- From 500 apps to 300,000,
- From zero downloads to seven billion,
- Over a billion dollars paid out to iOS developers.
The question isn’t will the Mac App Store succeed. It’s whether there will be any sizeable software companies left in a few years. Already, small agile developers are hammering at the Store door, clamoring to get in. For example, U.K.-based Steven Cholerton, whose Arten Science has 9 OS X products, is pushing to get them in the Mac App Store on day one. “I think that any kind of exposure like that for Mac apps is good. Traditionally it has been difficult to find mac apps for, for example, CRM. A store will help as long as it doesn’t try and adopt the iPhone module of 99c an app…”
It’s that pennies on the traditional high price of software which has fueled the iPhone App Store’s fire, and spells real problems for traditional non-micro software companies. While a shot at becoming the next “iPhone millionaire” is motivation enough for a developer or two to lock themselves in a room until they’ve coded a game or straightforward app, that kind of revenue stream is too shallow for larger companies.
“There’s probably downward pressure on the Adobes of the world, who are typically selling very large package software for lots of money,” said Jeff Haynie of cross-platform developer tool Appcelerator Titanium. “But you are balancing that with the opening up of ability to monetize to a much greater audience. Does it create a bigger opportunity for smaller companies? Arguably yes. On the negative side, does it put some downward pressure on the larger companies that are traditionally expecting large revenues streams? Yes.”
Nor will Apple itself be immune – Pages, Numbers and Keynote ships for the Mac for $79 as iWorks; Pages, Numbers and Keynote for iPads – $9.99 an app. With a rumored Windows App Store in the wings and an announced Adobe InMarket for Flex/AIR/Flash apps, the Mac App Store amounts to a new way to do commercial software favoring small companies willing and eager to outsource marketing, distribution and licensing back to platform makers. In the Mac commercial software community itself, for every Steven Cholerton, there’s an Andy Brice of Oryx Digital: “Basically I don’t see having to bend to Apple’s every whim and paying them 30% for the privilege as a positive. Especially if it results in the sort of race-to-the bottom we are seeing in the iPhone app store.” Nor will the rules of the road be the same for small developers as Kosta Rozen of Apparent Software notes:
- No more free trial versions.
- No more upgrades, and the revenue they bring,
- One store makes price comparisons easy, and expensive software obvious,
- The drive to get onto the “Top Charts” where the money is will push down prices,
- The days when Mac users expected to pay more for native OS X software are over.
And it’s not all gloom and doom for the large software companies says Heynie. “Most of these large companies are aware there’s got to be other ways to grow their revenue stream beyond traditionally licensed and packaged software. The cloud is a huge opportunity, software as a service is a huge opportunity. I don’t think any of these guys are standing there, waiting for their businesses to go away.”