Incept Development



{application software design and development}

Dev: Pros and Cons of the Mac AppStore

Mac-App-Store-Icon

The rabid success of iPhone development and the mobile app store led to the inevitable question: what if they did the same thing, but bigger? The result is one of those ideas that looks obvious in hindsight but for some reason, only Apple tends to find them – The Mac App Store. For the unfamiliar, it's exactly what you're thinking. The Mac App Store will sell applications for the desktop organized through a single storefront. Given that the storefront was so popular on the handhelds, it stands to reason that it will only bring good things to the desktop, right? The answer is... maybe. There are ups and downs for everyone involved, and the store will undoubtedly change OS X development in the future.
First, let's talk about the ups because positivity is better for your health. The most powerful benefits are the most obvious. With the Mac App Store, consumers will have a better experience than with any avenue that currently exists. Customers can try software before committing to a purchase, and they won't have to worry about installation or updating procedures. The uniform delivery ensures that anyone will be able to utilize any software, provided they have minimal knowledge of a mouse's operation and a somewhat healthy bank account.
The App Store will benefit developers as well. By submitting and selling through the App Store, you're effectively unloading all the distribution and sales costs right onto Apple's infrastructure. The App Store will allow you to bypass the headaches of distribution, packaging, and building a secure billing system, which saves you not only time but a hefty chunk of money. Even if you're already in the digital distribution market, you'll no longer have to worry about issuing serial numbers or ensuring that you have hosting beefy enough to survive a sales rush. Of course, this is little incentive to you if you've already invested in such things, but it will at least defer the cost of growth.
Sounds like all sunshine and roses so far, but there are downsides. Working through the App Store trades away almost all flexibility when it comes to doing business. For instance, say you released one version of your software, and wanted to give your existing customers a discount on the next version. This would be easy enough if you maintained your own billing records, but working through the App Store makes the logistics of this much more complicated. Additionally, there's currently no way to provide bulk discounts for large sales of licenses – something that may prevent the App Store from gaining any real traction in the business software world or Mac development in Atlanta.
Of course, the biggest downside is the healthy cut that Apple skims from every transaction. For all the money the App Store can save, it'll be up to the individual businesses to determine whether 30% of all sales is generous or generous theft. The marketing and buying experience is locked down as well. While this is great for the customer, it does limit your options in trying to drive customers to a purchase. You can market the hell out of your application, but once a customer lands on the App Store page, your control over their experience is more restricted than it would be on your own website. That said, most developers are extremely excited for the App Store. As said before, if it can work on the handheld, why can't it work on the desktop?
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