Wednesday, August 28, 2013



OmniKeyMaster is a simple app that finds App Store copies of Omni apps installed on your Mac, then generates equivalent licenses from our store - for free. This gives Mac App Store customers access to discounted pricing when upgrading from the Standard edition to Professional, or when upgrading from one major version to the next. Another benefit: since they don’t have to wait in an approval queue, our direct releases sometimes get earlier access to new features and bug fixes. OmniKeyMaster lets App Store customers access those builds, as well.

Note: While OmniKeyMaster lets you take advantage of upgrade pricing in the Omni store, it does not entitle to you to an App Store version of the upgraded app. Due to Apple’s App Store rules, the only way to get a Mac App Store copy of an application is to pay full price.

Presumably this is secure because the actual license is generated by their server. I wonder what happens if multiple Macs try to generate licenses for the same Mac App Store purchase.

Update (2013-09-04): Apparently Apple put an end to this customer-friendly idea. Ken Case:

So long as we continue to sell our apps through the Mac App Store, we are not allowed to distribute updates through other channels to apps which were purchased from the App Store.


We certainly thought it would be allowed when we made it available last week! (And when we announced the plan in January.)

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Interesting question. But there are more keys than those documented by Apple in a Mac App Store receipt. Perhaps they figured one of those keys is a transaction identifier or a user identifier of some sort. If that's the case it wouldn’t take that much testing to figure it out and block receipts with the same origin.

Or perhaps not. In which case the risk is that they’ll have some new user who pay upgrade pricing instead of the full price.

@Michel Or possibly generate lots of independent keys for a single purchase of the current Mac App Store version.

Oh did I miss that it actually creates free license keys that can be used to actually run the non-MAS version of the app (as opposed to fake license keys that can only be used to request an upgrade)? When I read it the first time I thought it was only about enabling upgrade pricing, but I might be wrong.

I talked with Tim Wood about this a while back- and from I can recall, Omni is using public APIs and info to do all this.

@Michel It seemed pretty clear to me, although I could be wrong. They talk about generating equivalent licenses for if you want to get faster updates.

@Michael You're right. I misread. From the text and the video it seems to allow converting from App Store receipts to actual licenses.

It's pretty clear what happens then if they're only using public info: there's nothing to identify the underlying user or the originating purchase transaction in the receipt, so you can generate new licenses that way (from a technical standpoint, not from a legal one) if you authorize multiple computers using your Apple ID account. Doing that massively would be a pain however.

They could also create somewhat limited licenses that are tied to the MAC address of the machine they're on (like the App Store receipt is), although I suspect they are not doing that for customer experience reasons.

Unfortunately, it looks like they had to stop offering that upgrade path.

I wonder how Apple enforced it: "we'll pull your apps from the Mac App Store unless you remove OmniKeyMaster?"

I also wonder what are the implications for apps that let you run the non-MAS version and generate a non-MAS license for that purpose? It looks like this would implicitely create an upgrade path, or that developers of such apps would need to deny upgrade pricing to licenses generated from Mac App Store receipts.

@charles Yes, see the update above. It sounds like that’s exactly what Apple said.

Tons of apps allow “use” licenses, and Apple doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. They want the upgrade revenue, though.

[...] A few more thoughts on Apple shutting down OmniKeyMaster: [...]

[...] gesture. However, it’s not clear to me how this is different from what the Omni Group was prevented from [...]

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