Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Wish List for the Mac App Store

Dan Counsell:

Don’t get me wrong, the Mac App Store does a lot of things really well. One reason devs keep putting their apps in the store is that Apple takes away a lot of the mundane tasks, such as payment, licensing, and updates. The MAS has a huge built-in audience, making it a convenient and easy one-stop shop for developers to list their apps, and it makes getting paid easy since Apple handles the payments side. It also handles security fairly well, so there’s less risk of malware infecting users.

But after five years of working within Apple’s strict regimen of rules and guidelines, a lot of great developers struggle with the restrictions placed on them which too often throttle usual business practices for selling software. As a result, many makers of popular apps have made the decision pull their software from the Mac App Store (or simply don’t bother submitting them at all) and sell them outside it.

A few of the items in Counsell’s list could apply equally to the iOS App Store as well: getting rid of in-app purchases on free apps, for instance, which makes many free apps feel like “trial” or “lite” versions, something which is expressly prohibited by the rules of both stores.

But the simple fact is that many apps just don’t need the Mac App Store. Developer tools and utilities are more commonly found outside the store, often because of reasonable sandboxing restrictions. Most major game developers have their own “app stores,” whether they release via Steam or EA Origin, for instance, though many do release through the App Store as well. Big names like Microsoft and Adobe have their own distribution mechanisms, so they don’t need the store either.

As far as I can see, the only apps that take well to the Mac App Store — aside from Apple’s apps — are single-purpose lightweight consumer utility apps. For instance, a while ago, I was trying to find an audio A/B testing app. After fruitlessly scouring the web for probably half an hour, I tried the App Store and found a couple of decent contenders.

Take a look at the top 180 paid apps in the Mac App Store. Subtract anything from Apple, and what you’re generally left with are the lightweight utility apps I mentioned above — Weather Live, ForkLift, a Mac WhatsApp client, a period tracking app, and a notepad app — some crappy iOS app ports, Microsoft Office template packs, and a few games. That isn’t very confidence-inspiring, is it?