Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Mac App Store Turns Ten

From the Apple Newsroom on January 6, 2011 [sic]:

Apple® today announced that the Mac® App Store℠ is now open for business with more than 1,000 free and paid apps. The Mac App Store brings the revolutionary App Store experience to the Mac, so you can find great new apps, buy them using your iTunes® account, download and install them in just one step. The Mac App Store is available for Snow Leopard® users through Software Update as part of Mac OS® X v10.6.6.

You know the first interesting thing about this? Apple issued a press release when the iOS App Store turned ten; Apple also posted one the day the Mac App Store turned ten, but it wasn’t about the Mac App Store:

As the world navigated an ever-changing new normal of virtual learning, grocery deliveries, and drive-by birthday celebrations, customers relied on Apple services in new ways, turning to expertly curated apps, news, music, podcasts, TV shows, movies, and more to stay entertained, informed, connected, and fit.

There’s a bit in the release touting the “commerce the App Store facilitates”, and Apple used it to announce $1.8 billion spent on the App Store between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but that’s it. Also, I want to thank the person who decided that Apple’s press releases do not need to contain intellectual property marks.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the Mac App Store did not get its own anniversary announcement. It could be the case that Apple considers the launch of the iPhone App Store the original, and everything else is simply part of that family. Apple also doesn’t indulge in anniversaries very often — the App Store press release was an exception rather than the rule.

But it also speaks to the Mac App Store’s lack of comparable influence. Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Since its inception, the Mac App Store has attracted its fair share of criticism from developers. Apple has addressed some of these complaints over the years by allowing developers to offer free trials via in-app purchase, create app bundles, distribute apps on multiple Apple platforms as a universal purchase, view analytics for Mac apps, respond to customer reviews, and more, but some developers remain unsatisfied with the Mac App Store due to Apple’s review process, the lack of upgrade pricing, the lack of sandboxing exceptions for trusted developers, the absence of TestFlight beta testing for Mac apps, and other reasons.

Michael Tsai:

Thinking back to the early days of the Mac App Store, I remember how its introduction killed a nascent third-party effort to build a similar store. And I recall how, just months after the store opened, Apple changed the rules to require that apps be sandboxed. […]

The Mac App Store has led a bizarre life in its first ten years — remember when system software updates, including operating system updates, came through the Mac App Store? A 2018 redesign made it look more modern, but it continues to feel like it was ported from another platform. Like the iOS App Store, it faces moderation problems, and its vast quantity of apps are mostly terrible.

There are some bright spots. I have found that good little utility apps — ABX testers, light audio processing, and the sort — are easy to find in the Mac App Store. Much easier, I think, than finding them on the web. It is also a place where you can find familiar software from big developers alongside plenty of indies, software remains up-to-date with almost no user interaction, and there are no serial numbers to lose.

Unfortunately, there remain fundamental disagreements between Apple’s policies and developers’ wishes that often manifest in comical ways. Recently, for my day job, I needed to use one of Microsoft’s Office apps that I did not have installed. I was able to download it from the Mac App Store but, upon signing in to my workplace Office 365 account, I was told that the type of license on my account was incompatible with that version of the app. I replaced it with a copy from Microsoft’s website with the same version number and was able to log in. I assume this is because there is a conflict between how enterprise licenses are sold and Apple’s in-app purchase rules. It was caused in part by Microsoft’s desire to sell its products under as many subtly-different similarly-named SKUs as possible, and resulted in an error message that was prohibited by App Store rules from being helpful. Regardless of the reasons, all I experienced as a user was confusion and frustration. Oftentimes, it is simply less nice to use the Mac App Store than getting software from the web.

Happy tenth birthday to the Mac App Store; it cannot be the best that Apple can do.