Archive for October 22, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mac App Store

The Mac App Store certainly has great potential: more software that’s easier for customers to find, buy, install, and manage—and more sales for developers. I can’t imagine that there won’t be a sufficient mass of good applications for it to be a success. The potential market is too tempting, even for developers who already have their own stores, license generators, and software update mechanisms. But what’s next? We start out with an optional Mac App Store, such as Apple has described, but it’s not clear to me what the eventual equilibrium will be.

As Jonathan Rentzsch and others have written, the current guidelines ensure that the store will start out as an incomplete, sort of dumbed-down collection of applications:

My fellow Mac developers are laughing at the Mac App Store guidelines. They’re reporting that apps they’ve been shipping for years — a number of them Apple Design Award-winning — would be rejected from the Mac App Store. These are proven apps, beloved by their users. The current guidelines are clearly out-of-touch.

Depending on how you read the guidelines, it’s possible that none of my applications would be accepted by Apple, even though I’ve worked hard to follow best practices and to avoid private APIs and sketchy behavior. Supposing that the guidelines aren’t fixed, some types of useful products may never be approved, and the captive audience will not know that these applications exist. Other developers will be pressured either to cut useful features (or bug workarounds) to satisfy Apple or to make a separate App Store version with fewer features. (There would need to be a separate App Store build, anyway, to remove the serial number validation and software update checking, but the question is whether it would be a “Lite” version.)

There may also be different pricing inside and outside of the store. The App Store doesn’t allow trials, refunds, upgrades, discounts, or transfers. Since Apple takes such a large cut (about 9 times what PayPal charges), a developer could charge less for customers who buy direct and still net more from them. I know that, given the choice, I’ll continue to buy from developers directly. The developer gets more money; I get more control over my installations and backups; and I get timely updates and possibly more features.

This is sort of the best of both worlds, though it’s more work for the developer and slightly confusing for customers. The question is whether Apple will want to sustain this model. Is the App Store meant to have “everything,” or is it for “trusted” apps that are smaller and simpler, with pro apps sold elsewhere? Can Apple market the App Store as the best way to buy Mac software when key software is not available and App Store purchasers are in some ways second-class citizens?

Will Apple eventually relax the Mac App Store guidelines, so that virtually all non-haxie software can be included? Or will they stop promoting non–App Store applications and halt updates to the Downloads page (as they did, again, for two weeks this month)? Who would be surprised if Apple eventually deprecated non–App Store apps through a warning (“This application was not signed by Apple; don’t trust it.”) or perhaps a ban?

I don’t know how this will play out, but I’m pretty sure that the Mac App Store is the biggest news in desktop software in a long time.

Netflix Switches to Amazon S3 and SimpleDB

High Scalability:

In an audacious move for such an established property, Netflix is moving their website out of the comfort of their own datacenter and into the wilds of the Amazon cloud. This paper by Netflix’s Siddharth “Sid” Anand, Netflix’s Transition to High-Availability Storage Systems, gives a detailed look at this transition and does a deep dive on SimpleDB best practices, focussing especially on techniques useful to those who are making the move from a RDBMS.

Flash Player, Unbundled

John Gruber:

And the new Airs are not alone. They’re simply leading the way. I asked Apple whether this change would be applied across the entire the Mac product line, and they confirmed to me that it would. Existing Macs currently in the retail channel naturally still have Flash Player preinstalled, but in the coming weeks, all new Macs will begin shipping without Flash Player.