Today's launch of the Mac App Store will doubtless be feeding analyst speculation for some time to come. Developers who choose to work within it gain exposure; users who use it gain frictionless purchasing ability, unobtrusive DRM (perhaps too unobtrusive), and slick updating. However, there are costs -- most prominently, Apple takes a 30% cut of revenues, which might not sit too well with some companies. Apple's tight restrictions on what apps can do rule out a lot of programs which modify your system in various ways that Apple doesn't approve of.
It's too early to say how it's going down with users, but how many developers have committed to the store for launch day? The Mac App Store UI doesn't make this easy to figure out; there's no master list of apps, but instead a sub-list for each of 35 categories (including the various sub-categories of games.) Even worse, many apps are listed in more than one place, meaning that if you start adding up across those categories, you double- or even triple-count many times. Fortunately, I have devised a method of working around this (gory details at the end of the article, if you are curious.) Click through the break for some analysis of how launch day on the Mac App Store is shaping up.
Breaking down the figures
The first question that comes to mind is, what are the most popular categories in the Mac App Store? The graph at the head of this article shows these figures, based on 2,004 total entries I found in the UK version of the Mac App Store. (Note that this includes the duplicates I mentioned earlier; to prune them out, I'd have to choose a category for them to sit in, and I couldn't see any clear way to do that).
Unsurprisingly, games dominate the proceedings. Almost 600, or just under a third of all apps, are in one or more of the Games categories. Utilities and Productivity apps are also prominent. The Entertainment category is a bit of a red herring -- almost all of the 200 apps in it are also present in the Games category. More interestingly, though, is the strong showing in Music and Photography apps. Apple has always positioned the Mac as a digital hub where people can aggregate and manage their content; clearly, third-party app developers agree.
Price Point analysis
The dubious distinction of being the most expensive app in the Mac App Store award goes to... Distribute, at £399/$700. It is at least an app for SRS BSNS, so presumably justifies that hefty pricetag. But what about the rest of the store? There was much speculation amongst developers about what sort of price points the Mac App Store would sustain; it represents a collision between traditional Mac pricing and the much lower numbers on the iOS App Store.
I whittled the 2,004 data points in the last test down to the unique apps -- 959 in all -- and plotted the histogram below of the pricing data:
As you can see, apps broadly fall into a few pricing categories. Almost half of the apps in the Mac App Store are in the cheap-and-free sub-$5 bracket; an informal survey reveals a lot of ports of iOS games falling into this area. There's then a bit of a no-mans-land between $5-10; then huge numbers of apps in the $10-50 brackets. Again, informally surveying the store, these appear to be mostly traditional Mac software packages that have been ported over to the store and broadly maintained their price points.
Finally, we have a small -- but significant -- number of apps above the $50 mark -- price points almost unheard of in the iOS App Store. It will be very interesting indeed to see how sales of these apps go, assuming any of the developers are willing to share that data.
Overall, I don't think there's much sign of an early rush to the bottom -- but of course, we're still in the very early days.
In the interests of full disclosure, here are the gory details of how I obtained the numbers in this post:
- Installed burp proxy on my MacBook and configured all Safari traffic to go out through it in via System Preferences > Network > Advanced > Proxies > Web Proxy.
- Browsed the Mac App Store on my Mac, noting that all traffic between it and itunes.com was now being captured.
- Go to the app listing page for each store category in turn.
- Find the raw HTML of that page in burp and save it into a text file in a directory.
- Used a Perl script to comb through the text files, looking for app name and prices with the following regexps: m/title="Buy, (.*?): £([0-9.]+)">/ and m/title="Buy, (.*?): £([0-9.]+)">/
- Run through those app names, eliminating duplicates and collating pricing data.
Please note that as I am in the UK, all my analysis was carried out on the UK Mac App Store; numbers may be somewhat different for the US store if developers have chosen to regionally restrict their software. However I have converted prices from British pounds into US dollars for ease of understanding.