Is Apple’s new App Store a level playing field for programmers or the end of free range development as we know it? Did Steve’s announcement provoke shivers of anticipation or fear? And what happens next? To find out we quizzed Nick Davies from Corel, Justin Cepelak from SplashData and Nicholas Reville from The Participatory Culture Foundation (makers of Miro and other free applications).
“For developers, the store is a ready-made vehicle to reach customers. If you are a new developer without established channels, it provides a direct route to users. For established developers like Corel, it provides an additional and direct way to connect with Mac users. And we're certainly intrigued by the impact it could have on our future software development,” Nick Davies, Senior Vice President, Corporate Marketing, Corel.
“We were really surprised and excited. We had been hoping they would build a desktop equivalent of the App Store for a while, since it has been a strong channel for us in the mobile space,” Justin Cepelak, VP of SplashData.
“I think the new store solves an important usability challenge. Just finding a downloaded file and opening a DMG or installer can be difficult for lots of users. However, I also think it's extremely dangerous for developers and Mac users; the mobile app store has become Exhibit A of everything bad about centralized corporate control over users.
There are lots of ways to make application distribution and sales better for both developers and users without restricting everyone's freedom to create or install software. Because their competitors' products are such a mess, Apple can intentionally conflate ease-of-use with centralized control, and it starts to seem like it's true. Just the fact that I'm wondering as I type this whether criticizing Apple could lead Miro to be rejected from the App store suggests that there's a structural problem here. Nicholas Reville, Executive Director of The Participatory Culture Foundation.
“It's still too early for us to make a definitive statement on the impact this will have on us. Like other developers, we'd have to make changes to our apps to have them meet the guidelines. We envision some interesting opportunities for our consumer apps. They're lighter and easy to use, making them ideal for this channel. Offering Mac users a one-stop shop for the majority of their software needs is a great thing and we definitely want to be part of it.
Of course, Corel's known for Painter, which is more robust, professional and established. I think developers like us have questions about how this type of product will fit into the Mac App Store and its guidelines. We know our Painter customers well. Their buying process is very different than someone who's buying a mobile app off iTunes. They often want to try out the program before purchasing and many still prefer to own the DVD and the accompanying documentation. In many cases, they have an increased desire to have a more direct relationship with us. We need to see how the App Store guidelines support what we know our Painter customer wants,” Nick Davies/Corel.
“We'll have to build special releases of our desktop applications (SplashID, SplashMoney, SplashShopper and SplashNotes) to be distributed in the App Store without copy protections since Apple will handle that on their end. As far as distribution, we feel that we will reach a broader audience through this channel because the App Store approach to shopping is a more fun and immersive experience than search for software on the entire web,” Justin Cepelak, SplashData.
“We will certainly submit our App to the store and we'll also continue to maintain our website as a way to download. Since our software is free, I don't think it will affect us as much as for paid software-- I expect many Mac software companies will stop doing their own payment processing and registration and will move all sales to the App store,” Nicholas Reville/PCF.
“Overall, I think the Mac App Store is a great opportunity for application developers. The fact that the store exists will spur the development and sales of new apps, simply because it'll be easier for customers to find and connect with more software options. If the Mac App Store delivers the same great experience as the iTunes App Store, people will have the chance to discover more apps and in turn will be inclined to buy more,” Nick Davies/Corel.
“If the mobile App Store teaches us anything, it's that a simple and well designed one-stop-shop encourages users to buy more software than they would otherwise,” Justin Cepelak, SplashData.
“First, I'd let him know it's great they're doing this. Apple offers an exceptional buying and relationship experience to consumers and we support the move to bring this to Mac software as well. I'd also take the chance to ask him how he thinks the established apps -- the long-time mega-brands of the Mac software world -- fit into this new environment. Many of these brands like Painter have been tied to the Mac platform since the start, so how can we work together to ensure the Mac App Store provides an equally efficient channel for them too? Could physical product be an option for those who want it? Also, many customers have a desire to try out software before making an investment in it, particularly when it's a tool they need for their livelihood. Their expectations are high and we owe them a different experience,” Nick Davies/Corel.
“We're curious to see how copy protection will be handled, since desktop software piracy is a serious issue facing developers. We're also wondering how the review process will be compared to the mobile store. Developers have free reign over what they can do with desktop software when they distribute it themselves, so it will be interesting to see what gets caught in the fine mesh of the Apple filters,” Justin Cepelak, SplashData.
“I think Apple could be an incredible example of how to do everything right: not just design and user experience but also freedom and openness. Apple would never have invented something as open or messy as the internet, but they are benefitting immensely from its success and the open standards behind it--remember when you couldn't switch to a Mac because it wasn't compatible with other software? The web is compatible everywhere because it's open. So why not have Apple turn its brilliance to making openness more elegant rather than insisting on central control?” Nicholas Reville, PCF.