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Developer reactions to the Mac App Store


The announcement of the Mac App Store has caused mixed feelings for everybody, but I was especially curious to get a wider view of reactions from the people directly involved in Mac software creation and development.

TUAW polled several developers to find out what their initial reactions were, and I'd like to present a few thoughts, straight from the mouths (and keyboards) of the Mac software community.

Phil Libin, Evernote

We're all over it. Will do everything possible to be there at launch.

Jeff Mancuso, ExpanDrive

We are pretty worried about section 2.18, which will reject apps that "install kexts" - like MacFUSE. Hopefully section 2.18 doesn't blanket disallow apps from loading/containing kernel extensions but instead requires they be kept inside the app bundle and not installed into /System.

ExpanDrive certainly will be rejected from the App Store if kexts are entirely disallowed. Other developers will need to fork "App Store only" versions that have watered down functionality.

George Browning, Zengobi (Curio)

I think this is wonderful news for users as it makes the lengthy download-install-buy-license process as simple as a single click. However, as a developer, I'm primarily worried about (1) restrictions imposed by the review process, (2) how quickly important updates can be released, (3) support for trials, (4) support for discounted upgrade pricing, (5) piracy prevention. That said, it opens up a fantastic marketing and distribution opportunity -- in many ways better than getting into the physical Apple Store -- and I'm very excited about exploring some options.

Niclas Bahn, Gravity Applications (Tags, SofaControl, Searchlight)

First and foremost I think this is a huge opportunity for Mac developers. The Mac App Store will surely completely change our industry by dramatically increasing both the number of potential customers and developers on the Mac platform. Removing friction by enabling "one click" impulse buying for Mac apps is going to be great for customers and developers alike.

We are still evaluating all the details but we definitely intend to participate in the Mac App Store ASAP.

Justin Williams, Second Gear Software (Today)

Generally I'm not happy with the direction, but I assumed it would happen eventually. It's too big of a shift to ignore, so I'm leaning hard on just shutting down my company store and handling all Mac sales through the Mac App Store when it opens. I just need to figure out how to work out the transition of existing customers to the new platform. It's a lot more awkward, given the 20 years of shareware culture, to make the transition to Apple holding all the cards.

Dan Wood, Karelia (Sandvox)

We discussed this yesterday, and it is going to present some challenges -- and we have a LOT of questions -- but overall it is probably going to be a good thing. Established Mac companies are only going to benefit by having their applications in front of millions more users than before. And of course users will benefit; there are probably a lot of Mac users who have never bought a third-party application for their Mac before!

We're hoping this doesn't become a "race to the bottom" in terms of quality and pricing, as has happened with the iOS app store -- Desktop software is much grander and more complex than little iPhone apps that do one thing. Perhaps Apple will give their users a richer browsing experience in the Mac App Store than they currently do in the very limited iTunes app store. We'll just have to see how things shake out in the next ninety days.

Todd Ditchendorf, Celestial Teapot Software (

As a Mac developer, the allure of an Apple-produced App Store for Mac OS X is irresistible, and presents huge opportunities. I want to be there on day one with my app.

Gedeon Maheux, IconFactory (Twitterific, CandyBar)

There's little question that the Mac App Store will be a great and much-needed destination for Mac consumers. There is no centralized place to find Mac apps and this is a problem that, as a Mac user, I'm grateful Apple has solved. As for what it means for developers, [there are] just too many unknown factors right now to have a solid opinion on it either way. It's clear the old ways of developing and distributing Mac Apps are going the way of the Dodo. What isn't clear is how much control devs will have to give up in order to reach the kind of eyeballs the App Store is capable of. Will the Mac App store be an exclusive distribution channel for your particular app? Will devs be able to offer discounted or upgrade pricing? There are dozens of questions we simply need answers to.

One thing's for sure, with the submission date for Mac apps coming up within 30 days, Apple will have to get this information in developers hands sooner rather than later. We need to be armed with as many details as possible before we can possibly make a decision about what the IconFactory will, won't and can't submit to the new Mac App Store.

Daniel Jalkut, Red Sweater Software (MarsEdit, FastScripts, Black Ink)

The notion of a Mac App Store is at once exhilarating and daunting for Mac developers like myself. On the one hand, here's Apple presenting a chance to reach more customers. Obviously, more customers means more money. Or does it?

The uncertainty surrounding the Mac App Store includes all the fear of the unknown one might expect, combined with some informed fears from the way the iOS App Store has played out. Will the Mac App Store encourage a bargain-basement pricing model? If so, it's not a guarantee that more customers will lead to more revenue, or to more profit.

Aside from the pure financial question, we also run up against the App Store review process, which have been at-times controversial on the iOS store. Going from a situation where we developers are 100% in control of the code that we write, the content it includes, the customers we reach, etc., into a situation where Apple is mostly in charge of the process, is a little scary.

All-in-all I am excited about the App Store because my hunch is that it will bring my products to a large, new group of Mac users who are not tuned in to the conventional Mac media; online software directories, and so forth. There will be some transitional pain but I believe that many developers will benefit from the new App Store.

Customers will benefit too, at least in terms of the browsing and install procedure. The one-click install process will be an incredible improvement, and is something that has been needed in Mac OS X for some time. It would be preferable if Apple would make this procedure available to third parties, and not just to purchases made through the App Store, but I have little expectation of that happening.

One scenario in which the App Store could turn out to be a failure for both customers and developers is if Apple is too stringent in its approval process. If we end up in a scenario where great software is being kept distant from users who would otherwise love it, then we're going to have starving developers and starving customers, metaphorically speaking.

Microsoft Spokesperson, MacBU

We're working to understand the impact of the new app store to the Office for Mac business. We don't have any updates to share.

Sherman Dickman, Postbox

The Mac App Store presents new opportunities, but also new challenges.

The Mac App Store will enable ISVs to spend more time on creating great products, and less time building and managing online stores. This will also help to raise visibility and exposure for many developers, and will help to assuage concerns that customers may have with handing over credit card info to third parties.

That said, there are lots of details to work through:

  • Many developers depend on 30-day trials, license keys, updates and paid upgrade releases cycles, 30 day refund windows, etc., and it's unclear how all of this will shake out in the Mac App Store.
  • We'll now have two application binaries to manage, one for the Apple Store and one for our own online stores. How do we support two sets of customers through two different update/upgrade paths?
  • We may need to create a "Lite" version to comply with their current guidelines. For example, our iCal and iPhoto integrations currently require resources to be installed outside of our application bundle.

These challenges are not insurmountable, mind you, but it will be interesting to see how the Mac developer community responds.

Jim Rea, ProVUE Development (Panorama)

I think the Mac App Store has the potential to open up huge new opportunities for developers at the low end of the market. It's probably not going to change the way big ticket items like PhotoShop and Office are sold. But I suspect there are millions of Mac users out there that never read (or have even heard of) sites like TUAW, MacUpdate, etc., so they have no idea about the existence of thousands of small to medium sized developers like ProVUE. With the Mac App Store I see the potential for these developers to reach beyond their current audience of savvy, blog reading, die-hard Mac users and tap the wider market of all Mac users.

That said, I certainly have some concerns and questions.

  • As mentioned on TUAW, what about demo versions and upgrades? Also, we rely on screencasts to help show the advantages of our software, will customers be able to access those?
  • If an app is sold thru the Mac App Store, can it also be sold thru other channels? Can a developer still sell it directly? Are developers allowed to make special offers or do promotions thru other channels?
  • Will Apple tell developers who their customers are? If not, are we allowed to ask them? (for example an optional registration window in the program).
  • How is the software locked to the iTunes account, if at all? On iOS devices, it's my understanding that jailbreaking the phone also allows access to apps without paying for them (I haven't tried that myself). Since OS X is essentially "jailbroken" out of the box, will there be anything to stop copying at all? Even if there is, I assume it will be hacked quickly -- this will be just too rich a target. So developers will just have to live with no copy protection, I think.
  • The rules say that the app cannot contain a store. Ok -- does that mean a developer cannot link to their web site which contains a store?

How the answers to these questions play out over the next few weeks will have a big impact on developer acceptance of the App Store.

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