Ug. This is one of those things that keeps me up at night. You all know that my big thing is simple intuitive licensing and that I am always trying to reduce customer confusion. But you may also have noticed our licensing is CPU based...
I agree that the CPU model is a bit antiquated, though not for the same reasons @Stephen Coles gave. We were never concerned with making customers secure licensing for printers and other devices. We were, in fact, always concerned with trying to be more permissive not less. The question one got back in the day with "user" licensing was "what if two people use the same computer?" So, back then we went with CPU pricing in order to be able to say that a company didn't have to double pay for that one computer. Of course, that's no longer needed.
But the problem with the user based model is that it's still a little hard to track for companies that may not be up to date with technology for user profile management.
If we were opening our shop today we'd probably be using the user model. However, change is also confusing so we decided with the last couple EULA rewrites to keep the old CPU model on the theory that all things being equal change is worse for customer confusion.
You may notice that our latest EULA introduces the idea of virtual machines - which starts to move towards a user model. My hope is that by the next rewrite the customer base will have moved more in that direction and we can make that more dominant.
@Kent Lew you make a strong point but I hesitate to lump December in with summer. The thing about December is that we do always see a jump in traffic in the first half because there are definitely companies that are closing out the fiscal year and need to make purchases. That's a massive contrast to the deadness of summer. If you release in December you will get SOME eyeballs. Plus, you're not likely to be one of many foundries releasing that week/day which definitely sucks. So, less than ideal but not the black hole of July and August. The proximity to January (resulting in a low cost to wait) makes me want to agree with you and put a red X over it but I'm going to stop just short of that.
Timing is definitely something to think about, as I said in my first post. It's just not like you can release on black Friday and get a lot of sales by Christmas - at least in my experience.
Perhaps there are some fonts which really are consumer goods but for anyone who's asking this question and also talking about large companies I can definitely say they aren't. I'd be curious to know what @Dave Crossland has to say about this. I'd not be surprised at all if you get some sort of blackfriday-type effect with Google fonts - which are free to the user.
Speaking about Halyard, a January release is not the difference between success or failure - which is why we didn't wait for the next January to come around. However, had we made the January release I'm certain we would have shortened the lead time before it starts paying back our investment in it. Bad timing just means the font will take longer to get up to speed on sales.
@Hrant H. Papazian to your second question, I agree with Marc... This is not really an issue in our experience. We get a great deal of license purchases for branding that are straight retail even of fonts that have been available to the public around 10 years. The other thing that happens with some frequency is that we get a request for a custom font from someone who thinks as you suggest but can be talked out of it once we explain how long that will take. Remember, most people just have no idea how long it takes to make a font. Those folks can usually be talked into an existing font with modifications - which I count as a sale of that font in our books.
@AbrahamLee When you're talking about a company of any size, fonts are not an impulse buy. A branding change is a very big deal, undertaken after a long slow deliberation and requiring a great deal of effort to implement. This is why the conventional wisdom is that it takes 2 years for a font to really sell. You can't time a font release the way you time consumer electronics. Instead, you release it at a time when customers aren't in a frenzy and can notice it, you do what you can to keep it in their line of sight, and you wait.
@George Thomas I think that when you talk about a "software" account you're talking about an expense line item. Fonts can be an expense (if it is for a marketing campaign) but as often as not it's a capital expense (branding) and that tends to be the big ticket sales from our perspective.