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Apple's Changes Can't Rattle These Bones

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 4, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Text editors aren't the sexiest applications in the Apple Universe, but they have a knack for attracting loyal adherents. That's something Bare Bones Software has been able to count on for more than a decade. The Bedford, Mass., company's flagship product, BBEdit, is in its ninth version and is still going strong.

Apple's Changes Can't Rattle These Bones

What's the secret to the venerable app's longevity? "We really build for the long run," CEO and Founder Rich Siegel told MacNewsWorld. "When we engineer a product, we're not thinking about fads."

Bare Bones also tries to build flexibility into its offerings. "We've got a product line that's resilient to changes in the industry," Siegel maintained. "BBEdit has so many uses that if part of the customer base softens up a little bit -- which actually happened after the dot-com crash -- new customers can come along doing different sorts of things for which it was very well suited."

Customer service has also played a major role in sustaining the program's and company's longevity, the founder contended. "We operate from a foundation of respect and trust with our customers," he said. "Our customers know that if they have a problem, they can ask, and we'll help them. They're not dealing with a big, impersonal software company."

Winning Followers

Bare Bones' efforts to keep its customers happy and products snappy has won it a loyal following. Seth Dillingham, for instance, an independent software developer in Westerly, R.I., has been using BBEdit for years. His satisfaction with that program induced him to embrace other offerings from the concern, such as its email client, Mailsmith, and its personal information manager, Yojimbo.

"I've checked out some other things," he told MacNewsWorld, "but nothing's done a very good job of pulling me away."

Among BBEdit's merits cited by the code warrior are its support of multiple languages, syntax coloring, code folding and HTML editing and preview, as well as speedy performance and powerful search features. Not only can it perform a search and replace on multiple files, but it will display the results of a search in a separate window for easy review and manipulation.

Bold or Old?

While good products and good customer service are good pillars for business success, a measure of New England frugality also has been useful to Bare Bones. "We know when to hold onto our money and when to spend it," Siegel observed. "The company founders didn't run out and buy Ferraris after our first big bundle sale.

"There's a saying among pilots," he added. "There are bold pilots and there are old pilots, but there are no bold old pilots. That applies to us. The reason we have been in business for this long is because we are careful when it comes to how we operate."

Fiscal conservatism, however, hasn't made Bare Bones arthritic when reacting to market conditions. When Apple rolled out OS X, the company embraced the new operating system wholeheartedly.

"We may be the last developer standing who's managed a full OS 9 to OS X transition of their product line," the CEO asserted. "There are big companies like Adobe and Microsoft that have done it, but there are no companies our size that have made that transition and survived."

'Ridiculously Fast'

Change is not always welcomed with open keyboards by developers, but that wasn't the case with OS X at Bare Bones.

"For us, Mac OS X rapidly proved to be a superior environment for developing and deploying Mac software," Siegel said. "You can write a much more stable product, and the underlying OS itself is much more stable, so if there's a problem, you're debugging it instead of rebooting your machine."

The company showed a comparable amount of enthusiasm for another seismic change in the Apple market, the move to Intel processors.

"Intel hardware was so ridiculously fast compared to the PowerPC hardware that proceeded it that our productivity just went through the roof," the founder declared.

From its years of experience, Siegel believes, Bare Bones has developed a set of core principles that will enable it to have continued success.

"The notions that have contributed to our longevity are also the ones that set us apart in the market," said Siegel. "I don't think that's a coincidence."

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