Logos Software Takes a Leap of Faith to the Mac

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Logos Bible Software shipped the first version of its Bible study software 18 years ago in December 1991 for the, at that time, brand new Windows operating system. Last year, Logos finally released version 1.0 of its software for the Mac and its story provides a great example of the growth of the Mac market and the strength of the platform.

Just recently, Logos introduced an alpha release of version 4 which introduces feature parity with all 100+ new features in the Windows version. Along with a new iPhone app, Logos is making a big commitment to the Mac platform and it appears to be paying off.

The exciting bit here is not so much another software release on the Mac, but the story of how one company made the move from Windows only to embrace the Mac and the iPhone.

A Massive Digital Library, on your PC, on your Mac, on your iPhone

Logos started out as a very simple piece of software meant to quickly search the text of the Bible. It has evolved into a complete digital library solution for studying everything from the Bible itself in the original languages and in numerous translations to commentaries, exegetical analysis, family trees of people in the Bible, maps and pictures of locations in the Bible and more. The library of books that are available to study and read in the Logos system is massive — over 10,000 titles. There are several different packages to choose from that include various collections of titles at different price points.

The Logos 4 software runs on your Windows PC, on your Mac, and there is a companion iPhone app available as well. All of these versions will stay in sync with each other so you can pull up the titles you have purchased and see your favorites and personal notes wherever you happen to be studying. You can get a great overview of version 4 and how it works in a video introduction produced by Logos.

The Journey to the Mac

The effort to bring Logos to the Mac goes back several years, but the first abortive attempt was never finished. A renewed push came about four years ago. Dan Pritchett tells us that Logos approached the project with some trepidation about how Mac customers would receive a product from the Windows world.

We decided that we wanted to put out the best Mac product that we could. The Mac market is sophisticated and sharp and very particular about their software. We couldn’t disappoint.

Logos chose to build the application for the Mac from the ground up and make it a great native experience rather than do a simple port of the Windows app. In order to find the expertise to build great Macintosh software, Logos went straight to the source — Cupertino. Apple worked with Logos to help it find a partner with the right experience and the Logos for Mac project was launched.

Was Moving to the Mac the Right Choice?

It was challenging to work with an outside group on the Mac version while development on the Windows version continued internally. The end result was not too shabby, even if it did not have all of the extensive features of the Windows version.

We’re ecstatic with the way the market has responded. The Mac world is hard to please. We were preparing for the worst: “You don’t get us, don’t understand us.” But the response has been really positive. The time we put into doing it right was well worth building it from the ground up. Our sales for the first quarter after the initial release were 122% above plan.

That early success was enough to convince Logos to make a stronger commitment to the Mac. Since that first release, a Mac development team has been created in house and one of the Mac-enthusiasts on the Windows team has even switched over. One other benefit of the Mac?

Our software worked way faster on the Mac. It not only works great, but it’s faster.

What Does the Future Hold?

The latest version, Logos 4, is being released quickly behind the Windows version with a goal of complete feature parity. The commitment to dual-platform releases means that installers for both Windows and Mac ship on the same CD. But the importance of the Mac does not stop at being included in the box. Dan told me that some of the design ideas from the Mac version were influencing the Windows version. Logos felt like they learned a lot about designing good software from the Mac effort, something that should come as no surprise to those of us that are used to excellent UI design on the Mac.

One of the cool new features in Logos 4 is that the app will update in the background and pull in new features that are planned to be released over the next several months. While the Mac version is lagging behind Windows development, the gap is closing and this auto-updating feature will mean that Mac users will catch up.

What Does this Mean for the Mac Market?

I think there are two big lessons to be gleaned from Logos’ experience with the Mac. The first is that the Mac market is big enough to support even niche players that cater to a very particular group of customers. Logos took its Bible study software and made it work beautifully on the Mac by partnering with Apple directly and finding a partner that could help them make great Mac software. Once the concept was proven and the market response was measured, Logos quickly moved to bring Mac development in house and increased its commitment to the platform.

The second important lesson here is that the cloud is having a profound influence on software development across platforms. The fancy syncing features of Logos 4 and the iPhone app that lets you access your entire catalog on the go are only possible with the advance of cloud computing, broadband, and mobile Internet. It is now possible to use the cloud as an easy way to move user data from an application on Windows to another application on the Mac that can share information. Switching platforms is facilitated by the cloud which makes it even easier for people to join the Mac crowd.

Both of these trends bode well for the future of the Mac. We have a large sustainable market for software that can entice even niche players and new cloud computing technologies are helping reduce the dependence on proprietary Windows software.

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