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At first I was a bit perplexed because I could not find the Mac App Store. I looked in iTunes, then I updated iTunes, but still no Mac App Store. A little bit later when the Software Update reminder told me there was an update available to OS X, then the lightbulb when on. Obviously a new OS update would be required to do the install and update magic that is part of the Mac App Store. (A least that makes sense to a developer.) It seems that I was not the only one who was confused. Now Apple has added a tutorial on how to get the Mac App Store to their website.
I’m happy to see that the general price level in the Mac App Store is significantly higher than in the iOS App Store. Here’s a detailed analysis of the titles available on opening day.
This is mainly because of existing software titles from Apple and indy developers anchoring the price spectrum with unchanged prices from their other distribution channels. It is probably also reflection of the economics of selling to a smaller market.
Let’s hope that the Mac App Store does not fall into the price-race-to-the-bottom trap, so that it can become a viable channel for indy developers.
Apple has been pretty strict in enforcing the HIG for iOS apps, so it’s a bit surprising that they have lowered the bar for the Mac App Store. Hopefully this is just a temporary lapse “justified” by the need to have a nice round number of 1,000 apps available on opening day.
This is especially sad since Mac developers have generally prided themselves in creating beautiful software with excellent interface design. One designer’s head exploded when he saw some of the apps in the Mac App Store, and he created this blog to showcase the worst.
One of the benefits of the Mac App Store is that installed applications can be updated with one click, just like you update your installed iOS apps. One difference between iOS and Mac is that Mac applications can be installed from several sources. If you have already purchased an application directly from a developer and now it’s available in the Mac App Store, it’s likely that the Mac App Store will recognize that it has already been installed. Where the purchase button usually is you instead see “INSTALLED”. This is good because it will make it more difficult to purchase software that you already own. But the downside is that you are led to believe that you will receive updates to that title through the Mac App Store, which is not the case.
The best explanation that I’ve read on this says that the Mac App Store looks for a matching bundle identifier and version number. So it might be a good idea to change one or the other to avoid a lot of support headaches. Or you can just send your customers to this easy-to-remember URL: IfIBoughtYourAppAlreadyCanIUpdateItThroughTheMacAppStore.com
Another related question is how developers will deal with upgrade pricing. The lifeblood of many indy developers is the upgrade fees existing customers pay when a new major version is released. But in the iOS world customers have been trained to expect free updates for life for apps that they purchase. The reason this can work is the incredible volume of apps that you can sell to iOS customers, combined with the rapid growth of the platform. It will be interesting to see how this will play out on the Mac side.
If you are an iOS developer I think it can be a good business opportunity to port some of your apps to the Mac. Obviously this won’t work for all types of apps, for example if the primary use case depends on mobility or some device capabilities of the iPhone. Sadly I did not have any apps in the Mac App Store on opening day. But there is at least one title planned for the near future.