Critical MAS

Oh noes! The Mac App Store is in the news again, and it’s for the same thing that it’s always in the news for — being really, really lame. Some developers make a living off of apps that they distribute through it, and others — notably ones that had apps that predate the store — left. No big third parties ever joined the store, except to offer camera apps or tiny utilities.

349 days ago, I wrote this:

The Mac App Store offers very little promise to developers, which in turn, offers very little promise to me. I’m still using web downloads, serial numbers, and — for fuck’s sake — Creative Cloud. I hate that. Words could not possibly do justice to the caustic bile that wells up from within my blackened soul when I think of Adobe’s Creative Cloud and it’s update for it’s update process. It spews forth excrement in to the world, and I gladly sup it, because I need it.

I hope that after Apple’s WWDC event next week they release an “App Store”.

LOL, they totes didn’t release any update to the store, it’s exactly the same, and we’re having exactly the same conversations. Yaaaay!

This specific iteration of “MAS sucks” started with Sam Soffes’ blog post on Redacted’s launch. What’s important about his experience is how ranking in the store translates to real-world value. Even though he was ranked very highly, it’s ultimately not that important because not a lot of people are buying things in the store. Contrast that with the iOS app store, and it’s rankings.

Stephen Hackett, of 512pixels, chimed in with, “I think it may be time for Apple to take a long, hard look at the Mac App Store and either invest in it and woo back developers (and customers) or just shutter the thing.” He wasn’t really serious about shuttering it, as he went on to reiterate in an episode of the Connected podcast.

After the initial brouhaha, Sam’s story turned in to press for the app, and drove his sales up. However, that doesn’t resolve the issue with how it originally ranked, and how little people are using the store. A public outcry to shop at a store is not a sign of a healthy store.

Todd Ditchendorf, developer of many fine apps at Celestial Teapot, jotted off a few comments defending the MAS on Twitter.

Some of us are making a nice living as Mac devs, & MAS is an important part of that. Do us a solid & don’t tell  to shut it down /cc @512px — @iTod May 7, 2015

The Mac App Store has problems, but as a marketing vehicle, it’s well worth the 30% revenue share. Indie devs would be worse off without it — @iTod May 7, 2015

So there’s a divide here where there are indie devs that are making a living off of what they earn from the MAS. Perhaps that has to do with releasing a variety of apps, like Todd, rather than living off the release of a single app, like Sam’s post initially lamented. That’s why I choose to look past the specific value, since “a living” varies for everyone, and concentrate on those ranks.

What About the Big Fish?

Why would an app that focuses on obscuring part of an image reach the very heights of the MAS — in the graphics category, and overall — and be a featured app? Where are the usual, profitable software companies that are prolific in the graphics field, or in any field?

Currently sitting at number five in the “Top Grossing” list is “Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 & Adobe Premiere Elements 13”, a bundled app at $149.99. There are no customer reviews, but this is a $149.99 app so it’s not like it takes a lot of people buying it to show up on a top grossing chart.

Adobe doesn’t offer any of it’s high-end software for the MAS, you have to use their site, and store, and CreativeCloud subscription model. They have no incentive to put apps people need for work in the store, because those people will do whatever they tell them to[^1]. Dance for Adobe, monkey! Dance!

Microsoft Office isn’t in the store, even though MS and Apple have made a big deal about how closely they want to work together. You can, however, get Microsoft Remote Desktop. That’s exciting.

Autodesk isn’t absent from the store either, they just have total garbage in the store. Their high end software, like Adobe and Microsoft, lives elsewhere.

A big part of that is upgrade pricing, and pricing in general. Since subscription models are all the rage these days, even at Apple, perhaps Apple should offer subs as a way to entice big third parties to put their big apps in the store?

Perhaps, maybe, they could do… anything at all, really, to make it slightly more appealing to big, third parties?

This is why an app that redacts regions of an image hit the top of the charts.

Ain’t No Party Like a First Party

I will continue to argue, like I do every year, that Apple should put forth effort for best-in-class software. For a while, Apple, and Adobe, were direct competitors with many of their products, but that competition has dropped away. Final Cut and Logic still compete with Adobe products, but Shake is long gone, and the plug was officially pulled on Aperture last year.

Even now, the applications you’ll see topping the charts are Apple’s own, but in many ways, they win by default in the store.

Marco Arment, expressing his discontent with Apple (totes shocked, bro) rattled off a few tweets last night:

Photos is a great app in many ways, but it definitely doesn’t replace Aperture.

Reality: This is iPhoto X, and Aperture was discontinued. — @marcoarment

I really miss Adobe adjustment tools when using on RAWs.

I might add a Bridge process-to-JPEG step before importing to Photos. — @marcoarment

Just another happy customer that loves Apple’s first-in-class software!

A small store, filled with indie developers in various states of happiness, no big third party software, and a mixed bag of first party software that neglects the high end. Apple can, and should do better than that.

[^1]: Before anyone else points out perennial store, and fan favorite, Pixelmator does what Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements does, I will reiterate that it does not. It’s absolutely fantastic, and fills most customer needs (I’d certainly recommend it over Elements!) but it is not a feature-for-feature replacement for Photoshop and if you argue that it is then I know that you don’t use Photoshop in a professional capacity.

2015-05-13 09:00:00

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