A market opportunity for Apple Remote Desktop

As noted in my deeper look at OS X 10.5.5, our hint on adding more power to 10.5’s screen sharing is now only partially functional—you can still enable the Bonjour browser, but you can’t put the oh-so-useful extra buttons (screen capture, full screen mode, and so forth) on the toolbar.

Removing these buttons is completely within Apple’s rights, of course—they weren’t really supposed to be there in the first place. The OS X 10.5 screen sharing feature is based on Apple’s Remote Desktop 3, and the code for the buttons was simply left in the initial release of 10.5’s screen sharing. For whatever reason, Apple decided to remove them in OS X 10.5.5, and although I’m not thrilled with that decision (I used the screen capture button a lot), I do respect it.

However, due to this change in 10.5.5, I’ve found myself in a bit of a technical bind. I use screen sharing a lot, given that we have four machines spread around the house, and I really enjoyed the extra power those buttons brought to my remote control sessions. As of today, though, to get those buttons back will cost me $299—that’s the cost of Apple Remote Desktop 3 with a 10-machine license. Unfortunately, that’s the smallest Apple Remote Desktop license you can buy; the other alternative is $499 for the unlimited managed machines version. As a home user with a total of four Macs, neither of these really meets my needs—or more importantly, my budget.

If you’ve never seen Remote Desktop 3 in action, it’s a pretty impressive program. Not only do you get the more-powerful screen sharing toolbar, you get a slew of other features that make it easier to support multiple machines—even if you’re not in charge of a 50-machine lab or a 200-user corporate installation. I would gladly pay for some of these features on my own small network—but I really can’t justify essentially paying $75 per machine for them, as I’d have to do with the 10-seat version.

So what I’d really love to see are some lower-unit-count options for Apple Remote Desktop 3, with a correspondingly lower price. Perhaps a three-Mac “basic kit” for $90, and a five-Mac “home enthusiast” version for $150. Those prices are based on the roughly $30 per seat cost of the $299 version, so I’m not asking Apple to lower its per-unit revenue—just to accept that there are people out there with a need for such tools, but without the need to manage 10 Macs. Maybe there’d even be a market for a $60 two-Mac version, to cover those who own one laptop and one desktop Mac, and want more than what they get from the built-in screen sharing tools.

But then again, maybe I’m alone in such thoughts—so what about you? Would you be interested in a two, three, or five-Mac version of Remote Desktop 3 for use on your home network?

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