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Alf: Actually, you must be one of the oldest Mac software companies in the market...
Champlin: I'm not exactly sure if we are the oldest, but we are one of the older and, dare I say, venerable companies producing software for the Mac.
Alf: How would you define Ambrosia software?
Champlin: "Sui Generis" is a term I always like to use to describe Ambrosia Software. It seems to fit with the theme we have going on for the company. The distinct image of Zeus for our logo, the company's name itself "Ambrosia," with all this, it feels right to define such a great company with a latin definition such as "Sui Generis," which literally means "of its own kind." I have been with Ambrosia Software for many years, and it is truly unequalled to any other company in this field or any other. Ambrosia is a small company dedicated to bringing you quality software, excellent support, and innovative ideas all at a reasonable cost. We have personal productivity tools that make using your computer a more enjoyable experience, as well as anti-productivity tools (games) that are just plain fun.
Alf: Slava Karpenko wrote some time ago an article dubbed [url=http://www.unsanity.org/archives/000116.php]"Shareware is dead"[/url]. But you still use the shareware business model. Is it still performing well?
Champlin: In the age of Bit Torrent, P2P transfers and high speed Internet I don't see how it could be thought of as "dead." It seems to be the true spirit of the web itself, and the society that has grown up using it. We, as shareware publishers, encourage users to copy the products and give them to their friends! Asking that they pay only if they decide to keep the product. I don't believe that shareware will ever die, because ultimately, you (the end users) decide whether shareware authors will continue to distribute low-cost, high-quality software as shareware.
Alf: You were a Mac only game developer, but now you also make PC versions of some games. Has it been a great change? What's the proportion between the Mac sales and the PC sales?
Champlin: Yes, we have ported a few of our games to the PC, and it was a slight challenge, but, thankfully, we have very talented programmers working for Ambrosia. As for our company itself, while we do have PC versions of our games, we still are Mac people at heart. And I feel that will never changed. It is interesting that PC sales are steady, while Macs will on occasion have peaks and valleys based on new OS releases or hardware updates. I do not know the exact numbers, but we feel that games as great as EV Nova should be shared with gamers even if they are using something besides the Mac.
Alf: Most of the developers we've interviewed feel that Mac users have a stronger culture of buying software than PC users. Do you agree?
Champlin: "Cult" or "Culture?" There does seem to be a strong bond among the Mac community, which I am proud to say that I am a part of. And with the interest and excitement of a community, I would agree that there does seem to be a stronger power of those buying software.
Alf: Macs now run on Intel. Has the transition been as easy Apple claimed? What's has been the biggest hurdle?
Champlin: I think Apple has done a great deal of work to ensure to make it as easy as possible for developers to achieve transitions to newer machines. But, in the end, it's up to the skill of the developer to utilize the tools given to them. Luckily, Ambrosia is blessed with some of the most talented programmers out there. We all realized that it wouldn't be quite as easy as Steve Jobs' demo at WWDC, where he simply clicked a little checkbox that would, almost magically, make all apps run on Intel. But, I have to say that the checkbox working as well as it does has gotten kudos from our programmers here. There is always a bit of tweeking and fixing of applications for it to work on the new machines. Our games are usually significantly easier to handle the transitions, where our utilities are less so. Many of Ambrosia's utilities do things that, in truth, Apple never intended have done on their machines. Truly, that is a sign of a good product, doing something that is well beyond the original idea of what a machine can do.
Alf: You seem to be slowly moving away from games. Dragster is the latest utility you are about to release. Are games no longer a profitable business?
Champlin: I really don't feel that we are moving away from games. We released three new games last year (Darwinia, GooBall and el Ballo), with updates to a few others. Also, we have games such as Redline still in development, so, the gaming side of our business is far from fading away. While we have released utilities such as the Easy Envelopes widget recently, we are not planning on becoming a "utility-only" company. The problem is that with a smaller company we don't have the resources to take on a large number of projects at a single time.
Alf: Do you think there's a future in Mac gaming or we will be playing Windows games in virtual machines?
Champlin: I think there is always a future in Mac gaming since there is such a strong group of Mac fans out there. With new technology coming our way I only see the Mac gaming community getting stronger. For instance we see "Boot Camp" in only positive terms. We feel that this and technology like it, will open up both platforms to people who normally wouldn't have used it. A larger market can only mean better things for all involved.
Alf: How do you decide what is next in the development line? How many apps/games do you have in the development pipeline at the same time?
Champlin: There is no set number of games/utilities that we have in development. It largely depends on what the company as a whole is doing that determines what the next course of action will be involving our next release. Also, Ambrosia has always strived to only release products that we feel are a quality good enough to bare the Ambrosia Software logo. We would much rather wait and release a really good product that we enjoy and know the customers will appreciate, than rely on having to have a new product out every so many months.
Alf: What about Escape Velocity 4? Will we see it in the market soon?
Champlin: We have no EV related plans at this time. While we aren't working on one now, it does not mean that we will not have 4th installment down the road. You never can be sure what the future will hold for Ambrosia!
Alf: Do people tell you your apps/games are cheap? How do you decide the price point of an app/game?
Champlin: Cheap has a certain connotation that implies that the product is of poor quality, that is something that has never been said about Ambrosia products. Even our small games are done extremely well, with great service to back it up. As for the pricing, it is based on how much work went into the software, and how much work will be needed after the sale. For instance tech support concerns, and extra documentation needs to be a factor.
Alf: Have you ever thought of boxing your apps?
Champlin: It is something that we consider, and are still taking it under consideration. Who knows? You might see something of ours on a shelf down the road.
Alf: Would Ambrosia software exist if there were no Internet?
Champlin: Since we market and distribute our games predominately via the Internet, it is hard to say where Ambrosia would be if the Internet had not come into existence. I believe though that Ambrosia and it's original designers would have made it work if they had put their minds to it. But, the Ambrosia you see and love today would be probably something vastly different.
Alf: How do people get to know your games?
Champlin: Thanks to shareware people get to know our games and utilities via the net, in media publications, or as in many instances, from word of mouth from friends. That is the best part about distributing our products with the Shareware mindset. We encourage users to copy their products and give them to their friends, and the only time they have to pay is if they like the product.
Alf: About 10 persons work now on Ambrosia software. How many are full time employers?
Champlin: We actually employ over 10 people, and all of them are full time employees of Ambrosia Software. Don't let the "shareware company" title fool you; this is a full time job that all of us do here at Ambrosia. Most of us here put in well over 40 hours a week to make sure customers are happy and the products are at the standards that require.
Alf: Do you all work in the same office or telework, or commute?
Champlin: Ninety-five percent of the Ambrosia Employees come to work Monday thru Friday to the Ambrosia office headquarters located in Rochester, New York. The remainder of the employees telecommute to the office.
Alf: How big can a company get being Mac only?
Champlin: It relies completely on how big they want to be, and the ambitions of the company and its employees vs the products that they create. It's a wise business man that realizes when it is appropriate to grow, and when it is safe to remain the same.
Alf: Ever been aproached by someone wanting to buy the company?
Champlin: There is always people and companies interested in either out performing their competitors or simply integrating with them via purchasing. As with most companies, we lowly employees are usually not privy to things of this nature. But, it would hard not to picture someone in our 15 years of existence not to approach us with these intentions.
Alf: How do you feel about integrating in a bigger "machine?"
Champlin: I can only speak for myself with this answer. But, it seems that the company with it's workers are doing rather well at our "little" size. Everyone is quite happy and more importantly the customers seem content with what we are able to produce without being in a larger "machine."
Alf: How do you get feedback from your customers?
Champlin: We get feedback from customers in many ways. Customers are free to write to our office at
Ambrosia Software, Inc.
PO Box 23140
Rochester, NY 14692
or send emails with any feedback that they have to
We also offer a web forum on our site that allows people to discuss whatever they have on their mind: http://www.ambrosiasw.com/forums/
Alf: What would you expect from Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard"?
Champlin: Leopard is bound to be just as impressive in its innovations and upgrades as Tiger was over Panther and so on. Apple is always thinking of new things and new ways of making the Mac and even more impressive machine.
Alf: Do you feel the Mac platform is growing?
IChamplin: I believe that it is. With items such as the iPod and iTunes Store bringing new people towards the Mac everyday it's not hard to imagine that the market is growing. Not to mention new eye-catching machines on the market with operating systems which are easy to get into, I can only see the Mac Platform growing with each new release.
Alf: What would you tell a Mac programmer that is about to start developing?
Champlin: I would tell them to use the tools that Apple has given them. Apple offers some very useful developmental tools and utilities, they also back it up with great support to help you use these tools to your advantage. Also, there are a great deal of sites of other developers out there that you can learn from and seek help.