My take on the Mac App Store

January 9, 2011

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the newly released Apple Mac App Store. (Especially with the recent blow up about how GPL licensed apps conflict with the App Store restrictions, and therefore can’t live on the App Store). But that’s another story.

I wanted to give my own thoughts at the moment. Personally, as I started browsing through the store, I realized, that I really loved the idea of this. Primarily for two reasons:

  1. I’ve lost licenses in my day, and hate trying to keep the copies of software I own, in the versions I own, with the licenses I own, all organized, and then upon every new machine install, it’s a painful cycle of physical media swapping, installing, and digging for downloaded software through folders of junk.   The idea of a single place where all my updates are handled, my licenses are always carried/remembered, is a dream come true there.  (See caveats later)  Plus all of my dread of getting a new computer, or doing a fresh wipe/install would disappear.  As it would be a breeze to install a new computer, then go into the App Store and install everything.
  2. Looking in the store, you see tons of Apps that probably wouldn’t have ever existed before.  Having an easy path to create $1 to $5 small apps and games and directly sell them, is going to inspire creativity, just like it did on the iPhone.  For example you couldn’t find $5 games for the Mac in the past, and if you did, it was a painful process buying/installing them, and you always questioned their value anyway.

Now, as I say that, and bask in the glow … I think that the App store has a serious chance of completely flopping.  What?  Yeah, I do.  And it’s a case of the devil being in the details.

As it stands, there are a number of problems with the current setup, that actually could be painful enough to kill it, if Apple doesn’t move fast enough to ‘fix’ these.  And honestly, Apple isn’t known for moving fast in response to feedback.

So what are the biggest issues?  From what I can see, they are:

  1. For my utopia mentioned above to come true, everyone must be in the App Store.  As long as Apple has licensing restrictions that keeps some people out (GPL), then that can never be realized, and it can be a worse situation where some software you’ve downloaded/installed otherwise, and some via the App Store.
  2. There is a pain right now, because software you currently own, can’t be marked as owned in the App Store, and in turn follow it’s free updates path.  Worse, it’s broken, as in many cases it sees that you have the software installed, and it marks it as owned.  But it’s my understanding that updates won’t work, since it wasn’t installed by the App Store.  They need a way to clean this up.  Not only because of the current situation (as that will solve itself over time, as you keep buying newer versions in the App Store).  But also because of future situations.  What if someone gave you software (on a disc) as a present?  If everything you owned was via the App Store, and you couldn’t ‘sync’ that disc to the App Store, that would be a painful situation for you.
  3. Lack of ‘upgrade’ discounts.  In the current model of desktop software, people always go and create new versions of the software, and then offer a discount for people upgrading, versus new purchases, to keep their customer base loyal.   There is no way to do this in the App Store.   So if you have a new Major release, you only have 2 options.  Release it for free as an update, or submit it as a new app in the store (MyWidget v3), and charge a single set price.   There isn’t a mechanism to provide a discount if someone already owned v2.   This breaks the model that’s been used for over a decade in the software industry, and therefore is a major pain point I’ve seen discussed by software developers.   Apple really needs a mechanism to provide these verified discounts.

I’m sure there are more issues, but those are the big ones that I see holding adoption back at the moment.  We’ll see what the future holds, I’m optimistic, but Apple’s got some changes to be a-making.

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    Why I want an iPad

    February 24, 2010

    There has been much talk in the tech-sphere lately about the iPad.  Primarily from people honestly putting it down and ragging upon it.  Saying how it doesn’t have <insert feature they wanted>.  Or saying how it’s a toy because you can’t hack it, put your own unapproved software on it, hook up a USB keyboard, etc.

    I don’t disagree with those statements actually.  There are some features that I wished it would have had, I might have been excited to have seen it run OS/X instead of the iPhone operating system, so that I could have used it more like a real computer.

    But in the end, I think that starts to miss the point.  It’s not a ‘real computer’, it *is* something new, and the more I think about it.  The more I end up wanting one.  Perhaps I’m an edge case, I can accept that.  But ever since the announcement, I keep thinking to myself: “I’d love an iPad right now”.

    So why do I want one?  What are the situations where I find myself wanting one?  Typically they are situations where I’m wanting to stay ‘connected’, do some computing and/or online things.  But I’m not wanting to be tied to a laptop.  Afterall, a laptop is actually an intrusive thing.   Try sitting at the breakfast table with one.  It’s there.  Projecting itself into the space.  Acting as a wall between you and anyone else at the table.  However, sit down with a magazine, or a newspaper, or even a cell phone / iPhone, and it’s not in the way, it’s laying flat, you are picking it up to view things, you can easily lay it back down.  You are using technology but staying more connected to the people around you.

    Plus there are just places where a laptop is awkward to use.  For example, in your lap strangely enough.  At a doctor’s office, on the airplane, etc.  It’s all these times, when I sit back and start thinking: “You know if I had an iPad right now”.  So many of these situations come up, such as:

    • The aforementioned breakfast table, checking the morning news/twitter/email.  (Heck, just doing email in general with something less intrusive than a laptop, but better built for it than an iPhone)
    • Sitting on the couch with family watching TV while also checking things online.
    • While playing video games and needing to look up some information online.
    • While at a non-profit meeting, wanting to look something up.
    • When spending a ‘short time’ at a coffee shop, relaxing while wanting to stay on top of things.

    In general, I think that an iPad is going to be superior in use to a large laptop, because of it’s form factor, as well as to a netbook, because honestly I agree with Steve Jobs about netbooks.  I have one, I rarely use it, and when I do I wonder why I didn’t just grab a real computer instead.  Tiny screen, bad interface, etc.

    Plus the iPad is going to add functionality that I can only imagine how I may want to use it:

    • As a book reader (I’d been debating about getting a Kindle, now, to me, this is a no-brainer that I’d rather have an iPad)
    • As a video playing device (just the right size to hold in lap)
    • As a new way to share photos with family.

    In the end, I kinda don’t want to be excited about the iPad, since I have many of those geek tendencies to dislike it solely because it didn’t have X/Y/Z.  But in the end, I keep finding myself back at that “If I only had an iPad right now” stage.  I see myself using it.   Interestingly enough, 90% of the time I see that use being Wifi only based.  So dropping the extra $130 plus $30 a month for a separate data connection, I don’t see.

    Which does bring me to my one complaint though, and the one reason I don’t want an iPad:

    • Price

    Really that’s it.  I know, I realize, that $499 is an amazing price for a product with a 10″ touchscreen, massive battery life, etc.  But in the end, it’s still more than I want to pay for this device, given how I know I’m going to use it.  That is, as a device to use when my iPhone is ‘too small’ for the job and when pulling out the laptop is overkill.

    To that end, I wish it was more like $199

    That being said, I still want one, and I’m going to have a mention struggle between now and release date as to whether I can justify buying one.  The one biggest thing (other than price) that is holding me back at this moment, is that I’m unsure how easy it’s going to be to use the ‘bigger onscreen keyboard’.  Because honestly much of the use I expect out of the iPad, is going to involve typing, which is slow on the iPhone.  I expect the iPad to be ‘slower’ than a real keyboard.  But I’d hope that I could put it in my lap, and semi-touch-type on it.  If I can’t really do that.  If typing is going to be at ‘cell phone thumb speed’.  Then that’s a problem for me.  That may become the killer.  Because if I can’t type easily-enough on it.  I’m going to get frustrated.

    In summation?  I dunno, I’m still torn.  I want an iPad, but I have a couple concerns.  Let’s see if I can resist when the day comes.