I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of the Mac App Store Apple announced at their October 20 special event. There have already been plenty of opinions voiced on this matter and I agree with most of what I’ve read so far. Bottom line is that there’s pros and cons to it and we’ll just have to see how things play out once the App Store opens its gates.
What has me thinking, though, are the approval guidelines Apple has (or plans to) put into place. It’s not the actual specifics of what software will or will not be allowed into the App Store. My question is: Why is Apple being so restrictive about which software they’ll let into the App Store when it’s easy to get around the approval process by simply not using the App Store in the first place?
I’m no lawyer, so I can’t really say if these approval guidelines are simple CYA on Apple’s part (assuming that they might have to take some responsibility for the software they distribute). But I doubt it. Apple likes to play curator and the approval guidelines are their way of determining the end user’s experience. But as things stand, the Mac App Store will not be the only way to get software onto the Mac so these guidelines only mean anything at all to the developers that embrace the App Store and the customers that buy their software there. So why is Apple employing these restrictions if anyone can bypass them with relative ease?
Here’s my theory.
It’s probably pretty safe to assume that the Mac App Store will be a huge success. Apple has been quoted stating that around 50% of customers walking into an Apple Store are new to the Mac. It’s a pretty safe bet that these customers will more or less all use the App Store to get their software.
If you think that’s unrealistic, keep in mind all those Windows users who think the icon with the blue ‘e’ is the Internet. Most users have no idea what a browser even is. They just use whatever is preinstalled on their computers. And you can be pretty sure that Apple will leave no room for doubt where to get your software, i.e. they will install the Mac App Store in the Dock by default, maybe even in the Apple menu.
As for the other 50%? A large part of them will probably also be at home in the newbie camp or at least not in the semi-pro or pro camp. And while we geeks like to think that it’s the easiest and most straightforward thing to download and install software either from Versiontracker, MacUpdate or directly from the developer’s site, most “regular” people probably get their software from MacHeist et al, magazine CDs, download.com or recommendations from more Mac-savvy friends.
Based on these numbers, I’m guessing that 80-90% of Mac software will be installed via the App Store once it’s up and running. The remaining 10-20% will be software from developers who either do not want to share their revenue with Apple or whos software didn’t get past the approval process.
To restate my question: Why is Apple employing these restrictions when it’s possible to bypass them with relative ease?
I think they’re training developers right out of the gate to get used to these restrictions. Because that’s where things are going according to Apple. The first iteration of the App Store is a test bed for customer and developer acceptance. If (or once) it works, and I have no doubt it will, Apple will eventually make the App Store the only way to get software on a Mac without breaking their terms of service.
Why would they, you ask? Two reasons: For one, a 30% revenue cut is a pretty healthy motivator. Apple is a business like any other when it comes to making money. Secondly, Apple likes to have control over the whole experience, hardware to software, soup to nuts. The only way they can get that complete control over the Mac is through their App Store. It’s the only open loop that’s left.
And what about pissing off developers? As mentioned above, I think the majority of software will sell through the App Store. As for the other 10-20%, Apple will probably bet on the majority of these developers coming on board, as there aren’t really any viable alternatives.
And what about the two biggest Software providers, Adobe and Microsoft? As for MS Office, I think Apple would be happy to sell some more copies of iWork, which probably fits 90% of current Office users just fine. And Adobe? Screw ‘em or buy ‘em, I say. Who uses Photoshop and Illustrator anyway? Apple doesn’t need these pro users anymore, they’re focussed completely on the consumer. And they have an alternative of their own for users of Premiere named Final Cut Pro. And Flash? Yeah, right, Flash.
This may read like doomsaying to some, but I sincerely think this is the way Apple is headed. If the App Store is the success I think it will be, expect Apple to not be shy about it. In a year or two you’ll see Steve Jobs announcing that already over 90% of Mac software is being purchased through the App Store and that it makes no sense to keep other ways of installing software open – so they’ll close them down, “for the user’s sake.”