Developers leaving the Mac App Store is not exactly news. 1,2,3 While the effects of Apple’s policies for Mac applications are yet to be fully understood, ifsome developers’ sentiments are to be believed they spell disaster. This controversial topic has popped up regularly this year as developers criticized App Store policies.
Key criticisms surrounding App Store distribution include limitations imposed by sandboxing as well as inabilities to offer demo versions and charge for upgrades. Apple’s position on security is that apps should only have access to approved resources, mitigating their ability to cause harm to the system and compromise user data. As for the inability to offer trial software and paid upgrades, it’s anybody’s guess.
Unfortunately, Apple’s security vision has fallen short and developers are faced with the dilema: is it possible to lobotomize their apps to be sold in the App Store and is it worth it? Maintaining multiple versions of apps can be a logistical nightmare with unique development, customer support and marketing requirements. Developers risk alienating customers and ruining brand image when they split their products.
On the other hand, developers can’t ignore the added exposure of the Mac App Store – it might eventually be the only place users visit to learn about apps. Some discredit this idea based on existing non-app store culture but they fail to account for growing numbers of converts and first-time computer users joining the Mac ecosystem with the expectation that Apple provides a warm and cuddly experience with everything they need. Even now, there exists a group of users unaware of the ability to get apps outside of Apple Stores. After all, this is how iPhone and iPad work, why would the Mac be any different?
So what does this have to do with us? Since it’s release, Portfolio mobile for Mac has been offered both in and outside of the App Store. Maintaining a non-App Store version was a no brainer – it allowed for 30 day trials, a more powerful product presentation, and lower overhead compared to Apple’s 30% revenue cut. Creating an App Store version was an equally simple decision at the time and it has enabled us to reach a much larger audience at little added expense. With both of these versions in place and a feature set safely inside of Apple’s sandy playground, all has been well. Until now…
Recent issues with Mac App Store review times have caused significant issues for our releases. While iOS developers can expect to wait 8 days before being reviewed, Mac developers are looking at 24 days. Leaving obvious issues aside, review times extending to nearly a month have been particularly challenging this time around. Enhancements to device syncing in the latest versions necessitate updated apps on all platforms. While we planned to release all new versions simultaneously, this was not possible. We sat on iOS releases eagerly awaiting Mac approval in the store. But with the release of iOS6 and the many issues that it brought, further prolonging the release of these updates was not an option.
In the meantime, our non-App Store Mac version has been updated multiple times to resolve newly discovered issues. This places our App Store customers 2 versions back and continues to hold up Mac development as we await the outcome of the pending Mac review. Now we’ve got multiple apps spread across different versions with nothing we can do but wait. This is not a good situation to be in and we’re exploring alternatives. While it’s likely that Apple would prevent any effort to migrate App Store users to our non-App Store version, it’s a path we will likely have to add. It’s unfortunate that Apple can’t take a more proactive stance and get apps reviewed in a timely manner. After all, the value of their platforms comes from the apps developers offer.