Mac App Store

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Last week Apple announced the Mac App Store and people are mad as hell and they’re not gonna take it anymore! We’re currently in the middle of the developer equivalent of a moral panic. “Head for the hills and don’t forget your Ubuntu install disks!” It’s just a bunch of sturm und drang though, as Kevin Mitchell points out:

Just an observation. Apple releases Mac App Store, this time optional, and with spelled out rules, and some people are still not happy.

Can’t make everybody happy.

Shoulda Made a Left at Albuquerque

Still though, this isn’t in any way a perfect arrangement. A number of the provisions prohibit some genuinely useful functionality. Plus, as Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis says:

There appear to be no trials, no paid upgrades, no access to customer information, no coupons, and no ability to ship updates outside of the store […] and the fees (Appleā€™s 30%) are much higher than developers currently pay to payment processors.

There’s a long way to go.

Reasons for Hope

Why should we believe that this will ever get better or change? Is the EU really the only thing that can get Apple moving? It’s easy to have that view, definitely. We live in a world where corporations have arguably as much influence and power as the biggest now-busted trusts of the late 19th and early 20th century. It’s easy to be cynical. I’ve got a different view of Apple, though:

Apple has said over and over again that they want “to make the best devices in the world, not to be the biggest.” Last week they trotted out stellar customer satisfication numbers; they are clearly proud of them. This makes them different from most titans of the technology industry, many of which are at best ambivalent — and at worst, outright hostile — towards their actual users.1

My argument is simple, and goes like this: When all is said and done, Apple tries to do the right thing for their users. Just like when they ditched the file system metaphor on iPad, this pisses off the ubernerds and developers. But in the end, it’s better:

Serving our [developers] needs is certainly important. It’s important, also, to understand that we are the minority. Everyone else just wants a tool that works. The majority of human beings on earth find computers to be mystifying, frustrating, even scary things. Absent Nerd Jesus, the computer just seems to have a mind of its own. It has its own agenda and interacting with it is an exercise in guesswork and black magic.

Duty Now for the Future

Why should we believe Apple continue this strategy? Well, it’s difficult to argue with the results. There’s no doubt that it’s been a highly successful strategy for them. Just look at the way they’ve handled the iPod. Remember this?

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame

  1. They definitely try hard to please their customers though — OEMs, retail stores, blah blah. This deserves its own post, but in short I believe that any company or industry that doesn’t understand the actual people who use/consume their products (rather than just the vendors that they currently sell to) is in for big trouble over the next 20 years.