When I first heard that Apple was working to put out an “App Store” for Mac OS X following the incredible success that the company had with a venture of the same name and stature on the iOS platform I was initially very excited. Such an organized system for buying, downloading, and updating software seemed like it would be an ingenious idea, both for consumers like you and me and for the developers that deliver software as well. In all honesty, the App Store was one of the first things that I opened when I first received my MacBook Pro earlier this year, and from the get-go I was very impressed with it.
But after having had my MacBook for some time now and having bought a handful of applications over the past several months, I really must say that I’m not a horrible fan of the App Store; at least not to the extent that I thought I’d be. In fact, whenever possible I will avoid buying applications from the App Store if at all possible, rather electing to go through the developer’s website if the application in question isn’t exclusive to the App Store. Sure, I lose the “convenience” updates from the App Store (I’ll discuss this later) and often-times it’s a bit more of a pain to give a website my credit card information each time I’d like to buy an app, but to me the downsides of the App Store seriously outweigh any advantages.
One of the first reasons that I avoid the App Store is simply my weariness of tying all of my application purchases into one account and putting all of my theoretical eggs into one theoretical basket. Of course I haven’t heard of anyone experiencing issues with Apple for me to cite a specific example, but nonetheless I remain a bit on edge by the fact that Apple has the right to change the App Store terms and conditions down the road, meaning that users who are currently “in the clear” now may experience issues down the road. Much like Jeff has talked about before in regards to Steam (the gaming distribution system) I simply don’t want all of my purchases falling under the terms of one company.
On top of this, it has been my experience that even though the App Store makes it easy for users to update their applications the sad reality is that the generalize nature of Apple’s App Store means that updates are delayed in getting to customers. Why is this? In order for an update to be pushed to the App Store and thus delivered to customers – even those that have already bought the app – Apple still requires every update to go through the mandatory review process to make sure that the application is compliant with the App Store requirements. And trust me, this isn’t a fast process.
One of the most obvious examples of this concept can be seen with Panic, the software development company responsible for (awesome) applications such as Transmit and Coda on the Mac OS X platform. Just last month Panic released updates to all of their offerings to address various bugs on OS X Lion. But in the blog post, the company pointed out that while the “updates [were] available immediately direct from [them]” users who purchased their software via the App Store simply had to “hang tight” because the applications were “in the review process.”
Now, Panic could have just delayed releasing the updates on their site and opted to wait until Apple approved the updates on the App Store side before making anything official, but who would that have helped? No one. Alternatively, anyone desperate enough could have very well downloaded the trial versions of the applications directly from Panic’s website (if I recall correctly Panic’s trials are a week or two in duration) and used them until the updates got posted in the App Store, but even then doing so would quite honestly defeat the convenience that we’re supposed to see in the App Store.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Apple’s reputation hinders on every single application in the App Store being functional and held to the strictest of standards, and in most cases I would applaud Apple’s efforts in handling the review process as carefully as they do. But when it comes down to it, I have to question why established developers aren’t given a bit longer of a leash.
On top of all of this, Panic’s same blog post instructs non-App Store users to “just launch and use the apps” in order to have them “update for you.” After reading this, reality really has slapped me in the face. How hard is it for a company to implement their own update system? Not very, really. I mean, if they’ve coded an entire app from the ground up it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal to write their own updater as well. So why do we credit Apple for App Store updates when this could perhaps be done better and more quickly within the individual applications?
Last but not least, I steer away from the App Store because I love and respect developers. If you deliver an awesome piece of software, please take this opportunity to pat yourself on the back. In many cases, my day-to-day life wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the apps that I use. This said, I’m more than happy to shell out a fair price for an application when it does something that I want or need. And it’s for this reason that I prefer buying applications direct from developers, because when I do so they get one-hundred percent of the purchase price (less business overhead such as credit card processing fees and bandwidth/hosting) instead of giving Apple a thirty percent cut from the sale. Sure, some developers are more than happy to let Apple take their cut because they feel that thirty percent is fair for what Apple offers (the ability to be found in the App Store, the bandwidth, etc.). But other than that, I simply prefer the direct route.