My gut says no, that full price every single time is rough, but then we’re setting the precedent that maybe not all of our major upgrades are paid upgrades, which we’ve been pretty consistent about in the past. If we could offer traditional discounted upgrades via the App Store, this paragraph wouldn’t exist. This is one area where the App Store feels like one of those novelty peanut cans with the snake inside.
To be honest, I was pretty nervous to be pulling Coda from the Mac App Store. But when we finally did it, I felt an incredible, almost indescribable sense of relief — mostly because as we began to wrap up bug fix releases, we were able to immediately post them to our customers within minutes of qualifying them. My god. That’s how it should be. There’s just no other way to put it — that’s how you treat your customers well, by reacting quickly and having total control over your destiny. To not be beholden to someone else to do our job feels just fantastic. (Also to not pay someone 30% in exchange for frequent stress is a fine deal.)
The results were interesting. We sold a couple hundred fewer units of Coda post-App Store removal, but revenue from it went up by about 44%.
I can’t comfortably say “the system worked”. It’s still an awful and nerve-wracking feeling to know that, at any minute, we could get thrown into a quagmire of e-mails, phone calls, code removal, and sadness, just by trying to ship something cool.
There’s a little more history here than I’m letting on. We had a very long, very torturous situation with Status Board almost being pulled that we’ve never written up out of sensitivity to our relationship with Apple. I only mention it here because it proves that it is possible to fix these awkward rejection situations without Apple suffering negative PR in the public eye — we did that “offline”. But it took an absolutely massive amount of mental energy and time to work through — positively Sisyphean. I would never want to do it again — I’ve run out of patience, I guess. I can say for certain that the “bad PR” version of the app dispute process is monumentally more effective. Which is a shame.
This is the biggest problem we’ve been grappling with all year: we simply don’t make enough money from our iOS apps. We’re building apps that are, if I may say so, world-class and desktop-quality. They are packed with features, they look stunning, we offer excellent support for them, and development is constant. I’m deeply proud of our iOS apps. But… they’re hard to justify working on.
First, what a great piece of writing this post is. Second, Panic’s low iOS revenue is a terrible indicator for the health of the platform. If top-quality apps, a solid customer base and brand, and marketing support from Apple aren’t enough, what does one need to succeed? Apple clearly likes Panic-style apps, so you would think it would try to encourage their development. Instead, Apple has designed the App Store to do pretty much the opposite. Why? This strategy seems to make no long-term sense unless one believes that quality apps don’t matter.
It escapes my mind why a premium hardware company would want to run a software store that’s equivalent to a dollar shop (or worse). Yes, people will buy phones because there’s tons of free apps but we’re slowly reaching a point (or already there) where the quality of those apps is so bad, that all other platforms have them as well. The number of apps is no longer a competitive advantage like it used to be in 2008. In the long term, it wouldn’t matter what phone you buy, if all the software is available on all mobile OSes.
Due to the un-sustainability of the App Store policies, the premium software that will keep people in the iOS ecosystem just won’t get built - that’s a recipe for disaster. Just look at the Panic 2014 report (and multitude other reports as well). It’s precisely those developers that have built the ecosystem, have been innovating and creating superb 3rd party software and have been advocating Apple products for decades. And now Apple have turned their backs on them.
Update (2015-01-08): Wil Shipley has some suggestions for the App Store.
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