After more than two years of the App Store on iOS, Apple has finally decided to bring an App Store to the Mac as well. It’s certainly not unexpected, but for many developers, it’s an idea which has sparked feelings of both excitement and dread.
The App Store on iOS has been phenomenally successful for Apple, for users, and for some developers. However, it’s also had many glaring shortcomings which have yet to improve.
We’re still gathering information about the Mac App Store, but a quick look at some pros and cons may be informative.
The Mac App Store will make it possible for developers to reach nearly 100% of Mac users (on Mac OS X 10.6 or up, anyhow). That’s incredible – 50 million users, a few clicks away. Right now, software developers work incredibly hard to get their products in front of users, and the App Store can potentially make this much simpler1.
As well, the Mac App Store will offer an improved experience for users of third party software. There’s no question about it, the Mac App Store is going to make finding and using third-party software easier than it’s ever been. With simple installations and easy payment, it has the potential to make third-party software useful to everyone, even novice users. With a more convenient way to access third-party software, it’s likely that users will purchase more, and that’s good for everyone.
For developers, however, there are quite a few cons to the Mac App Store, when compared to selling on our own. To rattle off a few of these, there appear to be no trials, no paid upgrades, no access to customer information, no coupons, and no ability to ship updates outside of the store. As well, the list of allowable software is quite narrow and the fees (Apple’s 30%) are much higher than developers currently pay to payment processors.
As the iOS App Store has shown, developing under these conditions is of course still possible. However, many of the items above are things which improve the experience of being a developer and make things better for users as well. Having access to our own customers means we can work with them to improve our software and telling them about new products can provide an invaluable boost via word-of-mouth. Losing that is a definite negative.
Even if a developer is willing to deal with these issues, his application must be accepted into the App Store. If left as is, Apple’s acceptance guidelines are going to prevent whole classes of already-popular software from making their way to the store. Unlike iOS, the App Store on the Mac won’t yet be the exclusive way to get software. For now, at least, you’ll still be able to download directly from a developer, as you’ve always been able to do on Mac OS X.
So, the big question is, will you see Rogue Amoeba applications in the Mac App Store? Right now, we don’t know. With Apple’s onerous guidelines, most of our applications would not be approved. Even if they would be, however, are the benefits good enough to give up being a truly independent software developer?
1. If the Mac App Store gets as crowded as the iOS App Store, it may be difficult to actually get noticed. Time will tell there. ↩