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Mac App Store: What Do Developers Think?

The announcement of the Mac App Store caused mixed reactions between developers and users alike. We don't know if the App Store will work on the Mac platform, where we're all used to software licenses, developer websites and no restrictions, but it's very likely that Apple will nail this one once again.

MacStories polled a few developers about the subject, and I collected some thoughts from around the blogs of other devs. Here's what they think of Apple's latest plan for the Mac.

Steve Streza, developer over at the recently acquired ngmoco:

The App Store guidelines prevent many apps that exist today from being approved, even blocking public APIs that Apple pushed for years. If the rules don't change, these apps will be challenged to survive separately from the App Store. What remains to be seen is how quickly (if at all) users stop Googling for apps and switch to searching in the App Store.

Martin Jean-Francois:

Great idea. Simple model. Targeted to users looking for software. Dev will complaint but just like they did for the original App Store. Apple will improve things. Others will copy.

- Matthias Gansrigler, Eternal Software (Flickery)

I think the Mac App Store is a great new way to get software onto the Mac. In general, any new way people can learn about - and even purchase - my software is fine by me.

For a good store to work, there have to be rules. That private API thing is a sting in my eye and I'm sure in a lot of other developers' as well, but that's something I'm willing to accept in order to be part of this new way of distributing my software and getting people to use it. Change is scary, but if we look at the big picture, Apple has made a great App Store before - I'm sure it will work again.

- Justin Mrkva, developer at NovaStorm Software: (InCode)

To me, it seems like there's a bad side but also a good side, and for me at least, the good may or may not outweigh the bad.

First of all, my Mac application, AquaPrompt, is $14.99. I make about $14.50 average per copy after PayPal fees (minus tax after that, of course). I sell a relatively small volume so every dollar counts.

So at first glance the Mac App Store seems bad - after all, I'd only be making about $10.50 on each copy instead of $14.50 each. Very bad. Plus I couldn't offer trials (unless something changed). The majority of my users buy after using the trial. iOS apps are different; they're usually pretty cheap and thus people aren't as concerned about buying to try; for Mac apps they need to try them.

On the other hand, I could still offer a trial through my own method. And people who bought through the trial would likely use my system, meaning I would still make the full amount on each sale. Furthermore, sales made through the Mac App Store would likely include some "impulse" buys like those commonly seen on iOS; it's possible that many of those people would not have tried and/or discovered AquaPrompt separately. Thus it seems that it's still possible to retain the lower fees of my current system while gaining an extra distribution channel, rather than cannibalizing my current system.

The one concern is that people will be so attracted to the Mac App Store that they'll purchase through that rather than through my store when given the choice. I myself will, whenever possible, use the developer's "official" store. I hope people do so whenever possible, and at the same time express to Apple the reality that a 30% cut is huge, especially for small developers.

- Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba writes in a post on the company's blog:

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. 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.

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.

- Layton Duncan from Polar Bear Farm writes:

It’s not that the concept of a Mac App Store is bad, or that I don’t see the significant benefits it will bring, it’s that right now there are real trade offs for developers to consider. Those trade offs need not exist. They don’t conflict with end user experience, in fact, many of them dramatically enhance it.

But wait I hear you say, the Mac App Store isn’t exclusive. For all intents and purposes it will be. After all, it’s a great way for customers to purchase and manage software, wouldn’t it be great if it matched developer business requirements better too?

- Dallas Brown, developer of iDeskCal and Newsprint for iPhone:

I will be adding the new version of iDeskCal (3.0) to the Mac App Store. I do have mixed thoughts on the Mac App Store though.

On one side I think it is a wonderful idea. It has been the case for me (and heard the same from MANY developers) that a large percentage of sales currently come from Apple's downloads page. I can also personally contest to the fact that being featured on the Apple downloads page always brings in a HUGE surge of sales. So the idea of a centralized location which almost everyone will know about (unlike the downloads page) makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

On the other hand, it is looking like the Mac App store is starting back where the iPhone App Store started, which means it will be a bit of a game of tug-a-war between Apple and developers. These thoughts are based off the current version of guidelines for the Mac App Store.

One of the glaring points that have been worrying developers are that only standard applications are currently allowed, which means plugins like FlickrExport are not allowed, as well as Preference Panes not currently allowed. This point directly affects me as I had been thinking of moving iDeskCal to be Preference Pane bases, however now I am unable to if I want to be able to get in the Mac App Store.

There are many of items that are currently worrying developers, however most of it is just speculation until we start getting some clarification from Apple.

One other point that worries me is the Review process. This worries me because of the same reasons that it still worries iPhone developers. This is because you never know what is going to happen during this review process (there have been many strange rejections) as well as the Review process time length. If you thought iPhone app reviews take too long, just wait until they also have to review all these Mac apps being submitted (which by definition are usually much more complex then an iPhone app) Unless Apple dramatically increase the number of employees that review apps, we are going to see the time frame of app review times (both Mac and iPhone) will probably triple in length.

All that aside, I am going through the process of getting iDeskCal v3.0 ready to release when the Mac App Store opens. (and I will give you a little insight that version 3 will be the biggest update to date feature wise, and I will give you a sneak peek a little closer to release)

My plans are to also still sell iDeskCal via HashBangInd.com so that customers have a choice as well as still giving me the ability to giveaways, coupons, discounts, etc.

- Oisin Prendiville, developer of My Artists:

Apple have really shaken things up with this new App Store. I think we're going to see a whole new breed of Mac App(lications). Sure, the store will offer a new outlet for established and existing developers and software but iOS developers who don't currently publish Mac apps are sure to reconsider now.

I'm considering options for My Artists at the moment but have yet to decide whether to prioritise iPad or Mac. As a user I have a much more "personal" relationship with my iPad but I listen to more music (and have much more of it) on my Mac.

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