Mac App Store

I’ve long wanted better application management on Mac OS X, so I applaud the Mac App Store. Application installation has always been a train-wreck on Mac OS X, but at least independent developers were able to make the application updating process reasonable enough thanks to Andy Matuschak’s Sparkle.

I’m also heartened that, unlike the iOS App Store, the Mac App Store is not the exclusive channel for Mac software. Apple could have locked it down, and choose not to. I like to think this indicates a flicker of hope that one day we’ll see Snell’s switch in a future iOS release.

However I’m dismayed with the direction Apple is taking with the Mac App Store. Studying the details of Apple’s current implementation, it becomes clear Apple crafted the Mac App Store policies primarily with its own interests in mind, not of its customers and certainly not its developers.

My fellow Mac developers are laughing at the Mac App Store guidelines. They’re reporting that apps they’ve been shipping for years — a number of them Apple Design Award-winning — would be rejected from the Mac App Store. These are proven apps, beloved by their users. The current guidelines are clearly out-of-touch.

Apple, a corporation with billions and billions of dollars in the bank, is taking 30% of small Mac developer’s revenue — an outrageously high fee, more than three times what popular high-end fulfillment provider FastSpring charges. Worse, Apple keeps customer data away from developers, standing in between developers and their users. Customer service and technical support suffer — Apple won’t even allow refunds to dissatisfied customers.

Software trials are loved by customers and developers alike. It’s easy to see why: customers get to try out first hand how an app works risk-free. Developers make their customers happier and reduce refunds. Yet, inexplicably, Apple doesn’t offer trials of any sort. In fact, their developer agreement forbids it. This is questionable policy for a $2.99 game, but inexcusable for a $60 Mac app.

For all its flaws, the Mac App Store is a step in the right direction. All Apple has to do is switch to policies which benefit Apple to policies that benefit its customers and developers.

The above is my complete response to Chris Foresman’s request for my thoughts on yesterday’s Mac App Store announcement. Chris kindly quoted parts of it as well as other developers in his Ars Technica article.

appstore macappstore Oct 21 2010