Mac App Store: What Do Apple’s A-List Developers Think?

By

20101020-macappstore.jpg

So there’s going to be an App Store for the Mac, just like the App Store we’re all used to on iOS.

What do OS X developers think of this?

I got in touch with a bunch of devs to ask them what they make of it. Many of them are still reading through the official documentation, and some of the questions they ask below may well be answered there. But here are some of their very first impressions…

Brent Simmons, creator of NetNewsWire:

I’m partly excited and partly worried. I don’t know what the terms will be — for instance, I’ve been working on adding a plugin architecture to my app, so that other developers could add features, and users could download and install those plugins. Would that be allowed? The app is already scriptable and can have style sheets with JavaScript that come from other sources. Is that allowed?

Tinkerability is huge — it’s part of the fun of Mac apps. If the Mac App Store puts a lid on that freedom, then certain types of apps will have some trouble.

Will we also be able to sell our apps outside the App Store, at the same time?

Will there be demo/trial versions? Will iAds be available to Mac apps? In-app purchasing? Will the review process get shorter? Will we still be able to distribute beta versions freely — or will we somehow have to to do the Ad Hoc provisioning profile thing, like we do with iPhone and iPad apps?

There are so many questions — it’s hard to be positive or negative about it. I think it’s possible that the Mac App Store could bring Mac apps more money and more use. I love that part. The iPhone and iPad App Store is already a tremendous success, and this could be incredible for Mac developers. But we don’t know what the trade-offs are yet. We need more info!

Gus Mueller, of Flying Meat Software:

I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve read bits of the new guidelines, and there are lots of open questions- like how do we charge for upgrades? There’s just way too many unknowns at this point for me to commit to it one way or another. If this makes lives for my customers easier, then I’m for it. If the store ends up a race the bottom, with 99 cent apps and lots of 1 star reviews for everyone, well – that’s going to be bad.

Eric Boehnisch-Volkmann of Devon Technologies:

We at DEVONtechnologies are not surprised and we think that for the users it will be a great enhancement. Application installation and updating is still a large user support issue even in the Sparkle days and a Map App Store can bring relief. Our questions now are: Will there be trial versions? A review process?

Dominique Leca, developer of Sparrow:

It’s wonderful news. For Sparrow and the whole Mac community.
The iOS has been in the spotlight for more than 3 years now and desktop developers were in the shadow during that time. That’s one of the reason we decided to create Sparrow after 3 years spent on iPhone/ iPad development. We figured most of the development resource and talent were focused on the iOS and that there was room for innovation on OS X.

Our team has a strong prior experience on the iPhone AppStore and we are glad that the same ecosystem and ease-of-use (payment system, update notification) are being brought to the desktop.

The Mac AppStore is a priceless opportunity for Sparrow, as a new-born app in the Mac ecosystem, to be discovered by a large public.

We weren’t expecting this at all. But it makes a lot of sense and seems obvious now that it has been announced.

Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software:

As usual I have a mix of positive reaction and fear of the unknown. There are many unanswered questions that will color how attractive the App Store is to developers, and how much of a disruption it will be to “business as usual” on the Mac.

I am surprised. One of the bright sides to it is I do think it genuinely reflects Apple’s ongoing commitment to the Mac, but I had come to think that Apple just wasn’t interested in challenging the status quo for software delivery on the Mac.

I find it hard to imagine passing up the opportunity. I will most likely sell there because I believe to do otherwise would be passing up a huge marketing opportunity.

The big overarching thought is this App Store news disrupts the status quo for Mac developers, and there are many questions that need to be answered before we know exactly how positive or negative the changes will be.

I would like to see Apple respond quickly and definitively to some of the unknowns that developers will be concerned about, many of which mirror long-standing feature desires for the iOS App Store. The difference on the Mac is these are privileges that are currently enjoyed by developers and which might be taken away:

  • Will we be able to sell paid upgrades at a discount to existing customers?
  • Will users be able to download trial versions of our software before purchasing?
  • Will users be able to get refunds?
  • Will developers be able to get contact information for purchasers of our software?
  • Will applications on the Mac App Store be subject to the same scrutiny as iOS apps? Will we be rejected for using private API, or covering “tasteless” themes?

Loren Brichter of Atebits:

Find developer website
Click download link
Unarchive
Drag to Applications folder
Launch app
Find registration button
Go to developers website
Click buy
Enter credit card information
Click buy
Wait for email
Open license email
Copy license
Paste license

vs.
Click “Buy”

Very few people are willing and able to jump through hoops to register software the old way. With the barrier to purchasing lowered the number of third-party-app-using-Mac users will rise, letting developers charge less and make it up in volume. I’d have gladly charged the impulse-price of $2.99 for Tweetie for Mac if there were a mechanism for impulse-purchases. This is it.

A developer who prefers to remain anonymous:

My biggest concern is that Apple (for all its high-priced hardware) drives independent software prices down. If developers whore themselves out in the way many have done with 99p apps on the iPhone, all but the top few will lose out and may shoot themselves in the foot and shorten their own product’s lifespan by cutting into their revenue so harshly.

On the upside, for smaller, low profile apps, there is potential for more visibility, so we may see some great apps that have previously marketed themselves poorly come out of the woodwork.

Overall though, I don’t think it’ll change the game for everyone. I can’t see Panic, Pixelmator, Real Mac Software and many others choose to hand over 30% of their revenue to Apple overnight. Quality software is here to stay – I hope.