaller. Mac buyers are more affluent. There is less competition to drive prices down. Still, it would have nice if Ancestry.com had kept the price of the Mac variant the same as the Windows variant.

A more positive look on the pricing is that the US$ 99,99 Amazon.com asks for what is in fact the Family Tree Maker for Mac Platinum bundle is exactly the same price it asks Family Tree Maker 2010 Platinum, the Windows variant. Moreover, if you were planning to get an Ancestry.com subscription anyway, the pricing on those bundles is not much more than getting a subscription directly from Ancestry.com. It also seems to be the only way to get a half-year subscription.

Family Tree Maker for Mac offers less features than Family Tree Maker for Windows.

Family Tree Maker 2010

Arguably, the price of Family Tree Maker for Mac should be less than the price of Family Tree Maker for Windows, as this new version lags one year behind the Windows product.

In Some Family Tree Maker for Mac details, I drew attention to the fact that the description of Family Tree Maker for Mac says that it is based on Family Tree Maker 2010. The marketing convention of including next year in the product name makes it easy to overlook the fact that Family Tree Maker 2010 is last year's product. This year's product is Family Tree Maker 2011. Family Tree Maker for Mac is based on last year's product. The description isn't a mistake, this is really the case; Family Tree Maker for Mac offers less features than Family Tree Maker for Windows.

Family Tree Maker for Mac was created by Mac developers.

Mac product

Family Tree Maker for Mac is based on Family Tree Maker for Windows, but it isn't a port of the Windows code. The Ancestry.com blog pre-announcement back in April described it as constructed from the bottom up to take full advantage of the Mac platform in terms of technology and user experience.. In other words: Family Tree Maker for Mac was created by Mac developers.

The Family Tree Maker for Mac developers had to start somewhere, and Family Tree Maker 2011 was a moving target, so it made some sense to start with Family Tree Maker 2010. According to Ancestry.com's own Family Tree Maker 2011 press release, Family Tree Maker for Windows 2011 adds more than 100 features to Family Tree Maker 2010. So, that is a more than hundred features available in Family Tree Maker for Windows, but not available in Family Tree Maker for Mac.

An important feature missing from Family Tree Maker for Mac is the ability to sync with Ancestry.com trees. That this feature is missing upon introduction of the Macintosh product, after all the complaints and requests Ancestry.com got from the users of the Windows product is not smart.

the right thing

Disappointing as the lack of these features may be, Ancestry.com largely did the right thing. Mac users tend to take their user interface seriously. A true Mac release of Family Tree Maker 2010 is considerably more attractive to Mac users than a straight port of the Family Tree Maker 2011 for Windows code.

I expect that Ancestry.com will work towards closing the current feature gap, and aim for simultaneous releases with essentially the same features on both platforms, but it is good to be aware that right now, the Mac product does not offer all the features of the Windows product.

Family Tree Maker for Mac does not use the same file format as Family Tree Maker for Windows.

incompatible file format

An important feature of the original Family Tree Maker for Macintosh released back in 1997 is that it uses the same file format as its Family Tree Maker for Windows cousin. As I already noted about a month ago in Some Family Tree Maker for Mac details, that is not true for this New Family Tree Maker reincarnation. Family Tree Maker for Mac does not use the same file format as Family Tree Maker for Windows.

The description of New Family Tree Maker for Mac still says exactly the same about transferring files between the Mac and Windows variants of New Family Tree Maker:

Transfer files to and from the Windows version. You can bring files into Family Tree Maker 2010 for Mac directly from Family Tree Maker version 4 through Family Tree Maker 2006. To import files from Family Tree Maker 2008 or a newer version, simply use the Windows-based conversion tool included on the Family Tree Maker for Mac disk.

This awkward import procedure result is even less impressive that Family Tree Maker for Windows's GEDCOM import performance. I could repeat everything I wrote Some Family Tree Maker for Mac details, but I will repeat just one thing; the description only says something about reading Family Tree Maker 2010 files. It says nothing about Family Tree Maker for Mac's ability to write databases in the Family Tree Maker 2010 for Windows database format. I'll move on to trying to explain this odd state of affairs.

New Family Tree Maker

Somewhere in the past decade, Ancestry.com decided to no longer maintain the existing Family Tree Maker product, now known as Family Tree Maker Classic, but to start afresh. That was a perfectly reasonable and uncontroversial decision. For various reasons, many software products are completely rebuild after a while. Ancestry.com not only decide to use newer technologies, but apparently also decided to use as many pre-build components as possible, perhaps a bit too aggressively and without rigorously checking the quality of those components.

Instead of using the knowledge they had on existing file formats and GEDCOM to rebuild their import module from scratch to make it the best in the business, they licensed GenBridge from Wholly Genes. GenBridge is a fancy name for the import module of The Master Genealogist (TMG). To keep this short, I'll kindly refrain from commenting on either Family Tree Maker 2008 or GenBridge, and simply note that GenBridge is a Windows-only product.

When Ancestry created New Family Tree Maker for Windows, they did not have to consider cross-platform issues. That may explain why the first edition of New Family Tree Maker for Mac does not use the same file format as Family Tree Maker 2010 for Windows.
When Ancestry decided to create New Family Tree Maker for Mac, they had to do without this third-party component. That kind of explains why Family Tree Maker for Mac cannot read New Family Tree Maker for Windows files directly.
By the way, Family Tree Maker 2011 for Windows cannot read Family Tree Maker for Mac files directly either. There is only the conversion utility.

Ancestry.com should and probably does consider the file format incompatibility a top priority.

cross-platform

Now that Ancestry.com has a Family Tree Maker for Mac product again, they are likely to give more attention to the Family Tree Maker file format, and will probably move towards creating their own cross-platform code for reading and writing it.

We should not have to wait till Family Tree Maker 2012 for Ancestry.com to provide the desired cross-platform portability. Ancestry.com should and probably does consider the file format incompatibility a top priority.

The smart way forward would be for Ancestry.com to provide the ability to read both formats in a Service Pack for the current Family Tree Maker for Mac and Windows products, and move to a single cross-platform database format in the next version, Family Tree Maker 2012.

updates

2010-11-04 instant update: Ancestry.com blog

The Ancestry.com blog has a post now. Like the previous post and the press release, this post sounds as if Family Tree Maker for Mac is a new product.

links