Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Gatekeeper and the Keymaster

A few more thoughts on Apple shutting down OmniKeyMaster:

  1. I’ve re-read the Mac App Store Review Guidelines, particularly rule 2.21 and section 7, and it seems clear that none of the existing rules forbid what The Omni Group was trying to do.
  2. Omni, one of the highest-profile Mac developers, and a regular on the Mac App Store top-grossing list, announced its plan in January. Yet apparently no one from Apple said anything until a week after OmniKeyMaster shipped, wasting months of development time and confusing customers.
  3. That said, I doubt anyone is really surprised by Apple’s reaction or timing.
  4. It is surprising how many people seem to think that this was all a creative Omni ploy to screw its own customers.
  5. In-App Purchase is not a solution. The people suggesting that don’t understand how it works.
  6. Ken Case writes: “We will continue to ask Apple to support upgrade pricing in the App Store, and I would encourage others to do the same[…].” I don’t think the solution is a Radar. Apple has known all along that developers wanted this. Lacking support for paid upgrades is not an unimplemented feature request; at some point you have to conclude that it’s a deliberate business/design decision, however misguided.
  7. The Mac App Store still makes a lot of sense for games and little apps, but it’s an increasingly bad fit for applications. Sandboxing, the unpredictable review process, Apple’s cut, no trials, and the lack of any kind of support for upgrades (even helping customers migrate to a 2.0 SKU) make purchasing there a second-class experience in many respects. Access to iCloud is looking less like the carrot that I thought it would be.
  8. This is not to say that the Mac App Store is a failure, but it could have been so much better. It’s sad that Apple is botching it unnecessarily.

Matthew Guay:

You’d think that Apple would try its hardest to make developers want to switch to the App Store — and in some ways, they have. They’ve made it relatively simple today for anyone to sell apps on the Mac without having to worry about license keys and payment providers, and regularly give incredibly valuable promotion to apps the App Store team loves. But, at the same time, their policies like sandboxing requirements have made some apps impossible to sell on the App Store, such as the aforementioned TextExpander, and their insistence on either offering upgrades to apps as free updates or full new products have frustrated any number of developers.

Federico Viticci:

This is strange, because a number of similar tools (made by other independent developers) already exist on the Internet and they have been letting customers generate standalone licenses for several months. Perhaps Apple just didn’t like that a name such as The Omni Group had found a way to make the process so easy? Was The Omni Group’s tool built in such a way that it broke some Apple rules? Did The Omni Group think OmniKeyMaster would be okay because other solutions existed? Is Apple going after similar solutions as well?

Update (2013-09-05): Mark Bernstein:

The update is worth a lot because there’s very little risk. You already use the program all the time; the update will improve your environment slightly every day. You load the program three times a day; those saved seconds from the load time and the prevented crashes add up. They’re money in the bank. The value of a modest upgrade to a program you use a lot is actually greater than the expected value of the initial purchase.

Update (2013-09-11): Ken Case:

While depressed software pricing may make the platform more attractive in the short term (and Apple can make up for their own software losses with increased platform sales), over the long term it discourages developers and consumers from ever investing in high-end software solutions. I suspect the lack of this flexibility may be one big reason why we don’t find apps like Modo and Mathematica in the App Store.

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Early copies of the AppStoreReportingInstructions.pdf actually had a product type identifier listed in Appendix E that denoted an Upgrade download. I notice that it is clearly absent from the current version. They definitely considered it enough to give it a place in the PTI enumeration.

"I’ve re-read the Mac App Store Review Guidelines, particularly rule 2.21 and section 7, and it seems clear that none of the existing rules forbid what The Omni Group was trying to do."

As always, the ad hoc unwritten rules are the real rules. That's Rule #1 of AppStoreMonster Club.


A Modest Proposal:

All new Apple devices come with a EULA that lets the IRS collect 30% of each user's annual income as Apple's agent. And in return, we get a sane, developer-friendly, and customer-oriented AppStore.

This is a huge reason why I am not planning on ever using the Mac App store for any of my apps. The sandboxing rule and the lack upgrades are massive turnoffs. If Apple's goal was to get everybody using the Mac App store, then all they should ban are porn and security hole apps. The Mac App Store is actually pretty cool and user friendly, but its terrible for developers.

To Frederico's point: I think the Omni Group solution was the first one marketed specifically as a way to provide updates outside the App Store. One other app I have used a similar key-creator but posited it specifically as a way to get FREE updates faster than waiting for app store approval.

[...] The Gatekeeper and the Keymaster → [...]

[...] Link. Apple’s consistently irrational Mac App Store screw-up is a strong indicator of a troubled enterprise. [...]

@MattB The Mac App Store is not user friendly. It's slow, it's incoherent, inconsistent, and a mess.

And using it instead of the old Software Update mechanism for the OS is just a really stupid idea considering how it works.

[...] conclusion in In The Gatekeeper and the Keymaster was that Apple doesn’t plan to offer upgrade pricing in the Mac App Store. Rich Siegel says [...]

I've bought several Omni apps for iOS and the Mac over the years. Very happy with the quality of their products and their customer service. In future, if I need to upgrade my products outside of the App Store, that's fine with me.

[...] Offering upgrade pricing to Mac App Store purchasers of the old version is a nice gesture. However, it’s not clear to me how this is different from what the Omni Group was prevented from doing. [...]

[…] The Gatekeeper and the Keymaster […]

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