Can Apple Save Emailer by Giving It Away?

1998: The future of Claris Emailer looks bleak. Although Apple says it is considering its options for the popular email program, Emailer owners are already acting as if the program is history.

It’s a darn shame because Emailer is just about anything you could want in an email client. It handles multiple accounts. It does spell checking. It has great filtering capabilities. It’s user-friendly. And it supports AppleScript.

Apple has got to know that there are thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of Emailer users who love this program, whether we received a free copy of it or bought it and subsequently paid to upgrade it.

We love Emailer.

Netscape Navigator

Netscape was caught between a rock and a hard place with Navigator. Microsoft was giving away Internet Explorer for free, making it very difficult for Netscape to make any money from the browser market they had shaped. Each survey showed that Microsoft’s product was growing in popularity while Netscape’s was declining.

What could Netscape do, throw more money at it and raise the price? That would be corporate suicide. A small minority will pay for a superior product, but the vast majority would take the free program. So Netscape decided to bite the bullet and make Netscape free – and make the code itself Open Source, allowing anyone who wanted to the opportunity to compile (and tweak) their own version of Navigator.

The only limitation: Nobody but Netscape would be allowed to sell Navigator.

Update: This was the birth of Mozilla, which over time has turned Navigator into quite the browser. Not only is Firefox open source and free, it has improved over the years and edged past Microsoft’s combined number of Internet Explorer and Edge in April 2016 (according to StatFinder), still taking a distant second place behind Google’s Chrome browser.

Claris Emailer

There are conflicting theories about Emailer. The conspiracy theory is that Apple agreed to drop Emailer in favor of Outlook Express as part of its agreement with Microsoft. Another is that Apple can only afford to keep developing profitable products and doesn’t believe that Emailer fits in that category.

It looks like Apple wants to retain the program but avoid future development. With Mac OS 8.5 right around the corner and a few compatibility issues between it and Emailer, that puts users in a tough spot. I want OS 8.5, but I don’t want to give up Emailer. I’m tempted to propose a Mac OS 8.5 boycott by Emailer fans, but I think we’d be the bigger losers.

What if Apple were to emulate Netscape, release a patch for Emailer providing full 8.5 compatibility, and make it Open Source under the condition that only Apple Computer would be allowed to sell Emailer as a commercial product?

I think everyone would win. Apple would show Emailer users that they are not giving up on the product. Emailer users would know that someone, somewhere would be improving their beloved email clients.

Well, maybe Microsoft wouldn’t be happy about one more free email client to compete with Outlook Express, but I don’t think most of us would lose any sleep over that.

Update: I ended up moving to PowerMail when I started using Mac OS X, and it was a love/hate relationship. It felt comfortable, but it wasn’t a comfortable as Claris Emailer. I used Apple’s OS X Mail app for a while, but never really liked it. I finally settled on Postbox, a very nice commercial adaptation of Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client. For the first time since Claris Emailer, I feel comfortable and happy with an email app. With a $40 price tag and so many free alternatives, I have to say that it is worth the price.

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