UPDATE 2012-11-17: Mindjet have responded to customer comments with a new individual package. See: Mindjet did listen - A New Option for Individual Consumers
Recently MindManager, the premium mind mapping application from Mindjet, has seen some radical changes. It’s not the typical application centred change — like new feature set, controversial new interface or file format — but rather a transformation in how the application and services are offered to the user. Even if you’re not a MindManager user this post may be of interest as it highlights the user impact of a software developer reacting to technology and workspace change.
Goodbye MindManager, hello Mindjet!
Like all desktop software companies Mindjet are facing up to the evolution of mobile and cloud. How you migrate your existing desktop customer base to ‘the cloud’ seems to be the number one challenge for many companies. Over the previous few years Mindjet have made acquisitions in the cloud and social ‘space’, launched their own collaboration portal and created mobile versions of their premium desktop application MindManager. They embraced the change by offering a portfolio of solutions to choose from.
They recently revealed a new business model based on cloud/mobile/desktop packages with subscription only options. I’m a MindManager fanatic but the new Mindjet has me wondering about the future of the application, the company and its regard for current users.
My MindManager, a retrospective
I first purchased & downloaded MindManager X5 from the Mindjet website way back in 2004. Over the years I have upgraded* it to (as I wrote this) MindManager 2012 with a “Mindjet Software Assurance and Support agreement (MSA)” to cover annual updates. My purchases were done via the Mindjet website, my last update to 2012 supplied direct from Mindjet as part of MSA.
* Some incremental updates were received as reward for beta participation as detailed on the disclosure page
Stumbling into the future of Mindjet
What follows is how I learnt of “the new Mindjet”. Given a main component of their business focuses on communication of ideas I think they, thanks in part to a trigger happy partner, got this process spectacularly wrong.
Early September: The first misfire…
It started on 4 September 2012 with a rather abrupt email from an Australian based Mindjet partner. I had never, knowingly, dealt with them and the content was so bizarre I actually wondered if it was some sort of phishing attempt targeting MindManager users.
“At the end of September 2012, Mindjet MindManager will be changing. It will effect how the 2 million plus users access Mindjet products and services. Are you ready for the change?
There are multiple offers on the go. If you plan to buy any new licenses or upgrades in the next 12 months we recommend getting in now while all these discounts apply. You only have a few weeks to act, so be quick because the deadline is fast approaching!”
As a MindManager user, owner, this was rather a surprise.
Would Mindjet.com clarify things?
Surfing over to http://www.mindjet.com was no help. When I visited, and even several days later (as seen in the screenshot below), it appeared to be to be business as usual. The application was being sold as a desktop application, with optional support assistance/subscription, and no sign of the radical changes coming in a few weeks.
A second email makes it clear, if not particularly palatable.
On 5 September 2012 an email arrived from a NZ Mindjet Partner I know but again hadn’t dealt with for my direct web Mindjet purchases. They addressed the confusion created by the previous correspondence and detailed the changes planned by Mindjet. This included the new product offer, business model and five upgrade/promotional offers depending on your current status.
Bizarrely there was still nothing (I could find at least) on the Mindjet web site. The screenshot below is actually Mindjet.com captured several days later on 09-09-2012 21:34 NZ time as I wrote this part of the post…
Finally on 6 September an email (right) arrived direct from Mindjet. MindManager owners without MSA had only a couple of weeks to consider an upgrade offer ~$190 before the price jumped up ~35%. From late September to December there is another offer with all upgrades withdrawn after that.
If you were on MSA the new Mindjet 11 application is part of that with a “special upgrade offer” to get the additional services for a year.
Personally I had no need to panic, MSA assured my upgrade but not the services, but if not on that would have been rather annoyed by the “deals” and timelines presented.
MindManager, in with Mindjet!
Although the desktop application lives on ‘MindManager’, the name, is history. Seems a bit odd to walk away from a name with so much heritage as a mind map pioneer. However if Google Trends is any guide Mindjet seems to be matching awareness, if only due to MindManager’s decline!
A new look, a new Mindjet!
They will only be available as a subscription bundle which is a rather radical change from the previous application + service plan model. The full Mindjet bundle includes the formerly separate web services for map sharing/edit/collaboration (Connect Vision) and task management (Connect Action). There is a lesser web only based package but it would not be of interest to a serious MindManager user.
My current MindManager investment
MindManager was never “cheap”, but for me it was always good value. It cost about half what a I paid for Microsoft Office Pro. At (2012 prices) us$400 you could have MindManager desktop for life with about us$80/year upgrade assurance keeping it current.
If I had paid for all upgrades from X5 to today (a couple of upgrades were gifted in return for beta activity) I would have spent about nz$1500 over nine years to maintain current copy of MindManager.
Given MindManager is my primary document generator and also replaces Microsoft Project for my Gantt needs I think nz$166/year was good value.
The Mindjet ‘packages’ are subscription only. You get everything desktop and web for us$30/month or a web only version for us$15/month.
Mindjet justify the premium version by including services which once were separate. You get the full desktop app and cloud based storage, task/project/activity management and the mobile applications.
Mindjet Web looks very limited in comparison with the MindManager strengths of Office integration, multiple view modes (outline/gantt/presentation) missing entirely. Click the capture (right) for details.
This is fine but it appears most, if not all, the additional features are aimed at what I will term social mappers. Teams who collaborate on a map, locally or in the cloud.
I’m mostly a lonely mapper using MindManager as an authoring tool and generally only share office format exports (no other MindManager users at work).
Apart from the convenience web storage for mobile use, and I found that’s limited by roaming data costs when travelling, there is no value in the additional social services for my workflow. It will cost us$360, more than four times the current MSA annual cost, for access to the Mindjet capability I enjoyed with MindManager to date.
Mindjet’s worth? Good value becomes expensive.
If you consider the Mindjet package useful is it good value? Perhaps using Microsoft Office as a yardstick is still a viable. I was happy to pay about half Office desktop cost to get MindManager Desktop. If you compare the MindManager Web offer with Office Web the cost/benefit ratio tips the other way.
At us$30/user/month Mindjet is 1/3 more than a Microsoft Office 365 Plan. I think the fairest comparison is 365 Plan P with the addition of a desktop Office Pro subscription at us$21/month. Remember that offers the full Office suite (5+ applications) and a bunch of on-line services vs. Mindjet’s one platform and service offer.
I’m not opposed to subscription software but you have to justify the cost/benefit of the services you are paying for. If that means paying a significant sum for functions/services you don’t actually need or ever use that’s pretty hard to do.
Where from here?
I’ve got Mindjet 11 desktop and won’t be taking up the subscription ‘offer’ this year. For now I can say that unless Mindjet consider adding more flexible packages with more reasonable pricing options I suspect Mindjet 11 will be the last version I buy. As someone who has used it for nearly a decade and loves it that makes me pretty sad.